A TRIP TO ITALIA(ROME, FLORENCE, VENICE)I know people do cover like 1 city,1 country in 2 days. But that is not how I travel or one should especially Europe, where there is so much to see so much to imbibe, should do it at a slower pace. In Italy, we covered Rome in 3 nights Florence in 4 nights Venice in 1 night. Also with a kid it is difficult to cover everything,the choice is partially you and partially in the child’s favour. We took off to Italy in the last week of June and had booked our train tickets too while planning the itinerary. Train fares in Europe keep on changing so sooner u book the better. But trains in Italy are relatively cheap as compared to other European countries, visit TRENITALIA website. We planned our itinerary keeping the travel capacity of our son in mind and stroller is one important thing to pack if travelling with kids. ITALY embodies history, renaissance and has 47 World Heritage sites and treasure of masterpieces. TRAVEL TIP.DO CHECK THE FESTIVALS HAPPENING DURING THE VISIT AND BOOK TICKETS IN ADVANCE.
ROME AND VATICAN- We arrived from New Delhi to Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinc which is 30 km from the city. There are different ways to get to the city trains, buses, taxis which have a set fare. We took the most comfortable train LEONARDO EXPRESS which runs to Roma Termini which is the main station in 30 mins. TRAVEL TIP-MOST OF THE TIMES WHEN STAYING IN EUROPE SHOULD ALWAYS TAKE THE ACCOMMODATION NEAR THE CITY CENTRE OR PLACE WHERE COMMUTING TO THE VISITING SITES IS EASY. We had booked at Best -Western Hotel which was a 3 min walk from Roma Termini which we did and was greeted with ‘buona sera’(good evening) from the hotel staff. That evening we just relaxed and my husband decided to get in some pizzas from a nearby eatery. I guess that was the best pizza I ever had, I don’t know whether it was hunger or the flavours. EATING IN ITALY-One has to understand various places to eat before entering.1. RISTORANTE-formal service, fine dining, have several courses. 2.TRATTORIA -a family-owned version of the restaurant, more warm, relaxed service with regional specialities(my favourite throughout).3. OSTERIA-is more focus on wine bar type with few dishes.4. PIZZERIA-A great place to have a go-to meal with chilled beer but with a long queue. (Be sure of the timings of the place).But as they say ‘when in Rome do as Romans do ’so at least we tried to eat and drink like locals. TIP-Wherever is the check-in Rome always look for a grocery store or CARREFOUR stores to pack in fruits, sandwiches, pizza by the slice, juices etc for the day especially when with kids
VATICAN-Vatican is the spiritual centre of the catholic world. We decided to visit the Vatican Museum first mainly to visit SISTINE CHAPEL, took a train from Roma Termini which takes around 20 mins to the Vatican.
So,we had not booked tickets for the museum and reached to see long queues …one for those who do not have booked tickets before…two for those who have pre-booked tickets and a third one for the group tours. We had none but we had four and a half-year-old son sitting on a stroller and a fellow tourist suggested we should straightaway go in front to the counter they might give us preference and let us in… which we did and got through. (that is why I love Europe they are so kids friendly)do take an audio guide to know more about it. ALWAYS GO WITH TICKETS BOOKED. Vatican’s masterpiece is the 15th-century.l CAPELLA SISTENA, Michelangelo’s frescoes are amazing. They illustrate the creation of man by god. Vatican museum ticket includes access to Sistine Chapel and can only be entered through the museum.
Since the chapel is catholic church appropriate attire is required. Clothing should cover the shoulders and knees, the voice should be kept low and no photography in chapel though photographs are allowed in the museum. After appreciating the art we started walking towards St Peters Square. On our way, we had our first Gelato in Italy and after that, there was no stopping of ice creams. St Peters Square is one of the best-known squares in Italy. It mainly forms the core of Vatican city. It is breathtakingly beautiful. In the centre stands the Egyptian obelisk and two fountains. The square was constructed by Bernini, it is oval surrounded by semi-circular columns.
We can see the Swiss Guards in their uniform at various checkpoints and guard the residence of Pope. ST PETERS BASILICA is the richest, holiest and most spectacular church. It is really some artist’s genius creation.it is constructed on the site of st peters grave. It is mesmerising and at the same time, very peaceful inside.Sit at any corner of the church one feels so good and at peace even in the crowd. Do dress appropriately.It was indeed an unforgettable experience
We started fresh the next day after a nice breakfast took METRO from termini(line B) to Colosseum. One can purchase the Roma pass valid for 48 to 72 hours that can be used for metro, bus. Colosseum is an architectural marvel …but we never booked the tickets for this too. Fortunately, it was a Sunday and the authorities on some Sundays give a good number of free tickets to early visitors. ALWAYS GO WITH PRE- BOOKED TICKETS. The sight of the Colosseum from outside itself is magnificent and gives us a reminder of Roman might. Bloody gladiatorial battles were once played out in the arena of Colosseum.
From Colosseum walk towards ROMAN FORUM. THE TICKET FOR RF, COLOSSEUM AND PALATINE HILL IS SAME. TO AVOID LONG QUEUE AT COLOSSEUM BUY THE TICKET FROM THE PALATINE HILL COUNTER. Roman Forum is the archaeological ruins of ancient Roman life. Walk down the garden and ruins, my husband walked to Palatine Hill but I and my son enjoyed the food that we were carrying, as that much was my appetite for Roman history.
Our next stop was the TREVI fountain. As soon as we came out of the metro station we saw few people sitting at a fountain roundabout dipping their feet in the water, kids playing, so we joined them and relaxed a bit.
It was a great relief as after that it was Rome on foot for us. Trevi is one of the most impressive of Rome’s famous fountains. Throwing a coin into the fountain with your back turned ensures your wish comes true of course by making a promise to come back. We too threw a coin. Took a quick break at one of the city’s oldest bakery ANTICO FORNO.From Trevi, we walked down to SPANISH STEPS leading to TRIDENTE which is the heart of the city’s shopping district. A little expensive but can visit a traditional English tea shop BABINGTON’S TEA ROOM. We somehow preferred eating a hearty meal of pasta, steak at the piazza. Always carry the map of the city. We started taking our leisure stroll towards PANTHEON. The best part is, walking down the cobbled streets, stopping midway for coffee, ice cream or just sit whenever tired. We reached Pantheon during sunset which made it look even more beautiful. Pantheon is the oldest church in Rome and remarkably preserved. It took us 5 mins to walk from Pantheon to PIAZZA NOVONA an iconic square. .It is full of cafes, street artists, fountains. We saw a couple of tricks by street artists and headed for dinner at a ristorante at the piazza.
FLORENCE is about 2 hours from Rome if u board the high-speed train (FRECCIAROSSA/FRECCIORGENTO). Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. Our hotel was near the city centre that is near the magnificent DUOMO. We could see it during our breakfast from the terrace. Florence took my heart away from the time I started walking down Florence’s main square PIAZZA DEL DUOMO the most lively place in the city. Duomo is an iconic landmark with its red-tiled dome, a bell tower and a colourful facade, they say it took 150 years to complete it. There are 463 steep stone steps to the dome(entry is free but to the dome is chargeable)which gives a panoramic view of the city of houses with red roofs.
Sit there for some time, feel the beauty around, try some snacks I loved the arachini there at one of the eateries at the piazza. Weather was awesome …sunny…rainy….windy but it was relaxing as compared to Rome. It was great walking down the streets with stores(high end and regular) and eating joints on both sides of the road led to the statue of DAVID by Michelangelo. Say ciao to David and other structures at the piazza. From there we walked towards PONTE VECCHIO one of the oldest bridge of Florence on river Arno. The bridge is always buzzing with jewellery shops lined up. Walk down to PALAZZO PITTI…we rested there at the square and then took a bus back to the hotel.
Trattoria Mario and Trattoria Za Za are highly recommended for meals.
A DAY TRIP TO PISA- from Florence is a great option. It takes about 50 mins to reach the university town of PISA by train. Buses are an option to reach the tower from the station but we preferred to stroll along the river ARNO. The LEANING TOWER is not a tall tower but the tilt is remarkable and u cannot believe your eyes at first sight. Access to the tower is limited and chargeable. It is an excellent place to click amazing pictures. Spend the day around and head back to Florence or can spend the visit after dark when night gives a beautiful picture of the shining white monuments.
After lazying around for about till noon in the city of Florence we eventually decided to take a detour and do some wine tasting at GREVE. It takes about an hour if travel by bus( SITA BUSES).Its a beautiful road journey looking at the vineyards around. The picturesque village of Greve gives us a sense of true country life. Did some wine tasting, bought a couple of bottles, had some bread and cheese and headed back to Florence. There are many wine tasting tours from Florence to vineyards near it.
VENICE -Venice the most romantic cities in the world was our next stop…took about 2–3 hours from Florence by train. Just the look of the grand canal when getting down at the train station takes your breath away. The city’s main mode of transport is the water bus or Vaporetto. We reached the main square PIAZZA SAN MARCO by water bus as our Best Western hotel was walking distance from there. San Marco Piazza is filled with tourists, a photographers delight.The beautiful St Mark’s Basilica stands tall at St Mark’s square. As I was with a 5-year-old son he didn’t want to go inside and rather let pigeons sit on him and feed them which he enjoyed and we also preferred roaming about the streets of Venice as we had only 1 night stay in Venice.We followed the yellow signs for the Rialto Bridge(PONTE DI RIALTO)Walk up to the bridge wait there for people to move to get a perfect picture especially of the grand canal during sunset.Sit by the cafe enjoy the seafood with wine (try seafood risotto). Well evening was more dramatic..not knowing what was happening outside…sitting in the cafe when we came outside the road was filled with water and so were the other areas. It was high tide or AQUA ALTA which is high water.It is because of Venice’s unique position as an island crisscrossed with canals, the city is sensitive to water levels but the water starts going down in a few hours.It is definitely not clean water and boot sellers were outselling boots and raincoats at higher prices.
Lanes there are so confusing, all look the same but we managed to reach back our hotel.We decided to take gondola ride the next morning. It was an unforgettable gondola ride down the Grand Canal, with a kiss under the bridge,it offers glimpses into the palazzi courtyards and hidden canals.The rates are fixed and gondolas cluster at stazi(stops) along the canal.To reach back to the railway station we took Vaporetto 1 which passes through beautiful mansions, some scene-stealing backdrops including of some James Bond movies. Venice is a whole different place, another day in Venice could have allowed us to visit a couple of places more. Whatever we experienced was surreal.Our flight was from Rome(AIR INDIA). Italy was a great trip, a gastronomic haven for foodies like us…it was a great journey from cobblestone lanes of Rome….mighty Colosseum…The Vatican to renaissance Florence to ending the trip in gondola ride in the canals of Venice. Travelling with a child makes your travel a little limited…but just relaxing in the park or piazza seeing your child running around in awesome weather and playing football with the local kids brings a smile to your face……