Saturday, January 25, 2014

Trip to Venice, Through the Night.

Gazing the evening sun setting itself across the undulating waves on the lagoon water of Venice, for a moment we felt as if the sun also wanted to stay a bit longer. It seemed the sun wanted some time more, to soak in the mesmerizing beauty of Venice. Or perhaps sail across the moon and stars in the night. Venice at night manifests romanticism. The rising waters across the land, the winter quiet, and the clear sky calm, it’s a rare combination we never ever witnessed again in our many European trips. Venice, the only pedestrian city in the world, is special, frame after frame, moment after moment. Without an exaggeration, Venice’s beauty builds, stays and conquers your senses.

One of the several canals, donned by Gondolas

 If our evening had been eternal, our night was even more magical. The spurt drizzle made the city dew fresh. The bustle was back on the wet cobbled streets and the neatly parked gondolas and the sweet music aboard were flowing back around Venice.

St. Mark's Square
St. Mark's Square
We came back to Ponte De Rialto (Rialto bridge) across The Grand Canal to begin our journey and reached Bell tower of St. Mark. The square outside is fabulous to say the least and offers some exquisite views. Finally we reached Basilica di San Marco.

Basilica di San Marino
Basilica di San Marino
 The magnificence of Basilica is unbelievable, and more so the thing that make it special is the serene setting. The lagoon water brace the basilica steps with reverence and the moon light stands guard of its grandeur.

The historical center can hold you forever. The monuments look fabulous beneath the night sky. They are all appropriately lit with a lot of importance to the finer details.

The Venice charm is best explored in getting lost without a map. Identify a part of Venice, put your map deep inside your pocket and get happily lost in the street and views of Venice. Open the map back, and happily discover the places you have just covered. Most, almost all the places can easily be covered on feet, without the use of any Vaporetti or taxi.
Vignette outside a Shop on our journey of getting lost
There are some islands around Venice that happen to be of a great tourist interest. Burano and Murano are worth being on itineary. They are popular for the Glass work, a popular souvenir choice, albeit a lot expensive. However my choice would go for being in Venice for 2 days and see the colored and picturesque Burano for another day.

For all reasons and sometimes none, Venice, in day and night alike, is synonymous with magic.

The magic stayed with me in the dreams that night, and continues to stay with me even today. We left for Milan early morning next day.

In the first part of the posts Venice, Through the Day, you'd find the regular features, Shop What, Travel Facts and Bottom Line. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Day Trip to Venice

I tried really hard for placing an appropriate adjective along with the title of the post. Only to conclude that it would be an understatement for the magic that Venice holds. Every corner and every moment in Venice is like a picture postcard. It's one of those places that you just so wish was real. It is. There are no vehicles, no roads. Exquisite pontes(bridges) connect one island on the lagoon with the other. One has to either take a water bus(Vaporetti) or water taxi or the best of all, be yourself on your feet. The remarkable thing about Venice is, that despite all the visitors and tourists, it still is successful in preserving its charm.
Venice through Vaporetti
Done with an early breakfast , we left for our journey from Florence to reach Venice in TrenItalia pre-noon. The journey was comfortable and quite relaxed. Both of us caught some sleep on board, which was later followed by some cups of coffee from the train pantry. Yet again, as always in Italy, we cut across through some of the breathtaking landscapes. The train journey was comfortable and most of the people who traveled were not tourists. Perhaps it had more to do with the timing of our train, than anything else. 

There is a tourist center that is located at a convenient location on the station Venezia Saint Lucia. There was a ritual exchange of maps, ideas on the division of time, and how to reach our hotel. We step outside the station to soak in simply amazing beauty of Venice. Every sight, every nook of Venice would for sure, stay with you forever

The sunshine floated through the waves of the lagoon, and in our Vaporetti we could simply not believe the breathtaking views that passed by. We lazed our way to reach our Hotel as we were carrying lot of luggage. Few bridges aside, we reached our hotel through bustling tourist streets.
Ponte showcasing the upcoming Venice festival
We caught up with our lunch and then took a ride of the magic of Venice in the water bus and saw the sun setting somewhere in Venice.

That was the best evening of my Life.

(Travel across Venice through night on the post 'Venice, Through the Night'.)

Shop What
  • Souvenirs
  • Glass based artifacts
  • Personae
Bottom Line
  • Gondola rides are highly overrated. These rides are simply not worth the price you pay.
  • Sometimes it may be difficult to find places. As a thumb rule, begin with some idea of your destination in Venice from the tourist center.
  • Free Maps were not available at the Tourist Center but you could find them at your Hotel.
  • Venice is expensive.
  • Public transportation is best on the Vaporetti, especially on Single day or 3 day passes. Highly recommended.
  • Hotel, at times can be far off from the Vaporetti stops which necessarily have to be covered on feet. Travel light or stay in hotels that are close to Vaporetti stops.
  • Venice is more European than other Italian cities with majority of people speaking English.
  • Best time to visit is during fall or winters.
Travel Facts
  • Stayed : 1 day .
  • Stayed at : Hotel , Scandinavia - OK, Choose better 'value for money' hotels close to Vaporetti stops.
  • Traveled with my better half .
  • Traveled in TrenItallia from Florence in January 2013.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Trip to Pisa, Italy

My wife and I were feeling a child like excitement, the moment we stepped out from our hotel to catch the regional train from Florence (Firenze Santa Maria Novella) to Pisa. We were sure it was going to be a visual treat to be a witness of the architecture marvel, one of the seven wonders, the Leaning tower of Pisa. We hurriedly bought tickets from the Tabak shop on the train station and rushed towards the train. With some breaths up and some down, we boarded the train. There was a bunch of daily travelers who largely alighted before Pisa. The comfortable (odd hour) journey cut us through from some really beautiful rural landscapes.

Pisa greeted us with a bright sunshine, a rather welcome change from the overcast Florence that we had left behind.
Fountain outside the Pisa Centrali station

There is a beautiful fountain just outside the station which turned out to be a popular snapshot point. Few meters away, we could spot a skating surface quite popular among the locals.
Skating surface quite popular among locals

The streets that led us to the 'Leaning Tower of Pisa' were largely commercial in nature. The famed Arno and lovely ponte across it leads to the 'Historical Center' that finally leads to the complex. Along side this street there are some popular brands and restaurants dotting both the sides. Though one has to admit that Pisa could still manage to preserve its town-like feeling. Apart from the main commercial street, there are few other streets, worth visiting in the town.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
Clear blue sky in the backdrop
We finally reached Piaza dei Miracloi, the main tourist complex of Pisa, which apart from the Leaning tower, also houses other monuments like Duomo Di Pisa and the Bapistry(Battistero). Against the popular misconception, the compound has multiple monuments around the Leaning tower of Pisa and all of them are worth visiting. Leaning nature of the tower is attributed to the marshy nature of the land that was the base of the tower during construction.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa

There is a convenient tourist center located within the complex that can provide useful guidance on how to divide time (and money) among the monuments. On most clear days, one can view scenic mountains behind the Leaning Tower. The  front gardens are quite appealing and clinically maintained. One can easily spend 3-4 hours in the monument complex.
Front gardens outside the Leaning Tower

We left for mesmerizing Venice, the next day, a trip that'll never ever be forgotten.

Shop What
  • Leaning Tower of Pisa Souveniers
  • If you must, T-shirts.
Bottom Line
  • Pisa is a relaxed one day trip from Florence.
  • If travelling with less luggage, you can go from Florence to Pisa and then from Pisa to Venice.
Travel Facts
  • Stayed : One Day Trip from Florence.
  • Stayed at : Hotel Embassy, Florence - Yes, highly recommended.
  • Traveled with my better half on a single Day trip 
  • Traveled in regional Train from Florence in January 2013.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Trip to Florence

Phew... It took us no time to reach Florence (Firenze Santa Maria Novella) from Naples.There was a sea change in the two cities. Not only the sea, but everything else was also, quite different. A far smaller city than Naples, it's more European (than Italian) too. One could easily touch the prosperity here. Unlike its southern cousin Naples, there is a herculean meticulousness that is associated with Florence. Not only does Michelangelo live here through his eternal creations, but also its heritage, physical infrastructure of Firenze, the cleanliness, upkeep of the monuments etc. can hold your senses. Florence is the cradle for modern day Opera, a breeding ground for a unique architecture style of its own, and definitively the renaissance. By all means Florence is a different city at day, and yes an altogether a different city at night.

Duomo Florence
Historical Center, Florence
Hotel Embassy where we stayed was near to the station, and should say, it was fantastic. The room was comfortable, staff helpful, and the breakfast was good with a lot of variety.

The beautiful squares or piazzas that compellingly invites the white pigeons to throng for feed, compliment the artistic architecture that can take your breath away. On our way, we found many academicians on their study tours with local guides. Step after step, the beauty of the city sinks in deep, with the heritage the city carries with itself. At times, the entire city looks like an art gallery minus the formal settings plus the shining overhead sun. All the tourist places can easily be covering by walking around (Yes, walking is highly recommended).
Light Drizzle add to the Florence magic

Within few feet, we could reach the restaurant that was a few blocks away to gulp our favorite Cappuccino. Within our sight, we had the famed church of Santa Maria Novella. Its grandeur spoke loud about its emphatic class. We began our trip by taking small walk to reach the historical center through Piazza Del Signora, Piazza Del Giovanni among others. We finally reached Duomo. The grand Duomo and its surroundings can hold forever by their charm and magnificence, and as stars lit the sky, the city of Florence adores a totally different look altogether. It drizzled in the evening and by eight at night, everything was 'morning dew' fresh.
Arno at Night

The lights across the tourist places in the city were optimal and sufficient.The beautiful ponte or bridges that dot river Arno makes the picturesque landscape even more special. There were a lot of bicycle riders in the city.

We left our Hotel to catch a regional train to Pisa so that we were in time to reach back to Florence, the very same evening.

Florence is indeed a feast of culture and can come in courses that would,for sure, stay with you forever.

Shop What
  • Avoid shopping in Florence, if travelling on a Budget trip. You'll find some good bargains in Pisa.
Bottom Line
  • Yes, Many people speak English and the happy trend continues as we go further north in Italy.
  • Food is expensive and make your choice judiciously about the restaurant. Historical center is a better place for meals.
  • Walk your way through.
  • You could save on your lodging if you choose a Hotel bit far, because being a smaller city, that 'bit' will never be too far.
Travel Facts
  • Stayed : 2 days.
  • Stayed at : Hotel Embassy - Definite Yes, Recommended.
  • Traveled with my better half and the journey could be easily divided in two parts Florence at Day and at Night. 
  • Traveled in TrenItalia from Naples in January 2013.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Travel Tips for Sorrento, Italy

Of  what we had heard about Sorrento, we had planned a day trip from Naples to Sorrento, even before we had began our trip to Italy. When in Naples though we had to choose between Amalfi Coast and Sorrento or Capri Islands.

The weather decided for us. It was overcast, and most of the people advised us against taking a littoral trip. We did, and so gladly I say, we did. We had to stunt the Amalfi coast from the itinerary. Our excursion to Sorrento from Naples began from the port of Moro Beverello. After a sumptuous lunch, we took a Hydrofoil around noon and reached Sorrento in less than an hour.

Naples to Sorrento
Moro Beverello
The journey s a story itself. Snow crowned mountains, breezy sea, and a deck seat. Well we couldn't had much beyond. It was cold and a cup of coffee did wonders to our spirit. We stayed for an hour around the port and enjoyed and marveled its exquisite beauty.
Quaint Charm of Sorrento
There is a quiet charm about the place and the weather complimented that charm all the more. We climbed a top of steep stairs to reach the town and some of the views during our ascent were equally mesmerizing. The town had a piazza that had its characteristic statue, and a leading market street. We shopped a bit to realize that it turned out to be one of the cheaper of the Italian places. On our train trip in Circumvesuviana back to Napoli Centrali (read Naples), we met a bunch of Korean youngsters who had some zealous experiences of Amalfi Coast to share.
Clouds building along the sea

We enjoyed every bit of our stay at Sorrento!

Sorrento-Surreal Beauty!

PS:  Ideally a trip from Naples early morning could give you a chance to explore Amalfi Coast and Sorrento same day.

We hurriedly packed our baggage that night, as we had to leave for Florence next day.

Shop What
  • Better places to shop for winter wear.
  • Being Town, most of the things are comparatively cheaper.

Bottom Line 
  • Sorrento can give make your trip to Italy really really special. Do visit it for sure. 
  • My choice between Naples City and Sorrento would be with Sorrento. 
  • Plan properly and you can easily cover Amalfi Coast in a Single day. These places are amazing!
  • Capri Islands deserves at least a day trip.
Travel facts
  • Stayed : One Day Trip from Naples.
  • Stayed at : Hotel Ideal, Naples - No, not recommended.
  • Traveled with my better half on a single Day trip 
  • Traveled in Hydrofoil/Local Train from Naples in January 2013.