Milan, the fashion capital of the world and the second-largest Italian city. We had four hours in the city between trains. Having been to Italy a few years ago, I knew to anticipate the busy roads, crazy Italian driving and serious lack of road markings… I was right to expect this! London roads and ruthless black cab drivers ain’t got nothing on the Italians.
When we finally got to the centre of the city, after fearing for our lives on several occasions might I add, we managed to take in the surrounding beauty of the architecture. It is certainly grand, especially the Duomo di Milano. A lovely girl from New Zealand that we met in Luzern had given us a few tips on Milan, a free visit to this magnificent cathedral was one of them. I’m not religious at all but I absolutely adore visiting cathedrals purely for the beauty and the history of that they hold. It was worth a drop in visit for this, and of course for a chance to peer longingly into the windows of Prada, Armani and Versace… if only.
Something that I’m unsure whether I’m disappointed or not over is how I didn’t get time to try an ‘interesting’ looking spinach and cereal smoothie-esque treat.
Back aboard the train, and we were finally on our way to Venice. Of course there was disagreement over directions to our Hotel, but we got there eventually after buying a map (which I then lost soon after arriving at the Hotel). The Hotel itself was a let down; this isn’t snobbery talking (a majority of the month was spent in dorms and the sharing of grubby, broken-locked, hair-blocked showers – that didn’t faze me), but when the one hotel you stay in during a month is worse than any hostel, that’s saying something. Anyway, lets not get bogged down with my complaints about the hotel because Venice is absolutely beautiful and overhauled any qualms I had about the hotel. But seriously, avoid Hotel Alla Salute at all costs.
Top ten tips:
- Don’t attempt to video record a singer serenading people on a Gondola. He will stop singing and he will shout at you in unintelligible Italian. (I take no responsibility for this happening!)
- Try a Bellini cocktail. I could quite happily drink these until my heart’s content (or my liver has failed).
- Eat pizza – it is Italy after all and they are very reasonably priced.
- Do not have three pairs of primark shoes as your only shoes. I’m pretty sure my feet were wrecked by the end of the month due to my naive trust in their shoes to get me through the amount of walking I did.
- If you don’t have the necessary funds to afford a Gondola Tour, try what I like to call ‘the poor man’s Gondola’ where you pay about 2 Euro to cross the Grand Canal stood up on what they call a Traghetto. It is probably the quickest and cheapest way of experiencing a gondola if only for a couple of minutes.
- Check to see whether any festivals or other free events are happening. We managed to catch a lovely little Jazz festival in its last days where you can perch on the floor and appreciate the music. Watching street performers is also a fun way to relax in the sun; we managed to catch an acrobatic clown – there really is all sorts going on.
- Take advantage of the water fountains dotted around – they will save you a bomb on buying water bottles.
- If it is possible for you to do so, visit Venice outside of the peak summer months – the heaving tourism which takes place throughout July and August can be frustrating in the narrow streets.
- Visit San Marco’s Square and of course all the other landmarks (this doesn’t really need to be a tip as it goes without saying!)
- Visit some of the museums if you get too hot and sticky out in the sun. I went to the Leonardo Di Vinci museum which focused on his inventions – this might not be for everyone but it was a surprise fascination for me!
10 points really isn’t enough to say all that I’d like to about Venice. It really is lovely. Enjoy it and do your homework before you go – Venice was probably my least researched place of InterRail travels but I loved it nonetheless.