So, this past winter I decided to venture on the greatest trip of my life to date-a solo trip to the country of Italy!
This opportunity presented itself to me in the most serendipitous of ways and even until today I cannot believe I ventured out there alone. Travel has always been the one thing that I have always been held back from due to life restrictions, yet alas here I am reporting to you of all the quaint things I managed to get up to.
I spontaneously planned my trips meaning I was train hopping from city to city, without a care in the world but a top priority of feeding myself hands on access to all the culture that Italy could give me. Milan, Bergamo, Florence and Verona were some of the cities I sought out; it is definitely true about what they say in terms of travel changing you, a month down the line and my toes cannot stop twitching with urge for the next adventure.
Read down below for everything I got up to in Italy…
Milan is the spot for making those #OOTD posts
When I visited Milan, I got a cool city apartment that was situated 5 minutes away from the Central Duomo di Milano (Cathedral of Milan). This location is a hotspot for all the worldwide travellers seeking to take a fashion forward picture for the Gram. Let me tell you, being it’s such a busy location, getting that perfect picture without someone walking and photobombing is definitely a rarity. Therefore, I discovered that embracing the perfect picture included the vibrant and buzzing atmosphere that this place captured and generated. The people of Milano with their multiverse of conversations, laughter, eating ice-cream with lovers, friends or intimate moments with oneself is what this city was all about. It really did allow me to encapsulate and vividly feel a sentence so popular amongst local Italians of ‘Dolce far niente’- the sweetness of doing nothing….
Milano Navigli is totally underrated
I don’t know what it was about this part of the city, but it completely had a different vibe to what you get from central Milano, where all the shopping locations are located. The atmosphere here was much less luxurious and more about homely socialisation with a view. I had the good fortune of visiting this place (which is around a 25 minutes’ walk from central Milano) when the sun was out, meaning the cobbled streets along the canal were lit up with a sun kissed touch, making my experience that much more magical!
The walk towards more central Milan and the ‘it is shopping locations’ such as the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, brought to my attention beautiful locations such as the Colonne di San Lorenzo, which showcased Roman remains that lay situated amongst the Basilica of San Lorenzo. This spot was perfect for its neutral vibes and crisp clean aesthetics, making it a necessity to take a quick snapshot-street style of course. If quick shopping on a high-street budget is what you are after, you will find many shops to cater to your every need on the walk upwards from Colonne di San Lorenzo.
Ice cream at Amorino’s
I am sure you have heard that Italy invented the indulgence of ice cream and its ‘gelato’. For that reason, I wanted to stress how important it is for you to try the ice cream located within the outskirt edge of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, called Amorino’s. Not only is this ice cream to die for in terms of flavour and fulfilling your gelato dreams, it also fits the aesthetics of your dream holiday pictures. The ice cream artisans that work there ensure that your ice cream is beautifully shaped like a flower, with a macaroon core for the finish. Although a little on the pricey side for ice-cream, the location and beautifully created master piece makes up for this and should definitely be a must on your food to-do list.
P.S the ice cream queue for this place is kind of unreal, we waited for a total of 30 minutes, yet we used this as an indicator of how good the ice cream place is, in comparison to the other places nearby.
Train hopping to Bergamo for cheap travel opportunities
Travelling within Italy is of course a necessity, as they have such excellent train systems that interlink to all beautiful destinations of Italy. The first spot for me was Bergamo. The reason I selected this place was due to its very close proximity to Milan. At a 45-minute train journey, with tickets at €9 a piece-where can you go wrong? Being that it is so close to Milan, you won’t need to plan for a location to stay, it’s a quaint city that you can stretch touristic locations all within your one day, or come back the next day from Milan, which is cheaper still than staying the night!
I did however, end up staying the night within the nicest apartment, that overlooked the Cittá Alta and the mountains. It was such a beautiful vibe and perfect for my New Year’s stay-I didn’t need no bonfire gathering- just my balcony window, with a cup of hot coco!
The Cittá Alta will take your heart
I managed to go all the way to the top using Bergamo’s Funicular line, which essentially is a 120-year-old rail system that scales uphill to the core and heart of the Venetian walls. There were so many beautiful spots to visit and due to the fact, I visited the Citta Alta on New Year’s Eve, meant everything sparkled that much more with lights and luminous archways. A particular favourite spot of mine was the Piazza Vecchia, for its bustling and full of life square, ornate Romanesque architecture, restaurants and beautiful bell tower-which I climbed up to overlook all of Bergamo. It gave me goose bumps, as I could feel the beautiful energy that the Italians had; their love of socialising and harmonious engaging with one another over food and love. It was beautiful and I honestly envisioned myself there as part of my future. Bergamo made me crave that rich culture and art of living that Italians naturally possess.
The Giulio Balzer Pasticceria was something out of a movie
Another spot that captured my heart (and my belly), was the quaint café and pasticceria on 80 Via XX Settembre. This place was a family business that served pastries with recipes that have lived for decades and passed through generations. I met the proud owner myself and he was so gracious and welcoming, recommending me on what I had to try. To accompany my perfect cup of latte macchiato, I didn’t stick to just one pastry I am afraid. Yes, I am guilty of trying more than one-and do I regret it? Hell no! I tried the Viennese biscuit, that was centre filled with custard and the half-dipped chocolate cookie. And let me tell you something, I even took more for after in endless supply for my stay in Bergamo, to accompany the home-made coffees that I made in my flat.
Verona’s nature is breath-taking
I stayed a stop away by train from the central Verona centre (Verona Porta Nuova), because I wanted to be surrounded by green landscaping and orchards. Even in the middle of winter, this place shined at sunrise, with frost and dews that just glistened perfectly to the open eye. The Airbnb location was a 10-minute walk from the train station Dossobuono and I would highly recommend people who want to experience vast landscapes and the city life to stay around it, as you get to really experience the best of both worlds.
The heart and city of love
I have to admit that visiting central Verona, was something on my list for a very long time. You will find that the city is very busy, especially in the festive period and it is highly common to find couples, hand in hand on every corner and alleyway of the city. Verona has been the epicentre of romance culture for centuries.
Ever since the fiction of Rome and Juliet was born, it continues to live on through the Venetian city life. A hotspot for all the lovers out there is the Casa di Giulietta (Juliette’s house). You will find there the legendary balcony that Juliet used to see Romeo within their forbidden love story and it just so happens to be the perfect spot for getting that perfect picture from the balcony itself; reliving that magical moment! Although I didn’t get a chance to go up to the balcony myself (it was crazy busy!), I managed to leave a personal declaration of love on the wall of letters addressed to Juliette, that have amassed over the years. This has been a tradition kept religiously for many years, were many women and lovers flock to leave their voices on the halls and walls of loves intricate and symbolic shrine.
Florence will rekindle any lost creator back to life
I decided to leave the best until last, as I genuinely connected on a whole other level to Florence. Florence beckons every lost creator on its cobbled paths, antique corner shops and cafes to venture and witness the magical art that surrounds every wake corner of the city. I found myself in awe most of the time, especially when I was in the Cathedral Square. The Santa Maria Del Fiore Cathedral took my breath away, as the architecture was designed never to be forgotten. White walls surrounded by bold engravings that pierce your visions instantly, I just wanted to bask amongst its vision all day. Believe me, it got my thoughts rushing wildly with vast inspiration and I felt so small in such grand gesture of a masterpiece-but never in a bad way. It was breath taking, and unfathomable to those that have never been….
The city comes alive at dusk
So, from the core of Florence and a salmon ravioli in the Piazza Santo Spirito later, I journeyed upwards to the Giardino delle Rose, which featured many botanical roses of rare species within its garden. It was the perfect place to take a minute out and embrace the cool breeze which collectively brushed past me, to cool me down from that long upward climb.
Further on within my walk, I ventured higher to the Piazzale Michelangelo which is located on the south side of the Arno River and let me tell you, the view you witness just before the sun sets is beyond anything you can imagine. I spoke to a young couple that day who were too also enjoying what the city offers to all who seek sanctuary- a piece of mind. They told me how they had moved to Florence initially, 6 years ago in search of awakening their lost selves within the magic the city had to offer. A stay that was only supposed to be 4 months to half a year, yet 6 years later they enjoy the same double espresso from the café which we both simultaneously sought within that day. I now realised why when the sun finally set. The embers of city lights that reflected on the Arno River and the city’s architectural landscape which shared many a mighty masterpiece like the Brunelleschi’s Dome and Giotto’s Bell Tower, highlighted a beautiful inner peace and comfort to all those that shared the view. The historic presence of the city of Florence in Tuscany, immediately makes you forget all your sorrows and woes; you strangely feel so at home in a city that you have only been wandering in for the past few hours. In essence, Florence brings you closer to yourself. You start to appreciate those rare sweet moments of doing everything and nothing, all in the spiritual and comforting momentum this city offers- from soul spiritual travellers to lovers that have shared decades of memories. We all appreciated that moment of being so alive, in the core soul of Italy.