This is part 2 of my series on our summer vacation this year in Greece and Italy. Read the first post here: One Perfect Week in Greece: Athens, Santorini, Crete! And thanks for sticking with me all this time if you have.
Pictures are uploading really really slowly so I will revisit this post and put the pictures in to match the descriptions later! My apologies..
Day 1: Athens to Milan
After spending the night in a boat, our family woke up early in the morning to pack up the luggage and get off at the Athens port of Piraeus. With all our luggage, some defective and harder to pull along than others, we waddled our way to the metro station.
Several stops later, we found ourselves in this square, with “Helm’s Deep”…I meant, The Acropolis, of course… overlooking us. That’s where we had our breakfast, with the rising sun and some stray pigeons flocking over our extra breadcrumbs.
Since I had lost an earring during the Santorini boat cruise, I was able to find a new pair in one of these small shops – 3 EUR – and my first dangly earrings.
We each got a mint/strawberry lemonade from and some strawberries and cherries from a fruit stall in the square.
We rode the subway all the way to the airport and boarded our plane. The Athens airport is really chill – people are not stressed or hurried, and the workers joke around and smile a lot. I’m going to miss this country.
My seat was separate from the rest of my family so I got a few hours to myself with peace. I was able to finish one of the books I have been reading, White Tiger Legend, and I was able to draft a little more on my new project. What a luxury.
After arriving, we got our luggage and found our rental car – a humongous effort – and somehow made our way to our apartment in Milan.
The power went out briefly in our house, so I peeked outside and saw this delightful view from the balcony before ending the day.
Day 2: Milan to Verona
The first thing we did in the morning was walk to the metro station and take the red line all the way to the station called Duomo.
Stepping out of the station, this was the first sight we saw:
Breathtaking. We ended up staying the whole day in the Brera neighborhood.
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II has got to be the most beautiful shopping mall I have ever seen.
We got half a kilo of gelato from this stuck-up, fancy place in the central hub:
And I nearly got pickpocketed, if it were not for the fact that I didn’t have anything on me worth stealing. So I got this free bracelet instead (a distracting device).
We then proceeded to wander about in the alleys and nearby courtyards.
Look at the detail everywhere! LOOK! It’s amazing.
We passed through the galleria again to get back to the square.
Where we spent a few nice long hours in the art museum:
And then got tickets, and then walked around the top of the Duomo di Milano.
And inside as well:
It’s absolutely stunning. I could have sat inside for hours staring at the stained glass, sculptures, and the architecture too.
Unfortunately, our day had to come to a close, and we got back on the metro, found our rental car, and drove the two hours to Verona, where we stayed for the night.
Day 3: Verona to Venice
Despite staying the night in Verona, we hardly saw anything, save for the time we went to get dinner from a pizzeria. We ordered way too much – enough for dinner, breakfast, and lunch – and Albert made some friends with the baker’s children too. It’s amazing how much enthusiasm can be communicated through a language one can’t understand.
So after rousing ourselves in the morning, we set off exploring Verona by foot, first crossing this river on a bridge:
Passing this church:
Walking along this road (with a really cute bakery, among other shops):
And finally arriving at Juliet’s balcony. I have seen the movie “Letters to Juliet”, so I recognized the place immediately, before my family realized we were there, and despite other travelers saying that the place is overrated, I still thought that it was a nice hour we spent there.
I even found two signatures bearing my name! I wonder who all these people were who passed through this single archway.
We went up into the museum as well. Passages from Shakespeare’s tragedy were displayed around the house, and we got to stand from the balcony and look at old artifacts.
Oliver’s reaction in one of the most romantic places on earth:
My letter to Juliet – a bit immature, I know.
We celebrated our long walk with another half kilo of gelato – cheaper than the place in Milan, and more delicious.
We wandered around some more:
Through these stands:
Past this statue of Dante:
And by some other buildings that I don’t quite understand, but thought were very photogenic anyway:
We crossed the river again to climb up these stairs of the Castel San Pietro, to find a great view of the entire city on the top:
Where we also had our overpriced and tiny lunch:
Before embarking on our road trip to Venice. I think that this stretch of our driving so far has been the most beautiful. I really loved looking at all the nice shades of green, the layers of turf, and the occasional castle in the distance.
After arriving at our apartment in Venice, we didn’t do much but hang out and eat our store-bought dinner. More exploring to do in the morning!
(I also got my Snapchat account today. Feel free to add me @gloriaglare)
Day 4: Venice to Florence
Not all of Venice is canals and water. We were able to drive our car to the apartment and then we found an underground parking lot for it last night. In the morning, we took the bus to the main boarding port, and took the Vaporetto to the glass factory (Murano).
We ended up getting off one stop too early, so we walked by foot and were able to see all the shops selling glass animals, glass candy, glass beads, glass jewelry, glass bowls, glass everything imaginable. Each creation was an artwork by itself. We ended up buying two glass animal families (frogs and swans).
Also we saw this huge glass sculpture on the street, which was way more amazing in reality than it appears in the photo.
It turns out that the factory was closed since it was a Sunday, so the most we could have done was look around and buy some souvenirs anyway.
We then found the Piazza San Marco by foot by going through all these narrow alleys and mini squares. We had a gelato under the sweltering heat before continuing making our way there.
At the Piazza, we rested a bit and strolled around the long arcade. The musicians playing there were of top-notch quality, that and the expensive-looking shops seemed to scream high-class.
We lunched at a restaurant on a street not far from the Piazza called Birreria Pedavena, and I had this minestrone soup and Albert had this fried squid:
By the time we took the Vaporetto back to the bus stop, and took the bus to our street and got our car, we were exhausted. I for one, had seen enough of the city.
Driving to Florence, I can honestly say that one of my favorite parts of the week is driving through the countryside. The landscape is so beautiful it always seems a shame to fall asleep. You just want to look! The stunning pictures you see of Tuscany on Pinterest or Instagram, I realized, are actually really representative of the country. Unfortunately, it was difficult to get any of those great shots on a moving vehicle, but the driving part of our travels during this week always gave me a sense of contentment.
Day 5: Florence to Siena
I had been looking forward to Florence for this entire trip because of their famous leather goods! My shoes had holes in them, an ayi stole my leather jacket, I love leather-bound notebooks, and ideally, I’d also want a bag. Was I expecting some sort of shopping spree? No, but I hoped for one. So far, each kid had been given a daily budget of 5 EUR.
Our first stop was the Florence Cathedral (the Santa Maria del Fiore) in the Piazza del Duomo, whose dome was built by Filippo Brunelleschi. I still remember being so inspired by his story as an elementary school student, because that was probably the first time I recognized true brilliance of invention.
The line to the main cathedral interior was so long that I probably could have read Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream standing there, so instead of waiting we only went inside the Baptisterium. It was beautiful, but probably nothing compared to whatever it looked like inside the cathedral.
We went to the nearby Opera del Duomo Museum afterwards. We saw great works (mainly sculptures) by Michelangelo, Donatello, and many others.
Wandering about, soon we found many, many small shops selling leather goods. The one in the plaza with the cathedral was so expensive, but the actual quality around the city was probably around the same. My mom commented that if we bought any random brand from Italy and brought it to China, it would be a main brand, especially here in Florence, a major fashion center. From a sandal shop, I managed to find a pair of shoes that actually fit my super-wide feet, and rejoiced. That has happened so rarely in my life that I have grown used to the inevitable method of finding shoes that fit without hurting very much, and waiting for a few weeks for them to mold to my foot shape (by “mold” I mean “streeeetch”!). They cost 55 EUR, and Joyce also bought a pair of a different style.
On this street, I found my coveted leather jacket. It was originally marked for 380 EUR, but when I asked, the seller told me 150. When I reacted that it was so expensive, he took me inside to let me try it on “for fun”, and agreed to lower it to 130 EUR. My dad, of course, wanted a better deal and tried to drive the price down to 110. After many long minutes where the seller pleaded that he had to answer to his boss at the end of the day why he would ever do such a thing, he managed to take off 5 EUR, and we paid 125. This was one of my favorite purchases during the entire trip, although we did drive a hard bargain and I felt bad, because the seller was a really nice person (from Naples).
That was pretty much the end of that, and we drove off to our next city, Siena.
On the outskirts of the town, we tried desperately to find food, and failed, because all the small restaurants were closed and so were the supermarkets. Back in our rental house, we had to settle for the odd collection of gummy candy, cookies, fruit, and chocolate we had accumulated over the past few days. Huge LOL moment.
Day 6: Siena to Rome
Despite being less heard-of than the other Italian cities, Siena is definitely worth a visit, as a representative Tuscan hill town and UNESCO world heritage site.
The two main places we wanted to hit were the Siena Cathedral (Duomo) and the Palazzo Pubblico, which we did.
Our long-awaited food came in the form of pasta today:
And we feasted our eyes on these beautiful gelatos:
According to legend, Siena was founded by the two sons of Remus, and the symbol of the city is the she-wolf suckling the two boys.
We stopped for a standard slice of pizza on our way out, and found a candle shop which was too adorable to miss. The craftsmanship was so good we had to buy two before heading back out on the street.
And then I saw this sidewalk art:
After another pleasant drive, we found ourselves in the nation’s capital, Rome. Our landowner was super nice and he recommended a few restaurants within walking distance. However, they were so popular that all the seats had been reserved in advance and they were full. We reserved spots for tomorrow and had a nice rice/pasta dinner at another one a few blocks away, before heading back and calling it a day.
Day 7-8: Rome to Home
Anyway, we started the day’s journey on the Spanish steps and made our way to the Trevi Fountain, where I made a wish and threw a coin over my shoulder.
We passed an odd assortment of street artists to get to the Pantheon:
The Pantheon (we didn’t go inside):
There was a really good spray paint artist who I didn’t get a picture of. There were also wannabe singers, makers of little crafts not unlike my own grandma, and endless amounts of people selling selfie sticks and bottled water.
Taking the bus to the Colosseum, we were tired before we even arrived. Thankfully, we had booked tickets in advance and were able to skip the long long lines. I would highly recommend that you do so if you ever go and want to make the most out of your visit.
Yuck, people used to watch other people fight to the death here, like in The Hunger Games? Humans must have been really bored in the past. Now we do innocent things…like social media…
After a long rest, my mom, Joyce, and I waddled over to the Roman Forum nearby and took a look at some ancient walls and temples and monuments.
For dinner we went to that restaurant we had made reservations for the day before. I ordered this gourmet burger (with fries) from their menu of burgers from all over the world. It tasted basically the same, the only difference might have been the cheese and vegetables. Albert got these nice breads with toppings:
Thanks for reading!
Read Part 1 of this series here: One Perfect Week in Greece: Athens, Santorini, Crete