Travels in Italy: Lombardy – Milan (May 26, 2015)

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Map of the Lombardy region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Maps

Map of the Lombardy region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Maps

Attractions:

  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
  • Duomo
  • Teatro alla Scala (La Scala Opera House)
  • Castello Sforzesco (Sofrenza Palace) with Pietà

Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region of Italy—the region begins at the Alps near the Switzerland border and goes down to the River Po. The Lombards, a Germanic tribe, resided in the area in 6th century AD were adept at trade and commerce, giving rise to the fame of the region. Today, Milan is still the financial and fashion center of Italy.

We only spent half the day in Milan, so we were only able to visit a few places with the local tour guide. We met our guide at the Palazzo Marino, which is central to the main attractions in the city.

Then we walked to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II—an ornate shopping center built in the shape of a Latin cross with mosaics representing the four continents of the world. Filled with designer brands, the Galleria is a shopping paradise for the wealthy.

Galleria

As we exited the Galleria, we entered the Piazza del Duomo, where we had a grand view of the Duomo of Milan.

Piazza del Duomo

The Duomo is one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world and originated from the 14th century.

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The outside of the cathedral is made of pink and white marble; the façade is elaborately decorated with several spires and statues. Admission costs 2 euros per person to the cathedral and crypt. We were allowed free time to explore on our own. Continue reading

Travels in Italy: Lombardy – Lake Como & Lake Maggiore (May 26-27, 2015)

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Map of the Lombardy region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Maps

Map of the Lombardy region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Maps

Lake Como is a resort area for the ritzy and trendy peoples of the world. At Lake Como, our tour director arranged a private boat to give us a tour of the lake. One can see the villas of famous celebrities, including the Queen of England, George Clooney, etc. It is a pleasant experience for those who enjoy learning of the private lives of famous people.

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The town of Lake Como is a small, touristy place that had its usual shops and a Gothic-style church. We only had a couple of hours to wander around.

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We resided in the resort area nearby Lake Maggiore at Grand Hotel Dino for two nights (while we visited Lake Como and the nearby Isola Isabella and Isola Madre). Unfortunately a lot of the shops in the nearby area close early, so it was difficult to do any grocery or souvenir shopping.

Italy

Travels in Italy: Veneto – Verona (May 26, 2015)

Entering Verona

Map of Veneto region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Images

Map of Veneto region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Images

Attractions:

  • Piazza Erbe
  • Casa di Giuletta

Verona, historically, is a city built on the site of an ancient Roman forum. The Piazza Erbe at the center is named for the city’s herb market. Today, lots of vendors sell their wares and fresh produce at the piazza.

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A visit to Verona is not complete without a looksee at Casa di Giuletta (Juliet’s House).

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Guided by a tunnel doodled with the names of lovers and couples, one enters a courtyard with a bronze statue of Juliet worn to a polish around her arms and breasts from her many visitors (or admirers, I should say) and the balcony supposedly where Romeo visited her on his night excursions. Continue reading

Travels in Italy: Veneto – Venice (May 24-25, 2015)

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Map of Veneto  region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Images

Map of Veneto region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Images

Attractions:

  • Grand Canal
  • Gondola ride under the Bridge of Sighs to the Grand Canal
  • Mark’s Basilica and Square
  • Doge’s Palace
  • Lido Island

Called the “Queen of the Adriatic,” the city of Venice is made up of 118 islands joined by a sprawling network of 450 canals. Located on a lagoon, the main transportation of this city is by boats. On May 24th, we traveled down the Grand Canal in private motor boats courtesy of our tour director.  As it happened, it was the day of a boat competition. Teams of four or five; young and old; women and men skillfully maneuvered their sleek boats past us. This sight coupled with the old buildings on either side of the canal banks made it an experience to remember.

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Our tour director then instructed the boat captains to dock the boats at San Marco. Here we mingled with the tourists while we waited our turn for the gondola ride. It was worth the wait!

The gondolier took us under the Bridge of Sighs that connected the Doge’s Palace to the prison and guided us into the heart of Venice’s canal system. Ancient buildings flanked each side like sentinels welcoming our passage. Then, behind us in one of the gondolas, a man began to sing an Italian serenade accompanied by an accordion player.

Immersed in the beautiful Venetian song, one can enjoy the sights and sounds of Venice.

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Later we were taken by a ferry to the island of Lido, where we would stay for two nights. We stayed at the Hotel Grande Albergo Ausonia and Hungaria, whose architecture was influenced by the art nouveau style with its flora and fauna motifs. Although the hotel rooms were old, it was fairly comfortable. Continue reading

Travels in Italy: Umbria – Assisi (May 23, 2015)

View of Perugia Landscape from Mt. Subasio

Umbria is a region of Italy that was founded by the Etruscans. Perugia, one of the cities in the region, is known for their chocolate.

Map of Umbria, Italy

Map of Umbria, Italy

Attractions:

  • Basilica de San Francesco
  • Church of Santa Chiara

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. ~ Saint Francis of Assisi

Assisi, Italy

Assisi is the home of Saint Francis, who founded the strict Franciscan order devoted to God and helping the poor and sick.

San Francesco (St. Francis) of Assisi

The medieval town and Basilica de San Francesco are located at the peak of the serene Mount Subaso, presenting a splendid view of the rolling greenery of the valley below. The day we visited the weather was rainy. We followed our tour guide, Giuseppe, up the slope into the basilica.

San Francesco Basilica Continue reading

Travels in Italy: Amalfi Coast – Capri (May 22, 2015)

 

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Attractions:

  • Grottos
  • Anacapri (on second level)
Amalfi Coast schematic map (courtesy of Exploring the Amalfi Coast)

Amalfi Coast schematic map (courtesy of Exploring the Amalfi Coast)

The island of Capri is a 20-minute boat ride from the port of Sorrento. The colorful buildings and winding streets lead you across the cliffs toward an awe-inspiring landscape of numerous boats lined up in rows.

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There is also an opportunity to visit the coral-colored grottos of Capri (natural masterpieces) by motorboat across the lovely “lapis lazuli lagoon.”

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Continue reading