MY FIRST TRIP TO ITALY – LA DOLCE VITA !
When I landed at Milan Malpensa airport, I was politely greeted by the gentleman who had been sent to receive me at the airport. He promptly dropped me at NYX hotel ,a lovely boutique hotel located opposite Milano Centrale station. I was offered a beautiful room with jazzy interiors, on the 11th floor which offered panoramic views of downtown Milan.
We were first taken to Castle Sforzesco to view the priceless works and frescoes of Leonardo Da Vinci ,which was accompanied by a spectacular light show. We passed a quiet afternoon in the Brera district of Milan, where a magnificent 10 feet high statue of Napoleon Bonaparte has been constructed. We also visited the Porto Nuovo district which is not only the commercial , business district of Milan but also houses big designer stores like Versace, Prada etc.
After returning to the hotel , we were taken out for dinner to the Michelin star restaurant, Identita Golose in downtown Milan. Great food, polite hospitality and swanky interiors made for a wonderful evening.
Next day began with a heavenly breakfast at Hotel NYX , after which we checked out of the hotel and we were taken for our day excursion . First stop was the magnificent Teatro Alla Scalla , which still houses the costumes ,jewelry and portraits of artistes, performers and musicians belonging to the 19th century. A short walk to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuel and the Milan Cathedral/ Duomo di Milano which is the main tourist attraction and the landmark of Milan. I was mesmerized by the colossal architectural structure of the Duomos. The piazza square of the Milan Duomos had positive and peaceful vibes . I could feel the gushing positive vibes washing all over me, leaving me feeling cleansed and purified .
In the afternoon, we had interesting meetings with the various Italian suppliers . For dinner we were taken to the 150 year old Savinni café ,which is a beautiful, high end restaurant at Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II. At the Savinni Café we were served the famous Milanese Saffron risotto accompanied by some amazing appetizers. After dinner ,we took off for Lake Garda.
At Lake Garda,we were put up at lovely 4 star resort called Bellerive, located in Salo , which provided pristine views of the Lake Garda. In the morning ,I woke up amongst magical and astounding views of the lake. Post breakfast, we visited the House of celebrated Italian poet Gabrielle D’Annunzo . Gabrielle D’Annunzo was a leading Italian writer, journalist , politician and had served as a soldier during the World War I . After retiring from politics, Mr Annunzo wanted to spend the last years of his life ,away from the hustle and bustle of the city. He sent his personal assistant in search of such a place, and that’s when he zeroed in on Gardone Riviera, Lombardy , on the banks of Lake Garda. He was awarded a war ship by the Italian Government for serving during the World War, which is the main attraction of his beautiful home in Gardone Riviera. D’Annunzo was very compassionate towards dogs , therefore he had ordered to create a cemetery in the compound of his house, specially dedicated to his dogs, where they were buried after death.
We were escorted via an amazing ferry ride over Lake Garda, to Sirmoine which is rightly known as the ‘Jewel on the Lake’ . Sirmione consists of Rocca Scaligera , a breathe taking medieval castle overlooking the lake. After spending a lazy afternoon in Sirmione , we were taken for lunch at La Speranzina Relais . We tucked in the divine food and antipasti which was served to us while enjoying the breathtaking views of the lake. We returned to Hotel Bellerive post lunch , via ferry . In the evening we were taken to Grand Hotel Fasano, at Gardone Riviera , for meetings with suppliers. True to its name Grand Hotel Fasano was a grand, plush upscale hotel on the Riviera . We were hosted for dinner by Visit Brescia tourism at Hotel Fasano ,which served specially curated gourmet delights and the finest and expensive Italian wines. The warm hospitality extended to us by Visit Brescia Tourism over dinner, turned it into a memorable evening.
Next morning, we relished a lavish breakfast at Hotel Bellerive, while enjoying spectacular views of the sun rising over Lake Garda, after which we made it to Milan via a luxury coach . It was a scenic 2 hours drive from Salo to Milan. For the first time, I got a chance to witness the lush Italian countryside during daylight, and it took my breathe away. I was dropped at Milano Centrale station from where I boarded the Trenitalia train to Rome. The architectural design and structure of the Milano Centrale station was mesmerizing.
I boarded the Trenitalia train from Milan to Rome, at Milano Centrale station. I was blown away by the grandeur of Milano Centrale . I travelled second class on the Trenitalia train, which was very cozy and comfortable. The weather was bright and clear , hence throughout the train journey I enjoyed panoramic views of the greenery of Lombardy and Lazio regions of Italy. My co-passengers on the train were warm and friendly. Overall, it was a relaxing and enjoyable journey.
I disembarked at Rome Termini (which again left me mesmerized by its magnificent architecture), and took a taxi to Hotel Viminale , which is 7 minutes walking distance from Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica.
After freshening up at my hotel I went on a short stroll ,exploring the area around my hotel since it was my 1st time in Rome . I was blown away by the beauty of the Eternal city. As I stood in front of the mesmerizing historical structures I could not believe that this city has been existing since several centuries, and in spite of the various calamities which Rome has endured , yet she remains stunning and magical as ever. The historical piazzas were dotted with several cafes, pizzerias and gelato parlors , thereby adding a touch of modernness to the ancient Eternal city. (Please don’t even get me started about roman cuisine because it is so amazing . In spite of being a vegetarian myself , I was spoilt for options and I enjoyed the famous roman cuisine thoroughly ).
Next morning , after a sumptuous traditional breakfast , I received a pick up at my Hotel ,for our excursion which began from the Colosseum . It was a seven minutes long drive , from Hotel Viminale to the Colosseum, but the most scenic drive nevertheless . When we reached the Colosseum , the magnificent ancient amphitheater was a sight to behold . Since childhood ,I had only read about the Colosseum in books or on the internet , hence I could not believe my eyes when I saw the enormous ,spectacular ancient amphitheater standing in front of me . A violent earthquake had occurred in Rome few centuries back due to which a portion of the Colosseum had collapsed. My tour guide was a charming, polite and friendly young lady who explained to us the history behind the monuments ,in detail . We were also shown the remnants of the ancient Roman Senate where Julius Caesar was assassinated .
The excursion ended and I was left on my own , to explore the beauties of the city ,for the rest of the afternoon . I paid a much needed visit to the Alter of Our Fatherland museum (also known as Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II , built in honour of King Vittorio Emanuel II , the first king of unified Italy and the father of the nation (Italy) . I didn’t even realize how time flew when I was at the museum, as I found myself walking through Italy’s rich history and heritage . I soon made my way to Fontana Di Trevi ( Trevi Fountain ) ,walking all the way from the museum ,enjoying the vibe of the city as covered the entire distance on foot. It was wonderful to explore Rome on my own . It made me feel just like Audrey Hepburn ,from The Roman Holiday . From the Trevi Fountain , I walked till the Spanish steps . The entire lane leading to the Spanish steps was flanked by designer stores on either sides, with young musicians performing live on the streets , added beauty to the ambience even on a hot ,sunny afternoon . I finally reached the Piazza di Spagna . Climbing to the top of the Spanish Steps offers bird’s eye view of the Piazza which should definitely not be missed . Climbing to the top of the extensive Spanish Steps is absolutely worth the effort since it offers gorgeous views of the Piazza Di Spagna .
Exhausted from all the walking , I hired a taxi which took me St Peter’s Basilica ,Vatican City . Since I had an early morning flight to catch on the next day, I felt my trip would be incomplete without paying a visit to the holy Vatican city . My taxi driver was a friendly and polite , 20 year old chap who drove me straight to St Peter’s Basilica . It was a 9 minutes short but beautiful drive from the Piazza di Spagna to the Vatican City as it allowed me to explore various landmarks of the Eternal City along the way , and also scenic views of the historic river Tiber . River Tiber has a huge role to play in history , as the twins of Lord Mars – Romulus & Remus (who founded and built Rome) were flown down into the river Tiber when they were new born infants ,as a part of a conspiracy . The strong current of the Tiber carried the twins to the shore ,where they were rescued by a female wolf who reared and fed her milk to the young twins.
Anyway, once at the Vatican City ,I was engulfed by the positivity and the positive vibes in the air . Unfortunately, I was unable to go inside due to the long queues hence I spent some peaceful quality time sitting in the compound of the basilica ,admiring the beauty of the external structure of the basilica and the crowds of tourists .
I managed to return back to my hotel just before sunset . Later that evening , I went to a nearby restaurant for dinner . I ordered a simple pizza, with toppings of mushrooms, olives and cheese, but it tasted absolutely divine . I went for a short stroll in the area close to Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore , taking in the feel of Rome at night. I was feeling a bit sad to leave this beautiful historic city the next day, as I checked out of the Hotel early next morning with a heavy heart but a strong hope to be back in Rome soon.
My first trip to Italy magical and simply out of this world. Personally, I have always been fond of Italy’s art, history and culture since childhood. The experience was beyond my expectations . I wish to convey to anyone reading this blog , that Italy is not just about wine and gastronomy. It is much richer in experiences. It is a melting pot of fashion, history ,art , culture , business , gastronomy and modernity . But something that touched me the most was the amiable nature of the people of Italy , their passion and dedication towards their occupation. Till now , I have visited Italy twice and Milan has already become like a 2nd home for me. I am eager to visit Rome again so that I get a chance to explore the Eternal city thoroughly. On my next trip to Italy, I wish to explore other regions of this marvelous country eg Tuscany ,Emilia Romagna , Southern Italy etc. Till then…. tanto amore,Italia 🙂 Ciao 🙂