What I did in Italy is not secret – part 3 of 3

After spending 2 fabulous days in Venice I still had more attractions coming as there were short visits to 3 more cities in my agenda. Located not far from each other, more or less on a one horizontal line when you look at the map, I was in for some trips by train. So I bid my farewell to Venezia and when the train arrived it was a beginning of a new journey. Destination – Verona.

Finding Juliet in Verona

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It was shortly after noon on Monday, September 5th when after only 30 minutes the train arrived at Verona Porta Nuova station. After getting off the train I immediately went to find my next AirBnB place. It was a bit far from the city center but relatively close to the station, so I walked on foot one way. After getting accommodated in my room I wanted to leave for sightseeing as soon as I could since I only had one afternoon to explore the city of Romeo and Juliet. According to my parents who were there last year, it was enough time to see Verona. They were absolutely right!

In order to save some time I took a bus to the city centre but instead of taking off at its last stop I took off earlier so that I could walk around and discover the city. I started sightseeing by having a look at Porta Nuova. That big monument that looks like it could easily serve as an entrance to the castle is located at the central point of a roundabout. Then you can follow Corso Porta Nuova & if you continue to go straight ahead you’ll reach historical centre. Of course I decided to walk in zigzags. Taking one of the side roads I found Tomba di Giulietta (Juliet’s Tomb) which also happens to be a frescos museum. Then I wandered through some streets to make my way to Piazza Bra – main square in Verona. On my way there I’ve also seen Palazzo Barbieri with town hall as well as Palazzo della Gran Guardia. Piazza Bra directly neighbours with Arena di Verona.

Arena is a huge oval building, a Roman apmhitheatre built in 30 AD; it still hosts large-scale opera performances nowadays with as many as 15000 spectators. Not far away from it, at the end of Via Roma there is Castelvecchio. This fortress was built during the ruling of Scaliger dynasty and nowadays it serves as museum. The castle stands by the Southern bank of Adiga river. Actually you can pass through the castle and you’ll be standing on Castelvecchio Bridge. The latter one provides great views and when you go to the other side of the river you can admire the castle in its full might. After walking a bit next to the Northern bank of Adiga I crossed the first bridge (Ponte della Vittoria). Heading northeast I found Sant’Eufemia church after I walked for a few minutes.

When I continued going further in the same direction using some small, non-touristy streets I finally found Cattedrale Santa Maria Matricolare more commonly known as Duomo di Venezia. Then I found my way to Ponte Pietra – most famous bridge in Verona according to my AirBnB host. Bridge itself was very normal but what you could see on the other side was breathtaking. There was a castle up the hill and some ruins right below it. Encouraged by that view I found the staircase leading to the castle. The climb was not long and after maybe 15 minutes I was standing at the feet of Castel San Pietro. It was under renovation but the view over the entire Verona was free.

Then I walked back down the stair and wanted to see the ruins I’ve seen earlier from Ponte Pietra. Those were remains of Teatro Romano di Verona. As many of the tourist attractions, it was also turned into a museum. This time I decided to buy a ticket and see it from up close. After visiting the museum I continued walking along the river until Ponte Nuovo, where I crossed Adiga. From there it seemed like an easy way to Casa di Guilietta (Juliet’s House) but when according to my inner GPS I was in the right place I didn’t find anything special. Then I realized that maybe I’m standing by the back side of it. So I walked one more block. There it was. I entered a busy street full of shops, among them was a gate leading to an inner square. There was the famous balcony where Juliet once stood, secretly meeting with Romeo. Another place worth seeing was Piazza delle Erbe.

Then I’ve seen a couple of churches and managed to find a house of Romeo. The afternoon passed really fast. It was a very concentrated pill of sightseeing. During my short visit in Verona I had best ice cream during my entire stay in Italy, so if you’re ever there you have to go to Gelateria Savoia at the very beginning of Via Roma. On my way back I had a pizza in a pizzeria that my host recommended. I have to admit it was good. I had a really good sleep that night.

Blue lagoon of Sirmione

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The next day I was off to Lago di Garda, to Desenzano del Garda to be precise. But that was only my sleeping spot as the place I wanted to visit was located at the peninsula in Southern part of the lake. I got to Desenzano by train and after unpacking I took a bus to get to Sirmione – my sightseeing destination for the day. After arriving in Sirmione I had a long walk ahead. There was one main road I had to follow, there was nothing interesting along it – only a lot of hotels, restaurants. But the fact that I could see the water was great. The view was very pleasant. At some point I reached the entrance to the historical part of Sirmione, the area was almost off-limits for cars, making it easy to walk around without worrying for traffic. From here things were only better.

The entrance to the historical part of Sirmione was leading through an old drawbridge followed by a stone arch gate. There was also a harbor full of colorful boats on the left side of the bridge. This scenery created a feeling as if the old town of Sirmione was placed on an island at the end of peninsula. As soon as passed through the stone gate I was welcomed by the walls of Castello Scaligero. This fortification was built in 13th century. As a tourist I always like to visit castles as they have specific atmosphere (no matter if you’re visiting only ruins or a castle with furnished interiors) & if you can get on their towers or defensive walls you can always expect a great view.

In terms of those, Castello Scaligero exceeded my expectations. Panorama from the highest point of the castle was so picturesque that it was breathtaking and jaw dropping as well. On one side I could admire the vast tranquility of Lake Garda with its different shades of blue, turquoise and marine green. On the other side I could look at the red and brownish rooftops of houses of local people. All that framed by a distant greenery and hugged by the water surrounding the peninsula. It felt charming and peaceful. Even when I came back to the streets full of tourists I still had an impression that I was in a place where time stands still.

Later I visited a church of Santa Maria Maggiore, placed by a side street, off-road from the most crowded part of the city. Continuing to go up North I found this beautiful house/shop all covered with pink and purple flowers. I’m not sure what the flowers were but I think they could’ve been wisteria. Another church to see was San Pietro in Mavino. After a while I finally reached the very end of the peninsula with Grotte di Catullo located there as well. This archeological park features the remains of a Roman villa built between the end of the 1st century B.C. and the beginning of the 1st century A.D. Walking around the ruins and admiring the views were great additions to my visit in Sirmione. Especially when you looked at the lake and mountains on its other side from the edge of a cliff.

At some point an intensive wind appeared, causing all the napkins on restaurant tables to fly around. Maybe it was the time when the daily wind changed. I thought it was a good moment to sit down and have a dinner. I munched on a delicious pizza and with my stomach full I headed back to the bus stop and returned to Desenzano. Another day has passed while next adventure was right behind a corner.

Reign of two towers in Bologna

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On Wednesday, September 7th I arrived in Bologna and after doing a check-in at my local AirBnB spot I immediately left for sightseeing as again I had only one afternoon to see what this city had to offer tourist-wise. First thing I’ve seen was Porta San Vitale – one of old gates that once were leading to the city. Nowadays they surround the city center. Next I was off to the very heart of Bologna which kind of made me feel like a character from The Lord of the Rings series due to two towers – Due Torri reigning over the city. There was a shorter and a taller one. The second one was offering a possibility to climb to the top. Of course I was craving for great views so I paid (yes!) to climb up the stairs. As I was ascending the staircase was getting more narrow and steep so people had to take turns going up and down in order to make it safe.

Once again the panorama of the city was great. Bologna could be easily called a “city of red roofs” as basically every building within the reach of my eyes had a red roof. Going to the top had an added benefit of letting me localize where are some places I might want to see next. After I made it safely to the surface of the ground I went to Piazza del Nettuno which had a few things to see. First of all there was Palazzo Re Enzo which had some event going on & visitors were not allowed to come inside. Opposite was Biblioteca Salaborsa – a library that from the inside looked like a shopping gallery. There were sections with books for different audiences and age groups, entwined with peaceful cafes and lone seats where people could sit, relax and enjoy the read.

The ceiling of the building looked like a piece of art itself. Next to the library there was another palace – Palazzo d’Accursio. Piazza del Nettuno was naturally connected with Piazza Maggiore creating one huge open area in the historical center of Bologna. By Piazza Maggiore stood a monumental building of Basilica di San Petronio, a biggest church around. Then I wandered around some smaller streets filled with shops, restaurants and buzzing people. I made my way around to return to the Two Towers. From the distance you could see that a smaller tower is leaning. That day I’ve also seen some more monuments, churches or old city gates however none of them had any special influence on my trip. I mean they were pleasant to look at but didn’t carve into my memories so I don’t even remember the names now. Hours passed fast again and it started getting darker. I was done with my sightseeing that Wednesday. On Thursday I managed to go for a short walk around the neighborhood before I had to go to the train station.

I was already looking forward to the last stop of my great Italian holidays.

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What I did in Italy is not secret – part 2 of 3

After spending two full days in Naples, a Saturday the 3rd of September came which meant it’s time for me to change places. I packed my stuff in the evening before and then early in the morning, when the city was only waking up from its sleep I left my AirBnB and caught a bus to the airport.

Happily lost in Venice

I was happy for the morning flight and after a short journey the plane landed in Venice shortly before 10 AM. In order to save money I decided to book a room in the mainland part of Venice, called Venice Mestre. It’s a part of the city where many locals live and from where they commute to work at the islands. Thanks to precise clues from my next host I had no problem finding my way to his place. After checking in and after a short rest I was ready to go and explore Venice.

I have to admit I had a great connection with the historical centre. All I had to do is to jump on a tram and get to its final station – Piazzale Roma, which was an ideal starting point for walking around the Venetian islands. Due to the fact that I only had a part of the afternoon reserved for sightseeing I decided to walk around the central part of the city. After crossing a bridge or two I found myself next to Chiesa di San Nicola da Tolentino. The columns at its front reminded me of Pantheon. Slowly making my way up North, zigzagging through various streets, canals and bridges I reached San Simeone Piccolo, another church that was similar to the one before.

Only a little bit further was Palazzo Foscari Contarini and Ponte degli Scalzi. On the other side of a wide canal stood Chiesa degli Scalzi also known as church of Santa Maria di Nazareth. Unfortunately for me the facade of the church is currently being renovated and its all covered by scaffolding and huge ads. I enjoyed strolling around Venice by walking into random streets and crossing random bridges. I concluded that there is no better place to get lost than Venice, as wherever you go you’ll always find something beautiful, even if it’s just a simple alley.

Feeling happily lost in Venice I kept turning left and right in the meantime seeing a bunch of picturesque places I found a church of San Giacomo dall’Orio. Looking at the photos on my phone I can tell that after seeing it I rapidly transported myself to Campo San Polo with Chiesa Rettoriale di San Polo in the middle of the square. Another quarter or so minutes allowed me to find another beautiful church, a Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. It was one of the more impressive churches in terms of size with a beautiful location right by Rio del Frari canal. My next stop was at Campo San Stae by Chiesa San Stae. It felt really nice when I could sit at the stairs by the water.

Later in the afternoon I also found the facilities of Fondazione Prada with their building being one of those that face the water directly. As the time was flying I wandered into the area of Mercato di Rialto. Campo della Pescaria welcomed me with a strong odour of fish. No surprise – it’s a fish & seafood market. Campo Erberia was filled with the aroma of dried herbs and spices sold by local sellers at their small stands. Following the road I reached Campo San Giacomo di Rialto with another famous church of the same name. From there a straight way was leading directly to Ponte di Rialto the most famous bridge in Venice. As expected it was full of people but I got my fair share of views from it too! The hour was getting more advanced and I was getting hungry too.

I started heading to the West, finding even more churches on my way, like Parrocchia di San Silvestro I Papa and Chiesa di Sant’Aponal. I made my way back to get close to Piazzale Roma. After I found a nice restaurant that was offering decent prices (Venice is such money rip-off for tourists!) I decided to have a dinner there. I ordered delicious lasagna and a glass of prosecco. After filling up my stomach I got on a tram again and headed back to Mestre. The day passed so fast.

The next morning I came back to historical Venice hungry for more visual attractions. I passed next to Venezia Santa Lucia train station I went inside of Chiesa degli Scalzi (exterior is being renovated as I mentioned earlier). I followed the mirror of the water along Fondamenta San Giobbe until I reached to an open area from which I could see all the trains leaving from Venice. After passing another bridge I continued to walk next to the canal. On my way I kept finding many lovely buildings and a lot of churches, for many I don’t remember names. I’ve definitely seen Chiesa di Sant’Alvise and Madonna dell’Orto church. On the next island I’ve seen Chiesa dei Gesuiti.

I continued to walk for a long time along Fondamente Nove, a coast line from where you can take a water taxi to Murano Island for example. At some point I turned right to get deeper into the land & to see Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Making a turn around and heading a bit backwards there was Parrocchia Santa Maria Formosa and then South I visited Chiesa di San Zaccaria. Then through Ponte dei Sospiri I passed next to Palazzo Ducale. I was in the most popular and most crowded place in Venice – Basilica di San Marco with just as popular and impressive Piazza San Marco. It was a monumental place full of splendour. From there I walked straight ahead to Santa Maria del Giglio and then to Santo Stefano.

Everywhere I went there were churches – smaller, bigger, more or less beautiful. Still it was pleasant to look at them. One that impressed me the most was Santa Maria della Salute. A huge church with towers and domes. This church was like a white pearl among building of different colors. I think I’ve been very lucky to be in Venice that day and that I was nearby that church at that specific time. Thanks to that I was able to witness Regata Storica a yearly event held in Venice. I could see the opening ceremony, with lots of boats and gondolas styled with colorful paintings, drapes and sculptures. Crew of each boat was wearing matching outfits of various historical styles. It was so much fun to see it all. Making my way more to the starting point from the morning I saw more… yes – churches! Once again the day has passed super fast. After 9 hours of walking around I rewarded myself with delicious ravioli in tomato sauce. The portion was really big but I left nothing on my plate!

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Venice has stolen my heart. Its numerous churches and square provide breathtaking architectural encounters but I dare to say that it’s all of those narrow streets, little bridges and hidden passages that create the real magical and romantic climate of this city. Best plan of seeing Venice is no plan – let yourself get a little lost & you might just find a view that will stay in your mind forever.

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