Exploring Northern Italy in 10 days (we manage to throw in 24 hours in France too!) Part 1/2
Flying in through Milan, and we are deciding where to go. After much discussion, we decided to get a mix of big cities (Milan, Venice, with a touch of countryside at Tuscany and plus some hiking exercise at Cinqueterre). That was what we thought before the trip. It was a pretty last minute trip and super peak summer holiday period which coincides with Italian holiday week so a lot of accommodation are all booked up. So, after booking 3 nights in Milan and one night in Venice, the rest of our trip are really free and easy....
To be honest, I quite enjoyed this free and easy part of our trip. Where we are headed next, where we will be staying are very much up to us. If we like that place a lot, we can stay a couple of days longer. If we wanted to move on, we could. We even decided last minute to cross the border and get a taste of French food for a change. That is something we could not have done if we plan our trip beforehand.
So in the end, we did Milan (the city itself, Lake Como) and after 24 hours in Venice, we hopped onto our rented car and headed to Tuscany, enjoying the outskirt area, a medieval town of San Gimignano, not forgetting the touristy Leaning Tower of Pisa. From there, we headed to a UNESCO protected site of Cinqueterre, hopping between the five fishing villages with crystal clear water and steep cliffs. And out of a sudden, we found ourself in Nice, France having the best French cuisine along one of the narrow alley. It was indeed a wonderful FREE and EASY trip with lots of last minute booking, research and we are glad our two kids who tagged along also had the best times of their life!
A glimpse of our journey:
|Milano, one of our favourite city during the trip|
|Exploring alley and waterway of Venice|
|Pretty and scenic Tuscany|
|UNESCO site Cinque Terre|
|A day in Nice, France|
1. Lake Como was actually a huge place, with many small town lining the lakes.... major town are Como, Bellagio... and many small towns - stay overnight or day trip can be done from Milan. If going by train, be sure to book ticket ahead as it may be sold out or have to wait an hour or more at the train station if buying on the spot (speaking from experience!)
2. Need to prebook Skip The Line The Last Supper - limited availability online as the visitor per time slot is limited.
3. Car rental is cheap but driving and parking in city is horrendous (bad traffic and expensive parking charges)- train is an option. Choose the faster train (they have different type of train, check on their website- note the travelling time), can reach faster than driving.
4. For outskirt area, great for self drive. We enjoy driving past corn field, sunflower field etc.
5. For Venice, can consider staying in Mestre area if want to be out of the crowded area. Alternatively stay in Verona (I heard it is an amazing place and do day trip to Venice), Verona is an hour away from Venice by train. By the way, Verona is famous for Romeo and Juliet!
6. When dining in Italy, do note that some restaurant have cover charge per person. It can be around 2-3 Euros per pax. If you have many travelling together, the cover charge itself can be pretty significant in your bill.
7. In order to qualify for tax refund, you have to spend a minimum amount in that particular shop. It varies between countries for example minimum spend of Euro $158 in Italy and Euro $175 in France. Technically speaking, you get 12% tax refund but you get charged a two times processing fees. Once when you get the duty free form filled up at the mall where you make the purchase and when you get your money refunded at the tax refund counter at the airport. If you make your purchases outside the country you are flying off, you need to get your item checked at their "Custom" counter before q-ing at the tax refund counter.
8. You can book your accommodation at the usual places.... agoda.com , last minute.com , booking.com or airbnb.... and you can check out https://www.agriturismo.it/en/ as well. It list the agriculture-type of accommodation, farmhouse, vineyard etc and I think it is amazing to stay in one of these during our trip. Do note that not all the accommodation feature air conditioning so if that matters to you, do make an enquiry before making your booking.
p/s: I highly recommanded https://www.agriturismo.it/en/farmhouse/tuscany/pisa/FattoriaFibbiano-9591027/index.html . We had an amazing 4 days 3 nights here and it is absolutely wonderful place to be. Tranquil, peaceful and perfect place to relax.
|Off we go!|
Arriving into Milan EK091 touch down at 8.30pm.
The queue at the airport is crazy. If you are booking a car to take you into the town, do take this into consideration and book the car at a slightly later timing.
Check into hotel, rest.
Lake Como is highly recommended for a day out or even better, an overnight stay. Picture yourself strolling along the famed lake, surrounded by mountains, alpine trees and beautiful houses. If you are lucky, you might even see George Clooney in person.
|Taken by hubby's new toy...|
|My favourite shot of Lake Como|
We booked a SKIP THE LINE The Last Supper Tour plus walk round Milan city tour on viator so we were at the Duomo by 8.15am. It is nice to be there early as there are so little tourist snapping photos and we get the cathedral all to ourselves.
|While everyone is enjoying the grandeur of Milano Duomo, my kids enjoyed feeding the pigeons...|
|Galleria Vittorio Emanuele ii|
We were up really early today for walking tour and an afternoon nap is a must.
|Enjoying our evening at Navigli|
We checked out in the morning and onboard train to Venezia Santa Lucia. We booked via https://www.italotreno.it/en and there was a promo. Kids travel free!
Within 2.5 hours, we could see the train moving towards Venice, the city of bridges.
|A glimpse of Venice city slowly moving into sights.|
We wanted to take the water bus to our hotel but ended up walking as the queue are really long. It is quite tedious to walk around Venice when you are lugging luggages.
Hence some tips: take the water bus or bring really light luggage or stay at a hotel near the train station.
We checked in at Locanda ai Bareteri and went for lunch at Dal Moro's Fresh Pasta To Go (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187870-d3356272-Reviews-Dal_Moro_s_Fresh_Pasta_to_Go-Venice_Veneto.html). A great place if you are looking for on the go lunch at reasonable price. Pasta cost €5-8. I highly recommend getting their tiramisu, its yummy @ €3.50.
After lunch, we walked to St Mark's Square, enjoying the view of Basilica Campanile. We then took a water taxi to enjoy Venice from another perspective.
Water taxi cost €20 per person for a 24 hours pass.
|Onboard water taxi|
|My favourite view|
Its free entrance but each time slot is limited to 15 mins and 80 pax. Book early to avoid disappointment.
We explored the narrow alley in Venice, chanced upon many tiny shops and restaurant tucked among the uncountable bridges and canal. Now I understand the phrase "Get lost in Venice". There are so many alleys and walkway that one could literally got lost here.
Our hotel in Venice did not come with breakfast so we ate something simple before checking out. We left our belongings at the hotel so that we could enjoy Venice a little bit more before leaving for Tuscany.
I would recommend booking the Skip The Line tour as the queue is really long.
A short 10 mins train ride brought us to Venezia Mestre. We have previous booked a car through Hertz and will be collecting our car in Mestre.
We had a quick lunch at Coop Mall, bought some fruits and mineral water. We then headed to Fattorio Fibbiano in Tuscany where we will be staying for the next 3 days. We passed by corn fields, mountain, tunnel, alpine trees and sunflower field on our way there.
|Loving this sunflower farm we pass by...|
Fattoria Fibbiano: http://www.fattoria-fibbiano.it
We rested for the day.
We had a great rest despite the place has no air conditioning. There is a fan and you could keep the wooden door open for ventilation (there is another grill door).
|Playground at the farm|
Lunch is amazing! Seafood spaghetti is so good. The seafood is very fresh and the spaghetti is al dente.
After lunch we headed to San Gimignano for a medieval town experience. It was Assumption Day and the parking is horrendous. We went a couple of rounds before finding a parking spot further down the road.
We wanted to see the town of Varenna but as there is no parking, we decided to go back.
For dinner, we just had some instant noodle and fruits in our room as we were all tired after a day out. Plus, we have yet book our accommodation for day 7 so we are in need of some time for research.
Follow the second half of our trip where we visited Leaning Tower of Pisa, UNESCO Heritage Site Cinque Terre and throw in 24 hours in Nice, France as well :)
Part 2/2: https://blessedlittletravelers.blogspot.com/2018/09/exploring-northern-italy-in-10-days-we_27.html