Last year I managed to head to Europe (yet again) for a short adventure. An opportunity came up 6 weeks before the travels and it didn't take me long to decide to go on the trip. I did the maths and sums, and could even afford a business class trip on the way home with my American Express Membership Rewards. Sweet! So a trip to Berlin, Italy and Paris was planned for a short 18 days. An andante pace trip it was not – hectic yet completely optimised amazing racing it turned out to be.
Prior to heading to Italy, I stumbled across this article whilst doing my trip planning and research:
20 Things Everyone should do in Italy. I read it and thought it would be novel to do it, but completely forgot about it when I went full steam ahead mapping out the itinerary and doing flight & train & hotel bookings. Whilst searching for other travel emails in my inbox recently, I found this link again, so thought it would be worthwhile to assess and review my amateur 11 day trip to an Italy-travel expert!
1. Take a night ride on the #1 vaporetto in Venice - Yes...and No
Did I take a ride on the vaporetto? Yes! I didn’t do it at night though and I didn’t sit on it for a full trip but it’s the experience that counts right? I did take an evening sunset ride on a Gondola with my travel partner along with 2 Japanese Tourists on a honeymoon though! I don't think they minded us crashing their romantic holiday (I hope?). One way to save on the pricey EU80 Gondola Ride is to just find other travellers that are willing to share the cost with you. As cheesy as it sounds, a ride on the Venice waters on a gondola is a must if you only plan to see Venice once.
2. Spend 15 minutes with “The Last Supper” in Milan – No to Last Supper. Yes to Milan
By the time I decided to take this trip, I would have been on the waiting list to see 'The Last Supper' in time for maybe Christmas. I did however go to Milan for half a day and saw the stunningly gorgeous Gothic Duomo. It’s incredible to see it as you surface from the metro station. I wandered around the Milanese streets in search of lunch and hit quite a few cool spots, and took snapshots of cool ‘design things’ I spotted. Milan is after all the design capital of Italy. I did see drafts and copies of da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’ whilst in Venice though - there was an exhibition dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings at the Academia - 'The Universal Man', so I saw at least conceptual drawings and sketches of ‘The Last Supper’. The best part of my Milan visiting was actually the opportunity to meet up with my parents for an hour or so to have tea at the stunning Park Hyatt Milan where they were staying for a few nights.
3. Overdose on Renaissance art at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence - Yes!
I think I overdosed before I even entered Uffizi! The queues for the Uffizi were unlike anything I have seen. And under that strong Tuscan sun in early October (I can only imagine how the summer would have felt), it’s not the best place to be standing in Florence. Even with pre-purchased tickets, we had to queue at our allocated time slot to get inside the museum. Actually, just be prepared to queue in Florence wherever you go if it is not winter. I LOVE art museums, but I can’t say Uffizi was my favourite museum I have visited in the world. But a mighty collection of Renaissance art it is - all the big names can be found here - Michaelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli etc. Where else to better understand and appreciate this art style which pioneered western paintings but in the Renaissance birthplace of Florence. And in an old Medici palace! My favourite painting in the entire Uffizi would have to be Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ - something captivating about the long wavy blonde hair and the curves of a woman’s figure!
4. Get a guided tour of the Vatican Museums - Yes...and No
I did go to the Vatican Museum not on a guided tour but with an audio guide. I would highly recommend pre-purchasing tickets to the Vatican Museum to ensure you get in on the day you would like to visit. I’m sure a guided tour would have been fantastic had I remembered to book it prior to going on holidays. The audio guide is still a good alternative and worth your money. The Sistine Chapel was definitely the highlight, so make that your last stop so you can fully appreciate everything in this museum. There are multiple tour groups that are on a tight schedule and race through this museum just to get to Michaelangelo's masterpiece, and unfortunately race out again. My advice is to take your time to appreciate the incredible detail in Michaelangelo's art (and not to lose your travel partner in the crowds!). You cannot take photos inside the Sistine Chapel so you may as well take it all in.
5. Climb Florence’s Duomo - No...but
I didn’t climb it, but certainly did enjoy a view of the Duomo from my accommodation. My first Airbnb experience was pretty awesome. And I didn’t even know the apartment had a view at the time of my booking! Bonus! To be honest, I didn't even walk into the Duomo during my 2 nights in Florence. Refer to point 3 regarding crowds and queuing in Florence. I did take in a sunset view of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo - stunning!
6. Eat pizza in Naples – Yes!
Naples is the birthplace of the world famous pizza. Not many people actually put Naples on their itinerary if they are on a 11 day trip of Italy. I did out of necessity to connect us to essential travel points (airports). The Naples I saw was rather grungy and dirty, and frankly dirtier than places I’ve visited in parts of Asia! However the pizza I ate in Naples was the best ever. Full stop. Head to Pizzeria Starita for a meal you will remember forever! By sheer luck we managed to get a table immediately even though there was a queue!