Italy

Our visit to Italy was spread throughout two different trips. Our reasoning was simple: Italy is such a huge and historical region that covering the nation would take ages. Our first trip to Italy was to the north – the cities of Venice and Milan, which we visited from Salzburg and Switzerland, respectively. The second visit was to Rome, yet Rome is such a historical place with so many attractions that I have a chapter dedicated to it. During that trip, we also visited two micronations: The Vatican and San Marino. There are chapters dedicated to both. 

We started off our adventures in Italy with the sights of Venice. Venice has amassed a reputation of having picturesque canals, beautiful palaces, and rich history. If I were to pick the least true of the group, the canals would be my unblinking choice. What took us to Venice was simple, but what I took from Venice was complex. 

We parked our car next to the island of Venice. From there we took a water taxi to St. Mark’s square. The first thing I really noticed was the heat. Though Venice borders the Adriatic Sea, it’s still not spared from the heat of the Mediterranean climate. If anything, the wet air magnified the heat of the summer. It didn’t help that we choose the hottest time of year to visit Venice. 

After that, we went on a boat tour to get around the canals, and it was amazing. We went through the Grand Canal, the canal that goes through the main island of Venice, and we went under the Rialto Bridge, one of the most famous places in Venice, and a very unique bridge. It had many holes in it, and it was quite big, near the length of an apartment. It was a great ride, and I really saw how densely populated Venice was. There were so many scenic places, it would be a miracle if we got to them all. We started off by walking. Venice is a small place. The main tourist island is only 2.5 square miles, making it surprisingly easy to traverse the city. The boat left us by the Grand Canal, so we walked by the canal, enjoying the views, and relaxing in the sun.

“Can we go on a gondola ride?” I asked. I couldn’t wait to go on a gondola, and see the view from there. But a ride would have to wait. First we would walk around the city, and look at the canals. 

They were magnificent. The views were amazing, and there was just a certain charm of seeing no cars, just water. Walking from street to street, we took photos, and enjoyed the view. 

Our legs were getting quite tired in the heat of Venice, so we decided that it was the perfect time for a gondola ride. We bought a ride, got on, and we were back on the grand canal. 

It was a great ride. I really had a great time, but I wished the water wasn’t so dirty. I should’ve expected that there would be pollution in such a city, but the ride would’ve been so much better if I couldn’t smell the stink from the water. Overall, our expectations were too high, and we were destined to be disappointed. 

We weren’t over in Venice. We had one more place to visit, and that was St. Mark’s square. Our plan was to eat food and take pictures there, then leave to drive back to our Airbnb near Salzburg, so we made our way to St. Mark’s square. 

My first reaction when seeing St. Mark’s square was, “Wow”. There was a palace, square, basilica, obelisk, and about a thousand different birds in one place. We couldn’t go inside any of the buildings, but that was ok. They were marvels from the outside too. The Doge’s palace was the first place we saw, and it was amazing. There were hundreds of arches in the building, all detailed. The only reason why Venice was able to make such a building was the wealth of the city derived from trading with the Ottomans. 

After that I saw the St. Mark’s Basilica, one of the most beautiful basilicas in the world. Ornately detailed to the last inch, it would be impossible to truly describe the building, but the true structure of the building could be paralleled to the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, with Renaissance architecture and glorious details upon details.

But finally, we ran out of time in Venice. The weather had gotten to us, and we were out of energy. We decided to get back to the car, and our time in Venice had ended.

Our expectations with Venice were too high. I expected a perfect place with gondolas, where everything was beautiful.  Obviously, that wasn’t the truth, and in the end, we were disappointed. What did we learn? Don’t expect too much.

We visited Milan from Switzerland, specifically Saas-Fee, a skiing resort.

Getting to Milan was an ordeal in and of itself. I’m thankful I can’t drive, because the sheer lethality of the cliffs and mountains of Switzerland would drive me insane (or off the peaks). Due to some heroics from my father, we left the mountains unscathed. We sped past trees at the speed of light in Italy’s version of the Autobahn, the Autostrade. 

We arrived in Milan by 10:00 AM. We first parked our car, and then took the metro to the city center. We did not want to deal with the traffic. Milan is known for the fashion industry and finance, but it also holds one of the most beautiful churches in all of Europe. The Milan Cathedral is a huge, hulking building in the center of Milan. It is the third largest church in the world by interior surface, and it took nearly six centuries to build it. As you may expect, it is a sight to behold, dethroning even the Notre Dame in beauty.

As a tourist in Milan, we decided to start off at the Milan Cathedral. The outside was perfect. We must’ve taken a thousand pictures, but it wasn’t enough. The Milan cathedral was that great. From the flying buttresses, to the pinnacles, it was unbelievably detailed. 

“Shall we go in?” said my mom. We were finished with the outside. 

The inside was as grand as the outside. Huge pillars dominated the landscape, and we looked around. It was massive, but what surprised me more was the consistency. Though the building had been made throughout centuries, the architecture and level of detail had stayed constant. You couldn’t find a difference between the 1300s and the 1900s, which was impressive. 

We then continued to the top of the building. A lot of cathedrals let you go to the top, and the Milan cathedral was one of them. The view didn’t disappoint. I could see around half of the city, and it was a nice feeling to see everything. It was also an easy way to see a lot in a little amount of time. But what was different was that we could see the spires on the top of the cathedral. It was truly a lesson and a half in architecture. 

Time flew by quickly. We took more photos in the Piazza Del Duomo, and soon enough, we needed to return to the Airbnb, which was in Switzerland. It would be a long drive home, but we’d do one more thing in Milan. See the fashion district. The shopping gallery of Milan is huge, as Milan is one of the four fashion capitals in the world, the other ones being London, Paris, and New York City. The shopping gallery was on the way to the car, so we decided to take a walk there. 

Did I mention that the shopping gallery in Milan is indoors? A huge dome was constructed above the gallery in 1877, which was before the Milan Cathedral was completed. The gallery was filled with the largest names in the world: Zara, Prada, Swarovski. All names in the gallery. I didn’t care about any of them. Turns out, the fashion district is very boring if you’re a kid. 

We got to our car, and we were on our way back to the Airbnb. Milan was a great place to visit, and we spent our day on one of the greatest places on Earth. Though it’s rarely worth it to spend so much time in a single place, the Milan Cathedral was a shining exception. 

I’m keeping this section about Rome short intentionally, since I have a special chapter about Rome at the end of the book. In Rome, we pushed through the crowds near the Trevi Fountain, met the Pope in the Vatican, climbed the Spanish Steps, and saw the Colosseum. We even tasted gelato and pizza. I hope you’ll enjoy my special chapter. 

Tips:

  • Hydration:
    Make sure to be hydrated in Venice (and most of southern Europe), or you’ll regret it. Bring one water bottle per person, and drink water regularly. 
Doge's Palace

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