Italy

Italy: 5 Cities in 5 days!

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After applying for Ahmed’s spouse visa and waiting for months on end, 2017 (technically the tail end of 2016) was finally the year where we were together again.

Italy was forever on my list of top 5 places to visit. I had always dreamt of eating pasta in Venice and getting a slice of pizza as a take out in the streets of Italy whilst being surrounded by the beautiful Italian landscape (and Italian men *wink wink*). But there was so much happening in our lives at the time that I didn’t think it was possible to visit another country on holiday.

We had just moved into a new city, were renting a stupidly priced apartment, I had started a new job and we were saving to buy a house. I never thought we would be going anywhere for quite some time… Until I found some super cheap flights to Milan flying out on Boxing day. So without hesitating I booked the flights and hoped I could persuade Ahmed to apply for his Visa. Luckily I managed to do just that and I started to plan our route.

We had FIVE full days to explore so I wanted to make the most of it. I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to visit again for some time so wanted to soak in as much as we could. I wanted a packed holiday and that is exactly what happened!

Day 1: Venice

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After landing in Milan late evening, have food at a rather posh restaurant, and getting some shut-eye, we left Milan early next morning and got the train to Venice. As you know, we travelled to Italy in the winter which meant everywhere was FREEZING cold! I wasn’t sure what to expect when we went to Venice but there was something so romantic and magical about visiting Venice- even in the winter months.

The constant raindrops, silent alleyways surrounded by charming architecture. What was there not to love?

Before this trip so many people said that they didn’t like Venice and that it was underwhelming, but I wanted to see it for myself and make a judgement. I get what they mean in terms of the fact that you can’t spend more than 3 days I would say, but for me it was an amazing experience and we spent an amazing day there! Due to it being over the Christmas holidays, most places were shut and it was incredibly quiet. We didn’t necessarily have an itinerary for Venice and just enjoyed walking around and getting lost in the small narrow alleyways.

Places we saw: 

  • Saint Mark’s Basilica
  • Rialto Bridge
  • Gallerie dell’Accademia
  • Libreria Acqua Alta

Things to note: 

  • If you are travelling with children just bear in mind that there are soo many steps and bridges. Especially with push chairs and suitcases it can get a bit tedious. If your baby is small, I would suggest you use a baby carrier.
  • Accommodation wise, it’s so darn expensive and you don’t get much for what you pay. We were quite lucky that we went at an off peak season and found a bit of a gem. It was brilliant for one night, perfect location, price and great reviews. We stayed at Foresteria Levi.

Day 2: Murano & Burano

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The second day we decided to take the ferry and head out to visit Burano and Murano. I think the cost was around £15. Murano and Burano are Islands near Venice.  Murano is around 1.5km from Venice and is known for glass blowing. Due to the poor weather and time restrictions, we decided to skip visiting Murano.

A further 30 mins on the ferry and you arrive at Burano. Burano is known for its lace, good fish restaurants and pretty painted cottages. Due to the time of the year that we visited, most shops and restaurants were closed so we didn’t get to see many shops. Contrary to how I had imagined this island to be, Burano was FULL of different coloured houses. Prior to going there, I had assumed that there were only one or two streets that were so bright and beautiful. But as we walked around the island we came to know that all the houses were different shades of blue, pink, yellow, green and so on!

We spent a few hours walking around and exploring despite it raining pretty much att of our time on the island. The few hours that we did spend in Burano were enough to see the whole island. We even managed to have food at a pretty decent restaurant.

I would suggest that if you are visiting these islands, do take some time out to visit Murano. I am gutted we didn’t make a quick stop.

Also, there are some halal food places in Venice! Who would have thought!

We caught the train in the evening to Florence and spent the night there.

Day 3: Florence

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We woke up bright and early to explore Florence. Oh what an absolute beauty Florence is! I think it is fair to say that it was probably one of the most beautiful cities we have been to. It is full of Renaissance architecture, art and history, and romantic cobblestone streets. As the capital of the Tuscany region, you can find amazing food, along with world-class museums.

As you know, unfortunately we only had one day per city as I wanted to experience and see as much as possible. Due to the huge queues everywhere in Florence, we decided to skip the museums and to go with the flow. We just walked around aimlessly to soak it all in!

Here are all the places we saw:

  • Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the queues to go inside were ridiculous, honestly! I’d suggest trying to book online if its possible)
  • Ponte Vecchio – A medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy. It is known for its shops built along it! I have never seen anything like it.
  • Piazzale Michelangelo – A square with a panoramic view of Florence, Italy, located in the Oltrarno district of the city. It’s quite nice

You can take the girl out of Mirpur, but you can’t take the Mirpur out of the girl, lol. After being full of cold for days now, it saddens me to say this but I couldn’t really enjoy the gorgeous Italian cuisine anymore. All I wanted was a spicy curry that I could actually taste. Clearly my taste buds are so accustomed to a spicy curry that nothing else can quite get there. So we found a Pakistani restaurant in Florence and WOW, thinking about that chicken karahi still makes my mouth water. It was absolutely divine and reminded me of a childhood memory of eating a curry in the mountains near Murree. We literally asked the waiter to say a massive thank you and compliments to the chef who later came out to speak to us. He was from Lahore, Pakistan!

In the evening we headed back to the train station once again, heading towards Riamaggiore.

Day 4: Cinque Terre

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We stayed in another lovely place during this trip called Scorci Di Mare.

The accommodation was an absolute STEAL. With gorgeous views, clean rooms and beautiful decor, I’m so pleased we decided to stay here. This property was located in Riomaggiore’s rocky coast so this is where we started exploring Cinque Terre.

Just give me a minute while I reminisce about what a beautiful, unreal this place was!! Cinque Terre is a string of seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. In each of the 5 towns, colourful houses and vineyards are scattered all over, harbours are filled with fishing boats and all villages offer gorgeous seafood & of course Pizza!

Before visiting this beautiful places, lots of people said it wasn’t possible to see ALL 5 towns in one day but I wanted to give it a go anyway! We woke up SUPER early to get the earliest train to the other little villages. The trains are extremely efficient and reasonable in terms of their price. We bought the day tickets and went from Riomaggiore – Manarola – Vernazza – Monterosso al Mare. If you have more time at your hands, you can trek to all the villages if you don’t want to take the train. Based on what we saw from the train, it is needless to say the walking tracks would be picturesque.

We managed to see 4 out of the 5 villages and had a walk around the villages as well! I think it was really quiet because we travelled during off peak season, and everything was easily accessible. I can only imagine how crazy busy all these places must be in the summer; so if you are travelling in the summer, I would imagine you would need at least half a day to explore each village properly!

Day 5: Levanto

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On the last day we decided to head out early to make a quick stop at ‘Levanto’ before reaching Milan. After spending a full day hoping from village to village, it was a nice change to be on a long sandy beach, with lots of shops and good restaurants. This popular sea resort is surrounded by a green valley of pine forests, olive groves, vineyards and small medieval villages.

It was so apparent that we were traveling in an off-peak season as the beaches, streets, hotels and restaurants were completed deserted. Most touristy places were shut when we went so we didn’t get to see many places.

We went for a slow stroll by the beach and I asked a group of friends to take a photo of me and Ahmed (I got a bit fed up of using our selfie stick by this point). One guy immediately ran to us and volunteered to take the photo. He was so cheeky he quickly ran next to me and took a selfie with me and Ahmed!! It’s memories like these that make me travel more and more!

Milan

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We got to Milan later on in the evening and went straight to our AirbnB. Towards the end of our journey, I was really quite poorly. I think may have even had a chest infection and a very high temperature, but I was adamant I didn’t want to spend the New Year indoors so after some bickering, we left our AirBnB to make our way towards the town centre. I managed to persuade Ahmed as I told him there were going to be all these amazing fireworks.

As we arrived at the Cathedral it truly did look so beautiful. But as soon as we got there, the entire place was surrounded with Police presence. Most food places were either closed or had massive queues outside.

We managed to find a somewhat quiet and less rowdy place opposite the Cathedral and watched a little concert where they played Italian music. It was quite pleasant and the atmosphere was pretty good! Anyways this local concert thing outside the cathedral ended just after midnight and there were NO fireworks.

Total anti climax.

It was now after 12am, we were both exhausted and I genuinely felt so so unwell. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, it started to absolutely CHUCK it down and we didn’t have an umbrella.  Our phone batteries were also low as we had been taking photos and making videos of this concert that we couldn’t understand a word of.

We walked in the crazy rain to the nearest tram station along with a tonne of people. We waited and waited and waited for bus/tram  for over an hour whilst getting drenched but it seemed that nothing was going to happen (we were a bit too far and too tired to walk back). Just to put things into perspective, we couldn’t find a taxi either. We were mindful that our batteries were really low too and we had very little options left. In the end we decided to WALK to our Airbnb – Ahmed in an awful mood with me and walking in front of me and me coughing behind him trying to catch up! I honestly thought we would never get there!!! As we walked a bit further, guess what happened?! The tram that we had been waiting for started to go past us. I swear in that moment in time I felt like I found my inner Mo Farah. I ran like I’ve never ran before whilst choking on my cough.  We (just about) managed to jump on the tram (like they do in Bollywood films lol). We eventually got to our Airbnb, thanks heavens!

Good job we were going home the following day!

Little did I know that Italy was going to be our last holiday for the next 6 months 🙂 I will be sharing our itinerary on Portugal, where we went for our ‘baby-moon’. Be sure to check it out and do subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss out new blogposts.

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