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Italy

Travel story

The writers of this travel story have been to Italy several times and visited the following places; Milan, Lake Como, Florence, Siena, Rome, Framura, and the five villages at the Adrian Sea (The Cinque Terre). Although this travel story is mostly about those places, others will be mentioned as well.

Getting around

In one of the trips to Italy, we borrowed a car from an Italian friend in Milan, an old Ford Fiesta. It was rather easy to drive the motorways but we experienced some difficulties with finding our way inside the cities. The train links between the main cities in Italy are good. The travel between Milan and Rome takes only 5 hours with an express train, and 2,5 hours from Rome to Florence. We recommend traveling by train, as it can be difficult to find parking in the cities and it is expensive. But Italy offers of course all the main international car rentals

Restaurants

The Italians love to eat out with friends and family and are proud of their cooking. For this reason there are plenty of Italian restaurants in every city or in the countryside. But there is not a particular good selection of non-Italian cuisines. Every part of the country has it own "speciality." An Italian meal contains in general a starter called anti pasti, normally a selection of vegetables. That is only the first starter, as there is a second one consisting of spaghetti/pasta. The main course consists of meat. For those with a sweet tooth, a dessert, often in the form of a cake, will finish off the meal nicely.

The tourist destinations we visited.

Milan

The city of Milan is the Italian New York, the centre of fashion and business. It's a fast city, with business men in suits and trendy young things hurrying by. Shopping is a delight as Milan is one of the fashion capitals of Europe. The Italians have though mixed feelings about the city. They don't consider Milan the heart of Italy, rather Rome. A considerable pollution is in the city. The club "Hollywood" is in the centre of the city. In case you are interested in meeting up with Italian fashion models, then Hollywood is the place to go to.

A clever thing to do in Milan

A clever thing is to buy at the Tourist information, a tourist package which includes 1 day travel ticket by the metro, map of the city, a CD with some of the pearls of Italian music, coupons and more. The Tourist information is situated by the cathedral.

The cathedral in Milan - A very beautiful church, especially the exterior.

Pavia is a well preserved little city, 35km (22 miles) south of Milan. There was a day when it was more powerful than Milan and it was the capital of Lombardy in the 7th and 8th centuries. There is a beautiful cathedral, Duomo, the 3rd largest in Italy, which construction began in 1488.

Lake Como

Lake Como is a one hour trip by a car from Milan, therefore an interesting day trip. The lake is large and reaches over several rift valleys. Lake Como offers inexhaustible opportunities for tourists. Its an ideal place to bring your family thanks to its tranquility and beautiful nature. It is also perfect for outdoor sports like surfing, waterskiing, sailing, trekking, kite surfing, mountain bike riding or horseback riding on the beach or in the mountains up to 1500 meters.

Florence

If Rome is the cradle of Roman remains and history, then Florence is the cradle of the Italian Renaissance. Florence is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. It was one of the richest and most important cities in Europe in the 15th century. The Medici family ruled the city and brilliant artists and minds like Leonardo da Vinci and Machiavelli lived and worked there. Florence has beautiful buildings, most of them in Renaissance style and the bridges that cross the river Arno (especially Ponte Vecchio) add further flavour to the city. The city has a large university and the students give the city a youthful and lively touch. The negative side is an endless stream of tourists. It is recommended to visit the city during the low season, spring or autumn.

Siena

Siena is a city of considerable beauty, one hour drive from Florence. Siena once competed with Florence to become the capital city of Toscana. The largest part of the city lies within great ancient city walls. Piazza del Campo is one of the most beautiful mediaeval squares in Italy. Like Florence, Siena is crowded with tourists during the high season. We suggest a day trip to Siena from Florence. You need at least 2-5 five hours to spend in the city.

Rome

A long time ago it was said that all roads lead to Rome. That is not the case today, as the days of empire are long gone. But we can agree with Goethe, the German philosopher and writer, when he wrote after his visit to Rome in the 1786 - now every dream of my childhood has come true.- For amateurs of history, art, architecture, wine, food, no place is better than Rome to visit, and it helps to be a little bit romantic. One can't help being in awe standing in front of Roman or Renaissance architecture or sculptures. In a way, Rome is like one big museum, but a very lively one, with crowds of people running around. The main attractions are in the city centre, and within walking distance. The transportation in the city is good, with metro, buses and trams.

Interesting tourist attractions in Rome

The Vatican and St. Peter?s square (Piazza San Pietro)

The Vatican is like a little village and an independent state for those who don't know, with its own post service, currency, newspaper, radio station and etc. But it is unlikely that you will get the notion that you have entered a different state.

It is impressive to stand on St. Peter's square and take a look at all the artistic glories around. St. Peter's square serves as the place from which the masses receive the Pope's weekly blessing.

The most impressive is the square itself and the St Peter's Basilica. St Peter's Basilica is arguably one of the finest Cathedrals in the world. It took over 150 years to build the church and the artists who built it where many of Italy's greatest Renaissance's architects, among them Bramante, Raphael and Michelangelo. It can be difficult to reach the inside of the church especially at the height of the tourist season as you may have to wait in a long queue on a steaming hot day. But it is worth making some effort to get inside, especially to see the "Sistine" Chapel. Its ceiling was painted by the Michelangelo and is regarded as one of the greatest works of art in the world.

If you want to avoid the hassle of getting inside the church, St. Peter's square provides amble opportunities for great views and observation of your fellow human beings.


Colesseum

Even though normally nothing bad happens inside Colosseum today, that was not always the case.

The Colosseum is a majestic and a major building and it is easy to let your mind wonder 2000 years back. Colosseum was built around 100 AD and seated 50.000 people. When Colosseum was opened the games continued for 100 days, where 5000 animals were butchered and 9000 gladiators fought for their lives as an entertainment. All kinds of fights took place there, even sea battles where wild exotic animals- imported from the Roman colonies in Africa, Asia and North Europe - fought. Yes the Romans did not lack imagination!

After the fall of the Roman Empire the Colosseum suffered from negligence. It was used as a fort in the medieval times. Earthquakes caused some of the damage, although humans were mostly to blame for the damages, as Colosseum was used during the Renaissance as a mine, in order to get marble and other materials for new buildings. In the recent years much needed repairing has been done and enough is remaining of the ancient building to fire one's imagination. An indispensable part of a trip to Rome!


Forum Romana and Palatino hills

Forum Romana used to be the centre of Rome, a centre of trading, religion and politics. The place is situated between the Colosseum and the Square of Venice. There you can see ruins of Roman palaces, office buildings, temples and old triumph arches etc.

The Palatine hills (Palatino) are in a way a continuation of Forum Romana. It is believed that Rome was first built on those hills. The first wealthy Romans built themselves villas there and later the hills became the residence of members of the aristocracy. Some remaining ruins of Emperor Augustus palace, give a clearer picture of the Roman architecture style, engineering ability and the luxuries of the homes of the rich. From the Palatino hills is a beautiful view of "Circus Maximus" (Latin for largest circle) an ancient arena and mass entertainment venue. Meeting the demands of the Roman citizenry for mass public entertainment on a lavish scale, Julius Caesar expanded the Circus around 50 BC. One can still see some remains of the tracks where the Romans had their chariot races, (think of the Hollywood epic "Ben-Hur"), and the stands, where up to 200.000 people could be seated!

Pantheon

Pantheon is the best preserved building from Roman times. Incredibly, it has somehow escaped major damage, and stands there almost like it did during Roman times. It was built shortly after Christ but has been renovated/ rebuilt several times since then. It has a big vault about 43 meters high and 43 meters in width and is considered one of the biggest architectural achievements of the Romans.

Spanish steps (Piazza di Spagna)

The Spanish steps are probably the most romantic spot in Rome. The steps were built by the French in 1725 but named after the Spanish Embassy which is situated in an adjacent house. In the 18th century many Italian beauty came there hoping they would end up posing for artists. In May every year the steps are decorated with pink flowers. The steps are definitely worth visiting and it is nice to sit down and watch the people around. In the streets nearby you can find many fashion stores, with the latest Italian fashion, of course.

Villa Borghese

A beautiful park little bit outside the old city walls and an oasis from the busy and large city. Inside the park is one of the most important museums of art in Rome, the Museo e Galleria Borghese. The museum was founded by cardinal Borghese in the 17th century. He was a passionate art collector, and the story goes that that he threw artists into jail if they were not ready to hand their art works for his collection. In the museum today are magnificent sculptures and paintings by artists like Caravaggio and Bernini. Napoleon had some artwork moved to Paris, but some of them have been returned. Entering the park is by appointment only so you need to make an appointment in advance (tel. 06 328 10) and you will be escorted by a guide around the museum.

Conclusion:

Rome is a magnificent city, where history, art, culture and a vivid city life blossom. The Romans do not consider the Roman remains as museum pieces but as something that is part of their daily lifes, and in that way the past and the modern, meet in a lively manner. Rome is at all times vivid, both day and night, except maybe in the winter months and in August when the Romans flee the heat in the city for the fresher air by the coast.


The five villages at the Adrian Sea, (the Cinque Terre) and Framura.

Approximately 2 hours drive from Milan (about 1 hour from Genova, which is situated at the Italian Mediterranean coast) is the village Framura. From there we suggest to take a train to the five villages, (The Cinque Terre) which are small and beautiful villages. The only way to reach them is by train. The villages are regarded as one of the best preserved natural and semi-natural areas of the Mediterranean, and are ideal for hiking. It is common that people walk from one village to another (1-3 hours journey). Every Italian recognizes "Cinque Terre" and their faces lit up a little with pleasure, when you mention them. In general the Italians are more positive about the beach along the Mediterranean than the Adriatic Sea (due to overdevelopment of the tourist industry on the Adriatic side).

Rimini

Rimini is a product of the tourist industry on a massive scale. When you mention the name, Italians get goose pimples. Rimini has typical sun beaches, hotels along the beach, bars, restaurants and discos. Organised day trips from Rimini are available, for example day trips to Venice, San Marino and Florence.

Writers: Hßkon ١r & Sveinbj÷rn.

© NETIđ marka­s- og rekstrarrß­gj÷f | All rights reserved




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