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Erasmus Shenanigans "Not all those who wander are lost"

The Land of Gelato

ITALY | Wednesday, 28 June 2017 | Views [702] | Comments [1]

Milan and Venice (23rd-25th June 2017) 

Abby dreamed of going to Venice. We shared the same dream until December 2015, when my dream became reality. I recently found ultra-cheap tickets to Milan and back (WizzAir and RyanAir, of course) and we proceeded to plan a long weekend in the fashion capital of the world and the famous floating city. A raging thunderstorm in the early hours of the 23rd meant that I did not need an alarm to wake up at 3.30 am. I was forced to wear my only waterproof shoes, my Timberlands, to travel to a city that would be over 30 degrees for the duration of our stay. Our 5 am coach arrived at Prague Airport a mere 40 minutes before our flight. We sprinted through security - of course this was one of those times when they stopped me for a drug test. We reached the gate as the flight was boarding and took a deep breath when we collapsed in our seats. As we closed into Milan, we were greeted with a view of the Bergamo Alps from the plane's window. Small mountains around a glistening lake were peppered with colorful houses in the valleys. After landing, we took a € 5 coach to Milan city center, where we arrived at Hotel Medea perfectly at check-in time. Nobody came to the reception for almost 30 minutes. After almost 1 hour, we were ready to finally explore Milan! We stepped out into 36 ° C weather and took in the surrounding. Abby said it looked like Czechia, and it did; Old architecture and trams. However, the traffic was chaos, and it resembled Indian driving! Unfortunately, our quest for food took another 30 minutes and by the time our stomachs were full with pizza and sweet aubergine (yum) it was already 4.30 pm.

Our first stop was Sforza Castle. It was a lot huger than I expected, at least three times the size of Prague Castle! To our delight, the tickets were free. We later found out that most attractions in Milan (and probably the whole of Italy) sell free tickets within one hour of closing time. The receptionist warned us that we had only one hour to see all three museums but we didn't care. The only reason we came to the castle was to see the Rondanini Pietà, Michelangelo's last unfinished sculpture. The virgin Mary crying over a crucifed Jesus with an extra limb poking out of the side. Our next stop was the Duomo. Its size was mind-blowing; It was the largest gothic cathedral in the world. It was also the last ever gothic cathedral to be built and took over 700 years to reach completion. It was certainly the most beautiful sight in Milan and we had the pleasure of seeing it at all times of the day. Our next stop was supposed to be the Quadrilatero d'Oro (Rectangle of Gold). It was the fashion district housing all the world's leading designer labels. Abby and I were particularly excited to see this, but we ended up getting slightly lost instead. We found ourselves on a street branching off the Duomo containing high-street fashion brands. While Abby got her portrait sketched by a street artist, I took in the vibrant surroundings and enjoyed the singing of two insanely talented musicians down the street. It was now sunset and the Duomo had turned a soft pink under the rays. While we admired it, we spotted the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which was the actual Golden Rectangle. Unfortunately, we arrived after 7 pm, meaning all the shops were closed. This did not stop us from window shopping and taking pictures in front of the expensively adorned mannequins. From this moment, Abby did not stop singing Versace on the Dancefloor. Any trip to Italy should not only be a sightseeing adventure, but also a gastronomic one. We chose to share a bowl of pink spaghetti, which to my delight turned out to be spicy. What I admire about Italian food is the ability to make a delicious dish from very few ingredients, greatly contrasting with Asian cuisine.

The next morning we joined a free walking tour starting at the Duomo. I was pleasantly surprised that the length of the tour was 3.5 hours, as most free walking tours are no longer than 2.5 hours. Our tour guide was one of the most enthusiastic ones I'd ever encountered, referring to us as his 'platoon' for the duration of the tour. We stopped at nine attractions, but three of them stood out in particular. Ossario Chapel had a room decorated with the skulls and bones of people. Trivulzio Chapel had a family emblem engraved above the entrance. The guide made us guess what it was, before delicately stating that it was three pairs of scrotums. Finally, the Milan State University. It was considered one of the oldest hospitals in the world. It was so impressive at the time that it earned a visit from Martin Luther himself. Today, the law and humanity students who study there follow a superstition involving jumping over the lawn to graduate, as they believe that the area was used as a mass grave for those who died when their university was a hospital. I wonder what other student superstitions are out there!

Being the science students that we are, Abby and I wanted to see scientific work. We were most awestruck when we saw the original pages of Leonardo Da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus in The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. The man was a genius, let me tell you. We had a strange encounter with the tram driver, of all people, when we were on the way to the Leonardo Da Vinci Science and Technology Museum. After giving him a polite smile, the driver would not stop smiling at us through the rear-view mirror. When we stood up for our stop, he started waving at us to get off at the door next to the driver's seat. Needless to say, we didn't. An Italian trip would not be complete without an incident like this though. The first time I went, my friend and I got asked to go clubbing with our waiter and his brother. We declined. Italian men are pretty confident I must say. In this museum, the coolest display was a moon rock. I would recommend going here an hour before it closes because an under 26 ticket cost us €7.50 each. 

By evening, our feet were hurting in ways they'd never hurt before. Yet, we marched on to the final area of Milan we wanted to see; the Navigli Grande Canal. We sat outdoors in a restaurant with a view of the canal. The sunset lit up the opposite side of the canal and I enjoyed eating Milanese style risotto. Summer time meant that the sun didn't set before 9 pm. The pictures we had seen of Navigli waterways in the dark looked prettier than what we saw in the daylight. Unfortunately, we had to leave early to get back to our under-par hotel to check-out. After making us pay €5 for an ineffective air conditioner, I was more than happy I wasn't staying a second night. Abby had booked us a Flixbus to Venice at 11.50 pm. The journey to the bus station was an absolute nightmare; Abby was almost in tears and my brain was close to exploding. We had been following directions via Google Maps during our trip, and as you may know, Google Maps is not accurate 100% of the time. This led us to arrive at the bus station a few minutes after the departure time but when we saw the coach still there, I opened the door while the taxi was still in motion and ran to the coach like our lives depended on it. I don't even remember how much cash I threw at the taxi driver. By some miracle, the bus left 20 minutes late with bums were sitting comfortably in the very last row. 

We arrived in Venice at 4.30 am. We got off at the wrong stop (my fault) but it turned out everybody going to Venice made the same mistake. Luckily, this stop was actually closer to where we wanted to go so we bought an expensive €20 day pass and got on the next Vaporetto (public transport boat). The sun was beginning to rise by 5 am and I decided the map I'd printed out was useless. There's a unique charm about getting lost in Venice. Besides, it helped that the city was tiny. Abby couldn't believe she was finally in Venice and was totally absorbed. I began noticing a few differences between Venice in the summer and Venice in the winter. For example, this distinct fishy, ocean smell was definitely absent in the winter. But hey, I'm from Chennai so I'm not complaining! Most cafes were closed at 6 am in the morning but we luckily found one and recharged our phones and ourselves. We walked the narrow streets until we found yellow signs directing us to Rialto Bridge. After walking for a good 20-30 minutes, we finally arrived and marvelled at Venice's largest and most famous bridge. The black windows of the shops were all closed but we still enjoyed the picturesque view. We then took a vaporetto to San Marco (St. Mark's Square). The 25 minute journey took us down the Grande Canal which we immensely enjoyed as the vaporetto's were empty and it wasn't too hot. At San Marco, we saw St. Mark's Basilica and a couple getting their wedding photos shot in the centre of the relatively empty square (maybe they will find a small Indian girl in the background of one of their pictures).  

I took Abby to these places because they were the most famous and we didn't have all day. She was satisfied and agreed there wasn't much else to see. To be honest, we were happy just riding that vaporreto and trying not to collapse from little to no sleep from the past 2 nights. Our holiday was generally at its end; we now had the long journey back to Milan Bergamo airport. Abby had found a convenient Flixbus straight from Venice to the airport. Again, we got confused with the name of the station and made it just 10 minutes before departure time, a small improvement. By the time we reached Brno from Prague airport, it was 2 am. We could barely stand, but Abby (a PhD student) said that she was glad we packed so much into a 72 hour trip. I had the pleasure of seeing my seventh Italian city and Abby visited a new country. Despite all the madness with the Flixbuses and the lethargy, the trip was ray of sunshine on our bleak research-orientated lifestyles. I must thank Abby for putting up with my grumpy attitude and for being such a lively travel partner! 

The most delicious ice cream ever

The most delicious ice cream ever

Tags: duomo, floating city, milan, venice




fully packed as usual !

  poongothai Jul 2, 2017 1:22 AM

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