Mr. A has an ardent interest in Art and History; while I love traveling. We decided to explore Italy in Spring. We had exactly one week with us to spend in Italy. Initially, we thought we should cover as many places as possible in this one trip to Italy. Later, when we sat back and thought about it, it struck us that we are simply going to be running from one city to another- just like a touch-and-go trip. I had a rush of questions in my head: Is this what I want? How much am I going to be able to see in each city? Finally, we narrowed our options to Milan, Rome and Florence. I wanted to relax and enjoy my time with Mr. A; and not be a part of a tourist race. We split our week into 3 days in Rome, 1 day in Florence and 2 days in Milan. I can vouch that this duration is sufficient to cover these cities.
Step 1: Get your running shoes and be ready to walk around when you are in Italy.
Step 2: Get your flight tickets and visas ready.
Step 3: Reserve your hotels.
Step 4: Get your itinerary in order (Recommend Lonely Planet-Italy Tour Guide);
Step 5: Book your inter city train tickets.
Step 6: Get your tickets to the Last Supper Painting at Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie, Vatican city and Colloseum;
Step 7: Enjoy!
The best time to travel around Italy would be between April to June and mid-September to October, when the temperature is usually pleasant, with a colorful scenery and a less intense crowd.
Though you can apply for your visa directly through the VFS website and follow the procedure, we applied for our Schengen visa through Alpha Travels in Mumbai due to time constraints. Alpha Travels is a travel agency situated in Fort Area. The staff is quite helpful with information and is prompt with their delivery. However, I usually advise prospective travelers to be diligent and do your own research before approaching any travel agent. The VFS website is very detailed and even provides for the fees, which gives you a good idea on the total cost for your visa application.
We had to produce the following documents to support our visa application:
- Visa Application form;
- Copy of passport;
- Letter from employer, granting leave the period of travel;
- Copy of air tickets booked from Mumbai to Milan, along with the return air ticket from Rome to Mumbai;
- Copy of hotel reservations;
- Bank Statement of the previous 3 months evidencing the availability of requisite funds for the proposed visit to Italy;
- Copy of declaration on travel health insurance; and
- Copy of detailed Itinerary.
We chose to travel by Etihad Airways (“Etihad”), since I have always had very comfortable journeys in Etihad. They have a very good collection of movies and TV shows, to help you pass your flight time. We reserved our rooms in Best Western Atlantic Hotel in Milan which close to Milan Centrale and Best Western Plus Hotel Milton in Rome, which is close to Rome Termini. We were delighted to get our Schengen Visa in approximately a week.
We took a early morning flight to Milan and landed at the Malpensa Airport by the afternoon. The check in time in most hotels in Italy is by 2:00 pm. So, we landed at a good time. Right outside the airport, we found a bus that took us to the city. You have to collect your bus ticket from a counter inside the airport and we also got a sim card for €30. We boarded the bus to Milan Centrale. I sat next to Mr. A watching his excitement and looking outside the window to see the beautiful city of Milan. The seats were comfortable and we had access to wifi. We reached Milan Centrale in about 40 to 50 minutes. From Milan Centrale, we walked to our hotel, Best Western Atlantic Hotel, which was just 5 minutes away. We checked into our hotel. Our room wasn’t exactly as we had expected. It was quite compact, but cozy. We had a good view of the city from our window and access to free coffee/tea. Mr. A loves Tea and he is quite particular about his evening tea, I was so relieved and happy to find unlimited FREE TEA and cookies. We also had free access to wifi in our room. In the evening, we went for a casual walk around the area and winded up our day with a Gelato and good Pizza.
We began our next day in Milan with a good breakfast in the hotel, which was complementary with our stay. They mostly offered simple English breakfast with Cereal, Eggs, Sausages, Bacon, flavored yogurt etc and beverages, including fresh fruit juices. We proceeded to Milan Centrale to take a metro to see the Piazza del Duomo (“Duomo”), Milan’s extravagant Gothic Cathedral (as lonely planet guide aptly describes). The metro ticket costed us around €2 or €3. We got a metro map and took the Yellow Line from Milano Centrale to Duomo, which is the 4th or 5th stop.
Once we arrived in our stop, we found sign boards at the metro station leading us to the Duomo. We headed straight to the ticket counter at the Duomo and purchased a ticket for approx. €2 to the museum and €13 to get access to the Terrace by elevator. After buying the ticket, we went and stood in the queue to enter the church, which was fast moving. On entering the church, we were mesmerized by the breath-taking architecture. The most spectacular view was through the innumerable marble pinnacles and spires that adorned the rooftop. We happily clicked pictures of ourselves; just like all other couples on the roof. Later, in the afternoon we had our lunch in a nearby café and then, went around the fashion street in Milan to do a bit of shopping.
On the next day, we headed to the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie to see the famous mural, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. We reached the Basilica 10 mins early and waited in the waiting area. We were then taken inside to see the painting and was allowed to spend 15 minutes in there.
The next morning, we took a Frecciarossa to Rome, which costed us €59 per adult. Frecciarossa, a luxurious, high speed train, provides comfortable seating and snacks to the passengers. In 3 hours, we arrived in Rome Termini. Our hotel, Best Western Plus Hotel Milton was around 15 mins away from the Termini, by walk. We tried to locate the hotel but ended up walking around a lot and lost. We finally got a cab to our hotel. We decided to hang around the hotel and enjoy our evening in Rome.
Best Western Plus Hotel Milton serves one of the most sumptuous breakfasts, ranging from boiled eggs, sausages to freshy baked bread. After our breakfast, we left the hotel and proceeded to see Rome’s ancient monuments and ruins. We crossed the Vittorio Emanuele monuments, a colossal white marble structure with majestic stairways, tall Corinthian columns and fountains, on our way to the Colloseum. Rome’s ancient amphitheatre was exactly 15 mins away from our hotel. Since we had our tickets to the Colloseum, we didn’t have to stand in the long queue and could enter the amphitheatre directly. From the Colloseum, we could see the Roman Forum and the Pallatine Hill and the enter these monuments using the same ticket. After our lunch, we went back to the hotel. In the evening, we walked towards the Trevi Fountain, which was unfortunately closed for renovation. Close to the Fountain is the Pantheon, which is has a spectacular dome. There are a lot of bars and cafes in this area, but most of them are highly priced.
The following morning, we spent our day in Vatican City. We had not pre-booked our entry ticket into Sistine Chapel and stood in the queue for around 5 hours. It was definitely a completely different experience in life. I would have never imagined to see myself wait in an queue so patiently for these many hours. I was impressed at Mr. A determinance and patience. Around 4pm, we got entry into the church, along with a few others who were congratulating each other at the accomplishment. It was truly an accomplishment. We entered the church and saw the different art works on the walls and the ceiling. After a while, we reached the Sistine Chapel which housed Michelangelo’s famous Sistine ceiling depicting scenes from Genesis in dramatic detail. Mr. A went crazy. All these years he had read so much about the painting that he was delighted. I didn’t need a guide at all, he explained to me the entire history behind the painting. That’s when I realized his in-depth knowledge and interest in Art/history. We continued walking and reached the Vatican. By the time, we saw around the place, we were hungry and went to the nearest restaurant to enjoy an italian meal.
On the next day, we went to the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) which was around 10-15 mins away from the Pantheon, with La Fontana della Barcaccia (“Fountain of the Old Boat”) at the base of the steps. We sat on the ramps of the staircase which was covered with flowers, lost in the magnificent array of colour. Later, post lunch we walked around and reached the Vatican. We were lucky since we got to see the Pope and participate in the prayer.
The next day, we left to Mumbai.