Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vita a Milano

Go to Rome!

How to get there

If you find yourself in Italy, you must take a couple of days to visit Rome. I am nearing the end of my journey and I must admit that Rome has been my favorite place to visit. If you are in Italy you can get there easily by TrenItalia which costs about 75euro for second class from Milan. The journey takes about 4 hours but be prepared for delays. You could also fly to Rome by RyanAir (fly from anywhere in Europe, not just Italy) and for a cheaper price! I took the train just because it was more convenient than flying, especially from my location.

Where to stay

If you plan to stay in Rome for more than one night, I highly suggest staying at a hostel and not a hotel. Every college student needs to experience a hostel at least once while in Europe. Not only is it cheaper than a hotel, but you also have the opportunity to meet very interesting people from all over. I actually received the best traveling advice from those that I met in the hostel. I recommend booking a hostel through HostelWorld. I stayed at the Legends Hostel and was pleasantly surprised. Many of the travelers that I spoke to said that Legends was a ‘nicer’ hostel. Honestly, it just reminds me of dorm life so I didn’t mind at all.

What to see

In order to fully experience Rome I recommend having at least two full days to sight see. The first day my friend, Sarah, and I went to the Colosseum. It was absolutely incredible. Once in the area you will have many tour guides coming up to you asking if you want to go on a tour through the Colosseum and Roman Forum (and yes, in English!). Initially we were just going to explore on our own, but then decided to join a tour. The tour is well worth the 22euro because you don’t have to wait in any lines and you get the history which makes it exciting; otherwise you’ll just be peering at ancient remains. I recommend setting one day aside to solely experience the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Colosseum.

Roman Forum

Inside Colosseum


I would also suggest setting another day aside to go to Vatican City. Once again in Vatican City my friend and I joined a tour group just because there is too much to take in (and we were too impatient to wait in the long, long lines). The tour first led us to the Vatican Museum which would take 15 years to see everything, so I’m quite happy we had a guide that led us to the most important and interesting pieces. Once in the museum (8euro for students, or part of the payment to your tour which is 28euro total) you have free access to St. Peters Basilica. Of course, when traveling Europe all of the cathedrals and basilicas tend to look alike, but not St. Peters. It is absolutely breathtaking. My favorite thing in the Vatican to see is the Sistine Chapel and The Last Judgment by Michelangelo (where, of course, no photography is permitted).

Colonnade in Vatican City

Inside St. Peters Basilica

St. Peters Basilica

Other than the Colosseum and Vatican City, you must also see Trevi Fountain. It is said that if you toss two coins into the fountain it will ensure your trip back to Rome, so do not forget to do so!

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Since I only have a few days left, this will be my last post. I hope this information is helpful. Arrivederci!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Vita a Milano

Day Trips: Part 2

Go to Venice! While in Milan (or anywhere in Northern Italy) you must visit Venezia! Even if you only have one day, it is enough time for an enjoyable experience. To get there you can simply book train tickets online through TrenItalia or in Milan at a travel agency called Zani Viaggi located at MM1 Cairoli by Castelo Sforzesco. The train ride is about two and a half hours long and costs about 28euro one way. Yes, the train is always a little pricey but the convenience is worth it. You depart from Centrale Stazione in Milan and arrive at the central station in Venice. When you walk out of the station you are directly on the grand canal and Venice is at your fingertips. From there you can hop on the water taxi to get to another region of Venice. If you do not have a specific destination in mind, then simply take the water taxi in order to experience the canals without spending your entire budget on a gondola. My family (who was visiting) and I actually rented a gondola. The cost is about 80euro for one hour. I think it was worth it, but definitely a one time kind of experience. If you plan to go on a gondola ride you might want to walk left of the central station and down a ways… the gondola rides nearest to the central station are more expensive (the same goes for food and souvenirs). Since you won’t find many souvenirs in Milan (being that it’s not a popular destination for tourists) you can buy all of your presents here, and for cheap! I do not have any suggestions where to eat other than a little cafĂ© called Brek. It’s a small little place if you walk left from central station where you can find panini (sandwiches) for as little as 3euro. Other than taking a taxi or gondola ride (which you must do in order to see the house of the infamous lover Casanova and the adventurous Marco Polo), I recommend just walking around the tiny streets and soaking up the beautiful atmosphere of Venice.

View of the Grand Canal

Street of Venice left of central station, Brek Cafe

Gondola and Guide

One day trip to skip would be the bus trip to the Foxtown Outlet in Switzerland. It was a horrible experience. The bus costs about 20euro for round trip which isn’t bad considering it does take an hour to get there. Once there you realize that the Foxtown Outlet has been falsely advertised. It seems to be more of a run down indoor shopping center than a high class shopping center that carries designer names. The brand name outlet also does not mean a thing because a pair of Levi’s at their outlet price costs about 80-120euro which is about $120-$180 so you can forget about finding Italian brand names like Gucci and Prada at an affordable price. They also advertise that they have a casino, which I thought would’ve been fun, but it’s small and the entrance is difficult to find. If you’re looking to do some serious shopping you won’t find it here, unless you have an unlimited amount to spend. And if you are willing to spend that kind of money (as in $500-$3000 on a hand bag), then I suggest going to Via Montenapoleone (MM3 Montenapoleone) where at least the atmosphere shimmers. There are other outlets near Milan, so I would also suggest looking into them before even thinking about Foxtown. Serravalle Designer Outlet is one you can research. I would also divert from the small and hidden designer outlets in Milan. My one friend went to one and after hours of searching and being lead up to a tiny room from a sketchy stairwell with no one who spoke any English, she was quite disgusted. So save your money and do something worth while! Milan is expensive, and even though it is a fashion capital it is not a place to be shopping at unless you have an abundance of funds!

Well, I hope this information will guide you in the right direction. Until next time… Ciao!