Friday, June 19, 2015

Voyage to Italia & Switzerland

Why Italy & Switzerland?

My better half and I had left hardly any place where we had not planned to travel to in last couple of years – from Malaysian road tour finishing with marathon in Singapore to road trip across Australian & New Zealand to African wild life tours and many others. We finally decided & booked the tickets for June 2015 trip to Italy and Switzerland 6 months before. It was only thanks to my sister and brother in law who made us finally give our long pending holiday trip a due thought. 
The trip was a fortunate coincidence and got into shape after Air India started direct flight to Rome and Milan. The flight tickets were reasonably priced which would have ensured the couple of weeks trip within our budget - INR 2.2 lacs.
There were minor hiccups, as usual, on the way but we held on to keep the plan intact and adjusting all personal and work related matters for once.

Arrival in Roma:
We reached Delhi on May 30 to celebrate my parent’s marriage anniversary and left for Rome on June 1 at noon. We had pre-booked Opel Astra station wagon from a rental car company. The car rentals are within airport premises and the whole process was absolutely smooth. My brother in law is an ace driver and auto enthusiast. With him being around, I was least concerned about managing the big car.
With absolute cipher knowledge of the routes, we largely depended on ‘’ offline maps and routing paths. As luck would have it, we almost encircled the Rome city after landing there through ‘Grande Raccordo Anulare’ twice. We, for once, stood in front of the hotel; comfortably missing it and moving to the other direction and another time one of our station wagon’s back tire busted just 50 meters away from hotel; we were least aware of where we were ! Well, in our favor, we hardly understood the Latin landmarks for hotel and didn’t find much of help on the highway. We finally managed to reach the hotel at 11:00PM after landing at 7:30PM – a journey which usually shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes! We stayed in quiet and reasonable Hotel Roma Santos, a place run by missionaries, which is outside the main city.

Trip to Pompei & Amalfi
Pompei museum 
After managing to reach hotel with flat tire one night before, we woke up to make another fresh start to the trip. We got the tire repaired for EUR 20.0 with patch which would cost not more than EUR 1.5 back home in India! The ruins of Pompei, an enchanting city in its times, were a delightful sight. Whats most exciting is the world’s oldest amphitheater and the mummified bodies of the Pompei residents in the same positions they died when Mount Vesuvius lashed ashes and lava on Pompei and nearby towns. The roadside cafes is a rage in Italian towns and Pompei was no different. We delightfully satisfied our taste-buds with Margherita pizza– the only easily available veg pizza in one of the roadside cafes.
The gorgeous Amalfi coast
It was almost 2:00PM and we decided to cross the mountainous terrain and travel to Amalfi – a beautiful coastal town. We left for Amalfi to spend around 3-4 hours before returning back to Rome through Autostrada, the highway. This were to be our best drive of the whole trip. The lanes were narrow and busy making it difficult to manage a large car but what made for it all was gorgeous and colorful town of Amalfi. We had estimated travel time of 1.5 hour to Amalfi from Pompei but took us close to 3 hours. After spending time, much less what we had planned for, we decided to leave for Rome to cover the mountainous terrain during daytime.

We kept next 2 days to explore the historical city of Roma. We had heard of crazy traffic and expensive parking in Rome city, so we decided to travel to the city through train. We parked our car at Aurville railway station and took train to St. Petro Railway station, which is around 20 minutes of walk from Vatican museum. We were told the parking is free but not safe. We were least concerned about safety as we hardly find safe place to park our cars back home ! We had pre-booked the tickets for entry at 9:30AM. We spent around half day in Vatican, much less to appreciate the history of hundreds & thousands of years especially when we are restricted with our knowledge of Christianity.
Bollywood Style in Vatican! 
Roma Forum
We took bus to cross the river, Tiber, and explore the rest of the town. Python, the oldest temple in Rome, and the Church of Bascilica were next in our list. We decided the evening at the Piazzo the Navona. You might recall Piazzo the Navona from the movie Angels and Demons, where the Illuminati planned to kill one of the cardinal by drowning him in the water.
We were back next day to visit Colosseum and Roma Forum. We spent few hours sitting in one the road side cafes facing the Roma Forum. It is absolute delightful sipping your LIT sitting across the roadside where once great Julius Caesar strolled on his carriage.
Next day we woke up early to leave for the town Pisa.

Pisa and Montecartini Terme
Pisa is a historical town known for Leaning Tower of Pisa which is leaned by 5 degrees on one side. The lean, however, looked larger if you stand in front of tower and certainly much more when you climb over the top of the tower. You could reach the tower bell and catch the sight of whole Pisa town.
We decided to stay in Montecartini Termi instead of staying in Florence as stay in Florenece is relatively expensive. We had decided to travel to Florence by train which would have probably taken couple of hours. We, however, scrapped the whole plan as we fell in love with scenic town of Montecartini. We stayed in hotel - 'Ercolini & Savi’ which is near to town centre and is one of the good properties around. We went uphill through a train chain to see the old town of Montecartini. Montecartini is known for the medicinal spas which is frequently visited by aged people. The town though has a young feel to it which kept us captivated to it.

Montecartini Terme to Venice through Marnello:
After spending a gorgeous evening at Montecartini Terme, we decided to explore the back roads to reach Venice through Marnello, home of Ferrari, instead of traveling through fast but mundane Autostrade. We passed through La Lima, Abetone and other gorgeous hill towns. It is said new Ferrari is tested in these hills before its commercial launch. Though we were not lucky to catch a sight of new Ferrari, but did see hoards of superbikes burning their tires and cyclists testing their endurance on these tough terrains. The entry to Ferrari museum in Marlleno is EUR 15 per person. I had already been to Ferrari world so there was nothing really new to see in Marnello, but the feeling of being at Ferrari's home gave me goose bumps.   
After spending an hour we left for the city of canals - Venice.

Stay at Venice & further to Milan:
We spent a day in Venice and allow me to say it was not the best of the experience. The Venice city is way too expensive for travelers like us who were managing a tight budget. We gave skip to Gondola ride and decided to explore the city on ourselves. We walked across the island and saw all important landmarks - St Mark's Basilica, the Grand Canal, and the Piazza San Marco. We bought some food stuff from Coop which is a reasonably priced retail chain.
We left for Milan the next day and visited San Siro ‘AC Milan Stadium’ and Milan Cathedral - a cathedral which took more than 500 years to build!
We stayed in ‘New Generation Hostel’ - a newly built property and certainly an economic stay option in Milan City.

Our next stop was Lucerne in Switzerland. Do tune to next entry to hear my experience.  

1 comment:

  1. Loved the pics. Could we have more of them? And also make them larger.