Continued from http://claudeveigas.com/italy/
Day 7 : Florence
We bid farewell to Naples and boarded the train to Florence. The train ride gave us an introduction to the beautiful Tuscan countryside and we never had a boring moment throughout. After checkin and a brief rest, we headed out and spent time exploring St Lorenzo market. It has around 300 stalls and is a good place to pick up souvenirs. There were many local eateries here and Florentina steak is a must have in Florence.
Day 8 : Tuscany
We boarded the bus early in the morning for our Tuscan countryside tour. Our first stop was Siena which is supposedly the most beautiful city in Italy made up of yellow-ochre buildings, terracotta rooftops and green shutters. Piazza Del Campo, the central piazza, is famous for the Palio, a 600 years old horse race run in the summer. The Duomo in Siena is a beautiful gothic structure and hosts the art of the likes of Donatello and Michelangelo among others.
From Siena, we headed out our lunch to a countryside vineyard. After a brief tour of the vineyard and some lovely wine tasting, it was time to dig into some delicious pasta, ham and cheese. At the end of this experience, there were a number of happy and satisfied faces.
Next stop was a small village and a UNESCO World Heritage Site called San Gimignano which is famous for its local production of saffron and white wine. The medieval towers offer impressive views of the city and surrounding valleys. Gelato at award winning Gelateria Dondoli is a must when visiting this place.
Final stop of the day was Pisa made famous by its leaning tower. The tower is located at Piazza dei Miracoli or Square of Miracles. The leaning tower is called the bell tower and is part of the Pisa Baptistery and Cathedral, all three equally impressive.
Day 9 : Florence
Today was a free day in our itinerary and we slept in for a well deserved rest. In the afternoon, we decided to spend the time exploring the city on foot. We started with the famous Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of St Mary of the Flower), the Duomo and Baptistery. The 3 gothic styled buildings are a Unesco World Heritage Site.
A couple of hours later, we walked down towards Ponte Vechio over the river Arno. This is a stone arched bridge and was first opened around the year 1350. It is best known for the goldsmith shops that line both sides of it. We enjoyed artists at work on the streets and a live band playing music on the bridge until sunset.
We then headed towards the hotel stopping for pizza, wine and gelato on the way.
Day 10 : Venice
Venice was the next and last stop in our itinerary. We reached Venezia Santa Lucia train station and bought our tickets to San Zaccaria Vaporetto (Water Taxi) Stop since there are no vehicles here. After a long ride along the Grand Canal, we finally alighted and headed to the hotel. The hotel had a canal running right in front of it and was surrounded by some houses with attractive quaint balconies.
After a quick bite and some rest at the hotel, we headed out to explore the places near our hotel. Since we were a stone’s throw away from Venice’s best landmark, we started our exploration at Piazza San Marco or St Mark’s Square.
The piazza is dominated by the church of St Mark and is graced on one side by a clock tower and on the other by a bell tower. The piazza has many restaurants with open-air seating and live music.
Walking down beyond the square, we were greeted with churches, chapels and designer outlets all in the same lane. The small canals which criss cross the city and bridges are very scenic.
For an early dinner, we decided to try pizza at a small local restaurant. Italians do not share meals and it is customary to order one pizza per individual. One can however tell the staff that you would be sharing the pizza. Some house wine and pasta made up for a lovely meal.
Day 11 : Murano, Burano, Toracello
After a good breakfast at the hotel, we headed to the clock tower at St Mark’s Square to meet our guide who took us around the piazza and explained the various buildings. We then moved down to the boat stand for our first gondola ride. The gondolier expertly guided us through the small canals and also the grand canal.
After the ride, we proceeded for our tour to the islands of Murano , Burano and Torcello. We sailed past the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, the Public Gardens and the famous Lido beach resort and arrived Murano, well known for its glass manufacturing industry. We visited one of the factories here and watched an expert, make glass objects.
The second stop was the picturesque island of Burano, which is famous for its lace and for the fishermen’s houses painted in bright colours. We then proceeded to our last stop of the day which was the island of Torcello, the earliest centre of civilisation in the estuary. Only the Cathedral with magnificent mosaics and the church of Santa Fosca remain now as testimony of its former glory.
Day 12 : Arrivaderchi
It was finally time to leave this beautiful country and we grudgingly packed our bags. We proceeded to the private water taxi which is the best way to reach the airport. In 20 minutes, we docked at Marco Polo Airport and bid arrivaderchi to Italy with definite plans of returning some day to explore more of this beautiful country.