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Wishing for more time in Italy

  • Aruna Harjani
    Aruna Harjani

    The Jakarta Post

Milan | Fri, October 27, 2017 | 08:35 am
Wishing for more time in Italy Grand design: Construction on Milan Cathedral in Piazza del Duomo, Milan, started in 1386 and went on for centuries, with finishing touches applied in 1965. (JP/Aruna Harjani)

Italy, known for its glory and splendor, is on the bucket list of many people who want to wine, and dine and marvel at the beautiful architecture and old ruins that grace the country. This summer I took the opportunity to visit the country. Check out these recommended places.

Milan

My first stop was Milan, the fashion hub of Italy, which was breezeless and humid in June. The heat was piercing to the skin, so an umbrella or a hat would be advisable to use. We took the hop on hop off bus and got off at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, a famous mall selling all the latest Italian brands. This is a highlight in the city, as it has many fine dining restaurants complemented by a McDonald’s inside a side mall.

The Galleria is a main stopover because it also leads to Piazza Del Duomo, where rooftop restaurants have the best views of the area and the prices are much lower than the restaurants inside the mall. The Piazza is square in shape, and pharmacies, restaurants and souvenir stores can be found there.

Inside the Piazza is the breathtaking Milan Cathedral. The cathedral is 157 meters long and can accommodate 40,0000 people. Inside the church is many separate altars with beautifully crafted statues. One of the most famous ones is the copper statue of Madonnanina.

Even the exterior of the cathedral has many statues on it depicting the lives of Saints, Mary and the history of Milan.

Another famous thing to see in this city is the Last Supper painting of Leonardo da Vinci. Make sure you book your tickets before arriving in Milan as the place is always fully booked.

Florence

Serenity: The Ponte Vecchio, an arch bridge in Florence, Italy, stretches across the Arno River.Serenity: The Ponte Vecchio, an arch bridge in Florence, Italy, stretches across the Arno River. (JP/Aruna Harjani)

Upon reaching the city, one can quickly discover how Florence differs from Milan. The city is calm, serene and enchanting and is bursting with art and Renaissance culture.

Two days is enough for a quick tour of the city, starting with the Palazzo degli Uffizi, a U-shaped gallery housing the best Renaissance collection. Then there is Florence’s own version of the Duomo, which is located in Piazza del Duomo and boasts a beautiful marble façade that is pink, white and green. The Museo di San Marco boasts beautiful paintings, so it is also worth a visit.

The cuisine offered by the city is a must-try, giving a different flavor to Italian cuisine. Many restaurants line the downtown area of the city and offer breathtaking views.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Iconic building: A horse-drawn carriage awaits passengers in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.Iconic building: A horse-drawn carriage awaits passengers in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. (JP/Aruna Harjani)

If you have already seen most of Florence and want to visit a place nearby, your best option would be the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Just an hour away by car from Florence, you can see one of the most famous places in the world. Don’t forget to put on sunblock and take along an umbrella if you are visiting during summer, as the area where the leaning tower is located is a massive open space.

What’s amazing is as you enter you will see that everything is sparkling white around the square enhanced by a green garden. I recommend traveling at summer as there are not many tourists during this season and it is thus easier to walk around the area and the queue to go up the tower is shorter. There also carriages available that tour around the area.

Rome

Look closer: The ceilings of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City feature what look like elaborate paintings, but are actually highly detailed mosaics.Look closer: The ceilings of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City feature what look like elaborate paintings, but are actually highly detailed mosaics. (JP/Aruna Harjani)

This city explodes with ruins in every nook and corner, which has all been kept the way they are. An Asian city with those kinds of ruins might be termed an underdeveloped place, but in Rome it is art of historical significance. Although at first sight the city seems overrated and overhyped, as days pass, one will comprehend the necessity of maintaining the ruins as they are.

There are many tourist spots in Rome, one of the most famous ones is the Colosseum. From afar it may seem like a half cracked façade, but upon entering it one can feel the historic action that took place centuries ago.

Another place to see is the smallest city in the world, the Vatican. Covering 100 acres, the city is not part of Italy but is independent. People who live here have different passports. A hired guide is advisable upon visiting this place to ensure an easier entrance to the city. Upon entering the city, you will be situated in St. Peter’s Square, which is surrounded by a colonnade.

Before entering the church, you will be shown paintings with explanations of their representations. Upon entering the first floor of St. Peter’s Basilica, the floor is lined with different creatively crafted white statues. There is only a one-track pathway inside the Basilica.

On the higher floors, one can enjoy the paintings of Michelangelo on the ceilings and walls all depicting a historical tale. At the end of the tour, the last stop is an altar, where everyone had to maintain a pin-drop silence. A moment of prayer is offered by everyone waiting at the altar.

The popular Trevi fountain should not be missed when visiting Rome. It is very crowded so be prepared to watch your belongings and squeeze your way for a photo.

Lake Como

Lake Como is a town surrounded by sparkling blue calm water. Lake Como is a town surrounded by sparkling blue calm water. (Shutterstock/File)

Only three hours from Milan by car, Lake Como is a town surrounded by sparkling blue calm water. One can just sit on the edge of the water sipping a hot Italian cappuccino only to be mesmerized for hours by a lake encircled by everything.

There are many speedboats available that can take tourists around the lake. Many villas surround the lake, including Villa Balbianello, Villa Carlotta, Basila del San Fedele and Santuario della Madonna del Soccorso.

Each villa offers its own unique and spectacular view. Drop into one of the restaurants here to have fine Italian dishes and indulge in the beautiful interiors of the hotels at Lake Como.

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