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Entries about italy

Milan, the fashion capital of Italia

"Frankly, Milan kind of sucks as a restaurant city. It's so fashion-obsessed that people don't pay that much attention to the food." ~ Joe Bastianich

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Where did we stay? Ibis Ca'Granda

Duomo di Milan

At the heart of Milan, is it's beautiful cathedral. The square and area surrounding the cathedral is thought to have been the most important forum in Roman times. In Milan's case, all roads lead to the Cathedral, as all of Milan's streets either radiate from the cathedral or circle it.

The first buildings of the cathedral were built in 1386 and took 6 centuries to complete, only seeing completion in 1965. It is the largest church in Italy, with the largest church in the world being St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City.


Climb the steps of Milan's cathedral and walk around on the roof to view some of the amazing spires and sculptures on the roof.


La Scala Opera House

The world famous home of great Italian composers such as Verdi and Puccini. Scala means 'Staircase' in Italian and was named after the church, Santa Maria della Scala (Holy Mary of the Staircase), on which it is built. The peculiar name of this church comes from a mother who placed a statue of the Virgin Mary on her staircase, which she then believed cured her child from illness.

The opera house was opened in 1778 with an opera by Salieri, Mozart's rival. The opera house was closed from 2001 - 2004 to undergo major renovations. It was opened again in 2004 with the same Salieri work as in 1778.


Fashion, fashion, fashion

In the 1980s, Milan became one of the biggest fashion capitals of the world, alongside cities such as New York and Paris, due to the success of Milanese fashion houses such as Armani, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana. In total a whole month a year is dedicated to fashion events such as the Milan Fashion Week. Famous houses such as Valentino, Gucci, Versace, Prada, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana are all headquartered in Milan.

Right off the cathedral square, you will find the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, completed in 1877, and one of the world's oldest shopping malls. The area principally contains luxury shops. In 2012, the McDonalds store in the mall, was denied renewal of their lease after 20 years and replaced with a Prada store. The amazing glass dome of the mall takes inspiration from the domes of cathedrals.


Posted by Anja Fourie 02:02 Archived in Italy Tagged italy cathedral milan dolce gabbana versace la_scala Comments (0)

Lake Como

'Lake Como has always been a magnet for the elite." ~ Janine di Giovanni

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Lake Como is the third largest lake in Italy and has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since the Roman times. Today many famous celebrities have houses at Lake Como including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Helen Mirren and Woody Allen.

There are many towns that surround the massive Lake Como. We stopped at the town of Como, which is situated right at the southern tip of the lake, and about 1 hour from Milan.



The cathedral is commonly described as one of the last Gothic cathedrals built in Italy. The construction on the cathedral was started in 1396, but was not finished until 1770.


Overlooking Como, is the little village of Brunate. It has a population of about 1800. From Como you can take the Como-Brunate funicular. The track is about 1km long and goes straight up the mountain side. It takes 7 minutes to reach the top. At the top you can see as far as the alps in Switzerland.

The route of the funicular up the mountain

The view from Brunate

Next stop: Milan

Posted by Anja Fourie 13:17 Archived in Italy Tagged italy cathedral como funicular lake_como brunate Comments (0)

La Spezia, The Bay of Poets

“Italia! Oh Italia! Thou who hast the fatal gift of Beauty." ~ Lord Byron's tribute to the Bay of Poets

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Where did we stay? Hotel Firenze e Continentale

La Spezia is a quiet harbour town. La Spezia is the departure point for the Cinque Terre, but also has many little coffee shops, restaurants and interesting areas to explore. Many cruise ships stop at La Spezia to allow guests to visit Pisa and Florence, who are both easily accessibly by train from La Spezia. Many would choose to give this port city a skip, as it is so close to so much more grander history, but the city is quaint in its own way.

We spent the day exploring the city by foot, relaxing in coffee shops and breathing in the fresh ocean breeze.


Market and beautiful food items in La Spezia

The La Spezia government has installed free lifts in the city, as it can be quite hilly. Take the lifts for a view of the city.

The lifts of La Spezia

Breathing in the fresh ocean air at the port

Next stop: Lake Como

Posted by Anja Fourie 07:38 Archived in Italy Tagged harbour italy port tuscany la_spezia Comments (0)


"I've been to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It's a tower, and it's leaning. You look at it, but nothing happens, so then you look for someplace to get a sandwich." ~ Danny deVito

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Read about my previous visit to Pisa here: Florence and Pisa in one day..

If you have limited time in Pisa, the only place you need to head to is the Piazza dei Mirocoli, the Field of Miracles. In 1987, the whole square was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As with many cities in Italy, their famous sights dominate their skylines. With Pisa it is no different, as you already spot the cathedral and that famous tower when you enter Pisa. The town of Pisa only has a population of 90 000 people, but attracts over 1 million visitors every year thanks to the famous leaning tower.

While crossing the bridge into Pisa, the Field of Miracles can be seen in the distance

This piazza is recognised as one of the finest architectural complexes in Europe and is a centre of Renaissance art. The complex hosts the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry and the Old Cemetery.

The Baptistry - the largest baptistry in Italy at 54.86m high

The Pisa Campanile (Bell Tower) - commonly known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, currently leaning at 4 degrees.

The Pisa Cathedral - the heart of the Piazza dei Mirocoli

Beautiful aerial shot of the Field of Miracles.
Credit to: Mark the Gr8
From top to bottom it is the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the cathedral and then the baptistry with is dome.
To the left of the field is the white rectangular building called the Composanto Monumentale, the old cemetery. It holds a shipload of sacred soil from the Crusades. This is also where the name of the piazza, Holy Field, originates from.

Next stop: La Spezia

Posted by Anja Fourie 07:33 Archived in Italy Tagged italy pisa field_of_miracles Comments (0)

Florence, The Cradle of the Renaissance

“Visiting Florence was like attending a surprise party every day.” ~ Jennifer Corburn

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The playground of the Medici's, Da Vinci's inspiration, Dante's writing desk. The beautiful seat of the Renenaissance. This is Florence.

Where did we stay? Villa Saulina Resort Hotel
Read about my previous visit to Florence here: Florence and Pisa in one day...

"In fact, one of the reasons artists in fifteenth century Florence made such great things was that they believed you could make great things. They were intensely competitive and were always trying to outdo one another, like mathematicians or physicists today—maybe like anyone who has ever done anything really well." ~ Paul Graham



The Piazza della Signoria is an L-shaped square in Florence. It is overlooked by the Palazza Vecchio, the town hall of Florence. It was, and still is, the political hub of Florence. In the square many famous sculptures can be seen, such as Perseus with the head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini.

Persues with the head of Medusa

A replica of the most famous naked man, Michelangelo's David, can also be seen in this piazza. It took Michelangelo three years to sculpt the 5.17m high sculpture from marble and itt weighs 6 tons. It was unveiled in the Piazza in 1504. In 1873 the statue was removed the square and placed inside the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence to preserve it from damage. During World War II, the entire statue was entombed in brick to protect it from any damage of airborne bombs. The replica, which still stands in the square today, is the exact size of the original and also stands in the same spot as the original used to stand many years ago.

The replica of David

Statues of Dante and Galileo in the Piazzo


The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) crosses the Arno river at its norrowest point. The first bridge was built here in 996, but was destroyed by flood many times over the years. The current bridge was built in 1345. The bridge has always hosted shops. It used to be butcher shops, but over time changed to jewellers and trinket sellers.

It is here that the term bankruptcy originated from. Merchants used to sell their wares on tables on the bridge. If they could not pay their debts, the table on which he sold his wares would be physically broken by soldiers. This practice was called bancorotto, meaning broken table.

The Ponte Vecchio

On the close-up of the Ponte Vecchio, a small row of windows is visible at the top. This is the Vasari Corridor. The ruling Florentine family in the 1500s, the Medici, did not want to walk in the streets from their residence, Palazzo Pitti, to the town hall, the Palazzo Vecchio. Over 5 months in 1565, the corridor was built above Florence. It snakes its way around towers, over houses and across the bridge. The secret passageway is approximately 1km long. Today the Vasari Corridor can be walked as part of a tour. The corridor can be spotted from street level by its small prison-like windows.

Small windows of the Vasari Corridor



Driving into Firenze, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore takes your breath away. Its magnificent dome stands out above the red tiled skyline of Florence. The cathedral is one of the biggest attractions for tourists visiting Tuscany and it is not hard to see why. Inside the square, the massive cathedral feels squashed in. It dominates all of Florence. To this day, it remains the largest brick dome constructed in the world.



Adjacent to the Cathedral is Giotto's Campanile / Giotto's Bell Tower. The tower is 87m tall and has a whopping 414 steps to the top. The problem with these steps are that they are very narrow, and with people coming up and down, this is a nightmare zone for claustrophobic people. If you are in any way claustrophobic, prone to panic attacks, or unfit, do not attempt this climb. The stairs are steep and very narrow, and many people have collapsed on their way up.


When we finally reach the top, the view is definitely worth the climb.

Views from the top of the tower

Next stop: Pisa and the Field of Miracles

Posted by Anja Fourie 07:30 Archived in Italy Tagged italy florence cathedral da_vinci Comments (0)

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