• The boot shaped country - Italy -Travel Experience and some Tips 5 2
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Offline jd

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The boot shaped country - Italy -Travel Experience and some Tips
« on: September 05, 2014, 12:07:27 AM »
A story about a 45 days trip to MIP POLITECNICO DI MILANO, Milan Italy on a student Exchange.
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Hey everyone… Earlier this year, I and a couple of my classmates got a change to go to Italy for a student exchange program. The exchange duration was a full 45 days from January to February. Our main stay during this trip was the wonderful city of Milan, aka the fashion capital of the world. We also got a change to travel a bit to visit places such as Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome and Lake Como. It was an amazing trip and I’ll try my best to some up everything in this post. This was my maiden trip abroad and better country to visit first than Italy.


Let’s begin with the how this trip actually came about. During our MBA studies, we got to about the exchange program. Initially there were 3 locations on offer – Italy, USA and Canada. Personally I wanted to go to Italy simply because of what it had to offer – the cuisine, people, and of course football. So I and couple of my buddies gave our names for the exchange program and the whole process started. After completing the formalities and getting the green light for our admission to the exchange program we applied for the Visa. For most of Europe, you will need a single visa, Schengen Visa. In our case since we were travelling as students and that too for a short duration, there were no Visa fees. After waiting and waiting, our Visa’s came through and we moved to next step of booking the air tickets (we left the visa submission till very late, hence we had not booked the air tickets). Our course was to begin in 3 days’ time and we looking for deals on air tickets, tough luck I know. Luckily Qatar Airways came to our aid. Flight carriers offer discounts for students on air fares and baggage allowance so make sure to check carrier’s website when considering buying tickets.

So the day finally arrives. After last minute packing and hoping that we did not forget anything behind we boarded the flight to Italy. We had a stopover at Doha, Qatar and a connecting flight from there to Milan. The flight was relaxing, the hostesses’ were courteous and the food was great. Definitely one of best airlines in the world. While landing, we were able to see a glimpse of what Doha had to offer. It is indeed beautiful. The sand dunes, the beaches, the infrastructure as a whole is amazing. The connecting flight to Milan was practically empty. We reached Milan at somewhere around 9PM local time and it was raining quite heavily and it was bloody cold. The temperature was around 3-4 degree Celsius but it felt a lot colder than the same temperature in India. The Malpensa International airport is confusing to say the least with its cramped corridors and small size. We hitched a taxi cab to the place we would be staying. Now accommodation in Milan is EXPENSIVE and not very easy to find if you’re staying for a short duration. Luckily we found an Indian family who were willing to rent us their flat for our stay. The drive to the flat was a little depressing with our driver, a Pakistani, having a difficult time configuring his GPS to where we had to go. But the sight of the wonderful lights and cars made up for it.


First let’s talk about Milan. Let me tell you that compared to other cities in Italy, Milan is quite mediocre when it comes to architecture and natural beauty. Apart from the Duomo, there is’nt really anything much to see in Milan. Granted it is home to some of the top designers and it is here where fashion industry sheds its new skin. The public transport is top notch. The metro, buses, trams, trains do an excellent job of taking you where you want to go. You can get a daily pass for 4.5 Euro by which you can use any form of transport except for taxi for a day. Food is also another thing which is expensive especially when you have to pay in Rupee converted Euros. Be prepared to spend atleast 2-3 Euros on a simple snack such as Panini or a pizza slice. Cheap food in Milan can be found in Arab kabab shops. We had most of our meals here and the food was not only cheap but offered good taste as well. My recommendation would be to cook your own food if you can. Buy a packet of pasta from the local store along with a bottle of wine and you’re good to go.

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We had a couple of break from studies during our trip and we decided to make the best of them by travelling to other parts of Italy. So for our first break we decided to visit Venice, Florence and Pisa. We took a train from Milan to Venice. In Italy, you have the options of taking different types of trains – Local or regional trains, Intercity Trains and the high speed ‘Frecciarossa’. Depending on the train, the ticket fares also vary. We took a regional train to Venice. The regional trains are quite good, almost at par with our elite Shatabdi. Venice is like a floating city and the best mode to get here is by train. We reached Venice on a beautiful sunny afternoon but it was bitterly cold. We then made our way to the hostel we were staying at. In Europe, hostels are the best accommodation when you’re travelling. They offer you the same experience as a hotel but at fraction of the price. Venice is indeed beautiful and most of times you’re left to wonder how such a city can even exist. The canals, Gondolas, the buildings all add up to make Venice what it is. Do visit St. Mark’s square if you’re here and also take a Gondola ride to soak up rich heritage this city has to share. The Gondolier will tell you about the history about Venice as you travel across the canals in the city, truly amazing. One suggestion is to visit Venice in the summer months as it can get really chilly in the winter.

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Our next stop was Florence or Firenze as it is now called. All I knew about this town was that it is was the birthplace of the great Michelangelo. But I can tell you now that Florence is by far the most beautiful place in Italy and that too by a mile. We took the high speed ‘Frecciarossa’ train from Venice to Florence and my god are the fast. We completed the 260 km journey in under 2 hours. We arrived at night and took a taxi to the hostel where we staying. It’s a perfect blend of vintage Italy mixed with the modern outlook that Italy has today. Piazzale Michelangelo is one place you have to visit if you’re in Florence. The square offers a panoramic view of the whole city overlooking the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence Cathedral, Piazza del Duomo. The river Arno bisects the city in half and houses famous café’s on its banks. We all remember the scene from “The Dark Knight Rises” where Alfred says to Bruce Wayne, “Remember when you left Gotham? Before all this, before Batman? You were gone seven years. Seven years I waited, hoping that you wouldn't come back. Every year, I took a holiday. I went to Florence, there's this cafe, on the banks of the Arno. Every fine evening, I'd sit there and order a Fernet Branca. I had this fantasy, that I would look across the tables and I'd see you there, with a wife and maybe a couple of kids. You wouldn't say anything to me, nor me to you. But we'd both know that you'd made it, that you were happy.” This is how I wish I could retire as well. Getting back, do check out the original statue of David in the Accademia Gallery. We were able to cover the whole city on foot so if you’re up to it, put your walking shoes on.


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Our last step for this trip was Pisa which around 80Kms from Florence. You can either take a bus, train or even a flight to reach Pisa. We opted for the bus as it made more financial sense and the journey only took us an hour. To be honest, leaving aside the Leaning Tower of Pisa you don’t really have anything else to see in Pisa. The city is small and can be covered on foot. We didn’t plan to spend the night in Pisa so we had a day to do all the sight-seeing. Our first most obvious stop was the Tower of Pisa. There is a magically feeling when you visit a sight or a monument which is or was one of the wonders of the world. The structural deformity leaves you wondering as to what the engineer must have been thinking while erecting such a structure. It was a cloudy day and with the wind blowing, it was very cold. After the photo session and grabbing a quick bite in the form of a Gelato (more on this topic later) we made our way to train station to catch the train back to Milan.

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With the first break over we were quite happy about the fact that we had covered so much. In our next break, we planned to go to Rome, the ancient city of the gladiators. We took an overnight intercity train to Rome and arrived early morning in Rome. From the station, we took the subway to the hostel we booked for stay. Coming from Milan, you will instantly notice differences in Rome. The subway trains are shorter, not as clean and filled with graffiti. Milan is somewhat more sophisticated but that’s just my observation. Now Rome is a fairly big city and we had to cover a lot during our time there. Most of the historical monuments are covered by the subway so getting there should not be an issue. Our first stop, the mighty Colosseum. The structure is huge, much bigger as seen in the pictures. The sad part though, when we went to see, it was undergoing restoration and that marred much of its image. Nevertheless, another wonder covered. We also covered the Pantheon (it is colossal in size), Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps and Piazza Venezia. Day one in Rome was quite satisfying to the tourist spirit. Day two was reserved for the big boy, Vatican City. The subway drops you very near the smallest state in the world and from there it’s a 400 meter walk. We went in for the museum tour. We joined a group of around 15 other people and started walking to the structure. Before we knew it, we were standing in square and it took me a while to realize that we actually standing in St Peters Square. I was left speech less. St. Peter's is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and remains one of the largest churches in the world. The Christian seat of Power is as amazing as it is inspiring. As part of the tour, we were taken through the halls inside the church observing the various works of art and also the many museums housed inside. Then came the granddaddy of them all, the Sistine Chapel. I must tell you, it was the most awe inspiring, jaw dropping moment in my life. To be standing in a place where all the cardinals come together. A place I grew up reading about in books such as Angels and Demon. We all took out time marveling at the Michelangelo’s greatest work. Before heading back to station to catch the train, just outside the Vatican there is a Gelato shop by the name Old Bridge. It is a must try. That brought to an end our visit to Rome.


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During our last days in Italy, we tried to explore as much Milan that we could. The Navilgi canal district is a popular hotspot for people as it has many cafés and restaurants located right next to the canals. Another attraction in Milan, if you’re football lover, is the San Siro Stadium. This iconic arena has immense history and is home two of Europe’s best team, Inter Milan and AC Milan. I and a classmate got the opportunity to catch a Champions league game at the San Siro. The atmosphere was explosive and we got a glimpse on why football is so popular in Europe. A day before we had to head back to India, we went to Lake Como. A 1 hour train ride from Milan will take you right next to the lake. The lake and mountains give a very majestic touch to the whole atmosphere. The lake in itself is full grace and beauty. We took a small ferry ride which took us deeper into the lake. You can see the snow covered Alps in the distance. We ended the day by feasting in some delicious Gelato.

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Last words, Italy is indeed beautiful and more ways than I can count. The architecture, cuisine, heritage of the boot shaped country go way back in world history and makes it a must visit location. But my only suggestion would be visit in the summer months as the cold can play spoilsport many a times.


« Last Edit: September 19, 2015, 05:32:02 AM by Saurabh Soni »


Jaideep Singh Bajwa

“Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” - Andrew Zimmern


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Offline jd

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Re: The boot shaped county - Italy
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2014, 12:15:15 AM »
Few more pics from Milan and Lake Como


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« Last Edit: January 09, 2015, 05:35:37 AM by Saurabh Soni »
Jaideep Singh Bajwa

“Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” - Andrew Zimmern

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Offline jd

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Re: The boot shaped country - Italy
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2014, 12:29:27 AM »
Things to remember:

1.      Research on where you want to go and what is your mode of transport. Most websites list the price for travel.

2.      Invest in a good map. We had taken an all-in-one map which had a map of all the cities. Trust me, it is an investment which will surely pay off when traveling.

3.      Book your hostels in advance or at least call up the owner let them know that you’re coming and that they should reserve a room for you.

4.      Italy can be costly affair when it comes to food specially when you’re paying in Rupee converted Euros. Cooking food at home is your best bet. You also get frozen pizzas which you can microwave and eat.

5.      The food in Italy will taste a little bland specially if you come from India. But don’t forget, it’s healthy. All the masalas that we Indians put in our food is actually quite harmful for your body. One thing we noticed in Milan, we hardly say any obese or fat people. That can only be attributed to healthy eating or exercise.

6.      Gelato is Italy’s specialty and you’re missing out on something if you don’t indulge in one. But gelato isn’t exactly cheap. Good things are always expensive.

7.      Be careful when taking taxi rides as the drivers tend to take you via a longer route in order to run down the meter.

8.      Be very careful with your wallets especially when you’re in Rome. The city is riddled with pick pockets and their methods of robbing people will certainly surprise you.

9.      There are a few Indian stores in Milan which sell garam masala and other Indian products. So if you crave for the Indian taste, you’re covered.

10.   If you think that being the fashion capital clothes will be cheap, you’re wrong. There is almost a difference of around 2000-3000 Rs on the same products that are sold India. I had gone with such high expectations and was crushed once I get to know about the prices.

11.   When it comes to carrying money, best would be to carry of mix of cash and debit card. You get prepaid cards from India which can be filled up if the balance goes low.

12.   The Italians are a very hospitable bunch. They will respect you if you respect them back. A simple ‘Ciao’ or ‘Buongiorno’ can go a long way.

13.   Not every car in Italy is a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. We hardly saw any sportcars apart from a few.

14.   Wine and beer are cheap in Italy and available even from the street vendors.

15.   If you want a SIM card, you have many options– namely TIM and Wind. They sell prepaid cards which have international calling.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2014, 04:35:38 PM by jd »
Jaideep Singh Bajwa

“Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” - Andrew Zimmern

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Offline Saurabh Soni

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Re: The boot shaped country - Italy
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2014, 12:50:59 AM »

@jd , Welcome to Gotripperz ... and thanks for putting your efforts and writing wonderful log for Gotripperz  :)

Nice Travelogue @jd  ... very informative and detailed log with lovely photographs.


Good to see that such a wonderful Log being the first one for Gotripperz and that too from lovely place called Italy.


This log is going to the Homepage and it will be showcased there.   :o




Regards,
Saurabh

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Offline vinay1981

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Re: The boot shaped country - Italy
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2014, 01:34:16 AM »
Enjoyed reading your writeup  :)

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Offline Ruchipatel

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Re: The boot shaped country - Italy
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2014, 12:52:28 PM »
Italy has always been a country in my to do list. I hope I visit it soon and see the brilliant work of Michelangelo. Reading your blog was fun.

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Offline Rahul Singh

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Re: The boot shaped country - Italy
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2014, 09:32:24 PM »
Great Pics JD.
Rahul Singh
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"Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it."- Greg Anderson

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Offline Rahul Singh

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Re: The boot shaped country - Italy
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2014, 06:55:46 PM »
<a rel="nofollow" href="http://most viewed post!!" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://most viewed post!!</a>
Rahul Singh
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"Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it."- Greg Anderson

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Offline Rahul Singh

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Re: The boot shaped country - Italy
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2014, 06:57:52 PM »
most viewed post!!
Rahul Singh
Economy Traveler

"Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it."- Greg Anderson

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Offline Saurabh Soni

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Re: The boot shaped country - Italy
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2014, 12:52:09 AM »
442 and still counting...  This post is now google tagged on Gotripperz as it is attracting much traffic though organic searches from google


 


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