Monday, 25 May 2015

My travels in Venice & Milan

I was feeling super proud blogging the first post on travels but Sophie is ridiculously efficient so she beat me to it (sighpie). I recently went to Venice and Milan and decided to pen down my thoughts about the respective places and share some slight unfortunate stories - terrible weather and more. I'm intending to keep it short and sweet, hoping not to bore readers but I do have a tendency to waffle - if it wasn't obvious already by this ridiculously long sentence.

On a Friday evening, we took an easyjet flight from London Southend to Venice and a small heads up to those who decide to fly from London Southend - the airport is pretty sparse so minimal duty free shopping (very minimal!) and places to eat. On the flip side, you will get through security quicker. 

Venice is super pretty. We stayed in Dorsoduro which is a south of the island and a bit less touristy. I recommend staying on the island itself, It’s more expensive but you pay for the convenience and not having to travel in from Mestre everyday. As the island is rather small, you can benefit from returning back to your hotel during the day to freshen up and for toilet breaks! (Its impossible to find toilets around Venice). Our hotel was called Domus Cavanis and the room had a lovely rouge d├ęcor to it. The hotel was definitely good value for money for its location and the free continental breakfast compared to other places. A minor downside was that it wasn’t staffed and instead ran by its sister hotel on the road opposite called Hotel Belle Arti.

The best tip I can give is to allow yourself to get lost around Venice, you can explore the different corners of Venice and meander between the crowded and less crowded streets. For instance, we planned to go to the Piazza San Marco – probably one of the most famous spots in Venice (along with the Grand Canal), we strolled in the general direction in order to allow ourselves to get lost on the island. I loved walking along the canal that ran through Venice and for the brief moments of sunshine and breeze, it was refreshing and what Venice should feel like. I had my first real Italian lunch and by real I mean the kind you see in movies – sunglasses on my head, white fancy tablecloths, munching some breadsticks, classy glass of wine and a piping hot seafood and mushroom topped pizza.

Under construction canal - boooo

On one of the days, we took a boat out to the islands surrounding Venice - Murano (island famous for glass) and Burano (lace island). Burano was the perfect island to take photos as the island was filled with colourful houses but the weather was absolutely horrendous that day. Imagine boat and torrential rain and ill-prepared outfit for the day. To add to the bad luck – I’m such a huge fan of lace and wearing lace – one of the most exciting part of Burano was the lace museum but it was closed on the day we went. By the time we had reached Murano – we were pretty cold and fed up of the rain so we gave up on the island after half an hour but I do know there are some pretty cool glass museums there to which you can watch a demonstration.

So what I loved most: taking photos on cute little bridges, good walks and gelato.
Food: two euro on-the-go giant pizza slices, seafood pasta, gelato. You definitely must try GROM – my favourite was their signature flavour called Crema di Grom which is a combination of custard and milk flavoured gelato with shortbread pieces.
Attractions: Piazza San Marco, Grand Canal, Basilica di Santa Maria, Burano, Murano
Shopping: usual souvenir, Murano glass, masks
Transport: the bus equivalent is a water boat called vaparetto but its quite expensive - 20 euros for an unlimited day pass as they don't sell single tickets. You're better off walking around to save money but you will need to buy this if you plan on visiting the islands


Milan was a decent two hours and a half away from Venice via train. The train station in Milan is an attraction itself but we weren’t admiring it for long as we were more curious about the crowds of people outside the metro station. It should have been an easy straight journey to our hotel but instead we were wrestling to get onto Milan’s equivalent of the Central Line with two suitcases and an angry mob of Italians behind us. Then crushed between sweaty pretty pissed people and your suitcase, yet grasping onto your handbag in case of pick pocketers. It was only after we reached our hotel that we realised there was a tube strike that day we have arrived – safe to say we went somewhere pretty local for dinner. Our hotel was B&B Sant’Ambrogio (it’s a chain with many B&Bs around Milan) – it was such a good location for the price we had paid for per night (within walking distance to Duomo and Sforzesco Park).


So in my own opinion Milan was pretty disappointing! The two not so highlights were

1 – Oh so disappointing shopping for a fashion capital. I had dedicated a whole day to shopping and spending the big bucks. Only to find fine Italian suits that I couldn’t afford and the same high street shops I can find in London. We hit an outlet in central because it was more convenient to get to called Ill Savagente (which is pretty much a TK Maxx but pricier and stocks Burberry). So unfortunately I did not come back with a trendy outfit from Milan that I could have blogged about. Instead, I completely under-packed thinking I would have lots of clothes to buy and by the end of the trip, I was wearing some pretty smelly clothes haha.

2 – The Milan Expo. So we had only figured out the night before flying off that the Expo was being held in the Milan and that the opening day was the day before we would fly back to England. For those who don’t know what the Expo is – its like a world cultural fair where participating countries each have a pavilion to showcase something on the theme that the Expo was based on – Milan’s theme was healthy living and sustainability. I had visited the Shanghai Expo back in 2010 and it was amazing – despite the hot weather and long queues and Chinese queue jumpers – the pavilions were well designed, they all showcased something pretty interesting and there was a passport to which you could collect stamps each time you visited the country’s pavilion. I remember being so proud for collecting all the stamps of the provinces in China. So anyway, I had high hopes for Milan’s expo despite the protests going on against the Expo being in Milan that it was unfinished and a waste of the city’s money. And it was – the expo was unfinished – pavilions had closed off half their sections because it was finished, not all the restaurants were open and even the washrooms were yet to be stocked with toilet paper!

So if you plan to go to Milan - I recommend no more than 2 days there to catch all the sites. 

What I loved most: the hotel - it was clean and modern, the bathroom was especially clean and modern haha. The Duomo was nice but there was Expo construction going on around it and that it pretty much spoiled the atmosphere.
Food: London prices but less choice (unless you actually don’t mind eating Italian for 4 days, two meals straight)
Shopping: expensive Italian suits and global high street stores – there are probably some trendy shops hidden somewhere but we were pretty exhausted from the walking and searching
Transport: the metro but if you stay in a good location – just walk – means you can avoid tube strikes that you have no clue about 

Boy o boy that was long - I would totally understand if you didnt read all of this - Love, Linh 

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