Bella Italia! The North: Venice to Brescia.
A few months ago our friends Fede & Charles gave us the biggest news of their year: they were getting married! But the excitement reached its peak when they told us that the wedding would be in a beautiful village in the north of Italy. We of-course took the opportunity to make it a week-long trip, exploring some of the most romantic locations in the world. We booked our flights, completely unaware that Fede’s Stag Do would end up being in Berlin a few days before the wedding! So after a fun weekend of alcohol and sight seeing in the progressive German capital, we took another flight to our first stop in this beautiful country… Venice.
We stayed in each place for a couple of days and captured a mix of things to do in 48hrs for each stop. We are definitely going back to Italy, if you know other cool places that are a must see in the beautiful country let us know!
As our plane approached the airport, we realised how unique this city is… Isolated from the mainland, connected only with a long strip of ground where the roads and train tracks link this group of islands to the rest of Italy.
Iban sorted our trip from the airport into Venice, a ride that you can’t take in many places around the world… a taxi boat, it was amazing! The airport has its own dock, where you can jump onto a Vaporetto that takes you to the main locations in Venice, including Rialto and San Marco within 30 minutes. We highly recommend the boats, approaching Venice from the sea and sailing through the Grand Canal is beautiful, especially as the sun sets.
Once your feet are on the ground and you start walking through the streets, you start to discover how charming and intriguing this city is. Its narrow streets flanked by tall buildings, surrounded by canals and endless bridges create such a romantic atmosphere, you just feel lost in its beauty. We dropped our bags and headed to a restaurant… it had to be pasta and yes, it was delicious. After some more wandering around the maze of streets and canals (which is the best way to see Venice), the impressive San Marco square appeared and our jaws dropped.
We have seen many pictures and videos of Venice… though you can’t feel its magic unless you are there. Every corner gets more beautiful, there are gondolas everywhere, amazing architecture and constant photo opportunities. After a good dose of tourism, we relaxed by the canal with a fresh Aperol Spritz, admiring the buzz of the city (perhaps this is still a touristy thing to do)! We then crossed Rialto bridge and headed to Piazzale Roma, continuing our wonder.
La Biennale, the bianual Arts Festival in Venice, was on and we came across one of the biggest art sculptures we have ever seen: Support by Lorenzo Quinn. They are 2 massive hands that symbolise keeping the city afloat, a powerful statement to raise awareness of how climate change and mass tourism are impacting Venice. The installation was on the Ca’Sagredo Hotel, Grand Canal until late November 2017.
We of course had some very tasty pizza in a local pizzeria and realised by this point that we walked around 7 miles!
Overall we spent 1 night and two days in Venice. It is pretty pricey to stay in the city centre though we would really recommend it as you get to experience the buzz day and night. We found that 2 days was actually enough, more would be nice though it’s a small place so this gave us plenty of time to see what we wanted to see. It would be great for a long weekend break. Yes it is packed and very touristy, parts of the canal can smell and it’s an expensive city, though it is totally worth it! If you haven’t been, it’s one you have to add to your bucket list.
Shakespeare put Verona on the map with his masterpiece ‘Romeo and Juliet’. The city of the Capulet and Montague is well worth a visit, not only to see Juliete’s home, though it also offers a great bunch of sights and roman remains. We arrived in the late afternoon, checked into our apartment and went out for a stroll around the city centre as the sun set. Sunsets in Italy are from another world. Light reflecting off the old buildings creates such a unique atmosphere, romantics be ready to fall in love!
It was Shay’s first time visiting Italy, particularly a place so rich in Roman heritage, he was completely stunned when he saw the incredible Verona Arena, the best preserved roman arena in the world. It is a world renound venue for musicians and operas shows and our luck was in! We discovered that the Opera Festival was on, a Catalan company playing Aida on the following night, so we got ourselves some tickets!
The experience of walking up those 2000 year old steps was amazing, we felt like we were going to see a gladiator fight! Once seated on the grades we admired the immensity of the arena, seating nearly 30,000 in the Roman ages! The atmosphere inside is incredible, we would say to anyone going, try and watch a show whilst you are there. Unfortunately at this point Shay got ill, and had to run out of the arena about 30mins into the show! We will say no more 😷
With Shay in bed the next day, I got up and went for a long wonder around the streets of Verona, discovering more about its history, architecture, churches and other Roman ruins. A walk along the river is really nice thing to do, it’s away from tourists and gives you the opportunity to see the city from a different perspective.
The city also has a military fortress from the Middle Ages, it’s very well preserved and you can easily imagine how dark this period in history was. Very little decoration, impressive M-shaped merlons running along the castle and bridge… Castelvecchio is a powerful and simple example of power during the Scaliger dinasty.
The sun was settinng and by this point Shay was feeling better, so best shirts on and ready for our last night there. We headed to see Juliete’s home, admiring the balcony (and imagining how the hell Romeo got up there). It’s crazy that the balcony is exactly how you would imagine it to be, another very romantic place.
Presto! Before we realised, we were grabbing our suitcases and catching a train to our next stop for the wedding…
After a short trip on a full air-conditioned train across Lombardie, we arrived to Fede’s hometown. It was hot! Luckily our B&B was a stone throw away from the train station 🔥
This province capital is an administrative and working city for its region, which gave us the opportunity to experience the real life of an Italian city without the buzz of the tourists, yet full of history and interesting spots to visit. We headed to the city centre, packed with pretty bars and coffee shops where you can sit outside in a terrazza and enjoy the sunshine… along with another Aperol Spritz.
Doing what we like most when visiting a city, explore by taking the first side street that we see, we discovered the charming area full of rich architecture and traditional restaurants where everybody meets to have dinner or just some drinks with their friends. Make sure you check out the main squares: Piazza del Foro, Piazza del Duomo, Piazza della Loggia and Piazza Vittoria. We really recomend to have dinner on a summer night in any of the many bars and restaurants along the Piazza del Duomo, it´s such a charming atmosphere.
We didn´t have much time in Brescia, though we managed to visit the castle. Well, at least we managed to get to the top of the steep hill without loosing our breath… The ‘Falcon of Italy’ views from the Castello are great! You can even see the Alps from the top!
It was wedding time! Though Charles & Fede were nervous, we were so excited! It took place in a frotress next to Lake Garda. This was an icredible location overlooking the magnificent Garda and Alps to one side and the italian countryside to the other. Absolutely stunning! It was a beautiful wedding.
Talking about stunning locations, Sirmione is place you have to visit! Even though this is a very touristy spot, we do recommend it. Sirmione sits on a peninsula near the southeastern corner of the lake, serving views over the whole lake stretching out to the Alps. Its fortress is surrounded by water and the buildings date back to the end of the 12th century. Cobble-stoned, tiny roads and terracotta-coloured buildings adorned with colourful flowers on their balconies and gelatto places at every single corner.
Sirmione is well connected, though you will need to take a couple of buses and the timings sometimes are not the best, though it´s worth it! Even if you have to wait for more than an hour for a bus in 40 degrees heat when you are hungover from a wedding!
And that was it! Our Italian trip was finito! In short, we absolutely loved it and are 100% going back to visit more! There are so many places to see and the country just has such a wonderful feel to it. As always, it’s time to plan our next trip! In 2018 we are set on exploring more place in Europe. We always love hearing of new adventures to take & undiscovered places to explore so if you have 2mins comment below & let us know where you think!
Shay & Iban 👬🇮🇹