2017 – Our Travel Diary

As the year 2017 comes to an end, it is time to reflect on our travel through the year that was. And it indeed was the most exciting year when it comes to our travel. We did lots and lots of holidays in ‘travel 2017’ , as we like to call the epic travel year that it was for us. After having learnt how to successfully travel with a toddler, we had a good amount of travel in 2016Then we welcomed 2017 with a beautiful sunrise across the Bay of Bengal in Mahabalipuram. There was no plan as such, but one by one the journeys unfolded. And eventually ‘travel 2017’ appeared to be the most fulfilling. Let us take you through a glimpse of our ‘travel 2017’.

Grindelwald , Travel 2017

Wandering through the streets of Grindelwald

Mahabalipuram – Travel 2017 Destination No #1

The beginning of the year happened in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu. On 31st December 2016 and 1st of January 2017, we wandered through the streets of Mahabalipuram. Visiting it’s historical icons like the Shore Temple, Pancha Rathas, Krishna’s Butterball etc. along with the newer attractions like the India Sea Shell Museum, Light house Museum and Maritime Heritage Museum. And perhaps it’s truly believed that the way you start your year, the rest of the year unfolds in a similar manner.

Arjuna's Penance : Things to do in Mahabalipuram

Arjuna’s Penance

Palampur – Travel 2017 Destination No #2

Before we even knew, we were off to our next destination. And it was none other than the fairytale village of Palampur in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. The views of snow ladened himalayan peaks , beautiful green fields of Palampur and the winding Himalayan roads mesmerized us completely. And all that was topped with the unparalleled hospitality that we enjoyed at the Lodge at Wah as well as Norwood Greens homestay. Although we just spent a couple of days at Palampur, they were amongst the most beautiful of the days we spent traveling this year.

Things to do in Palampur

Wayanad – Travel 2017 Destination No #3

After having visited the northern Himalayan ranges, once again it was time to romance the southern hills. Soon we headed to Wayand. Although a little short of time on this trip, we couldn’t cover much on this trip. But we did visit the infamous Edakkal Caves. Apart from that we thoroughly enjoyed the greenery, the scenic forests , the tea plantations and everything else that Wayanad is famous for. But we do intend to return here for another beautiful stay. And when we do, we also intend to cover much more grounds.

Oxyfarm Resorts Wayanad

The beautiful surroundings of Wayanad

Coorg – Travel 2017 Destination No #4

Soon after returning from Wayand, we were delighted to receive an invite from Casa Coorg Homestay in Coorg. In this short weekend trip, we enjoyed our trip to Coorg thoroughly. Covering the Abbey falls, Coorg Fort, Monastery and a lot of places. We also did some shopping of spices and dry fruits from the markets of Madikeri. Thereafter we visited the beautiful golf course in Virajpet, very close to our homestay. And went out on evening walks in unknown trails along with our host dogs. Overall, a very relaxing and wonderful weekend that we spent at Coorg.

places to visit in Coorg

Europe – Travel 2017 Destination No #5 and our epic trip

Finally arrived the time for the most awaited trip of the year. Travel 2017 was finally going to get all the more exciting with a trip to Europe. This was the longest one that we took this year as well as overall in our journey as travelers. We did around 20 days trip to Europe covering Rome, Florence, Pisa and Venice in ItalyAnd that was followed by visit to Engleberg and Mount Titlis, Lucerne, Grindelwald, Interlaken and Bern in Switzerland. Thereafter we went on to spend 3 days in Paris, made the most of our time visiting 2 parks in Disneyland, did a walking tour of Amsterdam and finally visited the  Keukenhof Tulip Gardens

Traveling to Europe with baby or kid

We had a lot of fun on this trip. That included designing and taking self walking tour in Florence, VeniceLucerne and Amsterdam. We also visited a Cheese Factory and Kambly Cookie Factory. Took Boat hop on hop off tour in Venice and played with snow in Mount Titlis. Then we visited the Lovure in Paris and spent an unforgettable evening visiting Eiffel Tower. Also, we traveled by buses, trains, metros and vans. We did crack the maze of Paris metro while there. All in all it was a super epic trip. We also learnt a lot during this trip. For instance, we became confident on this trip about taking long trips with our little one and wrote about traveling to Europe in particular with kids. And we tried a lot of different cuisines. Also we learnt how to pack efficiently for long trips, how to sustain long haul flights with little kids and how to stay healthy on long trips in foreign lands.

tour of florence

Kabini – Travel 2017 Destination No #6

After returning from Europe trip, we thought we had a really long vacation. And that we won’t need another one for quiet some time now. But soon we found ourselves on a lookout for the next destination. It was at this time that the Peepal Tree Boutique Homestay in Kabini extended their hospitality, inviting us to spend a weekend with them. And with delighted hearts, we said yes. Thereafter, we had a wonderful weekend at Kabini. We went to the river backwaters, did cycling along the fields, enjoyed homemade foods, took a bumpy and adventurous jeep ride to the villages and the meadows beyond and finally counted the stars on a clear night sky while we walked through the premises of Peepal Tree after a sumptuous dinner.

The Peepal Tree Kabini

A lovely morning view from our room window at The Peepal Tree Kabini

Kolar – Travel 2017 Destination No #7

Next we visited Kolar in a day trip. Travel 2017 continued on a roll while we had the most spontaneous day trip of the year with Kolar. Although Kolar is a district in the north of Bangalore best known for it’s once abundant gold mines. But our interest lay more in the ancient temples that the district and it’s villages are house to. During this day trip, we visited the Kolaramma Temple in Kolar, alongside the Someshwara Temple. Then we did the hike to the Antargange – the sacred stream which is believed to be the river Ganga from north India, traveling underground to south and emerging here.

Bangalore to Kolar

Someshwara Temple Kolar

There after we headed to Avani temple. This is the temple where Saint Valmiki is believed to have written the epic Ramayana. And this is also the place where Goddess Sita is supposed to have stayed after her self imposed exhile from Ayodhya. Her sons, Luv and Kush were also born here. We really liked the peaceful premises and surroundings of the temple. It kind of reminded us of the Temple of Lepakshi that we had visited years back. Finally, we ended the trip with a visit to Kotilingeshwara Temple.

Yercaud – Travel 2017 Destination No #8

Next was lined up the long weekend of August 15. And we were all determined to head somewhere next. Yercaud seemed to be the perfect destination. Closer to home, with a perfect monsoon climate. So, we decided to head here to spend the long weekend. Although, there was a little rush in Yercaud, pertaining to the long weekend. And we finalized our plan quiet late. So, we didn’t get a good stay here. However, we didn’t let it curb our travel 2017 enthusiasm by any means. We visited the Yercaud Lake, the valley view points, the Killiyur falls and many other interesting places on the first day of our visit.

On the second day, we relaxed, and headed to the Great Trails for a nice Lunch. They seem to have a really good property and next time we intend to stay there. On the third day, we started back to Bangalore post breakfast and reached back in time to avoid the mad traffic rush at the outskirts of Bangalore 🙂

Rajasthan – Travel 2017 Destination No #9

We had done a beautiful trip to Rajasthan in 2016, spanning over around 10 days. As a part of this trip, we covered 3 days in Jaipur, 4 days in Udaipur, doing day trips to Chittorgarh and Kumbalgarh , also seeing the world famous Jain Temple of Ranakpur. We visited lots of palaces & Forts including the Amer Fort, Nahargarh fort, Chittorgarh Fort, Kumbalgarh Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur Palace, Udaipur Palace and also museums like Bagore ki Haveli. As well as cultural places like The Shilpgram. We did crazy shopping here as well. But in the end we left carving for more and promised ourselves we will return soon.

Amer fort 12

A man playing a melodious chord at the fort entrance

And so we did. We decided to end the year 2017 in the colorful land of Rajasthan, visiting Jaisamler for 3 days and spending 2 days in Jodhpur. And we started the whole tour with an overnight stay under the cold winter night , gazing at the stars in Sheesh Mahal Desert Camp Jaisalmer.  We did a lot of activities in the Thar Desert today. There after we stayed the city of Jaisalmer, right inside the Jaisalmer fort exploring the Jaisalmer Fort, Bada Bagh, Jain Temples. We also did day trips to the haunted village of Kuldhara and to Khaba Fort from Jaisalmer. Thereafter we proceeded to enjoy the hospitality of Jaswant Niwas Homestay in Jodhpur. In the couple of days that we spent in this city, we visited Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada, Clock Tower, Umaid Bhavan and Mandore Gardens in Jodhpur .

In Conclusion there couldn’t have been a better end to the year 2017 and beginning to the year 2018. Just like we had an end to the year 2016, and had welcomed 2017.Overall, travel 2017 spanned over 9 different trips, covering 24 different places. It also saw our 25th travel anniversary (Yes, we completed 25 trips since we decided to become partners for life. ) . Now we are all excited for a new start in 2018, again, traveling as much as we can.

Although I would like to add a disclaimer here. We are not full time travelers, we do have our 9-5 jobs. And if it surprises you how we managed to travel so much in spite of our full time jobs, here’s a post I wrote on traveling along with holding full time job, that will help you understand the secret sauce behind our travel better. Thanks for reading and being a part of all our journeys through the year. Have a wonderful year 2018 ahead….

The glass world of Murano, Venice

The glass world of Murano, Venice is a must see when one heads to Italy and is planning to visit Venice. These works are world famous and so is the island of Murano. Murano is a set of seven very small islands, linked by bridges, just like the rest of Venice. It lies some 1.5 km north of Venice. Everyday, ferries from almost all corners of Venice keep making to and fro tips to Murano.

Glass world of Murano

On the island of Murano

When we went to Venice, we took this one day hop on hop off trip from Venice. And as a part of this trip, we also went to see Murano. However, we got introduced to the glass world of Murano long before visiting the island itself. As soon as we stepped out of the train station in Venice after completing our 2 hours journey from Florence, and started on the main street towards our hotel, we saw several shops with lots of intricate glass works displaying in the windows. Most of these are manufactured and shipped from Murano. These include very small miniatures of animals and birds, less than an inch in size, yet with all the details of the features to large vases, dinnerwares and decorative items.

I was already intrigued by the intricacy of the work at display. And then only I had made up my mind to go visit Murano. However, when I found it was already a part of the hop on hop off trip, I was delighted and looked ahead to the next day when we were going to take this trip to Murano.

The Glass world of Murano

Although the island of Murano is very near to Venice and very much like the later. Yet it has a vibe of it’s own. Picture perfect wooden and concrete bridges, beautiful flowers, old buildings and canals are all integral part of the beautiful glass world of Murano. As we stepped out of our hop on hop off boat in Murano, immediately in the front lay a glass factory. One can take a guided tour of the factory and learn how the glass is actually moulded to create wonderful pieces of art and decoration, big and small. And as one heads on the street towards the mail town, along the wall of the factory, soon one arrives at the heart of Murano – the very symbol of the place.

Campo Santo Stefano

Glass world of Murano

The starburst sculpture of Murano

Almost 500 meters to the left of the glass factory and you arrive at the square of Campo Santo Stefano. It is best known for it’s huge glass starburst sculpture. This beautiful work of art is created out of glass and can be seen from far and wide. It attracts the eyes immediately due to it’s glossy finish and bright blue colors. I felt like it is a true symbol of the glass world of Murano.

The glass shops of Murano

As you look around, you will see glass shops all over Murano, displaying the intricate glass works. Some are much bigger showrooms that have huge collections of large glass masterpieces (How I wish I could carry one of those back home with me!). While many others are smaller shops with huge collections of very small show pieces that can be easily bought as souvenirs and carried back home with you, no matter from which part of world you are traveling. Most of these glass shops are backed by their own factories. And thus, every backyard in Murano has a glass making story to tell.

Glass world of Murano

Tiny figurines and miniatures made of glass on display in a shop

Muse De Vetro Glass Museum

This building was once upon a time the home to the bishops of Torcello. And then it became the town hall of Murano. Now, it is a museum that houses a huge collection of glass works. Some dating back in history as far as the Egyptian time. If you are truly interested in learning about the history of glass making, and the different forms that the glass work has taken over the centuries, this is one place you will not want to miss. It’s sheer collection leaves one spellbound.

The history of glass making at Murano

Murano was initially settled by the Romans. It was initially a major fishing port and also a leading producer of salt. And it even minted it’s own coins. However, in 1291, all the glassmakers of Venice were ordered to move to Murano. As glassmaking did impose some risk of fire on the city of Venice. Initially, after settling in Murano, the glassmakers started making beads and mirrors. And soon they started exporting to rest of the islands of Venice and beyond. Their popularity grew fast. And soon Murano became the leading producer of glass across Europe. So much so that they held monopoly in glass making for centuries. And they even enjoyed a lot of privileges like they were immune from prosecution by the Venetian state. So much for the talent of glass making! Hence, was born the glass world of Murano.

Glass world of Murano

Glass kitchenware made in Murano

Although Venice protected the secrets behind it’s glass making very strictly. Yet slowly some glassmakers migrated to nearby cities and started glassmaking from there. Thus slowly bringing a decline in Venetian monopoly. However, the artwork of Murano still remains one of a kind. And even today, the kind of accuracy and perfectness that is displayed in the glasswork of Murano is difficult to find elsewhere.

Other attractions in the Glass world of Murano

Apart from the glass work and glass factories that are prominent everywhere and the glass museum, Murano has several other attractions to look forward to. History is prominently present in it’s old buildings and beautiful churches. Some of the most sought after places in Murano are:

  • The Church of Santa Maria e San Donato : It is a religious edifice of Murano. It’s Byzantine Mosaic pavements are very famous. And so are the four large rib bones that are contained in the Church behind the main altar. These are believed to be the bones of a dragon. It is believed that Saint Donatus of Arezzo slay the dragons. The saint’s relics are also contained in the same church.
  • San Pietro Martire Church. This one is a Roman Catholic church in Murano. Burnt down by a fire in 1474 and then rebuilt in 1511, it has a beautiful facade, made with sheer brickwork. And the church is characterized by renaissance time arcades and columns.
  • Palazzo da Mula. It is one of the oldest standing buildings in Venice. It’s an inspiration to several works of art, particularly oil paintings. There is something about the building that catches the fascination of artists from far and wide.
Glass world of Murano

A beautiful glass vase on display in Murano

Tips on visiting the Glass world of Murano

  • Regular boats ferry between the main island of Venice and Murano. You can take one of those in the morning. And once you are done with your exploration of Murano, you can again catch one back to Venice from the same spot where you got off the boat.
  • Several organized tours are also conducted from Venice to Murano for half a day or full day. You can take one of these and get a guide with you in case you are interested to dig deeper into the history of Murano.
  • However, you should be cautious of tourist scams where you might be promised a trip to Murano for a hefty sum. Inquire about the actual boat ticket prices and about authentic tours from your hotel or where ever you are staying.
  • We took a boat hop on hop off trip of Venice which covered the island of Murano. This way, the amount of time we wanted to spend here was up to us.
  • There are plenty of refreshment shops in and around the main square where you see the blue glass starburst sculpture. You can have some snacks or a gelato from here.
  • Drinking water is readily available on the island. There are some fountains and taps on the main square as well. We filled our bottles here.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes as you will have a lot of walking around to be done.
  • Compare prices across shops if you are planning to buy something. Those near the main square are bit pricier than the interior ones.
  • Murano is relatively less crowded than the main islands of Venice. So, it feels a bit colder as well. Prepare accordingly.

Murano | Venice | Italy | Glass world of Murano | Glass works of Murano | Starburst Sculptures of Murano | Things to do in Murano

6 days in Italy – beautiful & enchanting

Italy was our first destination on our recent trip to Europe. We spent 6 days in Italy. And by all means these were very beautiful and enchanting days. They comprised of couple of days each in Rome, Florence and Venice. While we did feel, a couple of days is not enough to explore all that each of these places are to offer. Yet we tried to make the most of our 6 days in Italy. And here we bring the story of our 6 days in Italy, along with some more recommendations as per our research. We hope it will help you plan your own best 6 days in Italy. And, we would also like to hear what you would do with your 6 days in Italy, if anything, different from what we did. So, here goes the details of our trip in Italy.

Day1 : Arrival in Rome

Rome in a day | 6 days in Italy

Our enchanting 6 days in Italy began with an arrival in Rome. As our flight landed on the Rome airport early in the morning around 7:00 am. However, it was the easter weekend. And looks like lots of tourists were interested to visit Rome, the Vatican in particular. So, it took a lot of time to get through the long queue at the immigration counter. There after, we started for our hotel, Best Western Blu Hotel. And by noon we checked-in into the hotel and settled down. But we decided to take rest since we had our little daughter with us. And she definitely had the jet lag. So, did we.

So, basically we didn’t do much on this day, except going on a stroll in the surroundings of our hotel in the evening. Having said that, if you can combat the jet lag or you don’t have kids with you, you can take a hop-on-hop-off trip of Rome on the day of your arrival. Since, you can take it on your own pace and you can start anytime in the day when you feel ready for it. As we initially had planned for the same. But, couldn’t. So, otherwise, keep your day light. Also, take plenty of rest and prepare yourself for the rest of the days amongst your 6 days in Italy. Because there will be a lot of sightseeing, walking, picnic and fun things to follow on rest of the days.

We did step out in the evening though. And the streets were all inviting. With a soft cold breeze and beautiful lights all around. We strolled around the streets for a while. Finally, we went to a grocery shop nearby and did our first grocery shopping in Rome. And after that, we took takeaway meals from a nearby pizzeria.

Day2: Roaming around in Rome

On the second of our 6 days in Italy, we woke up fresh. We had recovered from the jet lag. And we were ready to start our day, exploring Rome. It began with a tour to the Vatican city. We first explored the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel followed by the Saint Peters Basilica. It was the day before the Easter. And Vatican was busy with the preparations for the Pope to address the city. Although it was crowded. But, we didn’t mind. To see the Easter celebrations in Rome is an experience in itself. Post lunch, we proceeded to the Colosseum , the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, Trevi fountains and some more places worth visiting in Rome. Finally, we came to the Piazza Navona and sat here along the fountain to enjoy our evening. You can read the details of our one day of roaming in Rome here.

For the exact itinerary with timings and the tips on making your day more effective and efficient, read our post on Rome in a day. Upon looking at the itinerary, you might feel, we did a lot for a day. But believe me, the day we are talking about was really long. It extended from 6:00am in the morning to 9:00pm in the evening, before the sunset finally happened. And we took plenty of rest while walking around and exploring places. So, the base line is that, it is comfortably possible to cover all these places within a day in Rome.

Day3 : Rome -> Florence

On the third day of our 6 days in Italy, we started in the morning for Florence. After checking out from our hotel, we headed to the train station in Rome. From here, we boarded our train for Florence at 10:30am. And we enjoyed every bit of our first train ride in Europe while traveling from Rome to Florence today. Especially the Tuscany countryside that just stole our heart. We arrived in Florence by 12:15pm. And by noon we had checked-in into our apartment, Palazzo Dei Ciompi .

walking tour of Florence | 6 days in Italy

Mesmerizing views across the river Arno

After getting fresh, we stepped out. And to our delight, found a vegan café just besides our apartment. Upon seeing this vegan cafe, our hunger instantly became stronger. Thus, after having lunch here, we headed on our self-planned, self-guided free walking tour of Florence. And we covered a lot of sight along the banks of river Arno as a part of this trip and finally returned back to our apartment by 9:30pm at night. Thereafter, we prepared our dinner and called it a day.

Day 4: More of Florence & Pisa

Today being the fourth of our 6 days in Italy, as we woke up early in the morning, we got the feeling that our vacation in Italy was more than half way through. And this gave us an extra boost to make the most of the remaining of our 6 days in Italy. Thus, post breakfast, we started our day with an early morning self-planned and self-guided walking tour of Florence that covered places around the Duomo, Academia Gallery and other important places in the center of Florence. And in noon, we took a trip to Pisa and visited the Leaning tower of Pisa. Finally, we returned from there by night.

48 hours in Florence | 6 days in Italy

The Pisa cathedral with the leaning tower of Pisa in the background

Although we could have returned earlier. But we had taken a bus trip to Pisa. And it turned out to be a busy road pertaining to the long weekend. But, we were glad as we arrived back in Florence by 9:00pm. Since, we got to view Florence by the night. Wherein all the beautiful structures including the Duomo were glittering in the night light. Finally, we reached our apartment. Although we were suspecting if the main gates would be closed by now. Since, we had forgot our keys. But, luckily they were not. Thereafter we retired to our beds. But not before enjoying a self prepared hearty meals. Where, each one of us provided some contribution in the meal preparation. Thus making it all the more tasty and enjoyable.

Day 5: Florence -> Venice

On the fifth of our 6 days in Italy, we said goodbye to Florence and took our next train journey to Venice. We enjoyed the previous two days in Florence too much. Particularly because we stayed in the heart of the town with all the beautiful places worth visiting nearby. Also, we took our self walking tours. And we stayed in an apartment. You can read here our recommendation on how best to spend 48 hours in Florence.

Venice walking tour | 6 days in Italy

We arrived in Venice by noon from Florence via Milan. Actually, if you have a couple of more days at hand, we highly recommend you stop in Milan. Here’s a list of top free things to do in Milan. Here, our hotel, Hotel Continental, was located just 300 meters from the train station. So, we just grabbed our luggage and walked to our hotel. And after checking into the hotel, we soon headed our for lunch. We bought some slices of Pizza from the nearby pizzeria and settled near the Grand Canal, just in the backyard of our hotel, for lunch. And our little one shared her lunch with the pigeons here. She was super excited chasing them and trying to make friends with them. Thereafter, we embarked on yet another of our signature self designed walking tours, to explore Venice.

Day 6: Venice hop on hop off

Finally arrived the last day of our 6 days in Italy. Since, today was the day to explore Venice, via the means of communication that Venice is renowned for – the canals and lakes. So, we took a hop-on-hop-off tour through Venice today. And as a part of this tour, we explored Murano, Lido, the Saint Marks Square and several other lovely stops across Venice. We also had lunch and snacks sitting in one of the open air restaurants by the water. Finally, it turned out to be one of the most memorable days for us during our stay in Italy. And we enjoyed every bit of it. You can read the details of our Venice hop on hop off trip in details here in this post.

After the spectacular day in Venice, all we can say is that any amount of time spent in Venice will not be enough. The place is just magical. While we walked it’s cobbled streets. And also sailed through it’s waters. Plus we spent time exploring most of the beautiful places in and around Venice. Still, we left from Venice carving for more. And we are sure, we will be returning here once more. That will be an even slower travel than the current one. All we wish to do is sit by the beautiful canals or hover over a bridge for hours. Just seeing the lives in Venice go around as usual!

Onwards Journey : Switzerland

After having spent 6 days in Italy, that felt like 6 very beautiful days, finally arrived the time when we had to say goodbye to Italy and embark on our further journey. Although we must admit 6 days looked very less to spend in Italy. If you intend to spend more time in Italy, (And you definitely should!), check this week long Italy vacation plan. There are many more beautiful locations in Tuscany and the beautiful coast of Italy like Siena, Lucca, Amalfi and Cinque Terre to name a few. So, you can plan a longer vacation here, exploring more grounds. Also don’t forget to try the best Italian cuisines, wine, mouthwatering gelato and Italian coffee while in Italy.

There are many more interesting things to do in Italy. You could go wine tasting in Tuscany, use this Naples Pizza Guide to have some of the best Italian pizza or take a cooking lesson. We left Venice the next day morning and boarded a train to Lucerne. Thus, began another chapter in our Europe journey. We spent 4 mesmerizing days in the Swiss Alps regionstaying in Lucerne as the base. As a part of this trip, we did a self designed walking tour across Lucerne. We also went to Engelberg and Mount Titlis to play in snow. And further we did a beautiful day trip each to Bern, Grindelwald and Interlaken, visiting Kambly cookie store and a cheese factory in transit. The stories will soon follow..stay tuned!!

Summary of our 6 days in Italy

Although we spent 6 beautiful days in Italy, we do intend to come back here once more. Since, we feel there is a lot more to explore here. Including a lot of interesting things to do in Bologna and Sienna, taking some instagram perfect pictures in Cinque Terre. Roaming around the ancient wonders in Naples and Pompeii. And driving through the beautiful Amalfi coast. For now, here’s a recap of our 6 beautiful days in Italy:

Day

Things done

Timing

Day1

Arrival in Rome

Exploration around the hotel in evening

Day2

The Vatican City

8:00am-12:00pm

Lunch outside of Vatican City while on way to Colosseum

12:00pm

Roman Colosseum

1:00pm-3:00pm

Roman Forum & Palatine Hills

3:00pm-4:30pm

Pantheon, Trevi fountains, Piazza Navona

4:30pm-8:00pm

Day3

Train from Rome to Florence

10:00am-12:15pm

Florence walking tour along the river Arno

3:00pm-9:00pm

Day4

Florence walking tour covering Duomo etc.

8:30am-11:30am

Half day tour to Pisa

12:30pm-9:00pm

Day5

Florence -> Venice train

7:30am-12:00pm

Venice walking tour

3:00pm-9:00pm

Day6

Venice hop-on hop-off tour

8:30am-7:30pm

 

Florence to Pisa Tour | 6 day in Italy

A random click along the Tuscany countryside

Tips on spending 6 days in Italy

  1. Comfortable walking shoes is a must. There was not a single day out of our 6 days in Italy when we didn’t walk. And mostly we walked for 6-8 kilometers daily.
  2. Another must is a bottle of drinking water. Packaged drinking water is way too expensive. You will easily get fountains and public taps all over Italy to refill your water bottle. Keep yourself hydrated.
  3. Carry an umbrella when visiting in April-May. We did encounter the rain a few times but luckily it was not heavy.
  4. Book your accommodation near most of the sightseeing places in the old part of the cities. That way, you will save a lot on commute.
  5. If at all you have to commute, try other means like buses, trams etc. instead of taxi which is costly.
  6. Except for Rome, we always could do with walking around in Florence and Venice since our accommodation was very close to the train station and so were most of the places of our interest.
  7. Always prefer takeaway food. Slices of pizza or portions of pasta that you can get packed and eat while you explore the city. Saves time as well as money.
  8.  We would recommend apartment stay over hotel stay as it gives you much more flexibility in terms of cooking and staying as a bigger group when traveling with friends and family.
  9. Check the entrance tickets to the places of your interest and if possible book online. Otherwise, you will waste a lot of time in queue.
  10. If traveling with toddler, carry a stroller with you. Florence and Venice are particularly very stroller friendly. In Rome, the Vatican was an exception where we had to take stairs quiet a few times and it was difficult to carry the stroller along the stairs.
  11. Here’s some links to the official sites in most of these places where you can find details of guided tours, tickets, timings, etc.
    1. Rome
    2. Florence
    3. Pisa
    4. Venice
  12. Beware of tourist scams. We witnessed some like someone giving a rose to a tourist which seemed like a gift initially but then they started pestering them for a good amount of money like 5-10 euros. We plan write in details about the scams we saw in Europe.
  13. Last but very important, be aware of pickpockets. They are dominant in the crowded tourist destinations like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain in Rome, Piazzo Vecchio, Duomo, Uffizi gallery in Florence, The leaning tower of Pisa, Metros and train stations, bridges, squares and basillicas of Venice etc.

6 days in Italy | Rome | Florence | Venice | Pisa | Tuscany

Venice hop on hop off tour

After 2 enchanting days each in Rome and Florence we finally headed to the romantic city of Venice. Venice is one city that is perhaps on everyone’s radar when visiting Europe for the first time. However, we had also heard from many that Venice often disappoints it’s visitors. Because over and over it has been overrated. However, we found Venice to be one of the most beautiful destinations that we visited on this tour. One of our most wonderful experiences was  taking the Venice hop on hop off tour.

Venice hop on hop off tour

Venice hop on hop off tour

Almost all the cities in Europe provided hop on hop off tour provisions. There are buses with fixed routes. One can buy a day or two days pass and then hop on and off these while one explores the city. Venice, being an archipelago, called for a boat hop on hop off trip. And we were so excited to do one. So, we got our tickets booked with Panoramic tours. They have an office at the Venice train station itself. And we stayed at the Hotel Continental, which is walkable from the train station – at just 300 meters. So, morning, we collected our passes from the office and headed to the next boat at the deck besides the train station. Soon we on boarded and seated by the back deck in the boat. And were ready to take off.

The Venice hop on hop off route

There is a pre designated route for the Venice hop on hop off tour. Altogether, there are 7 stops on this route. The very first one being the train station from where we boarded. And finally the boat comes back to this spot itself end of the tour. Even more flexibility is provided by the fact that the boats reach and leave from designated spots at regular fixed timings. Towards the end of the article we have included the timings from the leaflet. So, this means, we can get down at any spot we want, spend as much time here as we want. And then reach the boat station in time to get onto the next boat which will be arriving shortly. And we did exactly that. This way, we spent more time on the islands and spots that we loved more and skipped some that we didn’t find interesting.

Venice from across the water

As our boat started from the first stop and soared towards the third (as the second stop was temporarily suspended), soon we were mesmerized by the scene of Venice from across the waters. It was a one of a kind experience. Amidst the cool breeze and the crushing waves, we moved towards the next stop. However, the third spot on the route doesn’t have anything of interest. It is more of a spot where more people can take the Venice hop on hop off tour. Basically, yet another spot for the people to get on and off the bus.

Venice hop on hop off tour

While arriving at this spot, we crossed several huge vessels and cruise ships that were resting by the shores. And we also spotted some yatches sailing through the waters of Venice. Across the water, we could spot several prominent structures of Venice including churches, famous squares, some parks, gardens, and different smaller islands separated from each other by the water ways. Along with bridges across these islands to act as the beautiful way of connectivity between them. Looking at Venice from across the waters is definitely an experience to cherish.

Stop 4 on Venice hop on hop off tour : Piazza San Marco

Our next stop on the Venice hop on hop off tour was around the Piazza San Marco or St. Mark’s Square. As we got down here from our Venice hop on hop off boat, we first entered into a garden just in front of the station. Later, we started towards the St. Mark’s Square. Around this spot, there are several interesting buildings like the great Church of St. Marks, the Clock tower, Doge’s Palace the buildings opposite the church called Procuratie Vecchie and the vast space in the middle.

St. Mark’s Square is the most famous square in Venice. As once upon a time, it was the hub of the social and political activities in Venice. And throughout the modern years, it has been the favorite spot for shooting of countless movies. The shopping street that stands at one end of St. Mark’s square is just idle for picking some souvenirs. And through these streets, you can also walk to the famous Bridge of Sighs and Rialto Bridge. We spent quiet some time here before heading further on our Venice hop on hop off tour.

The Saint Mark’s Basillica and Doge’s Palace are particularly known for their architectural details and beautiful outlines. A must visit when in Venice, I would say. And the Venice hop on hop off route makes it really convenient to visit here. Overall, the abuzz St Marks Square particularly held my attention. And at that moment I decided we will be returning here as the evening proceeds, when the lights lit up. Because I very much wanted to have dinner here under the stars, on a table twinkling with candle lights. Although that didn’t happen eventually (Sigh!!) , yet I found another very sweet and cute place where we had our last meal of the evening. So, no complains there really.

Stop 5 on Venice hop on hop off tour : Lido

One of the posh islands of Venice, Lido, was our next stop on our Venice hop on hop off tour. As we stepped out of the boat station, we could clearly see the contrast from the old town of Venice. As, Lido has a modern vibe by all means. It gives the look and feel of a vibrant modern society. The buildings are new. And the roads are wide. The lanes are very well planned. Overall, there is a lot of greenery. And unlike the rest of Venice, it seems not at all crowded. In conclusion, it is so peaceful, not abuzz with tourists all the times and yet so beautiful. For a change, cemented pathways instead of cobbled ones and modern houses instead of the medieval architecture will greet you as you step onto Lido.

The main attraction on Lido island is it’s beautiful beach. It lies along one of the most frequented beaches of Venice. As we got off the station, we asked a local for the direction of the beach. And to our pleasure, it was straight ahead. So, we walked along the beautiful road that eventually leads to reach the beach. Admiring the beautiful pathways, and keeping an eye for the roadside eateries. As the plan was to grab something from one as we returned from the beach. Since it would be lunch time by the time we did.

As we approached the beach, soft sand and swallow water greeted us. It was cold, yet beautiful to stand by the crushing waves that kept coming and going. There is provision of shacks and food outlets along the coast. A very nice restaurant is developed here. And plenty of tables and chairs are put under shades for visitors to enjoy their day. We could see a lot of people enjoying themselves, doing almost nothing, on the beach. Not all looked like tourists. Even locals were equally enjoying their bliss. And we really liked that. Overall, we had a wonderful time here.

Stop 6 on Venice hop on hop off tour : Murano

Famous for its glass works, Murano was our next stop on the Venice hop on hop off tour. As we got down the boat and started walking towards the center of the town, we were greeted with a line of shops showcasing intricate glass works. First we passed through some factories. And soon it was followed by the glass windows of the shops luring us with such beautiful glass works that it’s difficult to capture their details in words. And finally we arrived at this signature work that signifies the deep relation of Murano and it’s glass work. This is the symbol of Murano, it’s identity. (The blue one in the picture below)

The island houses several glass factories. And for generations people here have been doing glass work. Almost every other household owns a small factory of it’s own. And those who don’t, they work with others on their factory. Overall, they create beautiful items out of glass crystals day in and day out. The kind of accuracy and intricacy with which these people create the glass structures is just marvellous. I have personally not seen such beautiful glass works anywhere else. So no wonder, their work is so renowned. And is exported all through Italy and beyond. A perfect spot to pick some souvenirs in case you are interested. They have several miniatures and even larger show pieces, house decor items, crockery and other glass works.

Things to do in Murano

Apart from the shops, you can also do a guided tour to one of the glass factories. And see the formation of these glass pieces for yourself. Murano also has a glass museum that has several creations of interest. Further, you can visit the Roman catholic parish church in Murano named San Pietro Martire and the church of Santa Maria e San Donato. You will definitely have a wonderful time. Although we wished we could stay for longer here but we had to leave to the next stop on our Venice hop on hop off tour. But, in case you are staying in Venice for couple of more days, we would recommend spending enough time on these beautiful islands around Venice doing day tour, like Lido and Murano.

Stop 7 on Venice hop on hop off tour

Finally, we left Murano and took the next vaporetto to our final stop on our Venice hop on hop off tour. Almost near to the fourth stop at St. Mark’s Square, this one is at walking distance from the Academia Gallery and the grand canal. As we got off the vaporetto, the evening had started to set. And after so much of walking, we were feeling so very hungry. The mood was just right and so was the romantic setting along the canal. That we felt just ready to sit down at a restaurant and have our first official meal in Europe sitting peacefully. We chose a cafe cum pizzeria by the side of the waters. And ordered some delicious Italian desserts. Thereafter, we spent our evening enjoying the desserts and looking at the waters and the buildings across the water as the evening slowly faded into the night.

Venice hop on hop off trip

Our mouth watering dessert platter end of the day

From here, we took the last vaporetto back to the train station. And by the time we reached the train station, it was dark. It is always mesmerizing to look at Venice through the dark. With the glittering lights and their perfect reflections in the water, the place just turns so magical. Like no other place on this earth. No wonder it’s one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world. Thus, looking at the lights and their reflections, at the beauty of Venice under the night sky, we slowly drifted towards our hotel, Hotel Continental, to call it a day.

Summary of Venice hop on hop off tour

Here’s a summary of our Venice hop on hop off tour with roughly the time we spent at each of the stop during our tour:

Time

Itinerary

8:30am

Boarded the Vaperatto at Venice train station for onwards journey

8:30am – 9:30am

Sailing along the waters of Venice

9:30am – 11:30am

Stop 4 : St. Marks Square, Rialto Bridge, Bridge of Sighs

12:00am – 2:30pm

Stop 5 : Exploring the streets and beach of Lido. Take away lunch at Lido before moving further

2:45pm – 4:30pm

Stop 6 : Murano

5:00pm – 6:00pm

Stop 7 : Academia Gallery, dessert by the side of the lagoon

6:30pm

Back to the Venice train station

 

Map of the Venice hop on hop off tour

Here’s a map of the Venice hop on hop off tour that we took, along with the stops / stations marked on the map and the route defined

Venice hop on hop off tour map

Timings of the boat

Here’s a timetable for the boat showing it’s time of arrival at different stops. So, all you need to do is once you get down at the stop, reach back there around one of the next slots when the boat is going to arrive back there. It’s pretty standard, just like how a bus hop on hop off trip works in most of the cities of Europe. Also, you ask for this voucher at the boat operator’s office, where you redeem your passes. So, you will always have the timetable at your disposal. Thus, you can space and time your stay at different stops accordingly.

Venice hop on hop off tour

Venice hop on hop off tour timetable

Tips on taking the Venice hop on hop off tour

  1. Many different agencies provide Venice hop on hop off tours. You can compare the pricing and other details, and choose one you want.
  2. The one we took – the Venice hop on hop off tour by Panoramic Tour – had an office right at the train station and the first stop was also at the train station itself and it definitely helped us since we were staying quiet close by.
  3. Make a rough estimate of the time you will like to spend at each destination and then accordingly plan your Venice hop on hop off timings. We did the same.
  4. We took a one day hop on hop off tour. So, we did have to compromise on a few destinations. If you have time, I will recommend you take two days pass and go for the Venice hop on hop off tour for two days.
  5. We had lunch at Lido during our Venice hop on hop off tour. It was a take away and the prices were very reasonable.
  6. It feels really cold and chilly once you are on the boat. Since there is no barrier to the winds. At least it was like that in the month of April when we visited. So, prepare accordingly. Winter jackets are a must.
  7. For your kid, you should layer them into multiple layers of clothing to protect from the piercing wind.
  8. You can carry a stroller along. Only every time you hop on and off a boat, you will have to on board it and then again take it off. Which might feel little cumbersome. Umbrella stroller or the really lightweight ones like this one or this one will come to your rescue.
  9. Carry a bottle of drinking water like this one with you so you can always refill it from nearby fountains and public water supplies.
  10. Keep the hop on hop off map always with you. So you can look into the timings are readjust your tour now and then as required.
  11. Also keep a tab on the last departure from your last stop. Your goal should be to return back at least by that time.

Venice | Italy | Europe | Hop on hop off | Lido | Murano | St Marks Square | Academia Gallery

A Venice walking tour

Did you ever think about doing a Venice walking tour. Which means a walking around in a land that is better known for it’s waterways and gondolas? If not, you got to read about our Venice walking tour for sure. Or, if you are planning to do it, then our experience will definitely help you plan your own walking tour.

Venice walking tour

During our 6 days in Italy, we arrived in Venice after spending 2 days each in Rome and Florence. It was a great transition with respect to the landscape as we left the green and enchanting Tuscany countryside and entered into the world of lagoons that is Venice. Luckily our accommodation, Hotel Continental, was located at walking distance from the train station. Thus, we walked to our hotel and checked in by noon. There after we took some rest. And embarked on our most favorite activity. That being a self planned walking tour to explore Venice.

Unlike the previous walking tours that we took in Florence around the river Arno, and one across the center of Florence covering the Duomo and other areas, this one was not planned. Rather, we thought to randomly explore the areas around. And Venice didn’t disappoint us at all. We didn’t cover any specific famous spots of Venice as a part of this trip. Rather, we decided to do that on a hop on hop off trip the next day. Therefore, this walking tour was just about randomly walking So, here goes our Venice walking tour details..step by step…

The Grand Canal

Venice walking tour

Our Venice walking tour began with a visit to the banks of the Grand Canal. Since our hotel is located just on the banks of the Grand Canal. As we stepped out to start our Venice walking tour, we first went to the banks of the Grand Canal. Benches are present here to sit by the side. And we did sit there for a while. Some of our enthusiastic friends even went to the steps on the bank where the gondolas stopped. We could see the gondolas coming and going. While the chilling evening breeze teased us, causing our noses to go numb 🙂 . Since it was really chilly the day we arrived in Venice. And temperature was likely to further dip. So, we decided to embark further on our Venice walking tour in some time.

The markets of Venice

As we stepped on the main road that lead from the train station to our hotel, we saw markets abuzz on both sides. There were cafes and restaurants, in full swing with their preparations for the evening. Then, there were lots of souvenir shops. These included shops that displayed intrinsic glass work from Murano, magnets and masks that are signature of Venice, wood ships, miniature ships inside bottles etc. Walking at a slow pace, we crossed these shops.

Venice walking tour

Venice fruit market

Next we arrived at the open fruit and vegetable markets of Venice. There were stalls setup in the center of the road by fruit vendors. And their carts were loaded with fruits, both exotic and general ones. We bought some bananas for our little one from one shop and moved further on our Venice walking tour. Most of these carts belonged to vendors from Asian origin – those who have come from far and wide to make their dreams come true in the magical land of Venice. We talked to some vendors who had come from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The beautiful canals and bridges

Venice is a beautiful archipelago, like none other in the world. You walk 5 minutes and you are bound to arrive across yet another canal. With yet another beautiful bridge built on top of it. So did we. The beauty is that, many of these bridges are exclusive to pedestrians. As we advanced on our Venice walking tour, soon the walkway turned into a cobbled pathway and thereafter followed the bridge. We decided to cross the bridge and explore further on the other side. As we stood atop the bridge overlooking the canal, we were greeted by the beautiful views that Venice is much known for. The evening sky was showing the beautiful colors amidst the clouds. And the site of the gondolas in the canal below this sky seemed just picture perfect.

An endeavor with the pigeons at the square

We stood for quiet some time on the bridge and then crossed over to the other side. The street was still pedestrian only. As we started to further explore around it. We finally arrived at a small square. Again, it was dominated by a lot of pigeons. Our daughter immediately started chasing them. And in the meanwhile, we went inside a small grocery shop to buy some milk for her. While we came to the square from the side of the bridge, there were two narrow streets at both the other ends of it. Each one leading to a different direction.

Venice walking tour

However, as we arrived here, it started to rain. And that brought our Venice walking tour to a halt. We ran for shade and then started waiting there for the rain to stop. It rained for almost half an hour after which it stopped. However, we thought to stop our Venice walking tour here and trace our steps back to the hotel. Since the temperature had dipped after the rain. And it was getting colder as the night was approaching.

The evening lights

Thus, we started tracing our steps back to the hotel. As we walked back on our Venice walking tour towards the hotel, it started getting darker. And slowly the evening lights started coming up all over. The road side cafes and restaurants had outdoor sitting. As the evening got darker, candle lights slowly started adoring each of the tables in front of these restaurants. So did the street lights and those on the bridges across the canals. The reflection of these lights in the canal were way too beautiful. Mesmerized by the beautiful views around, we slowly walked further on our venice walking tour to reach back to the hotel.

Venice walking tour

As we reached our room and opened the window, we were greeted by a beautiful view of the grand canal. And the lights of the buildings on the edge of the canal, with a beautiful reflection into the canal itself.

Finally..Dinner

After relaxing for a while in our room, we headed out once again. This time for dinner. There were many options for dinner just in front of our hotel. We had been wanting to try some delicious pasta ever since we arrived in Italy. However, we didn’t get chance to have it in Rome or Florence. So, finally we decided today will be the day when we have Italian Pasta. We went into a pizzeria just near our hotel and inquired about takeaway pasta. Although, they had only non vegetarian options on the menu. Yet, they were happy to prepare a veg version of the same for us. Happily, after getting our pasta packed, we headed back to the warmth of our hotel room to finish our dinner.

Tips on taking a Venice walking tour

  1. If you are walking in the evening, around the month of April or May, it might still be chilly. And as you embark on your Venice walking tour, it might get more and more chilly as the night arrives. So, wear cloths accordingly. A winter jacket was a must on the evening when we went on our Venice walking tour.
  2. As always, when walking in Europe, keep a bottle of refill drinking water with you.
  3. Wear comfortable walking shoes or boots.
  4. Keep an umbrella with you. Since, it can rain at this time of the year. We didn’t have one. So, we had to halt our Venice walking tour as it started raining.
  5. Try the slices of pizza or portions of pasta and other delicacies from the road side cafes. These are economical as well as tasty.

Free Walking Tour | Venice | Italy | Europe | Explore Venice via a self designed self guided walking tour | Getting lost into the streets of Venice