Ahhh Italia! What a special country. Unique in food, culture and amazing things to see. In May, Justin and I spent just over a week exploring the beautiful cities of Milan, Florence and Venice. Here are some of my favourite things about each unique place.
When I was 18, I spent three months as an au pair living in Milan. So when Justin and I had Italy on our list of places to go, I was sure to add Milan to the list so I could show him all my favourite places in the city.
Piazza Del Duomo + Luini Panzerotti
Our first stop was obviously Piazza del Duomo (lol). I feel like in every European city, every tourists first stop is the main square... it just makes sense, right? The Milan Duomo is one of the most gorgeous buildings I have ever seen. I remember my first time in Milan, I walked up the metro stairs and BOOM - theres the duomo right in your face with all its glory. So naturally, I had to give Justin the same amazing experience.
The true beauty lies about two blocks behind the duomo, down a side alley way.... This place is called Luini and it's home to the most magical panzerotti you will EVER eat. I'm not joking, it is amazing. I think I came back to Milan JUST for this panzerotti. On my very first day in Milan I was introduced to this and I've been in love ever since. It usually has a pretty long line because it's just that good, but they are pretty fast in there and it is definitely worth it. Luini has taken up permanent residence in my heart.
We enjoyed our panzerotti's on the steps of the duomo while people watching. Perfect start to our full day of adventure in Milano.
Here are a few more photos from around the square ~
Sforza Castle + Parco Sempione
Sforza Castle is just a short walk from the main square in Milan. This castle has a gorgeous courtyard that I used to love to read a book in when I was an au pair. (Once when I was there I saw a baby sharpei dog and I almost cried). Anyways, this castle was built in the 15th century by the Duke of Milan (Franceso Sforza) and it is so beautiful. Check our some of the photos below.
Behind Sforza castle is Milan's biggest and most gorgeous park. It's so relaxing and refreshing to walk through such a big park in the middle of the city, especially when a place like Piazza del Duomo is SO packed with tourists and... pigeons. Fun fact: when we were in Milan, an Italian man called a pigeon an "eagle". I died.
The park is really massive and you could spend all day there with some charcuterie and wine! It's a great place in the spring/summer/fall to have a picnic with your friends.
If you ever go to Milan, I cannot recommend Brera enough. Brera is the cutest area of Milan full of boutique shops and stylish restaurants. It's less busy than around the main square and in my opinion, it is so much prettier 😍. With cobblestone roads, buildings of every colours, and gorgeous flowers everywhere, you cant go wrong in this area. I truly love the architecture there.
Milan holds a very special place in my heart. It's where I went through some very tough times and some very good times in my life and where I learned so much about myself going into my adult life. It’s so weird coming back to a city where you have so many memories. But it’s also refreshing to remember how far you’ve come as a person since then.
If you ever find yourself in Milan, soak up all the unique culture that the city has to offer. It is so different from any other city that I have visited in Italy.
Florence has always been on my Italy bucket list, so when we managed to squeeze it into our itinerary, I was ecstatic! When we arrived at our airbnb, we could NOT get in touch with our host so we went across the street and met the nicest/very eccentric Italian guy who helped us out and we ordered some pizza... Seriously guys, Italian pizza is just so much better than the pizza we get in Canada. Like, it's something to do with the tomato sauce, I am sure.
Anyways... Florence is an absolutely gorgeous city full of SO much interesting history. And it is in the region of Tuscany, so you know the wine there is A1!
TRAVEL TIP - buy your train tickets more than 1 day in advance lol.
When I researched train tickets from Milan to Florence before we left for our trip, they were SO cheap. So, I thought we would just buy them the day before and it would be fine. No, it was not fine haha. They ended up being a lot more than I anticipated and we had to wake up at like 5am to catch the train. It kinda sucked but we definitely learned our lesson.
Piazza del Duomo
Just like Milan, Florence also has a "Piazza del Duomo" aka a main square in which the main cathedral (or Duomo) is in the centre. The Duomo in Florence is by far my favourite religious building I have ever seen (even ahead of the Sagrada). I absolutely love the colour of this building and the architectural design.
We even went to mass at this cathedral and it was pretty incredible. The sound inside that building sounds amazing and with the organs and the choir, it sounded like a live concert. If you ever want to go to mass when you're in Europe just walk up to the door (usually a side door) where all the locals are going and say you are there for mass. If you don't say that they will just assume you're a tourist and point you to the main entrance where you might have to pay to go into the church.
When we were in Florence we did a free walking tour of the city and we learned so much about the history. We learned everything about how it was founded by the romans to how the city became a hub for the arts. It was fascinating to hear the stories of Leonardo Da Vinci and Michaelangelo while literally walking in the places that they walked. Here are a few photos from the tour.
Wine tour in Tuscany!
When in Tuscany one must do a wine tour, right? Our thoughts exactly. We ended up on a wine tour in the Chianti region, which mainly produces the famous Chianti red wine. We went to three different vineyards where we learned all about Chianti wine and how it is made and what is the difference between cheaper wine and expensive wine. Oh yeah, we also tried many glasses. This wine is freaking amazing guys. I love wine but I don't "know" wine like some people do. But dang this was good! If you want to try good Chianti wine at home, go to your liquor store and look for "Chianti Classico". It should have a black rooster on the bottle. The vineyard owners told us that the very best year was 2015, so go grab a bottle of that! You wont regret it.
If you're not really a wine person, I definitely recommend checking out the Tuscan countryside or the smaller towns around Florence. These places are beautiful and full of culture!
Overall, I absolutely loved Florence. The city itself is beautiful, full of history and gives off this chill vibe that makes you wanna paint by the river while eating gelato or sipping espresso. I wish we had more time in Florence. I could've easily spent a few more days here exploring everything the city and the region have to offer.
Venice is so magical. I am hesitant writing this section because I know that whatever I write wont capture the magic and beauty of this unique place. But, I guess that means you have to go there to experience it yourself!
A short story about when we first arrived in Venice:
I had booked our airbnb MONTHS in advance. I found such a good deal on a room near the centre of Venice and I was so excited about it. A day or so before, I had messaged our host telling him what time we were coming, but he didn't respond. I figured it was okay, we would just show up and everything would be fine. NO. It was not fine.
We arrived at his house after about 30 minutes of walking through Venice from the main train station. We rang the doorbell but no one answered, so we waited around for about another 30 minutes. After that time a neighbour came out and asked if we rented an airbnb there. We said yes and then he told us that our host was illegally using that rented space as an airbnb and that the police had to come and kick him out of that house! I was in total disbelief. And then i was like "well, shit we are screwed, how are we supposed to get a last minute hotel or airbnb in VENICE without it costing a million dollars?".
We ended up contacting this woman on airbnb who just had someone cancel on her for a three night stay, which is how long we were there for. It was perfect! It was an entire apartment and it was closer to the centre of Venice. She was even nice enough to leave a dinner she was at to meet us at 8pm. It was the coziest place and she even left us some Italian wine and pasta! We had some great home cooked meals there.
The Grand Canal
The Grand Canal in Venice is the main waterway and because Venice has no streets or cars I guess you can call the Grand Canal the "highway of Venice". Venice has 150 canals that flow through the tiny islands that are connected by bridges. Here are a few photos from the Grand Canal.
On our last day in Venice it was pouring rain. We decided to go to the Gallerie dell’Accademia where they had a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit. We saw much of his work which was very intriguing and we even got to see THE Vetruvian Man, which is only on display for 4 months of the year. It was such a cool and unique experience and great for a rainy day.
Exploring the city
When we were in Venice we also did a walking tour where we learned about the history and culture of the city. But, we also explored a lot on our own which was just as great, if not better! You can get so lost in Venice because the alleyways aren't exact on google maps, but it doesn't even matter because every turn you make is just as extraordinary as the last. Check out some of my favourite photos from just merely exploring Venice.
I love everything about the architecture in Venice. It is described as Italian gothic architecture and many of the buildings were built around 450AD ( 😳) after the city was founded. How crazy is that? & the terracotta roofs are everything.
I have so many photos from Venice because I instantly fell in love and I just wanted to capture every moment and take them home with me. Venice was a dream come true. I had been wanting to go to Venice since I was a kid and I FINALLY got to do it. I love Venice so much and will definitely be going back.
Italia, ti amo!
Italy is such a magical country full of so many great memories for me. The times I've had there have taught me a lot and have given me joy and happiness.
I hope you enjoyed this blog/photos of our trip to Milan + Florence + Venice! xx