Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Scenes from Milan and Rome

Firstly, happy new year to all! I hope 2014 brings great things for you all. One of my resolutions for this year is to blog a bit more consistently. I know that my blog is not frequented by many people but for me anyway, that's not really the point behind blogging. It gives me happiness to gather my thoughts, write them down, and record our everyday life however little it may be. So towards that end, I thought I'd share with you guys some photos and stories from our recent trip to Italy. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we were not able to go to Miami for Christmas this year owing to some scheduling conflicts with the Professor's job so we decided to stay in Europe and do a little sight seeing. We chose to visit Milan first because the Professor has some cousins living there who could show us around and then we took the high speed train to Rome where we spent four delightful days seeing friends, eating well, and taking in some art and history.

Here are some scenes from our vacation:

The Professor's cousins warned us before we came that Milan is not one of Italy´s prettiest cities nor is it one of the more interesting ones. Tourism wise, there is very little to do. But if you do go to Milan, I can't recommend the Milan Cathedral, also known as El duomo, highly enough. It was one of the most beautiful things we'd ever seen and we didn't even go inside! The tour is mostly restricted to the roof where you can wander around admiring the architecture and taking in the view of the city.

It was especially beautiful at sunset which was when we went.

The Professor and I took a moment to try to instill some appreciation for art and architecture into our little one but he just wasn't that impressed. Not a fan of the Gothic style perhaps. 

After we finished the tour of El duomo,we headed over to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II for some after-Christmas shopping which is basically the  main thing there is to do in Milan. Most of the stores here are pretty pricey (think Prada and Louis Vuitton) so mostly we watched other people shop which is not as fun. But you can't beat this place for ambiance especially during Christmas time when everything's decorated with twinkling lights. 

The morning we left for Milan we had to take the little one to the E.R. He had been running a fever, not eating, and basically was feeling awful. It turned out he had an ear infection, thrush and a respiratory infection. He was so miserable, we actually considered canceling our trip. But we went anyway and brought around five different medications for him. Fortunately, he was 100 times better after just a few days and he loved meeting his cousins in Milan and playing with his cousin Mattia's toys. 

Despite the fact that he got over his illnesses pretty fast, we kept him extremely bundled up the whole time we were in Italy just in case. 

There are few things the Professor loves as much as me. But certainly on that list is anything with cheese that has been deep fried. Imagine his delight when he discovered the popular Italian street food, panzerotti, which is pizza dough stuffed with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce and then deep fried. Yum!

Moving on to our trip to Rome. The whole time we were in Italy it was rainy and chilly. It was a bit of a downer at times but Rome is just one of those cities that is so pretty, it looks quite charming wet. Looking at this picture, wouldn't you agree?

On our first day exploring the city we got lost trying to find Piazza Navona and after an hour or so of walking around we were dying of hunger. It was an odd time of day to eat since it was too late for lunch and too early for dinner, so most restaurants we passed were closed. Finally, we spotted this paninoteca (sandwich shop) and decided to give it a try. It turned out to be amazing. I had the simplest sandwich in the world: prosciutto and artichokes on artisan bread. You wouldn't think that that would be such an incredible pairing, but it SO was. And the place was just so charming as well. It's 100 percent a family run business. The father makes the sandwiches, his ten year old daughter waits on the customers and his eight year old son rings you up. If you find yourself ever on Via Coronari, get a sandwich and a beer from this place. You'll thank me. :) 

When we finally did find Piazza Navona after our amazing lunch, we were too full for dessert really but we couldn't resist trying these doughnut things since every street vendor there was selling them. They are enormous, flat, pastries that are served topped with Nutella. I can't remember what they're called though. Does anyone know? 

This picture just makes me laugh. It's a balloon that some child accidentally let go of and off the horse went. It amuses me to think of this horse floating around Rome, enjoying the sights and perhaps meeting up with an escaped Sponge Bob balloon. Oh the adventures he will have!

At this time of year, Piazza Navona hosts a large Christmas market where you can find handmade ornaments, toys, sweets, antiques and a bunch of other things for sale. Almost every booth sold this ornament which is a character named La Befana. In Italy, she is the Christmas witch who comes around on the Eve of Epiphany to give gifts to the little ones. 

The beautiful Trevi fountain. One of the great things about Rome is that you don't really need a guidebook. If you want to know what sights to see, you will doubtless be able to discover them for yourself if you just keep an eye out for hundreds of people gathered close together all with their smart phones and DSLR cameras out. We didn't want to push forward to get a picture but, after all, when in Rome...

A Christmas rainbow near the Trevi fountain. It felt almost magical to walk underneath it. If only there'd been a pot of gold at the end of it.

On our second day in Rome, we braved the rain and cold and toured the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. The morning of our tour, we met up with one of my great friends at Oppio Caffè which is remarkable for one primary reason: the amazing view of the Colosseum directly in front of it. The inside of the Colosseum is impressive obviously, but I still regret that while we were sitting on the terrace of Oppio having our coffees and burgers and chatting away we didn't think to snap a picture of the outside of the Colosseum which is essentially the postcard image of Rome that everyone likes to see. Ah well. Next time. 

The Roman Forum, in my opinion, is even more interesting than the Colosseum because it was a meeting place for regular people going about their daily lives.  Imagining people scurrying back and forth from government buildings tending to urgent business resonated with me more than the image of gladiators and slaves slaughtering each other at the Colosseum. Walking around the Forum made me feel more aware of my surroundings and of how quickly time passes if that makes any sense. 

Another shot of the ruins. The tour guide told us that this area where the Forum was built used to be just a bunch of marshland and the Romans had to build giant sewers to drain the water from here. The site is so low that it feels a bit like  you're standing in a shallow hole, under the rest of the city. P.S. Big tip for anyone visiting the Forum or the Colosseum with a baby or a toddler: don't bring the stroller. It will be impossible to navigate all the stairs and the huge cracks in the pavement. Better to wear your little one in a baby carrier.

Finally, I leave you with a shot of the little one clowning around on the Metro. We rode the metro every single day and every day that we rode we realized how spoiled we have become by the metro in Barcelona. In comparison with the Barcelona Metro, the Roman Metro is old, dirty, and not well connected to many parts of the city. Also the ticket machines are temperamental, sometimes accepting only coins, many times out of order. A tip to those of you visiting Rome in the future, if you plan on taking the Metro, buy your tickets in advance when the station is not crowded and you are not in a hurry, and remember that newspaper vendors also sell metro tickets and often there is no line. We didn't learn this until our last day. 

So that was our little Christmas/New Year's Eve getaway. What did you guys do over the break? Did you have a nice holiday?


  1. Kiana!

    I love your pics. The catedral in Milan is stunning. It's a shame you weren't able to see the inside, too. I agree with your thought that wet, Roman streets are charming. :-)

    I am so glad you got to have a fun trip in Italy! The food pictures are fabulous--how was real Italian pasta, if you had any?

    Many hugs to you from Perú. All the best!


  2. Thank you Stella! Actually we never had a sit down meal of pasta while we were in Italy, instead we stopped for pizza, gelatto, and panini whenever we were out. But we did have an amazing traditional Roman feast at the house of one of our friends and the pasta with artichokes was incredible. Miss you as well and thanks for stopping by! :)

  3. I for one love your little photos! My husband and I fell in love with Barcelona when we were there visiting in '09 and I so enjoy living there vicariously through you.

    We decided to escape a cold Canadian winter and whisked down to Curacao for our Christmas. It was our first beach Christmas and we enjoyed it thoroughly. After seeing the lovely Christmas decorations in Rome though, perhaps a trip to Europe over the Christmas season should be on our list.

  4. Thanks for your kind words Jules! A beach Christmas sounds lovely, but since we're from Miami, we've had lots of those. I think a European Christmas is a great idea. If you decide to do it, let me know!