AdventureNotes #12: Milan

Fashion, festive, fun! Those are the words people use to describe this city. Milan! Milan is not only popular because of its status as the capital of fashion design, it is also popular because of football as the city has 2 famous football clubs, AC Milan and Inter Milan.

Honestly, Milan is hardly missed if you are traveling to Europe. Its strategic location makes it a transportation hub between the southern Italy and western Europe. In my first Europe solo travel, I landed in Milan and departed from Milan. My main reason? Cheaper flights!

I had a chance to explore Milan in one day. If you’re not that into fashion nor excited about football, like I am, I think a day is enough to stroll around the city – noting that you’re not going into museums or other attractions. That was what I did.

The same as traveling to other cities, we need to be aware of when we are traveling. I visited Milan during my Easter break. Unfortunately, it was the exact Easter day that I visited the city. Such a shame! Everything was closed! Well, not literally everything, but most places were. Adapting to the situation, what I did was sightseeing.

First, I went to see Sforzesco Castle. Obviously, I couldn’t get in. Fortunately, the view was quite interesting. It is basically a beautiful castle. I also walked around a park called Parco Sempione. There is a landmark at the end of the park called Arco della Pace.

In the park, I had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I saw a wedding! With the bride and the groom, and the bridesmaids and the family. Wow! I know that I won’t or have a very little chance of seeing such thing. A wedding in the park. Cute!

Then, I went to see Milan Cathedral or the Duomo. I have to admit that it is so grand and so beautiful. Located in the middle of an open space, it was just mesmerising. Anyway, I saw another wedding outside the Duomo. Two weddings in a day, it must be a sign, right?

Near the Duomo, there is this shopping arcade called Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II. The place was quiet that day, but I figure that it is very chic and trendy on normal days, with its cool restaurants and cafes and high-end stores.

After struggling to find a place to have lunch – believe me it’s not easy, especially wit the Easter day, my friend and I had some kind of Turkish food for lunch. Then, my friend suggested us to go to Navigli. Navigli is an area near a canal. There are many cafes, restaurants, and indie shops there. I like the environment.

So those are the main places I visited in Milan. However, as I walked or took public transportation to explore the city, I got to pass some other attractions, such as Santa Maria delle Grazie, where Da Vinci’s Last Supper painting is located and Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore. I couldn’t get into those places due to the celebration.

I didn’t visit any stadium in Milan, but if you are planning to, do consider about the weather, the location, and the cost. Doing a stadium tour can be expensive and can take a lot of time. Most stadiums are also located quite far from the city center so you have to allocate time to visit them.

I’d really like to visit Milan again some other time. I’d like to see the city when everything is business as usual. I want to see the fashionable Milan!

Jan 22, 2016

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AdventureNotes #11: Verona

Padlocks? Really? Padlocks are quite popular in many tourist attractions nowadays, right? Well, this one is different because the picture was taken in the Juliet House, Verona.

Verona is a city famous because of its Romeo and Juliet setting. Well, despite its fictional nature, people still come here to see what’s life in Romeo and Juliet story. What’s in it? Hmmm… let’s see…

Despite of its rather confusing attractions, the made-up attractions to match up the setting in Romeo and Juliet story, Verona is a quite nice place to visit. Actually, I decided to visit this city by accident. I originally wanted to go to Florence or Venice, but the train ticket for both places were costly at that moment – I traveled during the Easter break, anyway. Then, my friend suggested to go to Verona instead.

We can take a train from Milan to Verona. The journey is around 2.5 hours. As I arrived in the train station in Verona, I took a bus to the city center. Unfortunately, I took the correct bus, but to the wrong direction! Haha My trip to Italy was full of this kind of experience. As my friend and I realized that we went on the wrong direction, we hoped off the bus and caught the correct one. Thankfully, I got to the city center. Oh, a little tips for you traveling to Italy, almost all transportation offer day ticket so it might be a good bargain. Anyway, the problem was that it was pouring rain that day! Such not a good day to travel.

Despite the weather, my friend and I decided to still explore the city. It’s Europe, people! When can we expect to not be surprised by the weather anyway? So, we walked pass this building, similar to but smaller than Colloseum. I figure that this kind of building was popular in Italy back on those days. The building is called Arena di Verona.

Under the pouring rain, we walked along the small streets of Verona. We passed this very crowded place, Cassa di Giuletta – Juliet’s House. Well, the story of Romeo and Juliet is fictional and so is the house. I think people just made it up for the tourists. There is also Romeo’s House but I think it is located quite far from the city center. Interestingly, there are loads of people who are even willing to pay to go inside the house. Well, I didn’t. The ticket is too pricey.

I just saw the house from its garden where there are many “love” padlocks attached to the wall. What’s so gross is that there are also some bubble gums attached there. Euwh.

After taking some pictures, we decided to go to Piazza delle Erbe. The piazza is located in the middle of the city. At that time, there was an outdoor market held. We bought calzones for our lunch and they were delicious!

Another interesting tourist attraction worth to enter in Verona is Castelvecchio. Basically, it was a castle, which now is used as a museum. Again, entering the museum is quite expensive so we explored the castle from the outside. The scenery from the top of the castle’s wall is beautiful.

As we walked back to the train station, we passed some churches. It is typical Italy that churches are everywhere and are considered to be tourist attractions. Some churches worth to visit are Basilica di San Lorenzo and Verona Cathedral.

To conclude, Verona may be an alternative city to visit while traveling to Italy. It is small, so day trip should be enough to explore the city. It may be useful to read Romeo and Juliet before visiting this city so that we can absorb the spirit of this city.

Juliets, find your Romeo here!

Jan 15, 2016

AdventureNotes #9: Como

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Como? Where is it? Coming from an Asian country, I’m not familiar with the non mainstream tourist attractions in Europe. Como is one of them. It is actually a small city located near Lake Como, where it got its name, in Italy. The city borders the country and Switzerland.

Why did I go to Como? I actually went there to visit a friend. I needed a place to star near Milan, too. My friend was a student there and she lived in a student accommodation, just enough for two people to sleep. Her accommodation was not too far from the city center.

To get to Como, people can use trains. There are many trains passing this city. As it is a quite ‘famous’ place for people to come to spend their day off, it is not too difficult to get there. I think it is around an hour train ride from Milan.

Como is such a small city, anyway. The city is beautiful with its lakeside scenery. There are lots of hotels and cafes because people come to enjoy the city. Like other Italian cities, there is also a famous Gelato shop there. Despite the cold weather, I bought and ate Gelato when I was there.

There are not too many tourist attractions in Como, but people can certainly enjoy Lake Como by hiring a boat. Besides that, the hilly contour of the city makes people able to hike to the hill to enjoy the scenery. I think a memorial of Volta was built up there because of his relation to the city.

I quite like the atmosphere there because it was not too crowded and it has its own charm with its little shops, outdoor market, and gardens.  I think it is an appropriate place when someone seeks serenity.

I will be happily recommend this place if you need sanctuary for your holiday. It is also close to Milan, and considering the condition, maybe this city is a better place to stay.

Jan 08, 2016

AdventureNotes #8: Lost in Rome

This article is way long overdue. So sorry! but since I’m an active traveler again now, it seems that I have to continue this AdventureNotes series.

Anyway, for this session, I’ll write about Rome! Who doesn’t know and doesn’t want to visit this city? It has its own unique charm and to be honest, you’d want to visit this city again and again, strolling at its small alleys. So, I’ve been in Rome twice now. The first one was when I did my solo Euro trip and the second was when I did a Euro tour with my family. This article will be based on the recollection of my memory from both trips.

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People coming to Rome by plane will most probably arrive in Leonardo Da Vinci Airport. I took a train from the airport to get to the city center, Roma Termini Station. The journey was short and pleasant. However, when I stepped my foot on Roma Termini, it was very crowded; lots of travelers, lots of beggars, lots of officers, and lots of sellers. I was shocked and therefore tried to find a quiet place to think. I needed to adapt before finding my way around.

I had a quite interesting experience in Rome because I was lost for a while! It was kind of funny actually because I tried to find my hotel at that time. The hotel was supposedly not too far from the station. I walked around and around, asked people but still couldn’t manage to find it. It was difficult to find it because there was not too many people who can speak English in that area. After a long 2-hours search, finally I could enter my room! The owner responded to my email and came get me. It turns out that there was no sign of the hotel and actually I walked pass that hotel several times without noticing.

The first time around, I tried to use the Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus to get around Rome. I purchased the ticket online for a 24 hour pass. During my time there, I found out that the HOHO bus was not that available. One time I had to wait for 30 minutes until the bus arrive. Additionally, the traffic in Rome was just not good. I thought that it might be faster to walk! Seriously.

I think the better option to get around Rome is by public transportation. Almost all of the attractions in Rome are reachable by many different means of public transportation, such as bus and metro. It was much quicker and cheaper. On my second visit to Rome, I bought a one-day travel card that I can use to get on all public transportation in Rome. It costed like a quarter of what I paid for the HOHO bus and I managed to see more Rome tourist attractions!

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From both visits to Rome, I managed to enter some places, such as Colloseum, Roman Forum, and St. Peter’s Basilica. I had to buy tickets for the Colloseum and Roman Forum, but the entrance was free for the St. Peter’s Basilica. Rome is such a popular tourist destination so that to enter the attractions, we would be most likely have to queue, sometimes for a long time. Therefore, actually during the online ticket purchase, there is an exact time allocation for us to visit. However, it seems that the system did not work because I could enter Colloseum and the Roman Forum one day later than the appointed schedule on my ticket. All attractions mentioned above were worth to visit, besides they are legendary!

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Besides those attractions, Rome is also famous for its outdoor attractions, such as Piazza and the Trevi Fountain. I went to Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, and Piazza Venezia on both of my trips. I love the environment in those neighborhoods. Some of those places are quite close to each other so that I could just walk. It was really nice actually comparing to taking a bus or metro because I could explore the small and charming alleys near those places. I even passed the Pantheon on my way from the Trevi Fountain to Piazza Navona.

There are still many attractions in Rome that I haven’t visited. I wished I could visit the city again, longer the next time around. Surely one or two days are not enough to explore this city.

Now, for the tips of visiting Rome!

1. Be ready with your Google Maps to find your way around because not too many people can speak English.

2. Buy the daily or weekly travel tickets. The attractions are easily reachable by public transportation. It is safe, even if you travel alone.

3. Beware of the weather. Rome can get very hot during the summer. The weather gap between this city and other cities in Europe during spring is also noticeable. Get hydrated!

4. Stay alert, especially in crowded place because there are quite a lot of beggars and strangers who may try to steal. Moreover, the city is packed during the summer months, it can get super crowded.

5. Try the gelatto and icy drinks! They are good. Regarding the foods, for Muslims who have to eat halal food, there is this restaurant really near to the Roma Termini station that sells halal and very yummy and delicious foods.

6. Purchase your tickets online. Sometimes they offer discounted price tickets or Rome pass that could get you into many different attractions in cheaper cost.

Let’s go and travel to Rome!

Jan 01, 2016

Adventure Notes #5: Milan – Munich

This is getting interesting! My first Eurotrip. My fifth journey was during the Easter break. My housemate actually asked me to go with her and her friends but I chose to go by myself. Yes, it was my first Eurotrip and I was alone! I was super excited planning for the trip and actually went for the trip. So here’s my next AdventureNotes.

First thing first; travelling to Europe for Indonesian people is not that easy. Visa stuffs made me dizzy. I sorted out my Schengen visa in Manchester. I applied through Italian embassy as it was my first and last destination. Before applying for the visa, I needed to plan my entire itinerary as I needed the proof for visa documents. At that time, I went from Leeds to Milan and back to Leeds. The trip was 8 days long and I planned to go to Germany as well.

Travelling inside Europe was not that expensive. Imagine you can travel from Jakarta to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur easily; it goes the same in Europe. It is even easier because it is a continent so that the transportation is not a problem. Catch a train and you can go somewhere. I went from Leeds to Milan by plane which was cost only around 40 pounds return – the train ticket from Hull to Leeds even more expensive at that time. LOL. In this first part of my Eurotrip AdventureNotes, I will write about the first two days of my trip which was Milan and Munich.

When I say Milan, it was not actually Milan as the plane landed in Bergamo, which was the low cost carrier airport, Milan’s neighbor city. My first impression when I saw Italy was that it is not too different from Jakarta. The landscape, almost the weather, the crowd… almost all reminded me of Jakarta. I arrived at around 6 pm in Bergamo and took an airport bus to Milan Central Station to take a train to Munich. The bus ticket was 5 Euro and it took around an hour to get to the Central Station. Milan’s Central Station was quite good. There were shops and restaurants in the station and the place was convenient. I could look around the shops and eat peacefully. Unlike the station in Rome which was very crowded and uncomfortable, Milan Central Station was generally nice for traveler.

My train to Munich was a sleeper train. It went from Milan at 9 pm and arrived in Munich at 6 am. That was the first time I went somewhere with sleeper train and it was a good first experience. The cabin was quite big, women only – well in my case myself only, with complimentary breakfast. Yeay! The train ride was nice and the steward (I don’t know what they call them if they work in trains) was very helpful. I felt like I arrived in Munich in no time. A little bit cold during the night but it was fine.

The thing when you travel during the Easter time is that the weather can be unstable. When I went from UK, the weather was horrible. There were snowstorms all around UK. I was lucky that my flight wasn’t cancelled. When I arrived in Italy, the weather was pleasant. It was not too cold and not too hot. It was around 15-18 degree Celsius, I guess. And when I arrived in Munich it was -6 degree Celsius. Oh no! I was lucky that I still put my winter clothes on.

As my train arrived quite early in Munich, I kind of had nowhere to go. I decided to walk slowly to the Altrathaus and Nueuerathaus which is in Marianzplatz (correct me if I’m wrong, I already forgot some of the details). I wanted to see the famous clock there. Unfortunately, at that time the clock which supposed to be moving around during the hour change did not work. I continued strolling around the area, walked pass the farmers market, saw the sausage shops – yes the Germans are famous for their wurst, and ended up in a coffee shop. It was very cold outside and being able to sit down and feel the warmth of a cup of hot chocolate was very nice. I was there until I felt like it was okay to go out and went to another destination. I wanted to go to this place which was used to be a palace. The place is called Munich Residenz. It costs around 8 Euro to go inside the place. Munich Residenz is huge. I went to all of the rooms and saw beautiful decorations and architecture. It took around an hour up to two hours to look around the place.

After that, I just went around Munich old town. I didn’t have time to explore more places as I had a train to catch to go to Kaiserslautern – a city in German near France border. I regret that I didn’t go to Allianz Arena. I don’t know why but I always have this thing with German football. Haha. That’s why I really want to go to Allianz Arena. The place is a little bit out of Munich so we have to take the S-Bahn to get there. There are so many interesting places in Munich and I think a day or two days more in Munich will be good.

Anyway, at 2 pm I had to take another train to Kaiserslautern – my friend’s place. It took 5 hours train ride from Munich to Kaiserslautern. I had to change the train 3 times but they weren’t confusing at all. I got all the information from my ticket. I got the platform number and the exact time of the train. It was very pleasant – except when one of my trains was delayed for 3 minutes and I had to run to catch my other train which was only 5 minutes apart. What an experience! The journey from Munich to Kaiserslautern was beautiful. It was very nice to see the scenery along the journey. I saw many small cities and one of them is called Frankenstein. I wonder if Frankenstein really comes from that small city.

Well, that’s about it, I guess. I have 6 more days to write about as parts of my first Eurotrip. It was a great trip and travel experience. I really recommend people to go and travel alone because it is fun! So much fun!

Jan 1, 2014