Italy: Venice & Milan

Arriving by bus back into Ljubljana, we were picked up by Solange who we had arranged with BlaBlaCar. A new app that we had heard about, blablacar is a car sharing community that connects drivers and their empty car seats with people looking to travel in the same direction to share the cost of travel. Solange and his wife Sul were travelling to Venice, where we were stopping for a short time time before heading to Milan. Whilst Sul slept for most of the journey, Solange was a pleasure to share the car journey with. He shared with us how he was Italian, and how he met his Argentinian wife in Ibiza where they both now lived. Working the club scene, they both were busy during the partying season, and with the money they made from their jobs in Ibiza then allowed them to travel for five months of the year when it was low season. It sounded like the ideal job to do (if you didn’t mind the lack of sleep for 6 months – which I clearly couldn’t do!)

After a four hour journey we arrived just outside Venice. Thanking Solange and Sul for their company and sharing the journey with us, we left them at the local bus station in Mestre and caught a local connection bus to Venice. 

Venice is a unlike any other city we have seen previously and although their for a short time (just one day), it was a dream come true and an experience I will never forget. Situated on more than one hundred small islands within a lagoon of the Adriatic Sea, the photos of Venice I had seen in photos and films somehow don’t do real life Venice justice; null of roads, lined canals labyrinth between famous renaissance and gothic palaces and famous churches. 

On a quest to find our hostel for the night, we quickly realised how easy it was to get lost in the narrow alleyways and footpaths that let you explore Venice. After a few dead ends we found our hostel and left our bags there to continue what little one we had left exploring the quintessential delights that Venice offered.
Walking through San Polo, Dorsoduro, San Marco and Castillo, we passed The Grand Canal and walked along the famous bridge of Ponti di Rialto, which was packed with tourists admiring the view. Many people were taking the opportunity of riding the famous gondolas either in couples or in groups; we even witnessed one man whistling a romantic melody to his gondola guests!

Eventually we found our way to the brilliantly famous Piazza San Marco, this great square filled with history and surrounded by great architecture. At the far end of the square to where we entered we saw the magnificent St Mark’s Basilica, decorated in opulent blues and gold it was breathtaking in its detail and domed shaped rooftops. Standing proud next to the Basilica was 98.7 meters tall bell tower, one of Venice’s most recognisable landmarks. 

It was brilliant in its stature and we were itching to get inside and get a panoramic view of Venice from the bell tower’s view point. With luck on our side as the tower was closing for the day, we managed to get tickets minutes before the outside gates closed for entrance. After taking the only possible lift up to the top we were greeted with breathtaking views and landscapes of the city and waters that surrounded Venice.

As the sun began to set we wandered through the maze of floating houses to find dinner. Evening lights take over Venice in the night and we were treated to it being lit up in a the most magical and romantic way, couples strolling hand in hand and laughter created by small groups enjoying their evening meal. Although tired we continued to explore the footpaths through Venice, soaking up the atmosphere as much as we could before heading back to our hostel.

An early rise, we headed back to yesterday’s dropping off point and caught a bus back to Mestre where we were meeting our next Blablacar host who would be taking us to Milan. At the bus station we met Luca who picked us up in a sporty, smart looking Mercedes. Today we would be travelling in style in comparison to the small Fiat Punto we had travelled in with Solange. During our journey we found out that we were Luca’s first Blablacar passengers; he was a very busy business man who travelled a lot and had been told of Blablacar as a way to share his journey. This was an experiment for him – a different experience but probably his first and last time using the site as he felt he was just too busy to offer his time and conversation during the journey. Nevertheless we were happy to sit and enjoy the plush car as he took work phone calls and spoke with him between him arranging business meetings (it was definitely the most comfortable journey during our travels so far with leather seats and lots of leg room for Dave!)

After four hours of driving Luca dropped us off at our AirBnb apartment. Resting for a couple hours and showering we set off to meet Joe, Dave’s best friend from home, who was also in Milan staying with his boyfriend Sergio. Joe who works as a science teacher in London had met Sergio a few years back in America before Sergio then went on to win the Italian version of the X factor. Both of them have huge hearts in their own ways and it was great to see them both happy. Meeting Sergio for the first time definitely made an impression on me: a 6ft8 man standing next to me at 5ft2, I felt tiny next to him! Both Joe and Sergio were generous with their time and took us out to an authentic Italian restaurant for lunch, where we had the most delicious selection of cold meats and extremely creamy mozzarella as an appetiser, and pasta and pizza for our first plates. We found out that Italians have four plates of food during meal times – eating is not just a meal but an event: appetisers, first plates of pizza or pasta, second plates of meat dishes, and then deserts! We could only manage two out of the four but the food was amazingly delicious and if we could have eaten more than we probably would have! After we went back to their hotel to talk and relax and listen to some of Sergio’s sofa before heading back to our apartment for a small rest. 

Later that evening we caught the tram from our apartment into the heart of Milan. During our tram ride it was easy to see why Milan is seen as one of the biggest fashion capitals of the world. Along both sides we could see all manner of expensive and elite designer shops, it was a dream to window shop from the safety of the tram (being let loose on them may have had us return home earlier than expected due to me spending on a designer shopping spree!) 

After being mesmerised by the shops, we were then surprised by the beautiful architecture of The Duom Cathedral in Milan. It was breathtaking and lit up magically by surrounding lights. The Duom itself created its own atmosphere just by its sheer magnitude and brilliant gothic spires. 

Sergio’s well spoken Italian and connections of hearing where is good to eat, we met them at The Duom and walked to the Terrazza Aperol restaurant where we had the famous orange Spritz (orange and prosecco!) together with a small platter of scrumptious bites followed by drinks. It was a pleasure to spend time in Joe’s and Sergio’s company, it was really good to chill out with such relaxed people in a city as busy and vibrant as Milan. Meeting people we already knew allowed us the pleasure of company without the pressure of meeting new people and lifted our spirits to continue.

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