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Journal #26 - Northern Italy

Detailed spires on the roof of the Duomo
Duomo Rooftop by Mrs. Wanderer

Ciao from Italy!

Now we are back in Italy with some new sights to see. This time, we indulged in delicious food and a wide variety of adorable places in Northern Italy. During our stay, we called four different cities home base: Milan, Venice, Genoa, and Turin. Each had their own flavor and all the cities were HOT. We loved getting to round out our Italian experiences by visiting the upper third of the nation following our stays in Southern and Central Italy last year.

We began with a family trip to Milan. This city was a great place to kick off the adventure. Milan contains high-quality restaurants and plenty of well-preserved architecture. It has the quintessential “European” look to help set the tone for our family vacation. To make it even more special, we stayed in the Navigli district, overlooking the canal. So there was al fresco dining a-plenty and beautiful sunsets reflecting off of the water. The shop next to our quarters boasted of large wooden charcuterie boards – some as big as a small child! Our whole family was able to indulge in the variety of meats, cheeses, fruits, honey, jams, and breads as a meal unto itself.

Ornate facade of the Milan Cathedral
Milan Duomo by Mr. Wanderer

Milan was also home to two key churches for our travels. The first is, one of our (The Wanderers) favorite churches, the Milan Duomo. This cathedral stands majestically in the center of the piazza overlooking several city blocks. The ornate carvings, statues, and detail on its façade alone are worth the visit. We also were sure to go inside and up onto the rooftop. Climbing between the stone arches was a beautiful way to take in the city. The second church that intrigued us was our stop at San Bernardino alle Ossa. This church is known for its ossuary which is decorated with human bones - skulls and limbs adorn the walls and altar. It was equal parts unnerving and intriguing.

Altar with walls decorated with human bones and skulls
San Bernardino alle Ossa Ossuary by Mr. Wanderer

However, Milan was not our favorite city on this tour, that honor might just have to go to our next stop: Venice. Just the act of arriving was impactful, as we rode the train across the aqua lagoon. Exiting the train station, it looked just like a scene out of a James Bond film. Boats zip back and forth across the canal. There are tons of tourists. We all felt a warm joy spread through our chests – it was quite the “pinch me” moment. We used the water taxi with our luggage (learning all about their electronic ticket validation system), but after that, we just walked all through the tiny streets. Our host had told us “The best way to get to know Venice, is to get lost”, so we did. We wandered around, weaving in a general direction until we ran into a cioccetteria or a gondola. We also made sure to stand in line and visit the beautiful gold décor in St. Mark’s Basilica.

Golden mosaics on the roof of the basilica
St. Mark's Basilica by Mr. Wanderer

The best part, of this already dreamy city, was our “Boat Day”. We spent one of our days out on the Venetian Lagoon investigating the islands that lay there. We checked out Murano, home to glass blowing. The art form was originally transferred there to prevent the fire hazard from being on the same island as the residents. Now it is a beautiful stop that still has glass shops and glass-blowing demonstrations to visit. Next was Burano, which is known for its lace-making. We wandered through the shops and looking at tablecloths, dresses, and more, all hand-crafted. This city is probably the most photographed of the islands we visited due to their pastel-colored homes. The canals are lined with orange, yellow, and pink paint jobs. Each is decorated with coordinated flower boxes in the windows.

Pastel home fronts with two white boats moored in the water
Burano Buildings by Mrs. Wanderer

The last stop on our glorious sunny boat day was Torcello. This island was special, not for what we saw in its history, but for what was happening on that day – a wedding. It was fascinating to watch guests arrive, windswept, on boats in their floor-length gowns, while we were sweating in our shorts and hats. They looked lovely though, and the ceremony was timed to happen at sunset, which was (I am certain) stunning. The lagoon was welcoming that day, a beautiful reflective turquoise color. We appreciated getting to be out in the water like so many Venetians before us.

Red facade on the canal
Burano Red Homes by Mrs. Wanderer

After Venice, we split with the family for a short while and traveled off on our own again, to Genoa. Now, compared to the tourist hotbeds we had just visited, Genoa was tame. It was quite low-key, with nothing feeling overly crowded. The city is located right on the water and is home to several well-curated museums. We relaxed in the laid-back experience and used Genoa as a launching place to visit a little further down the coast, Cinque Terre.

View overlooking the water and boats surrounded by terraced mountains
Monterosso by Mrs. Wanderer

We trained our way into Cinque Terre (which literally translates to “five earths”, meaning five towns) and were immediately struck by the beauty of the water. It was a rich sapphire blue, sparkling just like a gemstone. Much to my surprise, the cities did look like their photos with each having their own vibe. Monterosso had sandy beaches, which we lounged lazily in; meanwhile, Riomaggiore, had large rocks you can jump from into the inviting ocean. Our was made even more special by our guests. We were able to connect with our favorite newlyweds, crashing their honeymoon for dinner – we hope they do not mind too much. The only experience in Cinque Terre we did not attempt, was the hiking trails. It was much too hot for that, and the refreshing water was all too enticing instead.

Orange and Green striped umbrellas on the beach
Monterosso Umbrellas by Mrs. Wanderer

After Genoa and Cinque Terre, we hopped back on the train and rode north to Turin for our last stop here in Italy. This was the quaintest of all the major cities we have visited in this nation. Nothing was busy, and all the people moved along at a relaxed pace. It was an absolute delight to just stroll around, dipping into a church or café along the way, and indulging in some bicerin.

White arched bridge with a gondola passing under it
Rialto Bridge by Mr. Wanderer

That concludes our Italian adventures for this leg of the trip. We adored getting to take in so much of the northern country (and the countryside on our train rides), but our hearts warmed even more getting to share it with family. We loved showing off our travel lifestyle (it is an adventure, not a vacation) and filling our days with lots of laughter, a few inefficient walking paths, and even some late-night trivia. We loved it so much in fact that we met right back up at our next destination. A country who ruled the largest empire in the world. Any guesses on where we are off to next?

Tip of a gondola with a Venetian flag flying
Gondola Ride by Mrs. Wanderer