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Thursday 29 December 2016

The Honeymoon Series [vi] - Venice and Milan, Italy

After completing the tours to beautiful Tuscany region in Honeymoon Series Part 5 (click here), we readily moved on to Venice and Milan, two of the most beautiful cities in Italy. The weather in November was starting to get chilly, especially with the constant rain.

A unique water taxi ride took us to Venice's Islands, where the city centre and St. Mark's Square awaited us. Needless to mention, when one thinks of Venice, one thinks immediately of the bloated canal with its romantic gondola boat rides.

San Marco 1, 30123, Venezia, Italy
Website: http://palazzoducale.visitmuve.it/en/home/
Opening hours: 8.30am to 5.00pm

It was one of the gothic Venetian palaces that commenced building since the year 1340, used to be the residence for the Doge of Venice, a supreme high authority. Today it is a museum exhibiting secret itineraries tours, The Doge's hidden treasures, and educational services, etc. Ticket prices are 19 euros each.

Piazza San Marco, 30124, Venezia, Italy
Website: http://torreorologio.visitmuve.it/en/home
Opening hours: 10.00am to 4.00pm

An early renaissance building dating back to the 15th century, is a symbol of importance, history and practicality in St. Mark's Square itself. It is an extraordinarily elaborate timepiece displaying the time of the day, the dominant sign of Zodiac and current moon phase. Today it also houses a museum where one could see the clockface(s) up close and the clock's mechanism. Ticket prices are at 12 euros.

San Marco 328, 30100, Venezia, Italy
Website: http://www.basilicasanmarco.it
Opening hours: 9.30am to 5.30pm

The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark, this is one of the city's most famous churches and a classic example of an Italo-Byzantine architecture. It was also once known as the "Church of Gold" (Chiesa d'Oro) for its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, with its opulent design and gold ground mosaics. Visitors to the basilica must observe strict dressing in this sacred place of worship, and no photography is allowed within. Entrance fees are at 5 euros.

Tickets on sale by the shores of Venice. Gondola looks like a canoe; it is the traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat. For centuries it was the chief means of transportation and most common watercraft in Venice. Rides cost around 80 euros for 40 minutes, for up to 6 passengers; after 7.00pm the base rates increase to 100 euros.

For a tour, the gondolas would traverse the canals where passengers would pass through many bridges - 2 of the most famous being the Rialto Bridge (oldest bridge in canal) and the Bridge of Sighs (made of limestone and has windows with stone bars). The latter was romanticized but the original name had its legend about hearing sighs of the condemned as they were being led to prisons - this bridge houses 2 overlapping corridors and was used as a bridge to transport prisoners.

Piazza Castello, 20121, Milano, Italy
Website: https://www.milanocastello.it/en
Opening hours: 9.00am to 5.30pm

A castle built in the 15th century, once housing the noble family, this magnificent building now houses 12 mini museums within, ranging from Palaeolithic history to 1950s furniture. Ticket prices start at 5 euros.

Via Carlo Maria Martini 1, 20122, Milano, Italy
Website: http://www.duomomilano.it/en
Opening hours: 9.00am to 7.00pm

The third largest church in Christendom, this stunning building was built of brick and later upgraded to marble. A staggering 3,500 statues adorn the cathedral's exterior and there are 52 pillars within the interior. Ticket price for visits to the cathedral and museum is at 6 euros; whereas visits to the terrace range between 4.5 euros to 13 euros.

Via Filodrammatici 2, 20121, Milano, Italy
Website: http://www.teatroallascala.org/en/index.html

Most of Italy's greatest operatic artists, and many of the finest singers from around the world, have appeared at La Scala during the past 200 years. The theatre is regarded as one of the leading opera and ballet theatres in the world and is home to the La Scala Theatre Chorus, La Scala Theatre Ballet and La Scala Theatre Orchestra.

St. Mark's Square at Venice houses many branded boutiques for shopping. However, Milan would be the shopper's paradise and fashionable city. The shopping scene is hot in Milan.

From Quadrilatero d’Oro, Milan’s golden shopping rectangle - made up of four streets of pure fashion, the Quadrilatero d’Oro is every shopaholic’s dream. Head to the Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni or Via Sant’Andrea for the best of haute couture, with famous names including Armani, Prada, Versace and Roberto Cavalli.

There are also main departmental stores hidden in the shadow of the Duomo, as well as Galleria Vittorio Emanuele (termed the world's oldest shopping mall). The main "high street" shopping is at Corso Buenos Aires if you are not looking for high fashion. Finally, Milan is surrounded by belts of outlets and factory stores - so take your pick of where to splurge and shop till you drop.

Other than hotel's breakfast and snacks along the long bus rides, we had 2 meals for the day. One was lunch at a gorgeous Italian restaurant recommended by the guide; the other was McDonald's (no photos, sorry) in Milan due to time constraint and the rain. Admittedly I enjoyed the cheeseburgers there and it was refreshing being able to pair with Beer as part of their set meals. Price point was similar to Singapore's.

Calle de la Rasse, 4538, 30122, Venezia, Italy
Website: https://www.facebook.com/lanuovagrotta1876

As photos above, the decor is beautiful - heavily leaning on maroon and white tones, with exquisite art pieces and chandeliers dropping from the ceiling. Service was pretty all right, and food was not bad (not mind-blowing). We had a very palatable clear Seafood Broth, followed by Black Squid Ink Pasta (my pasta lacked murky taste of squid ink, but there was a tarty tomato taste to it - I believe they didn't clean the pan after cooking a tomato-based pasta), and loved the Tiramisu. We spent around SGD$60 each on lunch here.

We were supposed to stay on the waters in Venice, Italy (Hilton) but unfortunately due to a change in schedule, that plan was scraped. Instead, we stayed a night in Milan itself.

Via G. Mazzini 63, Somma Lombardo, 21019, Milano, Italy
Website: http://hiltongardeninn3.hilton.com/en/hotels/italy/hilton-garden-inn-milan-malpensa-MXPSLGI/index.html

A quiet, low-rise hotel of un-remarkable design and located near the Milan Malpensa International Airport, this hotel is rather comfortable and has the basic facilities such as fitness centres, restaurants and Wi-fi. The rate is about just 90 euros a night with breakfast.

Photosource: https://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Hotel_Review-g187870-d613798-Reviews-Hilton_Molino_Stucky_Venice_Hotel-Venice_Veneto.html

Guidecca, 810, Venice, 30133, Italy
Website: http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/italy/hilton-molino-stucky-venice-VCEHIHI/index.html

The original hotel we were booked for in Venice, overlooking the beautiful canal and boosting of a large sparkling pool itself. The rates for bed and breakfast are 359 euros per night.

Therein concludes our Italy tour. Lookout for Part 7 of The Honeymoon Series, where we venture into France.

For backtracks:
(i) Honeymoon Series part 1 - selecting the destinations (click here)
(ii) Honeymoon Series part 2 - researching and booking (click here)
(iii) Honeymoon Series part 3 - preparing for the trip (click here)
(iv) Honeymoon Series part 4 - Rome, Italy (click here)
(v) Honeymoon Series part 5 - Siena, Florence & Pisa, Italy (click here)

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