My company has sent me on a business trip to Milano. While I haven’t taken any time off for traveling like I did last time I came here for business, I’ve spent what little free time I have exploring as much as I can of northern Italy.
Last time I was in Milano I crossed the main tourist spots off the list. This time I was here with a different colleague so I ended up revisiting a few of them, and adding a few others.
The Milan cathedral, or Duomo as it is known in Italian, is of course impressive but if you’ve seen it once you don’t really have to see it again.
You might perhaps say the same thing about the big luxury shopping mall Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, but there is something about that domed glass roof that really speaks to me in a way that the cathedral doesn’t. I guess it has something to do with the fact that I’ve seen plenty of spectacular churches but very few such glass domes.
Having checked off the two major tourist attractions in Milan my colleague and I went to the Sempione park with the Sforzesco castle. The castle is quite beautiful but except for a few places where the walls have started crumbling, it’s too whole to fit my craving for ruins. That being said, I do like the walls, but then again I tend to like all castle walls. The park is nice enough but in the end it’s just a park.
Since Italy is relatively close to Sweden, at least compared with Taiwan, my parents took the opportunity to come down for a few days and see me. For the weekend we decided to make a round of the Garda Lake. We traveled light, only some small backpacks with a few things each, and used a combination of train, bus and boat to get around, stopping in a number of towns along the way.
Our first stop was Peschiera del Garda, a small town on the lakes southeast shore. We had to rush through to catch our boat so we didn’t get to see much but what little I saw looked nice.
We took the boat from Peschiera to Garda, stopping by Lazise, Cisano and Bardolino along the way. It was an oldish boat and we could sit on deck under an awning and look out over the lake and take in the fresh air all through the journey. It takes a bit more time than the bus but it’s a really nice way to get around and also see a lot along the way.
In Garda we stayed for a little while to stroll around a bit in the lazy streets and of course have some gelato. The town is really rather dead, just some retired people having their coffee or their meals down by the lake.
From Garda we took a bus up to Malcesine near the northern end of the lake. The road follows the lakeside closely and we saw many picturesque little villages along the way. Since we didn’t stop I didn’t snap any photos (the view through a dirty bus window isn’t that good either) but I’m sure they could he worth visiting if you have the time. Riding a motorcycle along these roads seems very popular and I can see why, the views are great and parking is so much easier than with a car.
In Malcesine we strolled around a bit, looking at the narrow streets and the lake views. The town is very nice and much livelier than Garda. We just about had time for dinner but I wish I could have had an hour or two more to explore the town.
After dinner we left Malcesine and headed up to a town called Riva del Garda in the very north end of the lake. By the time we got there it was already fairly late in the evening so we just checked in to the hotel and called it a day. The next morning we went up to a famous cave called Parco Grotta Cascata Varone which is famous for having a waterfall inside a cave. In reality it isn’t actually a cave but rather a very narrow crevasse with a stream flowing in from above, forming a big, thundering waterfall. It’s really quite spectacular to see such a large fall inside what is essentially a cave (the gorge is so narrow you can’t really see the sky anyway).
Due to a mix up with the bus schedule we didn’t get to see much of Riva del Garda after visiting the cave waterfall, but it seems like a nice enough place. After a quick lunch in the bus station cafe we took off down to our next destination at Gardone Riviera. From the bus we got some nice views of the lake and the picturesque little towns we passed through. Just like the day before I didn’t bother to take any photos through the bus window but if we had more time I would have liked to stop by here and there.
Gardone Riviera is known for s place called Vittoriale degli Italiani, the old mansion that used to be the home of the famous poet and military commander Gabriele D’annunzio. He was a very eccentric man with lots of money who did plenty wild things in his life, among them flying over Vienna to drop propaganda leaflets over the city; and commanding a part of the army to take over a city in Croatia and form his own republic. I won’t write too much about him here but you should definitely take a look at his wikipedia page. He built this big mansion in Gardone Riviera and collected a bunch of stuff from his life, both inside the building and in the grounds. This includes the plane from his flight over Vienna, a torpedo boat he used to attack the Austrians in World War 1 and the entire front of a battleship. We spent a good two hours walking around and just looking at all the stuff. It’s easy to see that the man was eccentric, what with the giant mausoleum and the Royal Italian Navy cruiser Puglia where it sits perched on a hill overlooking the lake. After all the picturesque little towns it feels fresh to see something bombastic like this. I think the place is really worth a visit. Reviews say you should join the tour inside the main building but we didn’t have time so we had to skip it, but if you have time to spare why not join.
Having seen pretty much everything at the Vittoriale degli Italiani, except for the inside of the mansion, we made our way down to the harbor and the boat back to Peschiera del Garda. Due to train schedules we had to take the fast boat which means there’s no deck to sit on. That’s a pity because we passed by the very narrow peninsula Sirmione which would have been interesting to visit but now we were limited to seeing it through the dirty boat windows.
We landed at Peschiera around seven in the evening and had some nice dinner at a restaurant in s small alley before catching our train back to Milano.
I had a very nice weekend traveling around Garda lake and it was nice to meet my parents for a few days.
I did have one more weekend in Italy that I could’ve spent exploring some other parts (maybe another of the big lakes) but I came down with an infection and had to stay cooped up in hospital. Because of that I can’t tell you much more about northern Italy. While the country is most famous for Rome, Florence, Venice and so on I do think that there are things to see up north as well. Milano, in my opinion, is mainly for people who are interested in fashion (as you can probably tell from my photos, I’m not). Lake Garda however is worth spending some time at and I’m sure the same goes for the other big lakes up here.