The first thoughts that come to mind, when you hear the word Italy, are of cobblestone streets, lip-smacking food, art and architecture, and that is exactly what we got to explore, discovering many surprises that the country has to offer.
We landed in Catania, and travelled further, reaching Taormina in around an hour, whilst enjoying the picturesque beauty of the Sicilian countryside. Taormina is perched on the side of a mountain, and is surrounded by crystal clear blue waters. The town is steeped in history and we could not wait to explore it all the next day. As our hotel was right beside the famous ancient greek amphitheatre, called Teatro Antico di Taormina, we decided to visit it first before checking in our hotel. We had set the second day aside to visit Mount Etna, which is one of the world’s most active volcanoes; making its surrounding soil very fertile for agriculture, vineyards and orchards that are spread across the slopes of the mountain. This prompted us to take a wine tasting call in the Pietra Dolce, to try their exquisite wines from the region.
The third day took us to Matera, which is the European Capital of Culture, and is perhaps the world’s third-oldest continuously inhabited city. The natural caves made out of the tufa limestone exhibit a surreal atmosphere, which makes one wonder how people lived there about 7000 years back, when the first inhabitants settled in Matera. We stayed in such cave dwellings for two nights. They were extremely well-preserved, and our balcony provided a spectacular view of the Church of Madonna Di Idris and we spent that evening looking at the beautiful sunset, as the city was gradually illuminated with twinkling lights, and the stars above glistening in harmony. Another highlight of Matera was the La Talpa restuarant were we had our dinner on the third day. The place offered beautiful ambience and delectable food to make it worth mentioning. The next day we explored the city’s rich heritage, including the old town that is actually split into two sections-the Sasso Barisano and the Sasso Caveoso, that are separated by a ridge upon which the Duomo di Matera sits. We started early the next morning as Florence was around a 7 hour drive. Time flew by as our eyes were fixed on the window pane enjoying the stunning Italian landscape.
On our way to Verona, we had a one night stay in Florence, on a hilltop just outside the city. Even though we did not have the chance to visit the city properly we saw its skyline from our villa, which was that of an enchanting city sitting on the banks of Arno river. The highest rising and most noteworthy structure was the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly known as Florence Cathedral. Being the cradle of the Renaissance and fine architecture, this place surely deserves another visit. It’s worth mentioning that the Tuscan cuisine, which we relished, was so different from the Italian food we have had elsewhere, mostly due to the fresh ingredients and unique local flavours.
Our next stop was Verona, which is the holy grail for lovers and literature admirers, for it is the setting for William Shakespeare’s tragic play, Romeo and Juliet. We visited Juliet’s house where the notorious balcony still exists, and paid homage to Juliet’s bronze statue. The house was well kept, with little furnishings. Besides this, Verona has a lot to offer, like the 1st-century amphitheatre where the city’s annual summer opera festival is held, countless churches, and the fascinating bridges sprinkled over the Adige river, which exudes an irresistibly romantic aura.
Last but not the least, we reached our final destination, Milan, which is Italy’s city of the future and a fast-paced metropolis that has gained fame in recent times, due to the Milan Fashion Week. On arrival, the first thing that we noticed was the impeccable way in which everyone was dressed, and the long list of designer boutiques and showrooms around the Piazza del Duomo. However, our most cherished moment was experiencing the architectural wonder of the Duomo di Milano, which is the largest church in Italy, and the fifth largest in the world. Dedicated to the Nativity of St Mary, it took nearly six centuries to complete this massive structure. There is so much beauty to behold that the eyes can’t encapsulate each element at one glance. Both the interiors and the exteriors were equally breathtaking, and we took an audio guide to learn about the history of the church.
With this our seven day adventure came to an end, leaving us with a heart full of memories, of Italian beauty, serenity and warmth. We decided that we would definitely come back again, to explore the cities which were left unexplored.