I wonder now why took me so long to go to Italy. Maybe, as I am often a solo traveler, the fear of a language that I barely spoke, and the comfort of going to countries where I lived and feel at home. Well, no more. This trip to Italy definitely will not be the first and last. I am already planning to go there in September 2018.
I had “only” 10 days. Only on one side as Italy is a world to be discovered, but I was surprised on how much I could see in just 10 days. Quality seeing not just ticking check boxes. Public transports in Italy helped tremendously. I mean, living in a country where public transport resumes to vans packed with people, and although in my home country and Brasil PT is good, Italy takes it to another level. The trains are a huge aid in traveling across Italy. But now, let us start from the beginning:
I started planning months before my holidays. I love surfing the internet, finding the places I want to go, accommodation, flights, and as much as possible booking ahead. You cannot imagine how booking months ahead can cut on costs. Its just brilliant.
I started with lots of places, because, let us be honest, it is difficult to choose 3 or 4 places from an infinity of places in a country such as Italy.
I had two cities that were definitely on the final list: Florence and Rome. Venice was added out of my so well known stubbornness, in spite of most people advising me not to go there – I never regretted, and you will see why on my posts about Venice.
When booking my flight with my miles, I discovered that there was no direct flight to Florence operated by TAP. Venice was an option but I had already defined my itinerary and did not want to change it. I planned for a round trip, that was the best option I could do, and chose Bologne as the entrance point, as it was closer to Florence. I bought a ticket on Business, for 20k of miles and 150 euros. Did I need to go on Business? No, but I decided to pamper myself after such a busy, stressful and sad year.
My final itinerary was all set:
- 16th September flying Lisbon – Bologne (2h55)
- 16th September – Bologne – Florence by train
- 19th September Florence – Venice by train
- 20th September Venice – Florence by train
- 21st September Tuscany Tour (Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni)
- 22nd September Florence – Rome by train
- 26th September flying Rome-Lisbon
Day 1. Flying to Bologne & Bologne Part 1
I booked and paid my flight online and checked in online also. Luckily I travelled with a cabin size bag and an extra fold-able bag, also cabin size (on business its allowed to take 2 bags on a total of 16kgs), because when I got to the airport the cue to drop the checked luggage was ENORMOUS, I mean, if I had luggage to drop off I had surely lost my flight. So, light, smiling and feeling like a teenage on her first flight, there I went straight to customs (I have an Europen citizenship, so the visa cues are all skipped using our citizen card), and from there to the TAP plane. The flight took off on time (yayyyyy) and soon as would be flying over Spain, the Mediterranean and landing in Bologne. I must tell you that the view was the most beautiful I have ever seen (well apart from when landing at Santos Dumond airport in Rio). Its a diversity of landscapes, and when you reach the Mediterranean sea its just incredible. The blue of the sea and the contrast with the coast, the speed boats crossing the sea leaving white and long trails, the islands, the intricacy of the coast, all made this flight one of the most pleasurable flights I have ever had. If you go there, do not sleep, please, enjoy all that beauty literally at your feet.
As I was landing in Bologne, I thought “why not reserve a couple of hours to take a look?”. And I did, 3 hours. ONLY 3 hours, how STUPID of me. Bologne deserves so much more, its truly a beautiful city.
We landed and I had bought the ticket to the Aerobus in advance. It takes you from the airport straight to the railway station (central station) stopping along the way, and it costs 6 euros. The first trip from the airport is at 5:30 am, and the last trip is at 12:15 am. The first trip from the railway station is at 5:00 am, and the last trip is at 11:35 pm. From 7:00 am to 9:30 pm a bus runs between the airport and the railway station every 11 minutes.
Tickets can be purchased directly on their website, from automatic vending machines at the airport, and at the Central Railway Station. I bought mine online and it was very convenient. A ticket is valid for a single trip from/to the airport, and must be validated upon boarding.
The ticket has a 75min validity (once validated) and an also be used on all public transport in the Bologna urban area within those 75 minutes . You have to validate it at each time you board.
The last stop before the station is the historical center, but as we (I went with a friend, she stayed 5 days and then returned) had luggage, we did prefer to go straight to the station and find if there was a luggage deposit so we could move around. And they had. It runs 7/7 from 07.00 – 21.00 and the prices are 6,00€ for the first 5 hours, 0,90 € /hour from 6th to 12th hour, and 0,40 € /hour from the 13th hour on.
Bologna has an interesting history, that can be traced back to the 6th century when it was known as Felsina (Etruscs named it). It was renamed to Bononia 200 years later when Gaul tribes took control.
It eventually gained independence and became the home of one of Europe most respectful and oldest universities – the University of Bologna, founded in 1088. Bologna was under the Pope’s control for 200 years (from the 1500’s) until it became part of Italy in 1860. Fortunately, the historic part Bologne survived WW2 intact and its today one of the most visited and preserved attractions.
From the railway station to the historical center its a short time walking, about 15 min (if you do not stop as we did at every nice building, fountain, etc), so of we went.
One of the first things we came across after walking 3 to 4 minutes was Porta Galliera, in Piazza XX Septtembre. The porta or gate traces back from the 13th century and was reconstructed over time. It was one of the gates what was then the medieval walls of Bologne.
In front of Porta Galliera its Parco Montagnola, the 1st public garden in Bologna. It was created on the ruins of Porta Galliera castle in 1662. The impressive entrance staircase Pincio di Bologna, was built in 1896 and at it’s base there is a fountain sculpted by Diego Veronesi. On that day the crowd on the stairs was quite intimidating and we decided not to see the garden and just cross it towards Via dell Indipendenza.