Art, Faith & Fashion Trip – Journey Begins

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This is a series of posts about my trip to the cities of Milan, Rome, Pisa and Paris.  It started with Milan. Here’s the story of how we got there 🙂 .

We were in Pori, Finland during summer of 2014. Since summer is the best time to be in Europe. We were planning a trip to some place in Southern /Central Europe. This trip got within the budget only because we were able to plan our trip around Ryanair and airBaltic flights. Although four days/ four nights for four cities is very less time but you try to make best of whatever opportunities come your way.

We took Ryanair Flight: FR4725 from Tampere to Bergamo, Milan. Bergamo airport is about 50 kms from Milan central station. There are several bus services from the airport which drop you to Milan central station (Stazione Centrale) for €5. It’s a different story that we had paid €6 online. Lesson learnt, buying online may not always be cheaper especially if you are in Italy. The bus took about an hour to reach central station. From there we had to go to our hostel (Scream Hostel, viale Monza 111, Milan, 20127, Italy, Telephone: 0039 0226828982, Email: ). The hostel is close to a Metro station named Rovereto. After asking for directions we took Metro Line2 (M2) towards the direction of Gessate / Cologno Nord and got down at Loreto. From Loreto we changed to Metro Line1 (M1) towards Sesto 1° Maggio F.S and got down at Rovereto. At Rovereto station a gentle old lady voluntarily gave us directions. She also taught where to look for house numbers. Also that numbers are even on one side of the street and odd on the opposite (a common practice in European cities). This information was very helpful, Grazie signora! Scream hostel is inside an old building which according to the owners housed Marshall Mussolini. To get into the building you have to press a number mentioned on the gate. Then the lady at reception will open the gate for you and direct you to reception. You can read my review here. After freshening up we went for dinner to an Indian restaurant named Aangan. You can read my review here. After dinner we retired for the night. It was bit hot and humid but being an Indian was able to bear it.

Scream Hostel entrance

Stay tuned to know what we did in Milan.

Art, Faith & Fashion Trip – Milan

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The second post in the series. Milan – the fashion capital of world.

Though the sky was overcast but it couldn’t dampen our spirits. Armed with maps and directions we set off towards our first stop for the day Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle). A castle built in 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remains of a 14th-century fortification. Later renovated and enlarged, in the 16th and 17th centuries it was one of the largest citadels in Europe. Largely remade by Luca Beltrami in 1891–1905, it now houses several of the city’s museums and art collections.

From ROVERETO metro station we took Line No M1 (towards RHO FIERA / BISCEGLIE) for 9 stops and got off at stop CAIROLI Castello. This metro station is right in front of the castle. Admission to the castle itself is free but there is an entry fee for the museums.

Street in front of Castle

Castle entrance

Gardens inside castle

Flower in garden

Castle wall from inside

Castle from the park

Lotus in the park

Some flowers from the park:


After strolling and clicking pictures around beautiful park/gardens we had light breakfast at snack stall in castle. Before heading to our next destination we shopped for souvenirs of Milan at a stall near the castle entrance.

We went back to CAIROLI Castello stop and took Line No M1 (towards RHO FIERA / BISCEGLIE) for 1 stop and got down at CADORNA. From there we changed to Line No M2 (towards ASSAGO FORUM/ ABBIATEGRASSO) for 1 stop and got off at stop S. AMBROGIO. From the metro station we walked to Sant’Ambrogio Church(an eleventh century church built on the site of a fourth century church). The church is really beautiful. A wedding was in progress when we reached there. We watched the proceedings for some time then we walked through beautiful streets of Milan towards our next destination.

Some pictures of Sant’Ambrogio Church:

Corridor of church

Inside Church

Church Courtyard

A Beautiful Balcony

One of the streets in Milan

Next destination San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore got into our itinerary mainly due to rave reviews at tripadvisor. In fact it is ranked #1 for attractions in Milan. Must say it was a wise decision due to its beautiful frescoes. Moreover there is no entry fee to see those magnificent paintings. Please read my review here.

A few pictures of frescoes inside the church:

After seeing some breathtaking frescoes we walked towards our next destination. On the way my friends shopped sunglasses at a store named Ottica Vigevano on Via Santa Maria Segreta, 6. I remained content with window shopping.

As we could not have proper breakfast in morning plus all that excitement and walking made us very hungry. We found one McDonalds right opposite Milan cathedral. Though had to struggle with a large crowd but ultimately found a cozy corner for a sumptuous American lunch.

After lunch we walked across to Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano). The largest in the Italian state territory and the fifth largest cathedral in the world and. A must see monument in Milan. Entry to the Cathedral itself is free albeit you need to dress appropriately (no bare shoulders, shorts etc.). The Duomo square was an awesome place with lots of people enjoying the warm summer sun and whiling away time clicking pictures of Duomo and its surroundings. Duomo square is flanked by Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II on one side. It’s one of the world’s oldest shopping malls. It was designed in 1861 and built by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877. Please do read my reviews for the Cathedral and Vittorio Emanuele II archade.

A few pictures from our collection!

Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano)

Inside the Cathedral

Crowded Duomo Square

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

After some more window shopping through the arcade we crossed to other side right in front of Piazza della scala which is opposite Teatro alla Scala (La Scala Theatre). It was around 3.30 pm and we had some time before we had to take a train to Rome. We sat on the benches in front of Leonardo Da Vinci’s statue tired and weary. My friends went out to explore the area but I stayed back. In the background a street musician couple were belting out melodious songs. It was a perfect setting for sitting silently and watching people from different parts of world with different languages, cultures and ethnicities going about their activities. In fact piazzas (squares) of Italy are considered best places for such people watching activities and spending time just doing nothing.

I want to re-live and share some of those magical moments through frames frozen in time.

Teatro alla Scala (La Scala Theatre)

Leonardo Da Vinci’s statue

A few roses from the garden beneath the feet of Leonardo’s statue.

After our tired legs regained some strength we headed towards Via Monte Napoleone. An exclusive shopping district home to some of the top names in fashion and design. Good place for window shopping. Walking around we reached Corso Vittorio Emanuele II which has more affordable stores. As evening was drawing close the place was getting crowded with lots of shoppers. The ambiance was perfect for spending the evening shopping but we had to catch a train so we headed towards Duomo metro station.

Corso Vittorio Emanuele II

Also on same street

From DUOMO we took Line No M3 towards COMASINA for 4 stops and got off at CENTRALE FS. From Milan central station we took 9553 FRECCIAROSSA to Rome. It was quite a thrilling experience to travel in a high speed train for first time in my life. The train reached speeds of 300 Kms/hr.

That was the end of an amazing trip to Milan. Given the time constraints we had to skip many places from our itinerary for the day. Actually to cover everything in Milan you need minimum two days. Before I finish here are some useful links.

Milan metro map:

Milan’s online journey planner using public transport (came in very handy):

Italy’s railway reservation site : &

For information on international trains from Italy:

Our Walking route map

Video of our visit to Milan, Italy on 28-Jun-14.

Art, Faith & Fashion Trip – Pisa

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This is the third post in the series. Pisa – the city with a legendary tower that leans.

We stayed at Camping Village Roma, Via Aurelia, 831, Rome, IT +39066623018 in Rome. It’s a very nice and cozy place bit far from the city center though. You can read my review here. You can learn more about the place here.

Our train for Pisa was from Roma Termini station at 9.57 AM. We had decided to leave hotel at 8.30 AM. To reach city center we had to take a bus for Cornelia station then from there take a metro for Roma Termini station. As luck would have had it we were late by couple of minutes and missed the bus. We were waiting for the next bus but as it was a Sunday the service was less frequent. The crowd at the bus stand was also building up. As minutes ticked we were getting worried. Since the camping village is in outskirts of the city it was difficult to get any other mode of transport.  It was already 9.15 and it seemed we would never make it to station in time. The whole day would be ruined.  One of my friends started racing up and down the bus stand. Just then I saw a taxi speeding by, without thinking anything else I hailed it. Luckily it was empty and the driver was more than willing to take us to the station. He told us that it would take about 30 minutes to reach station as traffic was comparatively less. We told him about our urgency. He was a nice man, took a few short cuts and dropped us at station within 20 minutes. We gave him some extra for his efforts. At that moment he was god sent for us as finding an empty taxi in Rome is very rare phenomenon. We rushed to the station and found the train to be waiting at the platform. We quickly grabbed some breakfast and settled down in our seats.

The train passes through some of the main cities in Tuscany region. This region has some of the most picturesque countryside in Italy. There were lush green hills on one side and the blue Mediterranean Sea on the other side. The sights out of the train window were a visual treat. We didn’t realize how quickly 3 hours went by. We reached Pisa by 1 pm. The leaning tower is walkable distance (about 2 kms) from the station. Though there are buses called RED LAM (LAM Rosso) which can be availed to reach the tower if you are in a hurry. We wanted to explore the city so we walked. While walking through the streets we did what most tourists do. Click pictures!! Below are a few pictures from that collection Smile Smile Smile.

Vittorio Emanuele II’s statute @ Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.

Street vendor @ Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.

A street of Pisa (Corso Italia).

While researching on the internet we learned about a superb Indian restaurant named ‘Namaste India Ristorante’. And the time was just right for lunch so we walked into the restaurant. You can read more about our experience in the restaurant here. Just have a look at the menu!

Thanks to Mr. Velupandian Devar (owner of Namsate India) for his suggestions and help. We enjoyed the food very much. Actually we packed our dinner too.

After sumptuous lunch we were feeling sleepy but the main attraction the leaning tower was yet to be visited. So we started walking again. We crossed the River Arno. Along the way we came across couple of souvenir shops owned by Bangladeshis. It was while talking to one them we learnt that Pisa has a sizeable number of Bangladeshi immigrants.

Below are images from our walk over the bridge named Ponte Di Mezzo on River Arno.

Buildings on both sides of bridge named Ponte di Mezzo across River Arno.

And finally we reached the iconic tower. I was quite thrilled to actually stand in front of the legendary tower. Again cameras started clicking frantically and frames started getting frozen in time as a proof that we were there at that moment. We strolled around the lawns and other buildings in the complex. Then we entered the tower which was pre-booked by us. It is better to pre-book the entry tickets to skip the long queues at the ticket office. Inside they gave a small presentation about the tower . Then we took 300 odd steps to reach the summit. The view of the city from top will make you forget about the fatigue and efforts taken to reach there. You can read more about the experience in my review here.

Let me share some of those frozen moments with you.

View of the city from the top of tower.

View of Cathedral and other buildings from the top of tower.

People trying the ‘trick’ photos with the monument.

Sculpture of the fallen angel.

It was time to return and we walked back to the station through the way we came. On the way back we picked up souvenirs and clicked few more pictures.

Ice-creams (Gelato)!!! Yummy!.

Lungarno Galileo Galilei on Bank of River Arno.

Lungarnos are the streets of the city that pass beside the river Arno. They are well known in Pisa for wonderful buildings that go along with the river bank until they reach the river outlet in Marina di Pisa.

Finally the Pisa central station (Stazione Pisa Centrale).

If you look carefully at the picture above, you will notice the clock at the station showing 5 minutes to 5pm and our train for Rome was at 5.17 pm. So we had reached just in time. As we were waiting for the train I couldn’t help notice signs on platforms saying “Please do not cross railway tracks”. They reminded me of similar signs in India. Maybe some things remain same across the world. We took the 9777 FRECCIABIANCA to Rome. We reached our hotel tired and weary and crashed into our beds dreaming about the excellent trip we had so far.

Before I finish here are a few helpful links.

How to get from Pisa central station to leaning tower of Pisa:

Route map for getting from Pisa central station to Namaste India restaurant:

To book tour and entry tickets to the leaning tower in advance:

Don’t go anywhere yet. Stay tuned for trip of Rome next.

Our Walking route map

Video from our trip to Pisa, Italy on 29-Jun-2014

Pisa from Dhiman on Vimeo.

Art, Faith & Fashion Trip – Rome

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This is the fourth post of the series. Rome – the city which has existed for more than two-and-a-half millennia.

We were to cover as much as possible in a single day. After the debacle of the previous day which almost jeopardized the whole day’s plan we were extra cautious and set out early for Vatican City. We took the shuttle operated by Camping Village Roma to Vatican City. We reached Vatican City museum entrance well in time. We had booked guided tour named “Vatican Museums and Saint Peter’s Basilica – Art & Faith (duration of the tour was 3 hours)”. Click here to know more about the tour also book tickets online. The tour follows an itinerary which includes: the Pio Clementino Museum (classical antiquity), Museo Chiaramonti, the Gallery of the Candelabras, the Gallery of the Tapestries and the Gallery of the Geographical Maps (Renaissance Art), the Raphael Rooms, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. For next three hours the guide fed us with a humungous amount of information. She sprinkled the tour with interesting anecdotes. Let me share those stories with you in form of images captured by us.

Our friendly tour guide setting expectation for the tour.

Bottom panel of Giotto di Bondone Stefaneschi Triptych

Painting by Raphael – Oddi Altarpiece

Painting by Raphael – Transfiguration

One of the beautiful tapestries from the hall of tapestries

Painting by Leonardo da Vinci – St. Jerome in Wilderness

Painting by Caravaggio titled Entombment

Photo of the Pine cone (Fontana della Pigna) at Vatican courtyard.

One of a pair of Lions of Nectanebo (Egyptian Lions)

On the way to Museo Pio Clementino

Apollo Belvedere


The famous Belvedere Torso

Head of Jupiter

The discus thrower

The Gallery of Maps

Map of Italy

The Holy Door @ St. Peter’s Basilica

This is the door that is only opened for holy years it’s called, appropriately, the Holy Door. They’re only opened in certain years “Jubilee years” and people who pass through them receive a plenary indulgence. We had entered the final phase of the tour that is we entered the St. Peter’s Basilica.

St. Peter’s Square from St. Peter’s Basilica entrance

Inside of St. Peter’s Basilica

Painting in stone inside St. Peter’s Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica from St. Peter’s Square

With the tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and Saint Peter’s Basilica – Art & Faith Tour came to an end. We thanked our guide and exited St. Peter’s Square after taking pictures of course. All that walking and no breakfast had made us very hungry and we had decided that this was our only chance to have Italian in Italy. Till then we were mostly sticking to Indian or American. After scouting for decent nearby places we zeroed in on to Guily’s Café. It looked like a nice little place which served usual Italian fare like pastas, pizzas, omelette, bruschette, salads etc. We ordered Pizza and taste was nothing to write about but we devoured it as we were really very hungry.

After filling our stomach we headed for our next destination the Colosseum. To reach Colosseum from Vatican we took metro from stop Ottaviano-S. Pietro we got into line A (ANAGNINA) for 6 stops and got off at Termini and from Termini we took line B (LAURENTINA) to 2 stops and got off at Coloseo stop.

We had already booked tickets for entry into Colosseum (Flavian Amphitheatre). I would recommend to book entry tickets beforehand to avoid long queues. You can click here to book entry tickets online. Pictures of Colosseum would be a better way to talk about the monument.

The Arena

The raked areas that once held seating

Panoramic view of Colosseum with view of hypogeum

Outside view of Colosseum

Arch of Constantine

The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch situated between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill.

A view of Palantine Hill from Colosseum

The plan was to see Colosseum, Palantine Hill and Roman Forum then walk to Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps but we were running out of time and there were many more places to cover before we could call it a day. We decided to skip Palantine Hill, Roman Forum and Spanish Steps. And cover Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain. The easiest way we found was to take the metro line B from Coloseo stop towards REBIBBIA for 2 stops got off at TERMINI and switched to metro line A towards BATITSTINI for 2 stops and got down at BARBERINI stop.

From BARBERINI station we walked to Trevi Fountain. But as luck would have had it was under renovation at that time. Please look for yourselves.

We were a bit disappointed but could not cry over it. We still had a number of places to cover before the day ended. We took the Trevi Fountain To Piazza Navona via The Pantheon walking route. The walk was basically through narrow alleys of cobbled stone streets following the directions for Pantheon.. As there was no traffic the walk was quite pleasant one.

The Pantheon and the Fontana del Pantheon was an amazing structure with fountain.

The Pantheon

The dome from inside

Interiors of Pantheon

From Pantheon we followed the directions and reached Piazza Navona. First we went inside the Sant’ Agnese in Agose, a church that faces the Piazza from west side. It’s a breath taking structure to which entry is free though photography is not allowed inside. I was quite tired by all the walking and running. Like Milan here too I found one nice bench and settled down there and did my favorite activity ‘people watching’. The Piazza was teeming with tourists from across the globe. Also there were many street artists selling their art, street performers doing their unique acts. As evening sun started setting we decided to grab a quick dinner and head towards our hotel. Below are few pictures from Piazza Navona.

Sant’Agnese in Agone

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers)

Restaurants & Market around Piazza Navona

A Street Theatre Artist @ Piazza Navona

Streets and Alleys of Rome

While walking back from Piazza Navona we strolled around the streets and ended up in front of the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II). It was a classic example of the belief that while travelling many times its things or places that are not in your itinerary give you most pleasure.

Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II)

As we were standing in front of Altare della Patria contemplating how did we miss this monument from our itinerary, an elderly couple from India asked us the directions to Trevi fountain. They were visibly dissappionted when we informed them that its closed for repairs. We suggested still they should visit the place once as they have come this far. After dinner at Mac Donalds we headed for Camping Village. Next day we had to take an early morning flight to Paris so while passing by a taxi stand next to BARBERINI metro stop we enquired with the taxi drivers and one of them gave us the number of a Radio Taxi operator. We called and booked ourselves a taxi for Ciampino Airport. A useful article which mentions how to take a taxi in Rome without getting ripped off.

Finally after having refreshing swim at the pool inside the Camping Village we crashed into ours beds cherishing the memories of amazing day that had just concluded.

As the saying goes Rome was not built in a day.  So naturally a day to see everything in Rome is also not enough. Like most of this trip we crammed as many places to see as we could into this one day we had at Rome. Though we had to skip some places but we ended up getting to see some place not in our original itinerary making the trip bit more memorable.

Our Walking route map in medieval town.

Rome Part 1 from Dhiman on Vimeo.

This is the first part of the video of our trip to Rome on 30-Jun-14. This part basically covers the Vatican Museums and Saint Peter’s Basilica – Art & Faith tour.

Rome Part 2 from Dhiman on Vimeo.

This is the second part of videos of our trip to Rome on 30-Jun-2014. It covers the Colosseum.

Rome Part 3 from Dhiman on Vimeo.

This is the third and final part of our trip to Rome, Italy on 30-Jun-14. This video covers Pantheon, Piazza Navona etc.

Some useful links:

Information & maps related Rome metro :

Information about what to do in Rome :

Rome tourism’s official ‘Not to be missed’ Itinerary: