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Italy round 4 - Pisa/CT/Parma/Bologna/Milan

Italy round 4 - Pisa/CT/Parma/Bologna/Milan

Old Jun 4th, 2017, 01:13 PM
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Day 8 Addendum. As I was going through my photos, I realize I forgot to mention we stopped in Camera Di San Paolo in Parma, a couple of rooms with amazing frescoes ceilings.
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Old Jun 5th, 2017, 08:51 AM
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Day 9, Friday

Our B&B breakfast was at a cafe around the corner consisting of coffee (whatever kind you want) and a croissant (or pastry of choice). After breakfast we did some exploring of areas we figured would not be included in our walking tour later that day (at 4:45). We first headed to the canal. Filippe had mentioned it, and I thought it would be interesting to see. I never thought of Bologna having canals, like Venice. The canal can be seen at Via Piella, 16. There’s a little door there you can open and take a peek, also across the street it is open. For a moment it felt like Venice. From there we walked to the Jewish Ghetto area. There are Hamsa plaques on the buildings in the area with map pointing out the streets and landmarks of the ghetto. There is a museum there as well, but we didn’t go to it.

From there we walked towards the area where the university is along via Zamboni. It’s quite lively with students, and we peaked into some of the courtyards along the way. In that area, I noticed on my little tourist map, Palazzo Magnani pointed out saying it had some incredible frescoes and other artwork. We find the address, and see banners hanging outside so I walked in. There was no place to purchase a ticket, no signage indicating it's open to public, so I was unsure if this was the correct place. A receptionist was sitting there so I asked her. She makes a phone call, talking a few minutes in Italian, then a gentleman shows up to take as around. As it turns out, the building is now owned by a bank! This man takes us into the various rooms, he doesn’t say much, so we looked around, not sure if we were taking up too much of his time, or on the other hand, not enough, leaving him with the impression we didn’t appreciate what we were looking at. It was like walking through a museum. I’m not an art historian, or even close for that matter, but beautiful art work, is hard to take your eyes off of, and the rooms he was showing us were pretty incredible, especially when you have them all to yourself. After we looked around, he told us to wait a minute and he walked away. He comes back with a huge, hard cover coffee table type book, in English, describing all the art, and he just gave it to us. No cost, not even any admission fee, nothing. We were flabbergasted. Not only seeing the place was such a treat, but we were given a lovely gift as well. Needless to say it was quite heavy and we had to carry around a bit, but it was worth the inconvenience!

We continued our walk, and somehow got a bit off course, but turned ourselves around to find our way back towards the B&B to have lunch and drop off the book. On our way back we found a little print shop where we picked up a few prints of Bologna to take home for ourself and give as gifts.

We had lunch at Rosarose Bistrot on Via Clavature which was very good. Most lunches we would share a salad and pasta. This place also offered a prix fixe lunch and brunch special that consisted of several dishes. After lunch, took a little break at the B&B (and our great little terrace), before meeting up with the tour group.

Our tour: was decent, but I thought the guide’s English, given it was the English tour, could have been better. She could have also given more history as we walked around. I got the feeling she may have been a relatively new guide.

That night we had dinner at Ristorante Vicolo Colombina. It had good google reviews and we wanted to eat in the general area near our B&B, but on a quiet street away from the main piazzas and streets. Its menu is a modern take on classics, like deconstructed eggplant parm (which I had, and would have preferred constructed). I appreciate the creativity, but didn’t necessarily think the modern take improved or enhanced the dish. It was also a bit pricier than many of the area restaurants, and portions smaller. It was good, but, to me, the google reviews were inflated. Maybe it was just what we ordered, but we were not blown away. On the other hand, if you want something traditional but with a twist, this may be a good place for that.
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Old Jun 5th, 2017, 11:04 AM
Join Date: Jun 2016
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I've eaten at Vicolo Columbina and agree with you there are more satisfying places to eat in Bologna. Rosarose Bistrot is a cheerful spot that forever seems to be changing management, but whoever owns it seems to stick to the same formula of offering fresh affordable lunches for people on the go. In summertime they have tables outside which of course is nice. Dare I hope I get a book if I go to Palazzo Magnani? (I won't expect it.) And thanks for the tip on Camera di San Paolo if I ever get back to Parma.
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Old Jun 6th, 2017, 07:22 AM
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Day 10, Saturday

Today’s plan was to take a day trip to Ravenna by train. On weekends, the central stretch of Via Independenza and Rizzoli are pedestrian only, so we decided to take a leisurely stroll to the train station with a brief detour through Montagnola Park. It seemed like everyone was out and about. We walked up Independenza. I noticed some vendors on a perpendicular street, and on the left side it seemed liked arts and crafts, so I had to stop to check it out. The other side appeared to have mostly cloths and shoes.

There were maybe 15 vendors, with some very nice handmade items (pottery, jewelry, wovens) at very reasonable prices. At this point I hadn’t bought much other than a few prints, and still needed gifts for my kids. I also like to purchase some useful decorative item for home, and a little something for myself (usually earrings). The pieces always bring back fond memories. Anyway, I did buy a few things, probably could have bought more, but I didn’t want to spend too much time there, and I know my husband gets a bit antsy when I shop. We also didn’t want to be carrying too much with us (didn’t want to backtrack to b&b to drop things off).

On Saturdays, most trains are local. The ride is about 1hr 20 min. An express is much faster but none were available. The ticket was 7.35E each way for 2nd class. By the time we arrived in Ravenna we were ready for lunch. We had a very nice lunch at a restaurant in the main square, as you walk from the train station, Piazza del Popolo. From there we headed towards Basilica di San Vitale. We stopped at a ticket off nearby and bought the combo ticket for 4 of the major sights (9.50E) plus an extra 2E for Mausoleo di Galla Placidia. They provide a map. We followed the map, and visited all included sights (Basilica di San Vitale, Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, Basilica di Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo, Battistero Neoniano, and Museo Arcivescovile). Near each sight is a ticket/info office. We also made a quick stop at Dante’s tomb (no ticket necessary). That was pretty much all that can be done in a day. The town is very cute. Being in the afternoon, many shops were closed for riposo, so no shopping, although there was a small market set up as we walked from the train station towards Piazza Popolo. This is a worthwhile day trip. The mosaics are incredible, especially at San Vitale.

We returned to Bologna, walked back from the train station, enjoying the pedestrian streets once again. We made note of a restaurant that looked cute, in a quiet side street, Via Goito, called Banco Del Vino. Reviews looked good, and we wanted casual, so we gave it a try. It was excellent! We share pizza and a salad, even had dessert (we typically would make gelato stops after dinner, and skip restaurant desserts)
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Old Jun 7th, 2017, 10:02 AM
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Day 11, Sunday

We had called Filippe Saturday to arrange for a taxi to take us to the train station this morning. The main streets are also closed Sunday, so he arranged for a car service to pick us up, a block away on a side street. We’re glad we made this arrangement, because it hadn’t occurred to us that with the main streets nearby closed, taxi stands are useless.

This morning the café (Cocao) where we get our breakfast through the b&b, had a delayed opening because of some kind of mechanical issue, so we ended up getting breakfast at a café across from it. We then met up with the car service. We had no idea what the service would charge, but it was only 14E. I’m sure a taxi would have been a bit less, but that wasn’t practical.

I had purchased the train tickets to Milan in advance. We had booked an afternoon tour there so wanted to make sure we arrived with plenty of time to meet up with the tour. Ticket were about 25E each for an express train. The train ride took about an hour and was very pleasant, we even got a ‘goodie’ bag with snacks, water and free coffee.

We arrived in Milan and intended to take a taxi to our hotel. We walked to the taxi stand, and then were told they can’t take us. Apparently there was a huge bike race with the finish line at Piazza Duomo. Our hotel, Gran Duca di York, was couple of blocks from there. We were told to take the metro. So we did, and while talking to another rider, we found out the the stop nearest to our hotel (at the Piazza) was also closed! So we got off 1 stopped further, and had to walk about 10 blocks with our bags. At that point we just wanted to dump our stuff and get lunch!

Fortunately our room was ready for early checkin. It’s a very nice hotel on a quiet street. We unloaded our things in the room, and went out to grab some lunch before the tour.

The tour was meeting in front of a store in one of the arcades bordering Piazza Duomo. As we approached the area, the crowds were massive. There were also all kinds of concession stands set up. You could hardly walk. The race was the Giro d'Italia, and apparently a big deal!

We worked our way to the meeting area. The tour was, which included a general city walking tour and the Last Supper viewing. The tour started with the Duomo, where we had “skip the line” privileges, but even at that, with all the commotion in the area, there was a bit of a wait. The Duomo is magnificent inside and out. I was looking forward to seeing it without the mob scene at the Piazza. From there our guide was planning on walking us through the Galleria, but that wasn’t meant to happen, as the finish line was in our path, so we had to walk around. Once out of that area, it was fine. Not only was the guide informative as far as the areas she walked us through, but she offered advice on things to do in our free time. She told us about the canals, which I had no idea existed there, and also to check out out some of the inner courtyards in a particular area.

The tour included a ‘pit’ stop, for a quick snack and/or refreshment, and concluded at the Last Supper which is a timed entrée. We had to step up the pace as we neared Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, to make sure we didn’t miss our designated time. The beginning of the tour was slowed down by all the activity at Piazza Duomo, so we were running a bit late, but it all worked out fine. After the tour concluded, we walked back to our hotel.

The Brera district was the recommended area to have dinner, so after returning to the hotel and freshening up, we headed to that area. Based on reviews, I booked Convivium. It was a Sunday and I had noticed several places are closed, so figured it would be safe to book something that was available (and had online booking!). Convivium is a trendy type place. Very pleasant. Food good, but in all honesty, could have been more flavorful. It just seemed to be missing seasoning. In any case we did enjoy our meal, and saw dozens of other restaurants as we walked through the neighborhood. Also many nice looking small shops in that area (which were closed, being Sunday night).

When we walked back, things had quieted down finally at the Piazza, and were able to walk through he Galleria and get a good look at the Duomo (which is hard to take your eyes off of, so intricate and beautiful).
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Old Jun 7th, 2017, 11:31 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
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More "Wonderfuls" to you, MFNYC. I don't remember if we were in Bologna on a Sunday but don't recall streets being closed. We also enjoyed Ravenna and thought it brighter--because of no covered walks I suppose. Glad you made it for your tour despite the various obstacles you had to overcome.
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Old Jun 8th, 2017, 09:53 AM
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Day 12, Monday

Sadly our last full day, so some time to wander about Milan. Breakfast at the hotel was very good. Decent assortment, including scrambled and hard boiled eggs, meats, cheese, fruit, yogurt, cereals, breads, pastries, juice and of course coffee (however you like).

I googled around to see if there’s a decent market to visit on a Monday, and found Mercato di Via San Marco, and as it turned out it was in the general area we wanted to explore. On the way there, we once again detoured through Piazza Duomo and the Galleria (these sights never get tired). The market was exactly as I hoped. It had a mix of everything from fresh produce and fish, to kitchen gear, cloths and shoes. I didn’t have any major shopping intention, but if the price was right, I wanted to pick up a couple of things. Some of the cloths and shoes were on the low end, but others seemed to be decent quality and value. The cloths vendors had makeshift dressing rooms. I did buy a couple of things (couldn't resist) at very reasonable prices.

From there we wandered over to Viale Vittorio Veneto area to check out courtyards. Our guide the day before, had suggested going to this area and peaking in some of the buildings for such courtyards. We then strolled to Parco Sempione (which we had gone to the day before with the guide) to sit and have a little rest (it was hot, about 90F that day). From there we took a metro to the Navigli area (canals) for lunch. Afterwards we walked along the canals. It was very peaceful there. There were some school groups rowing, cute galleries and many outdoor dining possibilities. Well worth the visit.

After lunch we headed back to out hotel to pack up, once again detouring through Piazza Duomo (at different times of the day, with different lighting, it’s a difference experience). We had the hotel arrange for car service the next morning for our airport (Malpensa) transfer, 95E all inclusive, so I believe pretty similar to what a taxi would cost. You can also take the Metro or bus, but we were pretty tired of schlepping luggage (we need to learn to travel lighter, we definitely took more than we needed).

For dinner we headed back to the Brera area. Ended up at Hosteria Della Musica. They offered a complimentary glass of Prosecco after being seated. We had a very nice meal there with cocktails (I miss my evening “spritz”). I really enjoy my tagliatelle with lamb and mint ragu. They then brought some complementary cookies with the check. It was a delightful meal.

At the table next to us was a couple that had also been on our tour the day before. They had gone to see Don Giovanni at La Scala the night before and said it was fabulous. They had purchased their tickets well in advance. Worth looking into, if you’re an opera buff. We saw the outside of the theater on our tour, I’m sure the inside is amazing. There are “behind the scenes” tours, but I believe they need to be arranged in advance as well.

Walked back to the hotel, and took one last look at the Duomo. The Piazza is lively in the evening with street performers, and lots of people just hanging out and taking it all in.

Day 13, Tuesday

Had time for quick breakfast before pickup. Driver was quite the character. A thin women, but strong. Lifted our large, heavy suitcase like it weighed an ounce. She was a hoot, very chatty and a great driver. It was an entertaining drive. We took non stop home from Milan to JFK.
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Old Aug 18th, 2017, 06:18 PM
Join Date: Apr 2013
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How do I contact you re:Israel experience? Would love to hear about your trip & planning suggestions!
Thank you so much!
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