Venice has more than once been ranked the most beautiful city in the world, commonly known as the “floating city”. We took a train from Milano to Venezia. The two and a half hour train ride felt like nothing when you can witness the beautiful landscapes of northern Italy from the train windows. I planned to sit alone at the back of the train to read one of my favorite books, The Secret. However, I was politely interrupted by a small group of Asian tourists who spoke neither English, nor Italian. They were fascinated with my fedora and red dress. They shared their Chinese candy with me and we became quite fond of each other, despite not sharing a common language. So much of our communication actually comes from body language, aura, and expressions. This is something I have learned throughout traveling, and the knowledge of reading a room without hearing or understanding the conversations will stay with me forever.
When we arrived in Venice at Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia, we walked out of the station, and were immediately swept up in the beauty of the city. Water is surrounding you, water taxis driving past, and flamboyant buildings with immaculate architecture line the view. It is quite overwhelming and you instantly will fall in love with this city, or in this city. Known to be one of the most popular spots for couples, you will find an abundance of romantic boutique bread and breakfasts, musicians playing love songs on the bridges between the islands, and people selling bouquets of roses on the street.
Most people take water taxis wherever they need to go, but I was informed by one of my best friends, a New Yorker, very stern and charismatic, “you can walk anywhere you need to go in this city!, just take the bridges!”. Water taxis are amusing and you should definitely take at least a few while you are visiting. However, the water in Venice is known to be significantly and noticeably polluted. When you choose to walk, you will smell fresh bread and red wine as you pass through the narrow streets. There are novelty shops and precious restaurants hidden in the crevices of the alleys that could be easily missed if you don’t explore by foot.
I am a typical introvert. I love to be alone, I like traveling alone, exploring alone, and just being at peace by myself in a new place, or anywhere for that matter. One of my favorite experiences of Venice was walking through the quaint alleyways and stopping wherever and whenever I pleased. Sadly, because Venice’s economy relies so heavily on tourism, many streets are almost empty. It can be quite peaceful, but an important reminder that Venice is struggling in the sense of their own residents, and how most people have been forced to move away considering how expensive the city has become due to the burdensome infrastructure. Walking the vacant streets is calming and tranquil, but the most popular tourist’s destinations are not to be missed. For example, the Basilica di San Marco, Piazza San Marco, the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs are just a few for planning a visit.
Without question, if you visit Venice, you must take a gondola ride. There are plenty lined up outside of Piazza San Marco, and make sure to choose your gondolier wisely, as many are known to serenade you as you pass some of the most beautiful and noteworthy passageways in Venice. If hearing someone sing to you isn’t your glass of Venetian wine, just sit back and embrace it, when in Rome… Stay tuned for our next adventure.
Lake Lugano is perfectly located on the border of northern Italy and Switzerland. If you are visiting Milan, it is easy to reach and can be combined in a day trip with Lake Como. The day we visited Lake Lugano, it was warm and windy. There were swans eating by the lake side, and children running around with their families.
We had seen many other tourists renting boats to explore the lake. We were truly taken back that we needed to provide so little information to rent a motor boat to roam the lake by ourselves. We were with a small group of girls and one of us had our Passport on us, so we willingly handed it over to a strange man who was soliciting tourists for the rental of paddle boats, canoes, and motor boats. Without question, he passed us the keys and said, “be back in a couple hours”, we started the engine before he could change his mind.
None of us truly knew how to operate the boat, so obviously, we decided to go as far out as we could to go swimming. When we finally reached our destination, we had an unforgettable view of beautiful houses lining the lakeside. There were no other boats in sight, we could barely see the shore where we began, and none of us had swimsuits. It was perfect; we swam completely naked in the lake and the water was warmer than one would expect. Each of us would squeal as we would nearly knock over our little motor boat as we climbed up and down the ladder. Finally, a much larger tourist boat came sailing towards us in the distance. We screamed and scrambled to get dressed in order not be seen by the roughly fifty tourists sitting on an open deck boat coming by. We do not think that by the time they got close enough to see us, that they realized what our group of teenagers were doing exactly. So, they waved, as it is common courtesy as you pass a fellow sailor, we, red faced, waved back and smiled. As my Dad would say, "just smile and wave boys".
If water activities wouldn’t be high on your list of activities at Lake Lugano, don’t be alarmed. Walking along the streets and enjoying the view is more than enough to have you feeling at one with nature.
There are almost no words to describe the beauty of Lake Como. The lake is the third largest lake in Italy and is surrounded by astonishing villas and palaces. If you are visiting Milan, it is less than an hour and a half away from the city by car, which is an easy day trip and extremely worth it. Lake Como is home to my most inspiring person, Amal Clooney. She resides there with her husband, George.
Tourists flock to this iconic location for its beautiful landscapes and spas. An interesting fact about Lake Como is that one of the reasons it is so famous is because of the silk industry. We had the pleasure of touring one of the silk factories, where we learned that they start by breeding silkworms and watch over the entire process of twisting and weaving the silk that is finally dyed and printed to perfection. The process is extremely intricate and extensive. This is where I first fell in love with fabrics and learned the true delicacy of precious pieces involved in the high end fashion industry.
At least fifteen towns surround Lake Como and each has their own specialty and charm. Wherever you are, walking around the lake, you will witness what could be described as an old storybook setting. You will see people who have lived there for their entire lives, small businesses run by locals, and a community that is thriving on the exuberant combination of tourists and residents.
Milan is one of the most metropolitan cities in Italy. Here, you will find someone and something from every part of the world. It is one of the world's four main fashion capitals. With that being said, of course you will find the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, built in 1865, this four story shopping mall will give you a quick hit of luxury and magnificence. It is filled with the world's leading couture, jewelry, art, and restaurants.
The food in Milan is remarkable. However, because the city is so large, the true specialty restaurants can be hard to find. When Ashley and I travel, we both make a point to try new places every day. Somehow, we found ourselves at Il Tavolino several nights in a row. The atmosphere is formal, dim lit, and romantic. The menu is extensive and it is by far the best authentic Italian food I had in Milan.
If you ever let yourself walk outside of the overwhelming elegance of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, you will see arguably the most beautiful cathedral in northern Italy. Duomo di Milano is a tourist attraction not only because of its striking architecture, but the sense of community you feel with travelers all around the world that come to visit its beauty.
Milano, we love you
We've arrived in Geneva!
Switzerland is one of the most beautiful places to visit and it is famous for its phenomenal infrastructure. Everything is known to run smoothly and cohesively. Our first stop was of course, shopping.
If you're in the mood for chocolate or have a sweet tooth, we have the spot for you. Zeller Chocolatier is the best chocolate we could find, and it was exactly what we were looking for. They have been running since 1959 and you can tell as soon as you taste their chocolate that they know exactly what they are doing. 10/10
Our next stop would be the United Nations (shopping and chocolate aren't our only interests).
What does the United Nations in Geneva do? Here's your answer:
"Housed at the Palais des Nations, the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) serves as the representative office of the Secretary-General at Geneva. A focal point for multilateral diplomacy, UNOG services more than 8,000 meetings every year, making it one of the busiest conference centres in the world. With more than 1,600 staff, it is the biggest duty stations outside of United Nations headquarters in New York.
Providing key infrastructure and support, UNOG contributes significantly to the Organization’s efforts to maintain international peace and security, to advance disarmament, to protect and promote human rights, to eradicate poverty, to implement sustainable development practices and to provide fast, effective humanitarian relief in emergencies – to mention just a few of the tasks. A large number of dignitaries and high-level delegations come to UNOG every year to participate in bilateral exchanges, intergovernmental meetings, conferences and other events, making UNOG a centre for information sharing and exchange" (UN Geneva).
We were extremely lucky to have been invited to the United Nations Office at Geneva. Our time here was well spent, leaving with a new understanding of the work that they have been progressing over the years.