Italy and a little bit of France

It’s been more than seven months already and I finally found some time to blog about our Italy and France honeymoon trip in May, 2013.

We wanted to see many things, but didn’t want to spend the entire holiday in a car, so we tried to leave some time to chill. This resulted in the following plan:

Rome and Vatican → San Marino → Bologna → Florence → Cinque Terre  – Riomaggiore → Monaco / Menton → Nice.

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It is hard to say what is the better thing to do in Rome: to walk randomly around narrow streets with no hurry, enjoy the beauty and espresso or try to run around trying to visit all the key sighseeing places. But I am gravitating towards the former way of experiencing the city. I will not bother you with obvious comments about beauty of architecture. Instead, I will simply share some pictures.

 

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In Rome we also met an awesome guy, EMBA student in INSEAD who was kind enough to show us a couple of places and shared his perspective on Italy and Italians.

Tours to Vatican are very standardized. First, you need to through endless corridors of a museum, then quickly (guards will hurry you up!) go through chapel and only then get outdoors and spend some time on a territory of this city-state.

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After spending several days in Rome, we rented a car and hit the road.

For some reason I expected San Marino to be a unique place that preserved a certain culture somewhat different from Italy. I also naively imagined that there are almost no tourists and mainly we will only see locals, living a traditional life  I should have researched more. San Marino, indeed, turned out to be a very

beautiful place with stunning views opening from an hotel windows and top of of the mountain. But as soon as you get out of the hotel you see crowds of tourists, many of whom are Russians. All the streets are filled with shops with Chinese souvenirs and many shops actually have Russian-speaking shopping assistants. We escaped from tourist zone though. First, we walked around neighboring forrest with a Columbian guy we met on Couchsurfing. And then we had a dinner on a terrace of young man from Modena whose uncle grows grapes for a local wine nearby and with a British guy who came to San Marino to work as a motorbike designer.

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Here is what I liked about Bologna. On one hand, there is nothing particularly special about it. I mean, there are some nice churches and plazas, of course. But it was almost the only city where to at least some degree we had a feeling of experiencing the real Italy. Instead of usual crowds of tourists, we mostly saw Italians minding their own business. And we certainly enjoyed wine, cheese and prosciutto bought there!

Florence is beautiful, no doubt. But it feels as if it lives in the past, as Italy itself to some degree. It capitalizes on its architecture, cathedrals and cobbled streets. Stores located around popular tourists’ routes are called something like “Da Vinci shoes” and “Michelangelo clothing”. Another strong impression of Florence is its terrible traffic jams that we were unlucky to experience when we decided to visit the city in a car on Friday evening.

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After all hustle and bustle of big cities, we planned to totally relax in Cinque Terre. Hotel we picked was located in between very nice and beautiful city La Spezia and national landmark Riomaggore, a small town with about thousand inhabitants. A very nice place for hiking as well. We hiked to Nostra Signora Di Montenero church, had an espresso there and then walked all the way to Riomaggore and back.
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I also wanted to see Monaco, a small and rich city-state, myself. As at the time of our visit Monaco held Gran Prix, we could not find an hotel there. So we decided to stay in a small French town Menton that is nearby, it takes about 10 minutes on a train to get to Monaco. Menton, by the way, is a mini-Nice, a very touristy town with lots of French old men and ladies enjoying their holidays.

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I tried to feel what Monaco is all about, understand the city’s flavor, but to be honest could not. In a way it seemed boring, despite good weather and very nice views. So, we quickly visited key sightseeing spots and left. We only had a couple of days in Nice. While it was very hot in Menton, weather in Nice was quite cold. We still enjoyed walking around wharf, though. I also liked to see a little bit of France that I have never been to before, even though Nice is probably not a representative French city at all. And of course I enjoyed some foie gras. 🙂

And from there we flow back to Moscow.

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