Lucerne (Switzerland)

In Switzerland, due to the only having a few days we decided that we would skip Zurich and go straight up to Lucerne. The beauty of Europe is how you can chop and change you itinerary so easily, and hotels are almost always available anytime any day.
Switzerland is one of those places where the landscape is so unique. The colours of green, blue, and white really don’t look the same anywhere else. Everything is so lush, clean, and crisp – truly beautiful and you can’t help but to keep staring out that window of the train.

In Lucerne I managed to pick up a cheap Swiss watch as a souvenir (practically the only thing I wanted to leave Switzerland with), pay the most I ever have for a cup of coffee (in excess of AUD$10), and visit Mount Pilatus (must do if visiting Lucerne). Make sure you try some swiss chocolate, and also drink water from any of their fountains. The water has an impeccably clean taste about it, and I think it is one of the worlds highest quality drinking water.

Lake Lucerne 1 Lake Lucerne 2 Mount Pilatus

Prague (Czech Republic)

We arrived in Prague and caught a taxi to our hotel. Fortunately for us, we managed to somehow book the last room at a bargain rate in the attic of a hotel, that happened to be meters from the (Charles Bridge). Every morning we walked out to traffic and hordes of people.

We really enjoyed our time in Prague, visiting Old Town, the Royal Palace, taking a segway tour, and bumping into another Australian couple who we had dinner with. Make sure you find a place that cooks a Pork Shoulder. It’s quite a thing, and will easily feed 2 people.

I found that the people were very nice there overall. People can appear to be abrupt and direct, but it’s normal for them. Making small chat isn’t there thing. Speaking to a taxi driver, and think the people genuinely feel a sense of freedom as they were under Communist rule for so long, and have finally become a Democratic country.

Charles Bridge Old Town Prague

Vienna (Austria)

Vienna was essentially a stop over destination for us on the way through to Prague. It is a lovely city with rich architecture and people. Unfortunately for us, the night we caught the overnight train to Vienna it was daylight savings. This meant that the train had to stop in the middle of nowhere for an hour, so not to affect the arrival time into Vienna. We also arrived on a Public Holiday which meant that a lot of shops were closed. This wasn’t too much of a problem, as we took advantage of the lack of people on the streets to do walk around the Vienna Ring Road (Vienna Ringstrasse).

The things I would recommend in Vienna would be to visit Stephanplatz (their main shopping district) and try their bread dumplings, and their beer. Not a big beer fan, but I found one that I really liked there.

Vienna

Italy

Rome

Rome was our entry point into Europe. It provided a great experience into what would become our great euro trip. We arrived and taxied to our hotel, which happen to be down the road from the Vatican City.

Rome is known for it’s rich history, and sites to see including: Vatican City, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon. Getting around involved lots of walking, and we tried not to overcrowd our days by only planning to see 1-2 sites a day, and freestyling the rest of the day. This allowed us to get infinite amounts of coffee, eat lots, and visit lots of shops.

Tuscany

We hired a car in Rome, and drove to a bed and breakfast in Tuscany. This was one of our most memorable experiences as we got a taste of what it was like to be “live” in Italy with home cooked meals to staying in a cottage. The owners had little to no english, but this made it more exciting, and you always seemed to work it! For the couple days we stayed here, we experienced great cakes for breakfast, and some of the best pasta for dinner. During the day we drove around the area, visiting the different cities and taking in the sites, and managed to squeeze in a bit of wine tasting.

Toscana Field Toscana Narrow Roads

Florence

We used our car to drive onwards to Florence. On the way to Florence, we stopped by a designer factory outlet. The fine good lovers will find this place to die for, with the endless supply of designer outlets including Prada, Gucci, Montblanc.

We finally returned the car in Florence, after endless loops around the city looking for the car hire place (which would result in a traffic ticket 12 months later for driving down an alley that was designated pedestrians – how could you even differentiate in a city like Florence lol?)

Florence allowed for more great food, and visiting of museums and sites such as the Spanish Steps (watch your wrists to not have a bracelet tied to it and be charged, and don’t take any roses).

We took a day trip out of Florence to visit Pisa and check out the the Leaning Tower of Pisa. What a famous attraction, with an endless number of tourists taking selfies.

Cinque Terra

The train from Florence took us to Cinque Terra, to visit the 5 little fishing cities. Each would be a little different to the other, and allowed for great photos that you always see on Instagram. This is where there are mountain trails for those who wish to hike a bit. It is definitely worth a stop, with lots of cheese, wine, and food to try. It’s a place where you can hang around and do “nothing” and be at peace at somewhere that feels left behind in todays ever hectic lifestyle.

Riomaggiore

Milan

The fashion capital as most people would call it, with lots of shops and people. It is more of a business city, so you can limit your time here a bit if you wish. Great place for shopping, but you may run out of other things to do. It was also the place where a gypsy stole a couple euro from me as the change dropped out at the ticket vending machine – TIP: use exact change, or just smile and walk away 🙂

Venice

I don’t think you will find anywhere else in the world quite like Venice. It has an impossible look about it when you first arrive – people live in houses where the streets are water?

Getting around Venice involves a lot of walking, but you can catch shuttle boats, Gondolas and Traghetto (shared gondolas that people use to cross the canals instead of find a bridge).

I really enjoyed my time in Venice, getting lost daily, finding shops, and eating. You’ll find famous attractions here as well including Piazza San Marco and Rialto Bridge. Make sure you try squid ink pasta, Bellini (alcochol), buy bread and prosciutto to picnic, and go on a Gondola. You will find that there are endless reviews on TripAdvisor with Gondola love and hate stories. I think you will find that investing a bit of your own time in walking around and talking to the Gondola owners will give you an idea as to whether you will like their personality instead of jumping onto the first one you see.

Ask questions, and see if they laugh or tell you to get stuffed (ie. do you sing?). When we found one we liked, we watched him take another couple out, and made sure he came back on or after the time allocated. After all, one of the biggest complaints on TripAdvisor is that people were short-changed for time. In our case, we observed another Gondola depart after ours but arrive back before!

Venice was the final leg of our visit to Italy, and it was one of our most memorable experiences. We spent almost 3 weeks here to really allow us to travel unrushed, as we are not the type of people that go on tours. We prefer to freestyle and encourage you to do the same!

Venice