How I Won 2 Free Plane Tickets to Italy

I know…it sounds like clickbait. But it’s not, this actually happened. Scrolling on Instagram never proved to be more profitable. A fairly new airport called Southend Airport ran a competition on Instagram for a whole week. Each day, they would post an image of two destinations and redirect their followers to the link in the bio, where people could add their details and enter the prize draw.

Long story short, I got an email with two free tickets to Milan, Italy and I thought to myself: why not make a nice city break out of it? You see, Verona is one hour away from Milan. Venice is one hour away from Verona. I assume you know where I’m going with this.

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A quick look on the map and you’d already think the trip from London to Southend is not going to be an easy one. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong! The journey from Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria takes about an hour with a smooth train ride or you can take the coach if that is more convenient for you, but it’s more likely to double the time it takes you to get to the airport.

It was probably the smallest airport I have ever been in, but also….almost NO PEOPLE. I mean…it instantly became my favourite one so far. Everything went smoothly, we got on our plane and we were ready to land in Italy. We got to Milan at about 9 PM so we went to our hotel to drop our bags and headed out to explore the city at night. By city, I actually mean the Dom area, don’t judge!

Day 1 – Milan

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Our first stop was the Milan Dom.

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Probably the most popular spot in the city for all the mainstream tourists (which I am guilty of, I live for a go-up-the-statue-of-liberty moment whenever I go somewhere) and honestly, a very beautiful place too, so it’s not exactly popular for no reason. The cathedral actually took about 600 years to build and it is an iconic building for gothic architecture in Italy.

*Storytime*

When I was a kid, unaware of all the travel blogs, tips, magazines and youtube videos out there to help you understand what you would like to see when you’re travelling to a new place, I would only rely on my parents to guide us in the new city (they…tried) and my grandma (crazy world traveller) to tell me what to see and where to go. So about 14 years ago when my parents decided that we are going to take a trip to Milan, I went straight to my grandma for travel tips. She told me not a lot of people know something about the Milan cathedral which completely changes your experience when visiting the Dom. I was excited, I was about to hear a secret about an incredible cathedral that nobody else knows (everybody knew) and that is going to change my life forever (did it though?). She told me that at the back, there are some lifts that you can take and actually see the top of the cathedral which is spectacular and you feel like you reached heaven. I was confused about the heaven part so she explained that everything up there is white marble, full of angel statues of all sizes and shapes – hence the heaven thing. I was ecstatic and of course, we went up there and it was indeed beautiful. I’m not sure about the whole divine situation, but it was definitely my favourite thing about the cathedral. Years later I realised that wasn’t a secret at all, everyone knew, of course. You also have to pay for it, but my grandma never had internet and visited Milan like 30 years ago, so…understandable. (She still thinks it’s a secret, btw.)

Anyway, the moral of the story is: it’s not a secret and I don’t know if you will feel as if you are entering the gates of heaven, but it is nice and if you’re there and you’re willing to queue, I recommend going to the top of the cathedral as well.

We walked around the cathedral and the shops in the gallery, had dinner and some drinks and went back to the hotel to get ready for the journey that was waiting for us the next morning: Verona.

 

 

Day 2 – Verona

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We took the train from Milan to Verona for about an hour and the tickets were roughly 20 Euros, which is fine considering we pay 40 GBP to take National Express from London Stratford to London Stansted Airport. (I couldn’t resist not mentioning this)

The train was empty! It was a Tuesday morning to be fair and I guess not a lot of people commute at 7 am. In about an hour of travelling through Northern Italy, we ended up in Verona, a city I had read about and knew that it was tiny, cute and romantic, but I was not expecting to love it so much!

Not sure if that’s the average temperature in May, but there were almost 30 degrees and there was no cloud in the sky. We wanted to grab a bite and were looking for something that’s going to be filling, but also easy and quick to eat while we’re exploring the city. I found a lot of recommendations for this sandwich place, called Giusto. We decided to give it a go and it was a WIN!

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We got the Porcini sandwich, which was absolutely delicious and impossible for 2 people to eat at one meal. The thing was gigantic and it’s very filling so it’s not your average Pret-a-Manger prosciutto baguette. The whole sandwich was about 6€ and of course, worth every penny. Giusto is very close to the city centre and all the spots you may be interested in seeing so it makes a nice and affordable place to eat while you’re sightseeing.

We were soon on our way to discover beautiful Verona, a classic Italian gem. We reached Piazza Bra and started with the arena, a Roman amphitheatre built in the first century, which was used for opera performance since the Renaissance times. Pretty cool, huh? 

 

We didn’t go in to visit as we only had one day in Verona and wanted to make the best out of it so we decided to just wander and discover the city. In Piazza Bra, there’s a cute little train that takes you around the city for only 5€/person and I highly recommend it! There’s a guide on the train as well, who will let you know all about Verona’s history and main touristic attractions. The ride takes about 30 minutes!

 

Simply walking through the streets of Verona on a summer afternoon will be enough to call it a day. The city has many shops and restaurants, where you can relax while eating incredible gelato and drinking wine. But if you would still like to visit some places and find out more about Verona’s history, these made the top of our list:

Lamberti Tower for a breathtaking view

If there’s something I always try to do when I visit a new place, that’s finding a nice spot to see the city from above and Lamberti Tower did not disappoint. Verona used to have towers everywhere and that’s because families used to build these to show their financial status, influence and power. They lost many of them over the years, but Lamberti Tower is still open to visit and reach its top, where views are just…amazing.

Piazza delle Erbe

Whether you’re looking for some nice souvenirs to take home or you just want to see what the market is like, Piazza delle Erbe is the perfect market square for you! It’s close to the Lamberti Tower and restaurants and besides little souvenirs, you can enjoy fresh juice, fruits or ice cream.

Mazzini 27

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If you’re looking for a nice restaurant to have dinner, I recommend Mazzini 27! It’s almost hidden in a tiny square, it offers an intimate setting for a romantic dinner or simply some time away from the crowds. We had their pasta and wine and we were impressed by how good it was for the affordable prices. It’s very close to Juliet’s Balcony and the city centre.

At night, you can just wander through Verona’s streets and busy restaurants, have a glass of wine (or more?) and enjoy la dolce vita!

Day 3 – Venice

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One of the most spectacular places on earth! It was lovely visiting Venice again and I was glad to see it has not changed a bit, it’s just as impressive as before. I believe there are some places that just need to be discovered and I feel like Venice is one of those places for sure.

We had no plan whatsoever, we had a cappuccino in the morning and then started walking only to discover Venice’s beauty at every corner.

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An iconic place to visit in Venice though is Piazza San Marco. You might have heard its English name, St Mark’s Square, or seen the infamous pictures with people chasing pigeons in this square. If you are not a big fan of pigeons, don’t worry! There are other things you can see in Piazza San Marco.

On one side, you will notice a stunning building, the St Mark’s Basilica. It appears to have enough mosaic to cover 1.5 American football fields according to Walks of Italy (for more fascinating facts about Venice’s famous square, read this really interesting article Fascinating facts about St Mark’s Basilica). The entrance to the museum is somewhere around £5 and you should be able to book online in advance to skip the cue.

 

 

If you’re not sure about the Basilica, another attraction in St Mark’s Square is the bell tower, known as St Mark’s Campanile, one of the iconic treasures of Venice. Almost 100 meters tall, the tower is guaranteed to offer you some spectacular views of this incredible Italian gem.

Don’t forget to travel by boat in Venice to experience what it’s like being a local, and if you have some extra cash to spend, you might want to go for a gondola ride later in the day for a romantic afternoon or evening.

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A glass of wine at one of the restaurants near Canal Grande is how we ended our Italian experience, before heading out to Milan the next morning for our flight back to London.

Thank you London Southend Airport for this exciting citybreak, it was an amazing trip and we are looking forward to seeing Italy again soon!

Follow me on Instagram @anatravelstheglobe for more content

xoxo

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