Moscow and St. Petersburg, in the footsteps of the tsars

Who I am
Joel Fulleda

Author and references

The idea of ​​a trip to Russia? it was quite sudden and we made it in a few days with the help of a travel agency. Among the various options available, we chose the Francorosso tour that seemed to us the one with the best value for money.
Does the tour include a visit to the two main cities? Russia, St. Petersburg and Moscow.

1 day

On arrival in St. Petersburg, what time? sunny and very hot.
After the usual customs checks, the guide who welcomes us at the airport takes us to the hotel.
The hotel? the Original Sokos Hotel Olympia Garden.
The hotel looks rather anonymous and ugly on the outside but once you enter the atmosphere? cozy, with a very nice restaurant and an always-on fireplace.
The hotel is 600 meters from the "Technological Institute" metro station which, with the blue line, leads in two stops to the "Nevsky Prospect" station, the nerve center of the city. The Metro ? very deep, it takes almost three minutes to get off the train.
Not ? late and take the opportunity to get to know the city a little. After dinner at the hotel, we arrive by subway in Nevsky Prospect, a straight line almost 4 km long, arriving then, in a quarter of an hour's walk, to the banks of the Neva river and the Hermitage museum, which we admire from the exterior, even if partially covered by scaffolding.
Along the river sails a boat with red sails, for the feast of maturity? which is celebrated on this very day. It is the famous festival of scarlet sails which is celebrated every year in conjunction with the end of schools.
Is it past 23 pm and the sun? still high, we are not fully aware of the late hour. St.Pietroburgo ? in fact placed around 60? parallel and in this period? characterized by white nights. The sun sets very late, after 23.30pm, and even after that the sky never darkens. A nice news? for us, which at first creates some sleep problems.

2 day

The day ? dedicated to visiting the Hermitage Museum, the most? famous and important museum of Russia and among the most? important to the world. The museum ? It was designed by the architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli and is truly impressive on the outside. We enter around 10.45 am, equipped with a headset through which we listen to the explanations of the guide, interesting but sometimes too long.
Built for Tsarina Elizabeth of Russia who had made it her residence, it was completed only after her death. Catherine the Great was the real creator of the museum. Today it houses thousands of works of art with paintings by countless painters and sculptors (Caravaggio, Leonardo, Canova, Monet, etc.). The entrance welcomes us with a splendid staircase of honor in precious marble. The interior ? rich in decorations, gilded stuccoes and truly luxurious marble floors.
The visit lasts almost four hours and is really tiring, we leave satisfied, even with the feeling of having really seen an infinitesimal part of the works present. There? a lot of Italy represented, the designer architect? Italian cos? as the countless artists represented here are Italian. Back to the hotel for lunch.
The afternoon ? dedicated to visiting the Pushkin Palace, 25 km from the city. Pushkin looks like a city? very clean and with lots of green spaces, in a park? present the monument dedicated to the great Russian writer Alexander Pushkin, who lived in the first half? 800.
The Pushkin Palace appears with a European style,? the influence of Buckingam Palace in London from which it draws inspiration is evident.
It is also known as the Catherine Palace and was born as a summer residence of the tsars.
The first part of the visit concerns the beautiful garden, with great attention to detail with geometrically designed lawns, floral decorations, pavilions. In an artificial lake? there is even an original gondola from Venice. The interior ? very opulent, in Russian Baroque. We are struck by the sumptuous rooms richly decorated and furnished. Great impression is provided by the Hall of Mirrors and the famous Amber Room whose walls are embellished with precious stones.

3 day

Does the day begin with a city tour? by bus which includes some photo stops.
Among these we are struck by the Church of the Holy Savior on Spilled Blood, with the traditional onion domes reminiscent of the more? Notes of the St. Basil's Church in Moscow.
Next, the Smolny Monastery. The Monastery is striking mainly for its external appearance with shades of color. white and blue and? considered a true masterpiece of the Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli. The building, consisting of the central church surrounded by the convent, stands out for its baroque style combined with the classic elements of Russian architecture, with the classic domes of Orthodox monasteries.
Today the city administration, a monastic building and a faculty are located there. university.
We make a brief stop at the Church of St. Isaac. It is richly decorated and? covered with 14 different types of marble. The Cathedral's masterpiece? the dome for the construction of which over 100 kg of gold were used. Do we also visit a part of the city? beyond the Neva River from which? visible the Palace of the Hermitage in all its grandeur.
The afternoon ? dedicated to visiting the Petrodvorec palace, 30 km from the city.
The complex includes about twenty palaces, several parks and some woods and was built at the behest of Tsar Peter the Great, determined to build a work capable of surpassing the most in terms of luxury and splendor. sumptuous European courts, primarily the French Varsailles.
Do we not visit the interior of the palace, the palace? in fact famous above all for the magnificent park with its numerous tree-lined avenues, canals, pavilions, palaces, fountains and water features.
Among these, stands out for its grandeur and theatricality? the Great Waterfall, which descends from the terrace of the Grand Palace towards the lower Park.

4 day

Last morning in town? ? dedicated to visiting the Church of Santi Pietro e Paolo, designed by the architect Domenico Trezzini. Is it 122 meters high and at the top? placed an angel holding a cross.
The interior is also characterized by the presence of a single iconostasis (instead of, as usual, with three doors). The Cathedral also houses the remains of almost all the rulers of Russia from Peter the Great to Nicholas II and his family.
The visit of St. Petersburg ends. With the bus we transfer to the railway station from which, punctual at 15.00, the train leaves for Moscow where we arrive after four hours.
Travel ? quiet, the train? comfortable. The countryside landscape is disappointing, rather monotonous. Moscow welcomes us in gray and humid weather, having stopped raining a few hours earlier. But in the following days we will have to complain especially about the great heat. They lead us to the hotel, the Holiday Inn Moscow Sokolniki, a 25-storey building in front of the Sokolniki metro station which leads to Red Square in 6 stops. The hotel looks very luxurious but is it actually? we find more? of some disservice. Even the restaurant will not be? fully satisfactory.

5 day

The visit of Moscow can not? than to start from the monument pi? important of the city, the Kremlin, the fortified citadel located in the central area of ​​the city, on the left bank of the Moskva River. It looks like an agglomeration of various buildings from different eras.
The visit begins with the Armory Museum where splendid and precious jewels of the tsars are kept, including the famous Faberg? Eggs. And then carriages and period clothes, precious pottery, war weapons and much more. Leaving the museum, we pass in front of the Great Kremlin Palace, with a 125 meter long facade. Is it the symbolic building of the city? in the halls of which diplomatic and state receptions are currently held.
Pi? forward there? the Square of the Cathedrals. It is the central square of the Kremlin where all the streets once converged. It takes its name from the three cathedrals that rise there, the Cathedral of the Dormition, the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael and the Cathedral of the Annunciation, characterized by the traditional onion domes.
In addition to these, the Faceted Palace, the Church of the Deposition of the Robe and the Church of the Twelve Apostles also overlook it.
The square was the site of the solemn coronations and funeral processions of all the Russian tsars. Still? background of the inauguration ceremony of the Presidents of Russia and the daily changing of the Horse Guards. The visit to the Kremlin comes to an end, not before passing in front of the Tsar's Bell, the most? large existing bell of 216 tons. The bell never rang: during a fire that broke out in 1737, a large piece of 11,5 tons came off? while still in the casting pit.
Leaving the citadel, we head towards the nearby Red Square, accessing it through the Door of the Resurrection. The door dates back to the middle? of 1500 but in the 20s the govern? Soviet ordered? the demolition as an obstacle for military vehicles that passed through Red Square during the frequent parades. Between 1994 and 1995 the whole complex was rebuilt. Near the door there? km 0 of Russia, the point from which distances across the country are ideally measured.
The Red Square? certainly a splendid monumental square, 700 meters long and 130 meters wide, enclosed on its four sides by splendid monuments. As soon as you enter the square, on the right? the splendid Historical Museum is visible while the Kazan Church on the left. Pi? ahead, always on the left, are the Magazzini Gum, a large shopping center built in the late 1800s, divided into three covered galleries for three floors in height. Today there are many luxury and fashion brands, many of them Italian and? frequented mainly by wealthy Muscovites. Its location in the city center? makes it a major tourist destination in the Russian capital. On the right there? the eastern wall of the Kremlin, the institutional seat of the Russian president, Lenin's mausoleum and the Tower of the Savior, the main tower of the Kremlin, consisting of a double series of walls and surmounted by a large red star with which it reaches 71 meters in height . It is equipped with a beautiful and massive clock-chime.
But the largest monument? famous of the beautiful square? the Cathedral of San Basilio, located at the end of the square and overlooking the Moscova river.
It comes with bright colors and the classic onion domes. The interior ? an intricate labyrinth in which nine chapels adorned with splendid iconostases alternate.

6 day

Does the day start with a city tour? by bus, passing in front of the pi? important monuments of the city, the Bolshoi Theater, the Red Square, the University. Beautiful photo stop with a privileged view of the Kremlin Palace, on the other bank of the Moskva River, a very famous shot of the Presidential Palace and the churches with their traditional onion domes.
We cross long boulevards, some of which consist of eight lanes in each direction of travel. The next visit concerns the Novadevici Monastery. Founded in 1524 by Basil III, the convent was known to shelter many women of the Russian imperial families and the Boyar family, who were often forced to take vows. It doesn't strike us in a particular way, even if we appreciate style and silence. We will return on the occasion of the night tour of the city. The tour continues to the Red Square where we stop there for a while, taking advantage of the information provided by the guide. We then separate from the group and venture into the huge streets of Moscow, where we juggle thanks to the map of the city? and despite the writing in Cyrillic of the signs and topographical indications. After about forty minutes of walking through the wide streets of the city? and with the great heat, we reach the Arbat, an important artery of the city, a pedestrian area with characteristic and elegant shops.
Down the street there? a Ministerial Palace, an ugly building with more? of 30 floors in typical Soviet style. The long walk ends at the Church of the Redeemer, yet another example of an Orthodox church with onion domes. From the nearby metro station we take the train that takes us, after a tiring day, to our hotel.

7 day

The day ? dedicated to visiting the Monastery of San Sergio, the most? important monastery and spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church.
It is located in the city? Sergiev Posad, about 70 km from Moscow, which we reach in about two hours by bus. Unfortunately much of the monastic complex? covered with scaffolding. There are numerous churches, the Cathedral of the Assumption, the Cathedral of the Trinity? and the Refectory of San Sergio. In the Cathedral of the Trinity? there? the tomb of San Sergio, still very much venerated.
The afternoon ? dedicated to visiting some of the subway stations, true masterpieces of the Soviet era. Komsomolskaya Station, with mosaics, marble columns and fine chandeliers, the richly decorated Koltsevaya Station, Ploshchad Revolyutsii stop, with countless life-size bronze statues. Real free museums available to everyone.
The evening ? dedicated to visiting Moscow by night. Let's retrace the pi? important monuments of the city? revisited with artificial lighting.
We are especially struck by the Red Square, with the illuminated St. Basil's Cathedral, and the Novadevici Monastery, which is reflected in the nearby lake.

8 day

The journey comes to an end. The only thing missing is the return flight that takes us to Rome in the late afternoon. A really challenging journey, with few stops and many visits.
In St. Petersburg we were surprised by the white nights, a beautiful and strange feeling to fall asleep late in the evening with the sun still above the horizon. A city? elegant, imperial. Does it have Central European inspirations that make it similar to a city? like Berlin or Paris. Moscow? instead a city? profoundly Soviet in which, in beautiful and modern buildings, the old buildings of the communist era, ugly and austere, still resist. Will I stay in memory above all the splendid and monumental Red Square.

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