Saint Petersburg was a mixture of discovery and fear. At first glance it didn’t look like the cartoons I’ve always seen, like I’ve always dreamed of. Wide streets, small buildings all the same, serious people. The socialist mold is present in every corner, yet when you enter the squares, when you see the buildings, when you discover the churches covered in gold and icons, you understand why you chose to study this language, to discover this people, to visit this city.
I must admit that the period played a determining role. I left for the Easter vacations, where in Italy the heat was beginning to set in and in Russia people were still walking around in jackets, scarves and hats. At first it was empty, a barren landscape that did not make the beauty of the buildings, of the whole city. As soon as the snow began to fall, an unexpected snow according to our guide, which came down almost as a gift, and obviously with it the temperature, all my childhood dreams were awakened.
This city is a mixture of the devout and the profane, it’s contradictory, with wide streets and canals, a Venice of the North, which however doesn’t resemble Venice at all. Don’t arrive with great expectations, because this city has very little that is western, just adapt and accept it as it is: only in this way will you be able to discover and appreciate it at its best.
If you are a student, don’t try to hope that they will accept your university card to get discounts in museums, because they only accept Russian ones, so unless you have the possibility to be a Russian student, no discounts! In order to make the best use of all public transport services, which are inevitable given the enormous distances to be covered, you can use the rechargeable Podorozhnik Smart Card.
Small curiosity: for certain stops of the metro, to get off the platforms you can take up to 4 minutes on the escalators. The metro is kept even better than the city, cared for in every detail and clean to perfection, you will inevitably fall in love with each stop, with large chandeliers, statues, marble and mosaics.
I start without much pretension to tell you about the things seen, many and immense, only for the famous Hermitage would take three days. Do you know that most of the city was built by Italian architects? There is little to do, we Italians have many faults, but in art and yes, in eating, few beat us. One of the famous Rastrelli’s masterpieces is the Smol’nyi Cathedral, located on the bank of the Neva River that runs through the city. Majestic, whose colors -white and blue-, whether there is sun or snow take your breath away and prevent you from looking away. When entering churches, remember girls to always wear a scarf that covers your head in a sense of respect.
Being in the most eastern part of the center, you can then go up following the Neva reaching the Summer Garden, at which point you can continue towards the Hermitage and enjoy a wonderful view of the river and thus observe the old stock exchange of Saint Petersburg, which since 2009 houses the Central Marine Museum and in front of it you can see one of the Columns Rebuilt and the Peter and Paul Fortress in the distance. Or you can detour to the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, as well as the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood, built where the Tsar was assassinated by an assassination attempt in 1881, which I assure you does not represent at all the original Russian style, since it is a mixture of various styles so, even if they tell you otherwise, know that it is not so. This church if it leaves you breathless on the outside, wait until you see it in its entirety.
The best view is of the Griboedov Canal, from Nevsky Prospect, which is at the corner of the House of Books, the Singer Building, in front of which stands the imposing Kazan Cathedral. Now after relaxing a bit and enjoying the view, turn your back on the House of Books and continue left along Nevsky Prospekt towards Gostinyj dvor, the oldest café and grocery store in Saint Petersburg. Prices for Russians are very high, not for nothing it is considered a luxury place, but for us they are affordable. As you leave, on the left you will find a gallery, used in the cold winters for some refreshment and to be able to easily and quickly pass from one part of the district to another.
On the other side of the street you will see the Monument to Catherine, enjoy the sunset lights that are reflected on the huge Prospect and if you want to end the day in the best way I recommend the restaurant Kvartirka that has two on the Prospect, excellent, with typical dishes and liquors, but be careful when giving money, they are precise and ask for every last kopeck!
Ps: remember that borsch is not Russian, but Ukrainian!