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Day Trentadue (32) – August 15 – Roma October 17, 2008

Filed under: Chronological,Italy — The Travel Guy @ 4:51 am

 

 

 

 

Enjoying the s

Enjoying the warm water and sights of the Mediterranean Sea

Our visit to the beach just 20 km from our B&B last night was far to brief and we decided to return in the morning.  Mary had suggested we try to find a parking spot close to a small, well marked path to the beach.  If we were in sight of the path, we could give the “north African gentleman” a few Euro to keep an eye on our vehicle.  We had not experienced any difficulties with thefts from our vehicle so far on our trip, but thought this was no time to challenge that record.  As we approached the beach we realized that the public holiday had driven the locals to the beach to enjoy the 29 – 31 C temperatures next to the water.  Our good fortune found us a parking spot directly across from the gentleman and we gave him a few coins and headed to the beach.  It was busy, but it wasn’t difficult to find an area to spread our towels and a few small chairs we borrowed from Mary.  Jessica and Andrew disappeared into the waves and left the adults to alternately watch over the passports etc.  Once again, the water was the perfect temperature for spending extended periods jumping in and body surfing on the waves.Ironically, despite the beach being covered in bathing suits, there was a constant parade of immigrants from warmer climates, clothed literally from head to toe, selling towels, trinkets, etc. You can’t imagine the climate they are accustomed to that would have them wearing anything but shorts and a T-shirt.

 

Mary had recommended this particular beach because it is located directly in front of a large estate owned and maintained by the state and therefore immaculately kept.  After a few hours rinsed off under some solar heated showers and headed into Rome.

 

Once in Rome we parked back along the Tiber again and used our tour bus pass to take us to the ancient heart of Rome. 

 

Jessica, Andrew and Jeff

Jessica, Andrew and Jeff directly in front of the Circus Maximus with the Palatine Hill in the background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We started at the Palatine Hill that overlooked the Circus Maximus.  Following the guide book, we walked through the remains of the emperor’s palaces.  With a little bit of imagination you can picture lavish, marble lined rooms scattered with fountains and reflecting pools.  As you look at the foundations for some of the larger  rooms you remember the movies such as Ben Hurr where Hollywood portrayed the typical life in these palaces.

 

Courtyard on the Palatine Hill

Buildings on the Palatine Hill

 

 

 

 

 

The museum also provides a glimpse into the early settlements that inhabited the Palatine Hill. It was here that Jeff discovered that the time spent at the beach in the morning had turned his front into another source of “global warming”.  As he lifted his shirt to show Deana a few feet away, Jessica (some 30 feet away) let out a shriek at the ruby red site. (Fortunately a thick layer of Vitamin E cream before bed eliminated any pain and prevented significant peeling).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fountain on the Palatine Hill

Fountain on the Palatine Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 From the Palatine Hill it’s a short walk past the Arch of Constantine to the Colosseum.

 

The Arch of Constantine

The Arch of Constantine

 

Andrew, Deana and Jess in the Colosseum

Andrew, Deana and Jess in the Colosseum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Built over 2000 years ago it is amazing to walk through this structure and imagine it filled with 50,000 people cheering on the gladiator contests that took place here.  One guide book pointed out  that a canvas awning was pulled across the upper walls of the Colosseum to produce the “first domed stadium”.   Without the floor, it is possible to see the underground passages that held the caged animals and criminals that were pitted against the gladiators in a battle to the death.  They even had elevators to lift the animals to the arena floor. 

 

 

 

The Colosseum without the floor

The Colosseum without the floor

 

 

The Via Sacre in the Roman Forum

The Via Sacre in the Roman Forum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Colosseum we entered the Roman Forum and walked along the cobblestones of the Via Sacre through the center of ancient Rome. 

 

 

 

The Arch of Titus in the Forum

The Arch of Titus in the Forum

Once again you looked around at the structures that remain and marvelled at the architectural and engineering skills of the Romans. 

 

Jeff and Andrew in the Forum

Jeff and Andrew in the Forum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Other parts of our trip had shown us wonderful historical sites but they had been from eras that used 4 digits.  Here we were standing in buildings that were constructed in the 500 years before to 500 years after the birth of Christ.  Definitely an unusual feeling.  You could barely resist the urge to yell out “TOGA Party”. 

 

 

 

An arch of one of the naves in the Basilica in the Forum

An arch to the side of the central nave in the Basilica in the Forum

 

 

 

 

 

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

 

 

 

We wandered out of the Forum and headed towards the Trevi fountain in search of a restaurant for dinner.  We found a nice little place with outside seating on a narrow street just a few blocks from the fountain.  No sooner than we had placed our order, we felt a few drops of rain so we moved inside and watched as people scurried for cover, unprepared for the surprise rainshower.  Fortunately it was a brief shower and by the time we finished dinner the paving stones were dry and a large crowd was assembled at the Trevi Fountain.  Possibly overhyped, still the Trevi Fountain is yet another testament to the Roman’s ability to take something as simple as a fountain and transform it into a work of art and another display of the abundant supply of water available to Rome.  Where ever you go, there are outdoor fountains providing cool, clear water.  We frequently used these to refill our aluminum water bottles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Day Trentuno (31) – August 14 – Roma

Filed under: Chronological,Italy — The Travel Guy @ 4:45 am

We started our first full day in Rome with a very enjoyable chat around the dining room table with Mary and Mario.  We learned a great deal about the Italian political scene and the 13 political parties that make it very difficult for anyone to gain a majority.  Mario suggested that we park in the area near the Circus Maximus, just below the Palatine Hill.  

Circus Maximum taken from the Palatine Hill

Piazza Barberini and one of Rome's countless fountains

Piazza Barberini and one of Rome's countless fountains

We had decided that we would get a two day pass on one of the many double decker buses that continually loop around the main attractions in the heart of Rome.  This would give us a good overview of the sights, with some narration, as well as provide a means to travel from one location to another without having to learn the local transit system.  This turned out to be a good approach.  After completing the circuit we stopped at St. Peter’s Square and headed off to see what the lines were like for the Vatican Museum (and the Sistine Chapel).  As we turned each corner, getting closer to the doors, we couldn’t believe our good fortune.  Until we noticed a street sign that contained the closing times/days for the Museum.  Although August 15 is a very large holiday and apparently the Vatican Museum thinks it’s so big it deserves two days.  So it was closed.  From there we headed back to St. Peter’s and made our way through the security screening and “modesty” checkers and into the church.  If you’ve ever wondered how strictly they enforce the rules regarding covering the knees and no bare shoulders, picture that they have two people at a time standing there doing nothing but checking the attire of the tourists and turning back anyone who doesn’t meet the guidelines.

Inside St. Peter’s it’s easy to misjudge the size of this temple to catholicism.  The guide book pointed out that it is over 300 feet long.  As you look up to the lettering high above you it is hard to believe that each letter is 7 feet tall.  There are hundreds of people inside the basilica but it doesn’t seem crowded. 

Looking up past the Alter to the inside of St. Peter's dome

Looking up past the Alter to the inside of St. Peter's dome

The main alter is found at the “crossing” the intersection of the nave and the transept (which form the characteristic cross shape in many churches).  This structure alone is 7 stories tall.

After viewing the main interior, we descended into the crypt to see where many past popes have been laid to rest, including the late John Paul II.

We then made our way back to our car and experienced true Rome driving as we made our way to the Mediterranean Sea for a quick dip before dinner.  Our B&B hosts had recommended a small cantina across the street and once again we were treated to an excellent meal and another test of our limited understanding of Italian.  It is important to note that the French/German/Italian Translation book that we had been using throughout our trip had somehow managed to get bound with approximately 50 pages missing.  Of course those pages included the items most likely to be found on a menu in Italia.

 

Day Trenta (30) – August 13 – Firenze to Roma September 10, 2008

Filed under: Chronological,Italy — The Travel Guy @ 5:30 am

Before we left Firenze we had one more stop to make.  Thanks to the museums being closed on Monday and our trip to the Cinque Terra on Tuesday we lined up to see the David, Michelangelo’s interpretation of the boy who slew Goliath, in the Galeria dell’Academia on Wednesday morning.  There have been many interpretations of this stunning masterpiece over the years, but this was an opportunity to look at the intricate details and appreciate it for yourself.  It’s interesting to note that originally this statue was to be placed high above the Piazza Duomo which would have given it a very different perspective than viewing it literally at eye level.  Once again, pictures are not allowed inside the museum. 

Michelangelo's David

Michelangelo's David

The Academia’s claim to fame is the David.  But another very effective exhibit is several of Michelangelo’s “unfinished” works.  Here you see a block of marble with an image just starting to emerge.  It’s reported that Michelangelo believed the figure was already in the block of stone and he was simply releasing the image.  The block Michelangelo selected for the David had already been rejected by other artists as being flawed. Clearly he saw something the others . . . who have remained nameless . . . didn’t see.  As you look at the smooth finish and delicate details in these marble statues it’s easy to forget that they were carved with a hammer and chisel and not cast.  Unlike Paris, where all the major works are contained in the Louvre, Firenze has a different approach.  The David is in the Academia but “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli is in the Uffizi gallery. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had one last walk through the markets on our way back to the hotel and then headed off on our last drive, to Roma.

 

Our accommodation was not in Roma itself, but just southwest in the town of Albano.  This town was created around a crater lake adjacent to the papal residence.  At one time is was used as the garrison for the Roman army. We quickly found B&B Albero Gemello ( http://www.bb-alberogemello.com/index.html ) and our wonderful hosts Mary (MacIsaac) and Mario Munari.  After more than 4 weeks on the road we couldn’t have asked for a nicer place to stay prior to our return home.  They had been recommended to us by a friend and we immediately felt welcome and we became fast friends.  After a quick description of the local area and the sights to be seen, Mary gave us directions to Cantina’s for dinner that were close by.

We then headed into Roma for a look around and to get our bearings.  Although we had been driving in Italia for a week, this was our first exposure to Roma drivers. 

Unlined streets of Roma

Unlined streets of Roma

Many of the streets don’t have lines painted on the road and if they are, it’s mostly symbolic.  Motorcyclists use cars like pylons on a slalom course and Stop signs appear to be more of an idea than even a suggestion.  But once we got used to the driving style we realized that these people were intent on getting somewhere and that was their sole focus.  We didn’t see anyone talking on a cell phone, shaving or doing their make-up. Having said that, finding a car without some sort of scratch or dent is fairly rare, but these appear to be merely misunderstandings between two vehicles.

Castel

Castel Sant' Angelo

We parked along the Tiber River and then walked from Castel Sant’ Angelo.  This was built as a tomb for the emperor and through the Middle Ages as a place of final refuge for popes who were under attack.  There is an elevated corridor that runs from Vatican City to Castel Sant’ Angelo to allow the pope to travel back and forth without being detected.

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

St. Peter's Square and Basilica

St. Peter's Square and Basilica

When we reached St. Peter’s Square it was early evening, so we couldn’t get into any of the major sites but just wandered into the square and marvelled at the sheer size of St. Peter’s.

 

 

  We found our way back to the car and drove back to Albano and sought out the Cantina’s that Mary had described to us.  Her directions were excellent and we quickly located an area that was full of what appeared to be locals enjoying a lovely summer evening.  The 15 of August is a holiday in Italy and it was obvious that people were starting to celebrate a couple of days early.  In all our travels we had always found someone who spoke some English or could provide us with an English version of a menu.  But in Albano, we were a little off the usual tourist track and the Cantina we selected did not speak any English.  So we had some fun with a very patient proprietor as he used hand gestures to walk us through the menu.  In the end he chose a “sampler” plater that tested our adventurous side.  It was an excellent meal with many new tastes and a great spot to experience the local culture.

 

 

Day Ventinove (29) – August 12 – Cinque Terra and Pisa September 4, 2008

Filed under: Chronological,Italy — The Travel Guy @ 5:49 am

We used Firenze as a home base for an excursion to the coast.  Many people have recommended the Cinque Terre (pronounced CHINK-weh TAY-reh) as a beautiful example of small town italian culture.  So we set off on a day trip to this wonderful National Park with the plan to walk from the southern most town Riomaggiorre towards Monterosso.

Riomaggiore with its train station (pink) above the oval portal by the sea

Riomaggiore northern portion with its train station (pink) above the oval portal by the sea

 #1 Riomaggiore is the southern most town of the Cingue Terra National Park and it is a fine exhibit of how the town allowed the train to pass through the town, as long as it tunnelled through the rock and left the homes and businesses intact.  The train appears out of the rock on the right, passes in front of the large pink building and then back into the rock.

Riomaggiore (#1) from the sea

Riomaggiore (#1) from the sea

 As we arrived at #1 a policeman was indicating that there was no parking available (which means the too few parking lots are full and the parking along the road has left it with just barely a single lane.  Picture a relatively steep slope to the sea with a road carved into the side of the hill and precious little space available for homes, let alone cars and extra parking. 

Manarola southern edge

Manarola's southern edge

#2 – Manarola is a pretty flat walk that parallels the sea and the train tracks and then a tunnel to get you from the southern side of Manarola to the main part of the village.

Finding no parking at Riomaggiore we drove on to #2 and the same situation.  This time the police were driving up the road as we entered and we could see their handiwork displayed on all the questionably parked vehicles. 

Manarola embraces the sea and the mountainous terrain

Manarola (#2) embraces the sea and the mountainous terrain

Now we are beginning to wonder if we are going to be able to do any walking at all.

The trail from #2 to #3 has a few hills and then 300+ stairs from the train station enroute to the only town without waterfront;

 

Corniglia (#3) survives without a beach

Corniglia (#3) survives without a beach

#3 – Corniglia is the only town in the Cinque Terra that doesn’t have a beach.  However it does provide breath taking views of the sea.

Finally, at Corniglia we locate a parking lot with many empty spaces.  So relieved to find a spot we didn’t question why this town seemed to be so empty.  We got the car parked, purchase our 1-day pass to “take a walk in the park” and set out for the walk north towards Monterosso. 

The colourful buildings of Cornigula with its narrow "streets"

The colourful buildings of Cornigula with its narrow

 

Although Corniglia is perched up on the hill with only a trail down to the sea, there was a significant amount of elevation gain as we wound our way along the coast dodging vineyards and the occasional home.

An open section of the trail from Corniglia to Vernazza

An open section of the trail from Corniglia to Vernazza

 

 

 

 

The trail is in good shape with stone steps were necessary and plenty of awesome views of the sea, sky and vegetation. 

Decending stairs on the well developed Cinque Terra trail

Decending stairs on the well developed Cinque Terra trail

Despite its proximity to the water the temperature got into the low 30’s pretty quickly.

 Our original plan had been to walk from Riomaggiore (#1) to Vernazza (#4) but the lack of parking in Riomaggiore and Manarola changed our plans.

 

 

 

 

Vernazza (#4) our first view of this beautiful town as we approached on the trail from Corniglia

Vernazza (#4) our first view of this beautiful town as we approached on the trail from Corniglia

Soon we caught a glimpse of #4 – Vernazza and decided that we had only walked one section and would ignore the stories we’d heard and walked the rest of the way to Monterossa and a swim in the sea. 

We decended rapidly into Vernazza, had a quick look at the people swimming in the sea and decided that we’d better keep moving or we’d never get back on the trail to Monterossa.  This was definitely a good idea and the trail quickly climbed above the vineyards to offer a beautiful view of Vernazza and the Ligurian Sea.

 

Looking south to Vernazza from the trail leading to Monterossa

Looking south to Vernazza from the trail leading to Monterosso

 

This final section of the trail is definitely the most grueling!  We have been doing plenty of walks with our tours of Berlin and Prague, but the elevation changes and heat took its toll on this section.  This is also the narrowest section of the Cinque Terre trail with many sections where we had to go single file. 

 

Deana, Jessica and Andrew - fresh after a stop at a small home/cafe midway to Monterossa

Deana, Jessica and Andrew - fresh after a stop at a small home/cafe part way to Monterosso in the distance

The trail wound its way through the vineyards and occasionally around a home.  At one point we walk around a home that has opened a small cafe/bar in the basement to quench the thirsts of the weary hikers.  We took advantage of the cafe to replenish our water and gatorade.

Andrew and his modified hiking pants with Monterossa getting closer

Andrew and his modified hiking pants with Monterosso getting closer

 

 

 

 When we finally reached #5 Monterosso we were hot, tired and a little bit dirty from the dusty trail.

Monterosso (#5) and the chance to swim in the sea

Monterosso (#5) and the chance to swim in the sea

We found a small stretch of public beach and got changed into our bathing suits.  The water felt amazing, just the perfect temperature.  This was also our first exposure to beach culture.  I don’t think we saw a single one piece bathing suit on a woman (more on that in a moment) and for men very brief Speedo suits are the norm rather than the exception.  Andrew and Jeff got an eyeful from a couple of women who made a one piece out of their bikini’s.  Although they were rare, we noted that there was virtually no fuss being made over these free spirits.  As North Americans we could learn a lot from this culture and then we might avoid all the publicity over Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the Superbowl halftime show a couple of years ago.

Looking south from Monterosso

Looking south from Monterosso

After our swim, we did a little tour of the town and then caught the boat service from Monterosso.  Loading the boats was an experience in itself as a steel ramp is held in place between the bow and the concrete peer while the boat tosses in the waves.  This trip along the coast at sea level gave us an excellent opportunity to review the trail we had walked.  To see all 5 villages we stayed on the boat and it became very clear that the we had hiked the 2 most strenuous sections and left the first two to people in sandles. 

 

Riomaggiore train station

Riomaggiore train station

After having some dinner in Riomaggiore we caught the train for a brief ride back to Corniglia and one last climb up to our parked car.

 As we left the Cinque Terra the sun was descending rapidly and we got one last glimpse before it set.

Sunset over the Cinque Terra

Sunset over the Cinque Terra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 On the way back to Firenze we took a small detour to Pisa to see, what else, the leaning tour.  Although Jeff climbed the tower back in ’82 he didn’t see it at night, when they turn the lights on. We decided that we didn’t need to climb the tower for 15 Euro each.  So we hung out on the grass for a while with lots of other people doing the same thing.  It was probably a lot calmer than it is during the day.

The leaning Tower of Pisa at night

The leaning Tower of Pisa at night

Andrew and Jeff trying to get artistic with the leaning Tower of Pisa

Andrew and Jeff trying to get artistic with the leaning Tower of Pisa

 

Day Ventiotto (28) – August 11 – Firenze

Filed under: Chronological,Italy — The Travel Guy @ 5:13 am

The theme for this day was “Shop until you drop” and see some centuries old buildings along the way.

Typical street markets in Firenze

Typical street markets in Firenze

Being a Monday, pretty well all of the museums were closed, so we chose this as the day of shopping in Firenze.  It really is amazing to see all the street vendors, many of them have kiosks on the street to draw people into their shops in the building behind the kiosk.  Jeff wore the Ferrari t-shirt he picked up in Maranello that featured the Brazil flag on the sleeve for the Brazilian driver Felipe Massa.  This got lots of comments from many of the vendors, although that’s what we think they were saying in italian. 

Deana, Andrew and Jessica in Firenze with the Ponte Vecchio in the background

Deana, Andrew and Jessica in Firenze with the Ponte Vecchio in the background

We toured the Ponte Vecchio, several gelato stores, a couple of outdoor trattorias and we were even entertained once again by an orchestra in the Palazzo Vecchio playing under a copy of Michelangelo’s David. 

Deana and Jessica found a small shoe store around the corner from our hotel, where the shop keeper’s English made it easy to learn more about his shoes.  All of the products he featured were made in shops within 60 km of Firenze.  You didn’t find “Made in China” on any of his goods.  Of course they each came away with a beautiful pair of shoes.  Andrew found a belt and Jeff scored a pair of driving gloves similar to the pair he bought in Firenze in ’82.  It seemed like you could buy almost anything here, particularly leather goods and Pashminas.

BMW Scooter complete with roll cage and seat belt

BMW Scooter complete with roll cage and seat belt

Deana had been facinated by the Rolls Royce of Scooters that was made by BMW, up until 1987.  These two wheeled vehicles even have a seat belt.  If only they had imported them to Canada, Deana might be riding one to work instead of the Sequoia.

The Duomo of Firenze

The Duomo of Firenze

 

 

One of the most beautiful sites in Firenze is the Duomo (church) built with alternating dark and light marble that creates a striking appearance.

The amazingly beautiful facade facing the Piazzo Del Duomo in Firenze

The amazingly beautiful facade facing the Piazzo Del Duomo in Firenze

Considering the heat, it was a great day with many new treasures and memories.

 

Day Ventisette (27) – August 10 – Venezia – Ferrari – Firenze

Filed under: Chronological,Italy — The Travel Guy @ 4:26 am

We set out from Venezia to Firenze, with a stop in Maranello.  Maronella is not featured in many guide books, but it is the home of Ferrari. This is one of the stops Andrew has been looking forward to the entire trip. It’s a little off the beaten track and it is a very unassuming town. 

A Ferrari F40 from 1987

A Ferrari F40 from 1987

Although you can’t tour the factory (unless you’re picking up your new car), they have set up a museum that contains a great history of Ferrari as well as many of these classic vehicles. 

Two fine automobiles in Maranello, Italy

Two fine automobiles in Maranello, Italy

As we came out of the Museum there was a squeal of tires as someone was taking a Ferrari for a short test drive.  After a look in the official Ferrari store, where every person passing through the door is greeted by the sound of a screaming Ferrari engine, we continued on to Firenze.

The Fiat Multipla - note the slight bulge at the top of the hood

The Fiat Multipla - note the slight bulge at the top of the hood

In the parking lot for the Ferrari museum we spotted our winner of the “least attractive car” of our tour.  The Fiat Multipla model pictured reminded us of the proverbial “muffin top” where there’s a little bulge over the top.

 

 

 As we drove to Firenze we managed to snap a picture of an Autogrill.  On many of the Autoroutes in Europe the rest stops will include a gas station and a place to grab a bite to eat. 

Restaurant build over the Autoroute to provide access for travelers headed in both directions

Restaurant build over the Autoroute to provide access for travelers headed in both directions

 Instead of building two restaurants, they build the one overtop of the highway and provides access to travellers in both directions and therefore not subject to predominantly heavy traffic in one direction at either end of a long weekend.

 

 

 

 

Our hotel was in the old part of the city down a narrow street that even our GPS wasn’t up to date on.  This was one of the few times on the entire trip that “Jane” (our Tom Tom voice with a British accent) wasn’t able to guide us accurately to our objective.  We finally had to just find the street and navigate our way there the old fashioned way.  The hotel was a little short on air conditioning under the sweltering 33 C temperatures but we finally managed to get a room that was a little tight on space, but did include access to a small patio.

Orchestra playing on the steps of the St. Lorenzo church in the Pizza of the same name

Orchestra playing on the steps of the St. Lorenzo church in the Pizza of the same name

It turned out that the restaurant recommended to us in Paris by the American woman was just a couple of blocks from our hotel. We enjoyed and excellent dinner and then walked the streets. We happened on the ornate Duomo (church) and Bapistre then came upon an orchestra playing to a piazza full of people from the steps of a church. 

Like Venezia, and so many other european cities, the downtown core is just as vibrant in the night as it is in the daytime.  Of course in the evening there are a few more vendors with Dolce Gabana knock-off bags displayed on sheets over the cobblestones.  It’s also really easy to find a genuine imitation copy of Mona Lisa or the Birth of Venice.  Jeff managed to accidentally step on one of these rare works of art as he was looking for the night’s Gelato score.

 

Day Ventisei (26) – August 9 – Venezia August 26, 2008

Filed under: Chronological,Italy — The Travel Guy @ 5:34 am

 

Courtyard for hotel Locanda Marinello in Venezia

Courtyard for hotel Locanda Marinella in Venezia

We had a leisurely breakfast in the outdoor patio under brilliant sunshine after a night of lightning and rainshowers.  The weather in Venezia is awesome, free of any haze.  

Our wonderful accommodations at Locanda Marinella

Our wonderful accommodations at Locanda Marinella

 

 

 

 

 

 

The host at Locanda Marinella, took a few minutes to provide us with a map of Venezia and described a potential path for us to walk given that we had only one day to see this wonderful city.  He described each of the sections of the city with the passion of someone who has either grown up in Venezia or come to love it.  Our hotel was near the parking garages across the Grand Canal from the train station.

Rush hour on the Grand Canal, note the lean on the Transit "bus" on the left.

Rush hour on the Grand Canal, note the lean on the Transit "bus" on the left.

So he suggested we head south through the University district to the area known as Zattere. This would be a good spot to have dinner as it is close to the water but too hot to stroll in the early/mid day sun.  From there we crossed the Accademia Bridge as we twisted and turned through narrow “streets” and across multiple bridges working our way towards the Piazzo St. Marco (St. Mark’s Square).  

The famous St. Mark's Square in Venezia, St. Mark's Cathedral on the right next to the campanile

The famous St. Mark square with St. Mark's Basilica and the Campanile on the right

Venezia is clearly a destination for people from all over the world as you can hear many languages being spoken everywhere.  Ironically, we find ourselves saying Merci and Danke to people from North America.  Occasionally we actually get out a Grazie.  We toured through St. Mark’s Basilica to see the intricate inlaid tiles, even on the ceiling, giving it a golden glitter.  

St. Mark's cathedral in Venezia.

St. Mark Basilica, Venezia

 

It was interesting to notice the undulations in the floor of the basilica, possibly due to the settling of the ground in the lagoon that Venezia is built on.  In other places you can feel where the different colours of marble are uneven as a result of them wearing at different rates over time. Once again we are not permitted to take pictures, like so many places in Europe. The rights to these sites have been sold for books and DVD’s so the public is not permitted to take pictures, lest they produce their own Guide book.  

 

View from the Campanile looking south to the Grand Canal and Lido in the distance

View from the Campanile looking south to the Grand Canal and Lido in the distance

 

 

The Campanile provided and excellent view of the city and the Grand Canal snaking through the city.

View of the bell that chimes each hour as it is struck by the figures with the hammers

View of St. Mark's Square with the bell tower in the center and St. Mark's on the right

Deana was disappointed that we could see more of the smaller canals.  However, the buildings are so close together and the streets and canals twist and turn so much that you can rarely see more than a few hundred feet without being obstructed by another building, except on the Grand Canal. 

 

Jess standing with the gondolas at the edge of St. Mark's Square on the Grand Canal

Jess standing with the gondolas at the edge of St. Mark

 

 

We then spent several hours just wandering the streets, looking in just a few of the thousands of shops and observing the gaggle of tourists taking pictures of and on the Rialto Bridge.  Jessica managed to find a beautiful mask from Carnival, the 20 day event that takes place in Jan/Feb.  

 

Andrew, Jess and Deana watching a cruise ship heading out to the Adriatic Sea from Venezia

Andrew, Jess and Deana watching a cruise ship heading out to the Adriatic Sea from Venezia

 

 

 

We located a fine spot along the Canale della Giudecca for dinner and watched as a P&O line cruiseship was guided back out to the Baltic Sea.  

Jeff and Andrew at dinner in the Zattere district

Jeff and Andrew at dinner in the Zattere district

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff's Seafood Pizza.  No doubt about the authenticity of the seafood.

Jeff's Seafood Pizza. No doubt about the authenticity of the seafood

 

 

 

After dinner we wandered back to the Grand Canal and hired a Gondolier to take us for a 40 minute ride past the homes of Marco Polo and Casanova and also a couple of the facilities where gondolas are hand built.

Nothing like a romantic gondola ride for Deana and Jeff . . . with the Jess and Andrew at the front!

Nothing like a romantic gondola ride for Deana and Jeff . . . with the Jess and Andrew at the front!

The gondola factories employ a team of 5-6 men will turn out about 10 gondolas each year from one of these operations and depending on the ornateness of the gondola it can cost between 30-40 thousand Euro for a new gondola.  Our gondolier, Michael, spent 3 years learning how to be a gondolier and now owns his own boat.  It was a wonderful ride as we glided down quiet canals where  people’s homes are so close to the waterway that we could hear them chatting over dinner.  

We finished off the evening with a trip on the public transportation back to our hotel.  This was an experience of its own as scores of people squeezed onto the boat, like a subway at rush hour.  Jammed in together we met a few fellow tourists.  Andrew started to chat with a girl from somewhere near Los Angeles. During the coarse of their conversation he pointed out his sister and that her name was Jessica.  To this the girl responded in an authentic and frightenly stereotypical voice “OMG My name’s Jessica too . . . What are the chances!”  It was one of those moments that you can’t laugh at at that moment, but get a great chuckle from afterwards.

All in all a very enjoyable day and we gave Venezia a “definitely Visit again” rating.