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Today, Tuesday, May 11, we leave Rome and head to one of our favorite Italian cities. The tourists call it ‘Venice,’ the Italians call it ‘Venezia,’ while the Venetians call it ‘Venexia.’ Barb and I call it romantic and captivating.
We are looking forward to return for our third visit to this delightful city in the last thirty years. During our last visit, during a sabbatical about five years ago, we were joined by our son, Scott, and the three of us had a wonderful time (wish you were here, Scooter!).
However, our day started in Rome enjoying espresso (latte for me,cappuccino for Barb) along with chocolate croissants. Yummy. I also ordered a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, and this is what they brought me:
Two glasses of blood orange juice
It took me a minute to realize I wasn’t getting juice from a Florida orange, but rather, a blood orange. It’s a bit tarter than the oranges we”re just to, but still refreshing and delicious.
After reorganizing our luggage, and putting our wedding clothes into a separate bag for Massimo to keep for us at the Roman Residence until we return to Rome on 5/20, we schlepped our luggage to the train station, had our EuroRail tickets stamped, and boarded a first-class compartment on this bullet train from Rome to Venice.
The train sped at over 100 miles per hour on strikingly quiet and smooth rails through the verdant Italian countryside — rushing past small cities, farms, herds of sheep and cattle, rushing and idilic rivers, and ancient Tuscan walled cities – via brief stops in Florence, Bologna, Padova, and Mestre, before crossing the lagoon to arrive at Santa Lucia Station in Venice in the early afternoon.
We walked out of the train station and into this city of canals that carve their way through scores of small islands nestled within the marshy lagoons along the edge of the Adriatic Sea.
We boarded a water taxi (their are no motorized land vehicles in Venice) for a magical trip down the Grand Canal, the central ‘street’ of Venice.
The Grand Canal is bordered by magnificent palaces …
One covered with brilliant mosaics …
World famous museums, like the Peggy Guggenheim Museum …
And, spectacular churches …
All in all, not your average taxi ride to a big city hotel, wouldn’t you agree?
The walk to the hotel was very short. We found the Best Western Ala Hotel on Trip Advisor and were impressed with the reviews of those who had stayed there and the value (low prices, by Venice standards, and high quality). Our room was a very pleasant surprise for us. We asked for a romantic room, but this went above and beyond our expectations!
All in all, not your average hotel room in a big city hotel, wouldn’t you agree?
As we were settling into our comfortable and spacious dive, we heard the sound of an accordion and opera singing. Throwing open the shudders of our two windows, we discovered that our hotel in on a gondola route and passing under our room was a wedding party with the singer belting out “Santa Lucia,” followed by members of the wedding party who photographed us as we shot photos of them.
And, our hotel even has a gondola dock just off the lobby.
After unpacking, Barb and I took off to spend the afternoon and evening strolling the streets of Venice and were quickly drawn into her whimsical wonderment — the intricate ancient architecture of the buildings, streets of every size full of tourists and locals, shops of every description – each a tiny unique enclave of surprises. Barb found a Murano (Venetian) glass bracelet for Kate and Jennifer that she thinks they are going to love (sorry, girls – no pictures to spoil the surprise!).
We wandered and enjoyed every nook and cranny as there was no way to make a wrong turn and you can’t get lost – after all, no matter where you walk, you are still on an island. And, you are assisted in your exploration as the various streets and alleys are clearly marked by yellow signs pointing the path of the nearest commonly sites visited sties.
It rained on and off all afternoon, but we had our raincoats and an umbrella and found the city even more romantic after her cleansing bath. We chanced upon a violin making exhibit in one of the ancient churches, preparation for an evening concert in another, and a Latin mass being sung by a priest with an amazingly beautiful voice in another (a church dedicated to ‘Our Lady of Health,’ for providing physical and spiritual health during the outbreak of the Plague in 1629-1630).
We felt in someways the same way we feel as we walk through the French Quarter of New Orleans – stucco walls, water fountains, planters overflowing with blooming flowers – all in all, enchanting.
The streets of Venice are lined with myriad small shops, selling everything from souvenirs, Murano glass, carnivale masks, art, jewelry, clothes, food, wine, bread, gelato, pizza, antiques, and more. And, there are scattered open-air markets where you can buy fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and souvenirs.
After stopping in a family-owned Trattoria frequented by locals, for caprese salad, lasagna (Bologna style), and veal scalopine, we walked back to the hotel as dusk settled.
One person wrote, “Though there is a blending of modern alongside the pieces of the past, the newness has not overshadowed the splendor of this ancient city,” and we would agree.
One area where the new and old mix well is the most famous and oldest bridge in Venice, The Rialto, which spans across the Grand Canal. The Rialto, itself, consists of two covered inclined ramps, which lead to the central portico. Small shops line the covered ramps of the Rialto.
We plan to explore the Rialto area, as well as the San Marco area, tomorrow. But, for now, as dusk falls, we sigh and head back to the hotel to rest sore muscles and prepare for another day of the spendors of Venice.
All in all, not your average big European city, wouldn’t you agree?
Here’s the entire series:
Dr. Walt and Barb’s Italian Adventure — May 8-25, 2010
If you’ve ever wanted to go to Italy (or even if you have in the past), you’ll want to come along with us and enjoy the sites, sounds, food, and art.
Hopefully, this blog will stimulate you to put visiting these amazing cities on your to-do list. Just click on any of the days or cities you want to visit with us.
- Days #1 and 2 – Flight Nightmares
- Okay, so you think you don’t know anyone whose plane to Europe was canceled due to the volcanic ash … or who were on another plane that blew two tires on take off and had to make an emergency landing … well now you do!
- Day #3 – Rome
- Rome and the Vatican Museum. Come visit the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Michelangelo’s Pieta.
- Day #4 – Venice
- The tourists call it ‘Venice,’ the Italians call it ‘Venezia,’ while the Venetians call it ‘Venexia.’ Barb and I call it romantic and captivating. Come on an afternoon and evening stroll and be quickly drawn into her whimsical wonderment … right to the Rialto Bridge.
- Day #5 – Venice
- We were awakened by the sound of an accordion and an operatic voice, singing to a couple taking a romantic ride in a gondola in the canal just outside our hotel window. Then off to Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Basilica, the Bridge of Sighs, and an amazing discovery.
- Day #6 – Venice to Cinque Terre
- We spent the day traveling to the Cinque Terre. If you’ve never heard of it, you’ll want to visit the next two days with us.
- Day #7 – Cinque Terre Day #1
- We awoke this morning to throw open our shutters and let in the fresh sea air and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. The music of small children laughing in the square, and the smell of fresh-baked bread from the bar below us wafted up and in our window. Today we explored Riomaggiore, the ‘Via dell’Amore,’ Manarola, and Corniglia. Come along with us.
- Day #8 – Cinque Terre Day #2
- Cinque Terre is a remote mountainous chunk of the Italian riveria that is called “the traffic-free, lowbrow, underappreciated alternative to the French Riveria … just sun, sea, sand (pebbles), wine, and pure, unadulterated Italy … exploring, hiking, shopping, and evening romance in one of God’s great gifts to tourism.” Join us as we visit Monterossa.
- Day #9 – Florence Day #1
- A trip by Carrara (home of the world famous marble), Pisa (home of the world famous tower), and then to Florence for quick visits to the Duomo and the Baptistery to see Ghiberti’s bronze doors. And, it was a hot night in Florence.
- Day #10 – Florence Day #2
- Come visit the Oltrarno area, to the south of the Arno River, to get a sense of rustic, old Florence. Then, off to the Santa Croce Basilica and the amazing tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante, and Machiavelli.
- Day #11 – Florence Day #3
- The Uffizi Museum, the greatest collection of Italian art anywhere, was our morning adventure. Then join us at Piazzale Michelangelo, where we saw a second copy of Michelangelo’s David, and relived our memories of romance 30 years ago … followed by an evening at the Palazzo Vecchio and a wonderful meal at the Fescobaldi Wine Bar.
- Day #12 – Florence Day #4
- Join us at the underappreciated Duomo Museum and then the Academy, to meet the real David. Our afternoon was Fra Angelica and the Santa Maria Novalle Church. For our Florentine finale, the Lord was pleased to provide us a riverside, bridge-view table near the Ponte Vecchio for sunset.
- Days #13-14 – Rome Days #1-2 – The Wedding
- We’ve been to a lot of weddings in our lives, but a wedding at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican comes right at the top. We had a magnificent time with dear friends, accompanied by fantastic fellowship and food.
- Day #15 – Rome Day #3
- Join us for a journey through the Trastevere area of Rome, and then to devotions at the Church of St. Cecilia, followed by our amazing trip to the Villa Borghese Gallery. Our evening was capped off at the magnificent Trevi Fountain and the the world-famous Spanish Steps.
- Day #16 – Our Last Day – Rome Day #4
- We’ll start at the Roman coliseum, an tour by the Arch of Constantine, the ostentatious Victor Emmanuel Monument, and Bernini’s Four Rivers fountain in the Piazza Novona. As well as a visit with an amazing young man.
We’ve hoped you’ve had fun accompanying us on this trip to Italy, and that one day you’ll be blessed to experience and enjoy her yourself.