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Trip Report Eternal Italy in 15 days : 2013 Trip Report

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We just returned from a 15-day trip of Italy last night, with sore legs, stiff backs, tired eyes, but upbeat hearts and spirits ! This trip had originally been planned for May, but had to be called off at the last moment due to an illness in the family. We re-scheduled it for August, and kept our fingers crossed till the very end, half expecting another emergency to cancel this trip too. However, fortunately there were no hiccups this time, and everything went off smoothly. In hindsight, May would certainly have been a better time to visit Italy, as the weather would have been a lot cooler (August was really hot), but we managed to adjust our schedules to stay indoors during the hot afternoons on most days, so it was really not that bad.

We are a couple from India in our mid 50’s who take a vacation or two every year (we have a long bucket list of places we wish to travel to !), and love the independent style of travel. With years of travel experience, we limit our number of destinations to 4 cities within 15-16 days, so that we do not waste too much time checking in and out of hotels. However, with advancing age, we were discussing that in future we should be cutting down these vacations to 12-day lengths, as the body can no longer cope with the exertions of longer vacations.

Our itinerary for this trip was :
Venice : 3 days
Florence : 3 days
Sorrento : 5 days
Rome : 4 days

We were to fly into Venice, and out of Rome. We had done extensive planning as usual, using a Lonely Planet guidebook, internet resources, and of course travel blog sites like Fodors. We concentrated on B&B’s rather than hotels, as they appeared better for our cause in a country like Italy, and we were extremely pleased with our selections. So here goes a detailed Trip Report, as we have always posted one on this forum after returning from each of our vacations. Will be posting it in several installments, over several days.

Day 1 : Saturday Aug 10th : VENICE :
We had to leave our home town late evening on 9th August, to reach Mumbai by around 9pm, as our flight out was just after midnight. We were booked on Swiss Airlines from Mumbai to Zurich, with a good connection onward to Venice. The flight out of Mumbai got delayed by an hour due to some mechanical trouble, which caused some anxiety, as we had a tight connection to make at Zurich. Slept about 4 hours on the 8-hour flight to Zurich.

The flight reached Zurich at 6:45am local time, about 30 minutes behind schedule. We had to rush through security once again, take the skyrail to our departing terminal, go through Passport control, and when we arrived at our gate, the boarding for our flight had just started. Just in time, so we heaved a sigh of relief.

Landed at Venice Marco Polo on schedule at 8:35am local time. Got our luggage, bought Alilaguna water bus tickets at the arrival hall, and trudged to the water docks. It was only about 30 minutes or so to Fundamenta Nuove, where we alighted. From there it was only a 5-10 minute walk to our B&B : Alla Vite Dorata. We were warmly greeted by our hostess Aleksandra. We were told that our rooms were ready for an early check-in, and we were led there directly. It was a compact well-managed B&B having only 4-5 rooms, air-conditioning, with excellent breakfast, very clean housekeeping (sheets and towels changed every day), and friendly staff. Extremely well located, being just 5-7 minutes’ walk from both Fundamenta Nuove as well as the Ca D’Oro waterbus stops.

We showered, got ready, and were out of the place by 11:30am. It was a nice sunny day with a high of 31C, which was supposed to be pleasant for Venice in August. And the weather was expected to remain similar for the next 3 days. We started walking in the general direction of San Marco Plaza, but lost our bearings with respect to the map in no time. We just followed the crowds, wherever they were headed. DW kept going in and out of stores doing window shopping. We finally emerged on San Marco Plaza, and the sight of St Mark’s Basilica stared at us in front. Your first reaction on coming to San Marco Plaza has to be a cry of WOW !

It was only noon, but our body clocks registered 3:30pm, and our stomachs were growling. We crossed San Marco Plaza, and went into a side-lane behind the Museo Correr, where we located the Osteria Carla where we sat down for lunch. Had a good meal of pasta salad, and raviolis, with some average quality white wine. Overall good food and good friendly service.

Our stomachs full and satiated, we emerged by 1pm and ducked into the Museo Correr. We purchased Museum passes for E 24 each, and booked ourselves for the 2pm guided tour of the Clock Tower (at a reduced price of E 7 each). For the next hour, we went through the Museo Correr, which is a reasonably interesting museum (although I would not categorize it as a must-see in Venice). It is huge if you wish to visit every corner, but we rushed through it and still took an hour.

At 2 pm we re-assembled at the entry hall of Museo Correr, where we were met with our guide for the Clock Tower. There were only 7 of us on that tour, and our guide Elena was talkative and sweet. Visiting the Clock Tower is possible only through a Tour, and we all walked across the plaza to the Clock Tower where the tour began. It was a very intricate clock, 500 years old, which is fully functional to this day. The tour lasted about 60 minutes, during which we kept climbing up and up, although with generous breaks in between. Very interesting back-room tour of the clock’s mechanisms and its history. We finally emerged on the roof, where two giant figures beat a huge bell every hour, powered by the clock’s mechanism. The roof also offers super views of San Marco Plaza and of Venice city. A nice tour, which I would recommend to anyone. If you go here, you can probably skip the ride up the Campanile, as you get good views from here too.

We exited the Clock Tower just before 3pm, in time to watch the rooftop giants beat the clocktower bell at 3pm. Then we indulged in a round of gelato, and ambled over to the “piazzetta” area near the waterfront. Every now and then we would sit down somewhere to rest our feet, and then start strolling over the plaza again. We finally got in line for the St Mark’s Basilica, which we entered and sat down inside. Did not climb up to the terrace, as we had already seen the “bird’s eye view” of the Plaza from the Clock Tower roof. Then we walked out and went around the corner of the Doge’s Palace to see the Bridge of Sighs – great photo ops.

The fatigue of the travel from India to Italy was beginning to register, so we decided to visit the Palazzo Ducale and finish our sightseeing agenda for the day. This was the highlight of the entire day, and a treat to visit. The palace rooms and the paintings were a delight to watch, culminating in the rooms of justice, followed by a walk across the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte Sospiri) to the prison cells. Then a return walk across the Bridge of Sighs from the parallel walkway which looks out on the other side, before we exited the palace. Excellent visit and thoroughly enjoyable.

It was already 5:30pm. We bought a 48-hour vaparetto pass from a nearby kiosk (to be activated the next day), and started slowly walking back towards our B&B, taking directions from shops every now and then. As we neared our B&B, we sat down at a pizzeria in a square nearby, and had an early dinner of pizzas and beer. Then we returned to the B&B, changed and crashed into bed before 8pm.

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