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Trip Report Venice (Somewhere) and Trieste (Nowhere)—With a Bit of Slovenia In Between

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We took another Backroads cycling trip, this time spending most of the time in Northern Italy and Slovenia, but we began our journey with two days in Venice, ended the cycling portion with two days in Trieste, and returned for another two days in Venice.

As I’ve been trying to do for my last few trip reports, I’ll give you the accommodations, and restaurants etc first so if you're searching for information quickly, you'll know if this report is pertinent to your needs:

In Venice :
--Antiche Figure
--Osteria Bancogiro
--La Zucca

Cycling trip accommodations and restaurants...
In Nothern Italy (Capriva del Friuli):
--Castello di Spessa
--La Subida
--Agriturismo, Frascje Dai Spadons
--Enoteca l'Enfante(lunch-Cividale)
--Pizzaria Al Sole (lunch-Tarcento)

In Bovec, Slovenia
--Hotel Mangart
--Pristava Lepena

In Bled, Slovenia:
--Villa Bled(bookings have to be done through 3rd party I think)
--Ostarija Peglez'nBled
--Villa Bled
--Gostilna Rupa (lunch-Bohinj)

On our own again in Trieste:
--Starhotel Excelsior Palace
--Al Bagatto

Back to Venice
Hotel Londra Palace
--Alfredo‘s - Fresh Pasta To Go
--Il Ridotto

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    My husband and I were able to persuade our youngest adult daughter (making a living but still just new to the work world) to join us (not hard to do) on this cycling trip.

    Since we had to make an early a.m. train from the Santa Lucia stop to get to the Mestre Station the second day in Venice, I booked rooms for us at the Antiche Figure, which is on the Piazzale Roma side of the canal and across from the train station.

    Comment: I would do our location again if the same transport needs arose because the hotel was fine; I would not spend one cent on a canal view again because that end of the canal is pretty darn ugly.

    Since the hotel was a spit from the Piazzale Rome, it was perfectly sensible to get the airport bus to the bus depot there and just walk over the two small bridges. To make the most of our time, I pre-ordered online the tickets for the bus and a 48-hour vaporetto pass (I should have done the 36 hr) for all three of us.

    Explanation: Unlike on our previous trip, there is no discount for booking online. But it still can save time. One merely punches in the PNR for the purchase at the machine right by the bus and off one goes. Except...

    ...the machine was broken when we arrived. No problem--we hopped on the bus with our receipt in hand and stopped at the Hellovenezia ticket in Piazzale Roma.

    Online purchases for what you need are here:

    Since the youngest daughter and I had "done" Venice five years ago (and I do mean "done"--she's a touring monster), I bought no museum passes (plus I still had toilet cards from our last visit :) )...our goals the first day were to:

    --Buy our SIM cards for our tiny GSM phones we use on a bike
    --Find a "bio" store for me since I had been having tummy troubles
    --Get over jet lag

    To meet the first two of those goals, we headed into the Cannaregio district to find our TIM store and the bio store, Cibele. Luckily, they were caddy-corner to each other in the Capmpiello de l'Anconeta.

    We made it just in time to both before siesta. We then had to wait an hour for our SIM cards to be activated--we wanted to stay in the area if one did not--and so we had drinks and snacks at one of the cafes along there.

    --My husband's and daughter's SIMs activated within the hour; my SIM took an extra 1/2 hour.

    --My daughter's old GSM phone died. So we bought a new one for 30 Euro, which was basically the cost of our SIM cards. As we've often stated, it costs very little to pop into a phone store and just get a phone instead of trying to pre-order a SIM from the US.

    --As another poster predicted, the TIM store rep tried to sell us on more time because we would be using the phones for part of the time in Slovenia. We knew the phones would work just fine there, and all we would be doing is using SMS with each other anyway on our bikes. We shook our heads "no".

    We walked back to the room and hit the hay. We wanted to be rested for our dinner.

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    Last time the daughter and I visited Venice, we spent a lot of time trying to figure out where to eat. One of the places we wanted to eat at was Osteria Bancogiro, which is so close to the Rialto market. It has a great view of the canal but is not one of the touristy places lining the walks near the Rialto bridge.

    There was no room at that time. For this visit, I emailed them for a reservation for a canal-side table at 7 pm. Why so early? As much as I would have loved to have eaten a bit later, I knew we'd be dragging by the secondo with any later sitting.

    So what was it like? The service is somehow both attentive and unattentive, kind and surly--all at the same time. But we had success in saying and getting what we wanted: we preferred beer--and did they have anything "hoppy"? (they did--Reale--and the bottle was SO cute). We also wanted to try Venetian appetizers (there was an antipasto seafood platter we could share). I wanted to taste local cheese (cheese plate offered). Which fish was best today (the sea bass). Done.

    Would I go back? Maybe. But what I'd really like to do is buy a six-pack of beer and sit on the dock in front of the place and wave to the people on vaporettos in the late evening as we saw others doing later :)

    I had the perfect scenic nightcap for "later." When my daughter and I visited Venice years ago, we were making use of "new" technology. We had downloaded the free Rick Steve's mp3 podcasts to her iphone, used a splitter, and did many tours throughout Venice that way.

    For this trip, I had loaded the files onto all our phones again so that my husband could enjoy our favorite RS tour: The vaporetto Grand Canal tour. We headed up via vaporetto from Rialto to get a #1 line at Piazzalle Rome, and away we went, touring all the way to San Marco and back enjoying the magical nights that are Venice.

    My husband was totally impressed.

    Our beds beckoned.

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    Trip Report Continued:
    Refreshed by a good night's sleep, on our second day we trekked over the bridge to the railroad station to get our tickets for our next day's travel to Mestre. Done! Onwards...

    Determined to find GOOD food in Venice this time, I had booked us for a food tour. I book food tours everywhere now because it's one of the best ways to learn local history and find out where to eat after the tour is over.

    The tour I booked was the Rialto Markets and Cicchetti/Wine tasting tour through Walks of Italy

    Our tour guide was lovely, the weather was perfect, the stops were interesting, but...this was not a great value tour. Let me compare: Eating Italy Rome's Testaccio tour was FANTASTIC; our tour with Istanbul Eats was OUT OF THIS WORLD; this one was just...nice. It cost around $200 for the three of us.

    Basically, one taste tests at three local bars, enjoying a selection of cicchetti--ranging from crostini (bread with delicious toppings), fritti (fried fish and vegetables) to Venetian panini (sandwiches)--and washing it down with some prosecco,plus local red and white wines. One finishes with an expresso and a grappa.

    Our really sweet guide loved showing us every fish and vegetable in the market and telling us how to cook everything. She told us the history of all of the street names around the market, and explained that these empty back alleys were once bustling and are now mostly abandoned because of the declining local population.

    All in all...
    --we loved the back alleys of Santa Croce, and at least with the guide with us, we were never lost
    --I have never had grappa before so that was new (it took me two hours to recover)
    --I found out about the two types of wine spritz (campari or aperol)
    --the guide confirmed that my upcoming reservations for dinner were quite good and recommended another I think it was probably a win-win for us.

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    After the tour, we headed via vaporetto up to the larger supermarket COOP in Piazzale Roma (as you face the water's edge where the vaporetto docks are there, turn left and keep walking). We stocked up on some needed items and headed back down toward our hotel. As we passed the Hotel Carlton, we spotted "rooftop terrace bar" on its sidewalk sign and said, "Why the heck not?" On the terrace, we found a spot of shade with a view of the canal, and we quickly ordered the wine spritz in both campari and aperol versions so we could taste test.

    Beds beckoned again for a nap. We again wanted to be "fresh" for our next meal.

    I had inched up our dinner reservation a tiny bit--to the big late hour of 7:30. Our reservation? La Zucca. This was excellent, not only for Venice but for anywhere. Perfect for vegetarians, it also has meat offerings, too. Lasagne, pumpkin flan, gorganzola pistachio pasta, rabbit...I could go on and on. They even had decent beer.

    The place is tiny, with two small rooms and a very small outdoor eating area. We sat on the inside, but we had a view of the outside where gondolas passed and the restaurant diners opposite us watched us and we watched them. Service was a little testy (funny how that is, right?), but if I ever return to Venice, I'd make sure I was extra hungry and order EVERYTHING on this menu.

    We zigzagged out to catch a vaporetto (lost for a wee bit), and headed down the canal to St Mark's Square. When my daughter and I stayed here last, we stayed at the Palace Bonvecchiati, which was between Rialto and St. Marks, so we would spend every evening saying goodnight to Venice on the square. My husband last visited Venice in the 60's and barely remembered an evening, so he was totally enchanted by all the competing orchestras.

    One vaporetto ride took us back to the hotel for our beds. Time to pack, time to organize, because cycling would come next.

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    Our stay at the Antiche Figure had been pleasant. Our check-in process had been very friendly and efficient, and the breakfast staff were friendly and efficient, too. Checking out, though, seemed to be a problem.

    We checked out of the Antiche Figure the night before our departure, explaining to the desk clerk that we had to catch an early train. He said we were smart to do so because people become very impatient in the morning with the process. We could see why. The check-out process took no less than 1/2 hour of endless paperwork plus discussion about mini-bar charges for items we certainly never touched.

    Near the very end of the process, my credit card was refused. I had plenty of back-ups, and the next one in my wallet worked, but I was worried about some possible fraud.

    Back in the room, after using my new TIM-SIM phone time on a call collect to my cc company, where the associate required me to go through every darn charge of the day, it turns out the refusal was due to the guy at the hotel's front desk entering the wrong CCV.

    We were packed up ready to go out the door first thing. After a quickie cappuccino the following morning, I attempted to tell the a.m. desk clerk that we had checked out the night before and and that our rooms were now open. The desk clerk refused to look at me and said abruptly "I am waiting on this gentleman." Since I now knew from experience that the gentlemen's check-out would take no less than 1/2 hour (and that's if his CCV was entered correctly), I was in deep doo-doo.

    Instead of missing our train to suit the hotel staff's needs, I scribbled a note on top of the room keys(I carry mini Post-Its on me everywhere)and left. As we had lugged our luggage to the top of the Ferrovia bridge, the desk clerk ran up and said, "You have to check out." "As I told you inside the hotel, madame, we DID last night." "But what rooms are checking out?", she exclaimed. I told her and said that I had put a sticky note on the keys, too, and she finally seemed satisfied.

    So I do not know the solution to this problem for anyone attempting the same thing; you must admit we did everything on our end we could do. And as you will see by the end of this report, even if the evening and morning clerks are the same, that does not always work.

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    Onwards to Udine in the North of Italy.

    Making our way across the Ferrovia bridge to the Santa Lucia train station, we caught our train to Venezia Mestre and only had to walk across the platform for our train to Udine. The only problem we had was finding out if we had to validate our online eticket for the Udine train (answer: no).

    We had booked second class, and since we were doing the early train on a Sunday, that was a good choice. We had the train to ourselves.

    We arrived with an hour to spare before we met up with our cycling group, so we took advantage of the restrooms and the snack bar at the train station. We'd have an hour shuttle south to our biking starting place, Aquileia.

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    For our routing from this point on, I'd prefer to direct you to the Backroads Slovenia Trip URL, and those folks will certainly be willing to send you a detailed itinerary, which can change quickly. Here's the link:

    At this point, and I will add again at another point, here is my master thread discussing cycing trips (I do like Backroads, but I have respect for other tour companies, too)

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    Aquileia, founded around 181 B. C. still has Roman villas, a Forum, funeral casks, Roman roads, port ruins, oratories, and a Roman bridge. It was near the seaside when it was founded; it's now miles away and landlocked.

    We toured the basilica built in the third century B.C., destroyed by Attila, and reconstructed in 1031.

    The basilica, still operating, represents history of the town because along the way everyone added to or subtracted from it. You walk in to see a floor of mosaics from the original church uncovered in the early twentieth century. And these are good mosaics, not haphazard one, covered with symbols, portraits, all kinds of flora and fauna. There are narratives. In the crypts are eleventh-century frescoes and more mosaics.

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    After our day's ride, we ended up at the Castello di Spessa We stayed here 2 nights in this gorgeous setting overlooking all the surrounding hills.

    Our room was large and comfortable, but the bathroom was rather tiny in comparison: one sink and a shower stall. Our shower stall and toilet were on a ledge, and the stall was rather slippy-slidy. The decor was rich Italian grandma's house, if that makes sense.

    Breakfasts were served in a very large Italian-style kitchen, and included scrambled eggs plus the traditional offerings of bread, cheese, meat and fruit.

    Our daughter loved the setting enough to ask about wedding prices. Hmmm.

    All in all, I'd come back.

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    Both nights of our stay here we were shuttled to restaurants.

    Our first shuttle was to
    La Subida .

    This is a "family-run restaurant", but more in line with a "family-with-all-chefs" kind of thing. Their emphasis: seasonal and local. So we had good frico lollipops (fried Montasio cheese on a stick) and delicious local prosciutto with melon on bread outside on the lovely grounds as our starter. Inside the very eclecticly decorated restaurant, we ate stuffed zucchini blossoms and mushrooms. For my entree, I had luscious lamp chops.

    An off note was the sorbet: a sorbetto from Sirk vinegar. While I appreciated the effort, my teeth and tongue did not appreciate the taste. You can skip this and feel just fine.

    Desserts came as sort of a mixed offering, one without our choosing, throughout the table. One could share or exchange. This worked well for us since we were a family of three who try not to eat an entire dessert. We had two "wins" and one "loss."

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    The second night of our cycling segment, we visted theAgriturismo, Frascje Dai Spadons for dinner.

    As agriturismos go, by law there are only certain seasons/so many days when these are allowed to be open, and the Frascje Dai Spadons used kindly used one of their out-of-season allotment days for our group.

    While the meal was not on the culinary standard of the previous evening's La Subida, the freshness of the ingredients and the love put into the cooking more than compensated. Guiliano and his wife treated us like family, and all of us in the group had a great time.

    Of the wines we were served, Guiliano's Pinot Grigio was a standout.

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    The weather, hotel and dinner the next day was probably the low point of the trip. As we crossed throughout the day into Slovenia, thunderstorms accented uphill climbs. The bright spot of the day was lunch in Tarcento at Pizzeria Ristorante Al Sole, otherwise to be known by everyone who has ever stopped there as "Michele's Pizza Shop".

    The owner Michele was born in Italy, moved to New York as a young girl, visted Italy as a teenager, and decided to stay. She is therefore a fabulous combination of warm Italian and hardcore, no-nonsense New Yorker. We all adored her. The pizza was good--perfect after cycling for two hours in the rain--but the hospitality was even better.

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    After lunch, the weather made the cycling over the pass into Slovenia treacherous at times, but eventually we ended up cycling with clearer skies along the Soca River in the Slovenian alpine town of Bovec.

    Our night's stay was at the Hotel Mangart . Our tour company had listed the place as "casual", and it was.

    We were in rear-facing room with an immediate not-so-attractive view of the parking lot but in the distance an attractive view of the mountains. The bedroom was a sort of cubicle, but it was quite functional. The bathroom was also very functional. It was large for the size of the room, and was sparkling clean with a really good shower.

    However, our room (not the bathroom) smelled faintly like mildew.

    Breakfast in the basement was OK.

    The hotel clientele was cute--lots of geriatric birdwatchers and botonists.

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    During our one-night stay at the Hotel Mangart,our dinner was at Pristava Lepena

    Located in Triglav National Park, Pritava Lepena is sort of a hotel village/camp . The setting would have been beautiful in sunlight; the continuing rain dampened all views and made driving a tad hazardous. I was so happy I didn't have to do it!

    High expectations can lead to dissatisfaction, and I think that was part of my problem with this place. It was our first evening in Slovenia. Having been in this lovely country the year before, I had enjoyed really good local food--especially lamb--and excellent wines. My lamb here seemed as though it had been in a chafing pan for hours. The meal was supposed to be a wine tasting, but we were unsure of what we were tasting because no one told us (plus there were no refills on any glasses).

    I would hate to have someone judge the place, though, on our group's experience, because part of the problem was serving our large group. With 17 or 18 people, we were jammed at one end of the room lengthwise against a wall and into a corner, and therefore, all of us had to assist the servers to get dishes to people against the wall.

    Making matters worse was the fact that some guests, including myself, were sick afterwards, and we had different theories as to what ingredient it was that put us under.

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    The next day's ride was the one I was looking forward to: riding along the Soca River. The water is river's water is turquoise, and the air smells like pine.

    Since I knew my riding time would be limited, I was so happy I was able to do the 19 km before the day turned into climbs, one that would include the Vrasic Pass. I hopped into the shuttle with a bunch of other people who were finally not ashamed to ride in the "wimp wagon", and we cheered others on as we headed for the coffee/lunch spot at the tippy-top of the pass. My husband and I had stopped here the year before, and we enjoyed seeing it just as much this year.

    Lunch was of our own choosing at the ski resort town of Kranjska Gora at some place whose name I cannot remember. The food was totally forgettable anyway. I got to visit the post office here and had a joyful experience of choosing some lovely alpine flower stamps for postcards. Nice people there, too.

    Our hotel for the next two nights was Villa Bled, Tito's former summer residence, and our room/suite (one without a balcony) was sumptuous--sort of. On the one hand, the hotel's situation on Lake Bled offers a perfect view of the famous Church on the Island and adjoins the lake's walking path, plus the staff is just wonderful. On the other hand, the place--both the rooms and the common areas--feels so sterile. There's not a "homey" corner in it. If I were to come back to Bled (and I just might--I adore Slovenia), I think I'd try to find somewhere else.

    We were so pleased with our choice of dinner for the evening: Ostarija Peglez'n. Situated near the lake path, this restaurant prides itself on simple, fresh offerings. The waiter was really outgoing, and so we decided to put him in charge of our happiness and make the recommendations. Great decision. We shared seafood starters, some really good pasta, and a whole grilled fish with roasted vegetables and potatoes. We slurped it all down with our favorite Slovenian beer, Lasko (we don't like Union). We shared a fresh apple strudel with whipped cream and ice cream for dessert, and it was simply wonderful.

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    wikoffclan--Thank you for letting me know that at least two people are reading this. I was ready to give up, and then I remembered I sort of count on these posts for myself to force me to keep my trip records. You and ekc are keeping me motivated for sure.

    Trip Report continued:

    The next day was rainy, and more people were willing to join me in the Wimp Wagon for at least the morning part of the day. I have no clue where it was where we hit a local coffee shop in the absolute middle of nowhere Slovenia, but I loved it.

    --First, our cappuccinos were first rate.
    --Second, at 9:30 a.m., two friendly local toothless guys were knocking back Laskos with shots (even that was too early for me--and I can sure do early). We enjoyed their company even though we did not speak Slovenian and they didn't speak much English.
    --Third, a men's hiking group--ages ranging from around 25 to 65, dropped in to get out of the rain for a bit. Lots of hearty toasts and a song or two.

    I didn't want to leave.

    But it was good we did, for the upcoming lunch spot was even better: Gostilna Rupa in Bohinj

    In a postcard-cute facility with an outside terrace and a cozy inside area, this restaurant offers super fresh rustic food that certainly hit the spot on a dreary day. We're talking fresh-baked, right-out-of-the-outside-oven bread. We're talking fresh suckling pig and gorgeous grilled trout and roasted vegetables with this amazing red pepper sauce (I wanted to drink it). And we're talking warm berry strudel.

    I would be willing to fly back to Slovenia just to eat there again.

    Well, on second thought, I would as long as I could eat here, at the Ostarija Peglez'n in Bled, and at Hisa Franko (Ana Ros!) in Kobarid**.

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    Hi AZ, I'm also following your journey. I wouldn't dream of getting on a bike, but admire those who do have the energy to pump pedals.
    Thanks for posting. Please continue.

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    Dai and Sartoric--Thanks for pushing me onwards. I have to admit that the cycle and I still were not best friends on this past trip, but I hope to return to a former glory soon. And Dai, Trieste WAS on my radar for years. So many people told me "Don't bother", but I wanted to see for myself. So we're almost getting to that point.

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    **Hisa Franko (Ana Ros) in Kobarid.

    I forgot to expand on this footnote in a post above. We stayed at the Hisa Franko last year, and we got to meet Ana Ros. She is world famous, she's brilliant, and she is just like the nice smart girl you roomed with in college. Totally down to earth in ANY language. She spoke five when we met her and she was working on two more.

    There are many articles about her online, but I happen to like this one:

    We did not stay with her on this trip, but I do want people to note that if you don't get to Kobarid, in Ljublana, Ana is partner in one of the restaurants near the castle: Gostilna Na Gradu

    We had no idea of her ownership; all we knew is that we each tasted a mouthful of this simply sublime Lemon Mashed Potatoes there and were in awe. When we later ate at the Hisa Franko, all became clear.

    Now back to the Trip Report...

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    Back at the hotel in Bled, our pre final dinner outing was a boat ride in one of the traditional Bled Pletna boats Our entire group got into one boat, and we headed for The Church on the Island

    Our delightful young guide gave an excellent presentation, explaining that he just barely got away with not carrying his wife up all the stairs after their wedding because of a lightning storm (here's a YouTube video of the groom carrying the wife up all 99 stairs )

    We all got to ring the bell inside the church for our wishes. Yes, my wish was for oodles of healthy grandchildren!!!!

    Our entire group loved our boat ride and guide; the entire group all pretty much agreed that our farewell dinner in Villa Bled's dining room was missing something.

    The author Calvin Trillin has a good term for it: "La Maison de la Casa House". It's food that's just trying to be up there but really does not hit the mark because it lacks a relationship to its locality.

    Our group's table was in this HUGE empty hotel dining room, so there was no "there" there. Thank goodness our group was fun and our meal certainly wasn't bad by any means, but I certainly would say to anyone going to Bled that there ARE good places to eat there, and this isn't worth your extra $$$$.

    Yet I must also say that their breakfast was darn good--and it provides a view of the lake too!

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    Looking forward to more. I'll revisit Venice this November, and I'm planning to stop off in Trieste on the way (have just started rereading "Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere"). What sort of price range for La Zucca?

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    For our last day at Bled, most of the group took a quick cycle through some of the local towns.

    Three of us decided to head to Bled Castle instead. We took a taxi up near their opening time, and we were able to check out the museum right away and then were able to tour the little forge, printing press, and so on as they opened later on.

    The walk down was a little hard on our knees (we three were among the oldest of the cycle tour) but the walk was so darn pleasant. I wish we had had time to check out some of the churches in town on the way, but we knew we had to get back to get packed.

    This tour was good in that it included an ending bus shuttle that stopped first in Ljubljana (downtown or airport) and then went on to the rail station in Trieste, Italy. Feeling we had seen enough of Ljubljana the previous year, we headed for Trieste.

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    I had made a deal as Master Trip Planner with my husband and daughter--I would plan most of the trip, including the hotel and transport from Trieste, but they had to plan how we would spend our 1.5 days there. I supplied them with our one hard copy guide to Italy plus had sent guidebooks and articles to their Kindle and iPad. They took an hour at Hotel Bled (and three beers) to come up with a plan.

    We arrived at the train station shortly after noon and took a taxi to our hotel: Starhotel Excelsior Palace . This hotel facing the harbor is very nicely situated, and both of our rooms had balconies looking out to sea.

    We headed out for a quick pizza and salad, and then we sauntered down to the Tourist Office. It is located just off the main square, opposite Harry's Bar and the entrance to the Grand Hotel Duchi d'Aosta. Run by TurismoFVG, the regional tourist authority for all of Friuli Venezia Giulia, the office has a wealth of information about Trieste and the rest of the region in several languages. My daughter had a good idea of what questions to ask, and the representative we spoke to was very helpful.

    We ended up with a 48-hr discount card for 15 Euros plus 3 Euros for 48 hours of bus transport. It would pay for a guided walking tour plus entrance from everything from most art museums to the Castle Miramare.

    As the non-trip planner in Trieste, I was pretty impressed with the father-daughter team.

    We walked around the main square, where exhibits marked the 100th anniversary of the funeral of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. It's so ironic that the shot that ended his life would permanently end this city's world standing for the next century.

    The day was hot, we were tired, so we decided we'd just check out four candidates for our evening meal and call it a day. We read all four restaurant menus and decided we wanted Al Bagatto We headed back to the hotel and asked the desk manager to make a reservation for us.

    The simply gorgeous lobby/bar/library was getting busy because the hotel was the headquarters for the International Talent Support contest. According to its website, "ITS searches, discovers and reveals the freshest, most unique talents in fashion, accessories and jewelry design and this year sees a new competition field ITS ARTWORK, dedicated to the development of artistic visions." The young people in the lobby were very nervous and very excited, and the jury members seemed very intent on evaluating them.

    We left them to their work and went off for a nap.

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    I'm still trying to put my impressions of Trieste in coherent thought before I put them into words. So I think I'll wait until I talk about our guided tour before I go into any detail.

    But first, I want to talk about Al Bagatto .

    Be forewarned: we are very willing to enjoy good but cheap street food, and we are also willing to spend a lot of money on a great meal. This was a "let's spend" night.

    I am willing to pinch pennies in many ways, and I detest throwing away money on bad food. But if we think there's a chance the chef just might know what he or she is doing, we are tasting menu fanatics.

    Along the same lines, we are big beer drinkers, but if we have a choice of a tasting menu, then we are not only "in" for whatever the chef chooses, but we'll also ask if there's a wine pairing option.

    This place not only had a tasting menu but also a wine pairing AND an olive oil and bread pairing.

    I kid you not.

    We felt as though we were returning to the tastes of where we started our journey in the Cividale/Udine areas. And indeed, it turned out that Al Bagatto is a member of the same "farm to table" association as the restaurant La Subida at the beginning of our cycling trip.

    And such a sensory impression partly explains our overall impression of Trieste--it's as though it's a civilization that is part of Italy yet not. This restaurant, like others in Trieste, feels it is connected to a civilization a hundred miles away, and in such a very regional country such as Italy, it's not quite a mental fit.

    But let me describe our meal. Well, actually, I can't. Did you ever have a meal where one just lives in the present throughout it? We had a choice of two possible tasting menus, and I think we could have done well with either one. From the amuse bouche onwards, we just savored every bite without worrying about food blogging it. When we had finished our glasses of simply excellent wine with each course, they were refilled.

    In other words, they were going to charge us big time, but they were not going to skimp.

    And this was a place where the waitstaff was as thrilled that we loved the food as we were thrilled that they cared so much about the food.

    So yeah, the bill came to close to 400 USD. But we all said, "THIS was worth it."

    We returned to our hotel to a blaze of camera flashes. Apparently, the jury of ITS are stars in Europe (none of whom we knew), and the crowd took a chance that maybe we were famous too.

    Heck, after that meal, I sure FELT famous.

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    We rose to our view of the sea from our beds. Lovely.

    The breakfast buffet was nice in a bright large room, and we enjoyed the vibrancy of all those talented young people eating there, breathlessly yet hungrily waiting to make it big in the arts world through the ITS competition.

    At 10:30 we met our guide for the tour included in our 48-hr FVG card outside the Trieste Tourist Office at the corner of the Piazza Unita d'Italia. Our tour guide was an older woman, who looked, of all things, Parisian.

    She and her Tourist Office colleague called out the names of those that had reserved, and when there were a couple of no-shows, they invited others waiting at the sidelines to join.

    Our guide kindly explained that the tour would encompass the older, original parts of Trieste, and that she would conduct the tour in two languages, Italian and English, taking turns as to which language she would begin with.

    Since by this part of the trip, I had had to rely on a cane again (Lake Bled's staircases and I were no longer BFFs), she cautioned that we could be climbing up to the area of the original city and then would be descending steeply. I smiled and said that I had two strapping adults to carry me if need be.

    With that we set off. She quickly explained that Trieste had always been more or less a "frontier" city, no matter what power ruled it, Romans, Habsburgs, Mussolini, Germans and Allied Forces.

    It only returned to Italy in 1954, and I can tell you, although she did not say so, that Slovenians are still pretty mad about that. In their view, Slovenians in Yugoslovia fought bravely against the Nazis while Italy JOINED the Nazis, so they can't understand why Allied Forces rewarded Italy with this coastal gem.

    As a result of all these ruling countries, the city is an architectural collage. The main square looks as though it came straight from Vienna (even though other people just swear it looks like Venice's St. Marks Square--SO NOT TRUE!), yet other buildings look like cupcakes in decorative Italianate style.

    All kinds of churches abound: you can see within mere minutes Serbian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Helvetic Evangelist,Roman Catholic and Jewish places of worship, plus the ruins of Roman temples. One passes a Roman amphitheater, for goodness sakes.

    The rise of Trieste as a huge port actually was a stroke of genius on the part of Austrian Emperor Charles Vl (or that of one of his brilliant advisers). In 1719, in the middle of the 500-yr reign of Hapsburg, Charlie declared Trieste to be a free (as in taxes) port. Ergo, it was free-market economics at its finest.

    Coffee imports certainly benefited from this tax haven, and therefore, one wonders if it was Vienna or Trieste that truly invented "coffee culture".

    We peaked our uphill tour at San Giusto Cathedral (another mix of all cultures)where we saw the old Roman market and a lovely view of the Adriatic, and then we made our way back down to the square, passing the Jewish district as we did so.

    As I mentioned before, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand really put an end to the dominance Trieste held on the Adriatic, so it was so moving to see the temporary funereal centennial exhibits on the square.

    Quite frankly, we had a hard time understanding why there's been no huge rebirth of it as a port except for those monstrosities of cruise ships.

    Having been to Rome, to Florence, to Istanbul, to Venice, and to Vienna, here's the conclusion we each individually arrived at, which we discussed at length over lunch:

    The city reminded all three of us of Vienna, only one that felt abandoned to be run by Italians. It's a visual/sensual culture clash.

    Our conversations with the locals over our 36 hours in Trieste were enlightening, too. To them, Triestians are the true multicultural Italians. Many of them summer in houses along the Croatian coastlines and hike from their camps in the Slovenian Alps. Nevertheless, they identify most with the Italian Udine/Cividale area, no matter how far away or how interior that area is.

    They feel they have nothing in common with Venice, an hour or so away by train. To them, Venice is truly the abandoned city.

    Interesting, right?

    To be continued...

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    Just a note: I am so sorry I could not review Trieste pastries, coffee and gelato.

    In the weeks prior to this trip, I had some problems resolving some digestive issues. In fact, for awhile there, all I was able to eat was white rice with chicken broth or almond milk. Yes, I was scared to death this would be my diet in Italy!

    While I was able to resume most of my normal diet while on the trip, sweets and coffee and some fruits continued to present hurdles for me.

    My husband and daughter did try a few pastries and some gelato there, though. Overall,my husband thought that the offerings paled compared to those in Lecce in Puglia two years ago.

    Again, I feel bad I can't give a further report on this aspect of the Trieste food scene.

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    Our 48-hr FVG card gave us admission to many places, and I so wish we had had two more days in the city to explore the art museums.

    But my husband and daughter had thought carefully about our possible choices, and they both believed that we should see the Civico Museo della Risiera di San Sabba--Trieste's concentration camp museum.

    Using our FVG card, we hopped the Line 10 Bus to where the line ended a block or two from the Risiera di San Sabba.

    The Risiera was actually built in 1898 as a rice-husking factory. At first it was just a temporary prison camp for Italian captured soldiers, Stalag 339. But in October 1943, its purpose became a transit camp, prison camp and death camp for Jews and political prisoners.

    The museum is not a large place, mainly because so much of the camp was destroyed by the Germans as they left. But the museum designers have kept intact some strong visuals.

    The entrance is a tad hard to find on a side street. You enter it through a long cement tunnel. On the left is the main office where you can rent an audio guide.

    You immediately proceed to the “death cell”, which was where prisoners who were going to be executed within a few hours were held, and also bodies to be cremated were stored there.

    Further down, one gets to view 17 tiny prison cells with two small bunks. Nazis forced up to 6 prisoners to be held in each one. Later in the tour, you can see in a film that one of the camp survivors says he was locked in a cell for 5 months straight without sunlight.

    What was chilling in this area were the two cells for torture.

    Death methods varied. Sometimes vehicle gas exhausts were pumped inside. Some people were shot. A lot of the time people were simply clubbed to death. What struck me about the audio guide was that it avoided the term "execution", which makes sense. An execution implies a result of a court of law. Instead, the audio guide used the proper term: "murder".

    Estimates of the number of people who passed through this camp, many of them on their way to other German death camps, range from 11,000 to as many as 20,000. Some of the Trieste Jews lodged here and transported elsewhere if they survived their stay here were the sick and aged from old people's home, many of whom were sent to Auschwitz.

    It is estimated that 4,000 to 5,000 people died in this facility.

    One can't see the crematorium. As the Yugoslavian fighters inched their way toward liberating Trieste in April 1945, the Germans blew it up to try to cover up their crimes. But human ashes and bones and such things as the club they used to torture and murder gave away the purpose of the place.

    The architects who designed the museum recreated the shape of the building’s floor only, using metal plates to trace the outline

    One gets to see Risiera’s archives in a separate area, where a 1/2 hour documentary plays. The almost 50 panels under glass contain photos, newspapers, prisoner letters , identity cards, and even ashes of Jews murdered in Auschwitz.

    As other visitors have mentioned, probably the most horrible thing is a German accounting document. It describes the cost of housing a prisoner, of the cost of gas needed to kill the prisoner, balanced by the revenue gained from his gold teeth and personal property.

    The officers chosen to run this camp by Himmler had already proved themselves at other death camps. Most of them were eventually caught and tried by the Allied War Crimes courts.

    Most were sentenced to death, but the senior commander committed suicide before his trial.

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    Still following along, Alessandra...I'd love to enjoy a meal like that (if someone else were buying!) sounds like a meal you will never forget. Lucky you!

    Not being a history buff, I had no idea so many people were murdered there in WW2. Thank you for sharing what you learned.

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    Thanks, Dai. I had to take a breather, but I'm nearing the end of the Trieste part, at least.

    Leaving the Civico Museo della Risiera di San Sabba ,we now headed to our second activity of the day: the The Castle of Miramare

    We again hopped Bus 10 line to descend to the Trieste harbor. Since I was not the Trip Planner for 48 hours (I was so happy), I think but am not sure if we took Bus 6 to the train or bus station. I am sure that we eventually took Bus 36 to Miramare.

    Again, our FVG card paid for all our transit. Our midday ride on the 36 bus was with beachbound teens, and we could not help but notice that people were dragging lawn chairs onboard since "the beach" often merely consisted of paved stone.

    There seem to be two entrances to Miramare via bus: one at the top and one at the bottom. The top one was closed so we were left with the second stop at the bottom. Yes, that meant we had to walk uphill (not that hard for most of you; a big deal to me with the cane), but that same walk allowed us a preview of cafes we might want to visit when we came back to the bus stop.

    Plus, the walk uphill was in the shade, and there was a cool breeze coming off of the sea.

    I had copied and sent on our Miramar information to my husband and daughter; I did not read any of it because I did not want to be tempted into trip planning this segment of our trip. Therefore, I had no expectations and was absolutely delighted to see this place.

    The gardens of Miramar alone are worth a visit. If we were to come back, I'd bring a picnic lunch. It was just so darn pretty, even though the botonists were completely revamping the grounds. The large park contains both an English-style and Italian-style garden, and it's brimming with rare plants, sculptures and ponds. Along "the Castle", the park descends to the sea in wide steps.

    Built between 1856 and 1860, the Castle stands on the tip of the promontory of Grignano, but strangely enough, from the inside looking out, it seems as though it's at the level of the sea.

    Its builder, Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, whom I shall refer to merely as "Max", quickly rose to be Rear Admiral and Commander of the Austrian fleet. Max loved his time on board navy ships, and requested that the architect keep that feel, especially in his study. And even though the Castle has 20 rooms in it, it actually feels intimate.

    The story of Max and Charlotte is pretty interesting. Charlotte was the daughter of Leopold I of Belgium (both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were directly related to Leo), so both of them were really connected as far as royal circles go.

    As seemed to happen often, people with royal blood of any type were offered "jobs" by other countries. Around the time of the American Civil War, a Mexican deputation informed Maximilian that part of the Mexican people were in favour of restoring a monarchy. France's Napoleon III had suggested Max for the job, and Max gave up any chance of nabbing the Austrian throne in order to become Emperor of Mexico.

    It didn't work out.

    The so-called Mexican support (and even more important, the French support) wasn't really supportive. Charlotte scrambled to get back to Europe in an unsuccessful bid get international help, begging Nap III and the Pope endlessly.

    Meanwhile, in 1867, unbeknownst to Charlotte, Maximillian was taken prisoner and eventually shot. Remember that series of paintings by Édouard Manet, "The Execution of Emporer Maximilian"? Yes, this is the guy.

    Charlotte descended into madness, many months before she ever found out about the fate of her husband, and she eventually died back in Belgium.

    Another husband and wife were destined for tragedy there, too. Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, was Italian royalty and certainly born with a surfeit of good looks, brains, money and privilege. However, throughout his lifetime, Trieste citizens adored him and also his wife Anne of Orleans because they were genuinely good people who took the responsibility, not the trappings, of position seriously.

    Educated in England, when he entered the military, he and his father totally agreed that he should never be given special treatment. This brilliant and handsome man was beloved by those he led. His military genius meant that he ended up becoming the Italian Viceroy of Italian East Africa during the early years of WWII.

    When Africa fell to the British, he was captured and kept in appalling conditions. Still, upon his death from maleria and tuberculosis there, even British Commanders wore black armbands as a sign of respect for an ultimate soldier and gentleman.

    I am trying to find a biography of him, and most things I'm seeing are out of print. I should have shopped for something in the Miramare gift shop.

    Anyway, as I looked at the pictures of him and his family, I wondered if had he lived, if the concentration camp we had just visited would ever had been put into action (he died well before it became active).

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    Thank you AZ for your considered and very interesting report.

    We spent only a brief time in Trieste enroute to Pula where my husbands mother was born in 1932. She is reluctant to talk about their wartime experiences, but did elaborate on one. Her school bus was stopped by the Nazis, their teacher was executed on the side of the road. Something no one should ever have to witness, especially children.

    We must go back to Trieste (and Pula). Your report helps to put that return trip higher up the list.

    Do hope the foot is better.

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    My hip is doing great, sartoric, and my knees are rather pain-free. Thank you for asking. And thank you for the complement.

    Your story about your mother-in-law is absolutely chilling.

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    Report continued:

    We returned to the bus stop the way we came, stopping for a quick beer and restroom visit at one of the bus stop cafes before we caught the #36 to the station. We nabbed a #6 and were back to the hotel in no time.

    As we were getting showered and changed for dinner, I realized that right out of my window in the distance was the Castle of Miramare. Wow.

    We again asked our concierge to make a restaurant reservation for us. The Trieste tour guide had highly recommended a restaurant that was right next door. I can't find the name of it, nor do I want to. When we arrived, I just saw some dirty tablecloths, and I was mentally out of there. It took a primo course before I sold my husband and daughter on the idea of leaving.

    We walked down the street in pouring rain and happened upon the Trattoria al Nuovo Antico Pavone Soaked to the skin, we agreed for good or for bad, this would have to be "it" for the night. Once we were inside, my daughter pulled a small list from her purse and started laughing. This place would have been their choice for tonight's dinner had not the tour guide recommended the other one.

    The inside was warm and cozy, and so was the service. Although nothing could compare with the meal the night before, this restaurant was offered great seafood, although it was a little pricey.

    The decor was elegant, yet there certainly was a family atmosphere: a little boy sat at a table next to us with a toy gun and shot the waiter repeatedly, and everyone from the owner to the staff were amused. The waiter "died" a few times to keep the entertainment going.

    Of course, we were rather stunned. Then we realized that since we are coming from a country where little kids accidentally shoot people all the time, we probably had a much darker perspective.

    The pouring rain had removed the ITS groupies outside the door except for one stalwart. We did a pre check-out and ordered a taxi so we could be out the door before 6:00 AM. Our FRECCIABIANCA train from Trieste Centrale was at 6:16 AM and would arrive in Venezia Mestre at 7:40 AM.

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    Thanks for your TR, AZ. I missed it earlier and am very interested in Trieste. Great report.

    Sortoric, your mother's story is appalling. Should make us all grateful to live where we do.

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    Thanks, irishface.

    I have often thought that most of us should be grateful not where about we live as much as the fact that we have not had to be tested with moral decisions that test our personal safety or personal well being.

    I think I have performed some acts of kindness but very few of heroics.

    As I told my kids often when they would be faced with opportunities to cheat at school, they had a) some brains and b) parents who did not hold them accountable for top grades. If they cheated, there were NO excuses. Simply put, my husband and I would rather they flunk a test than lower their personal standards. "Everyone is doing it" wouldn't cut it at our home.

    But that's cheating on a test. What would I do if I faced a choice between the lives of my kids and the lives of people I never knew? What what I do if I faced a choice between the lives of my kids and the lives of people I actually loved?

    I don't know.

    I am so grateful that those decisions are not ones I have faced.

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    The next day, our taxi arrived as promised.

    We left Trieste Centrale at 6:16 AM on an early Sunday morning, praying that our plans to get the daughter back to Marco Polo airport would work.

    Our car on the FRECCIABIANCA was empty, that's for sure, so I was happy I had not purchased first class seating. I had paid only 27 Euros for the three of us, and we were able to spread out over the car with our Kindles for the duration.

    I think we pulled into Venezia Mestre before the 7:40 AM scheduled arrival time, but here is where it became a bit dicey.

    Knowing we would be in a rush, I had pre-purchased online a Line 15 ATVO "Flyer" bus ticket for my daughter to make her Mestre/Marco Polo connection. Our exit from the station involved running from the train car (pretty far), down a flight of stairs, running through a corridor, running up a flight of stairs, and wending our way to the outside.

    No ATVO machine in sight. For that matter, no ATVO bus in sight.

    OK. We had missed the 7:45 bus, which we had only an outside chance of getting anyway. She should be able to get the 8:00 AM bus. All we had to do was find the darn machine.

    But has happened to us before, once we found that machine, it was broken. We had to wait in line at a ticket window which opened at 8:00 AM.

    Meanwhile, my husband and I were weighing options. We were pretty sure the 8:00 AM bus was late. We thought that if for some reason, she would have to get the 8:15 bus, her getting on the flight might be a problem. So as I was getting the bus ticket, my husband kept an eye out both for the bus and for a taxi, neither of which were showing up.

    If we were worried, my daughter wasn't one bit. At 8:00 AM, less than a few miles from an airport, one could think that a 10:50 AM flight is a no-brainer. In her mind, she had managed to nab an upgrade to Business Class and she was only doing carry-on. She was visualizing her check-in at the start of the trip in Atlanta.

    Here is a reality check:
    At Marco Polo, there would be the pre-ticket desk security check, the official passport/ticket check at the Delta window, and the security line.

    Plus I remembered mass confusion when we flew back in 2009; she simply did not remember that.

    Finally, a taxi appeared near the station, and my husband, being willing to waste the daughter's 6 Euro bus ticket in exchange for a confirmed ride, flagged it down before two other waiting parties even saw it.

    It was a wise decision. The 35-Euro taxi ride (included all of us plus our luggage) took under 15 minutes, and we were dropped slightly closer to getting upstairs to the Delta check-in area than she would have been if she had taken the bus.

    Yep, it was the confusion I remembered. There was no clear roped-off area in what seemed to be just a mass of people in a Delta area, so my husband searched for some Delta person while my daughter and I staked out two different positions in what we thought were lines. He was successful in finding a Delta associate, and she led our daughter to the middle of the maze to what was a totally hidden Priority line.

    We had now spent 20 minutes since our arrival at the airport. Her wait in the Priority Line was over an hour.

    Luckily, because my husband and I were still hanging around, we could take her place in line when she needed a restroom.

    My husband and I also used this time to eyeball the line next door at US Airways. We would be taking an hour later flight in two days, and we were thus able to get a good idea of when the lines would "heat up" over there.

    One good thing to note: US Airways's corner position allows them to rope off a bit more efficiently.

    Once our daughter got to the Delta ticket window, things moved swiftly. The priority line through the airport's gate security was fast. She texted us once she got to the other side, and we felt free to leave.

    Onwards to our last days in Venice.

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    I was moving up to "big bucks" category for our last nights in Venice: the Hotel Londra Palace Situated next to St Mark's with a fabulous view of the lagoon and the island of San Giorgio, we'd have a no-work time of touring Venice.

    So given the higher cost per night and the ease of getting around, what should we do?

    Hmm. I stood in front of the bus transport machine at the airport and thought and thought.

    Most recommendations for those staying at the Londra were either to get a water taxi straight to the hotel OR to get it from the Piazzale Roma. I knew the Londra desk had recommended for the return to pick up a water taxi straight from their desk to the airport on the way back.

    I looked at my husband and said, "I think I want cheaper options. I'll waste a RT bus; I just don't see the need to blow our entire food budget on a water taxi in from here."

    He nodded.

    So once again, we boarded the Piazzale Rome bus. By the time we got there, we had agreed upon a plan. It would be too early to check in anyway, why not just canal it down to St. Marks.

    I ran up to the ticket window and bought 48-hour passes. That way, if we wanted to "canel it back" we would be set.

    The morning was just perfect. There was only one problem: we boarded the vaporetto in the wrong direction. So instead of "canaling it" we were "lagooning it". No matter: everything was pretty and we had little to do anyway.

    We were able to get off practically in front of our hotel. Check in was as we expected: they would have to hold our luggage until the rooms were ready. We took this time to quiz the staff about the best way to return to Marco Polo. Everyone thought that water taxi the morning of would be our best bet, simply because they felt it would be a shame to waste the money we were already paying for for breakfast.

    We said we'd come back to our decision a bit later.

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    We headed away from St. Marks to get a cappuccino and pastry, and we'd check out our maps to get some sort of game plan.

    I told my husband that there were certain things I loved in Venice: Peggy Guggenheim's house, the San Giorgio Maggiore Church, the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (aka "i Frari"), and the Santa Maria della Salute.

    I felt on our following day we should do St. Mark's Basilica at opening, and then work our way up the canal for most of what I loved. For right now, I felt we should just take advantage of our location and head straight for the San Giorgio Maggiore.

    We hopped a vaporetto over to San Giorgio and were soon attending service at the church. Little did I know that we'd be walking into a major culture clash.

    A question on this board recently talked about an anti-Asian feel in Europe.

    Well, there are many reasons for it, just as I have always agreed that there are many reasons for anti-American feelings:
    --Americans tend to be loud in a lot of places where other people are silent
    --Our countrymen have often have dressed inappropriately
    --Our countrymen have often voiced in loud voices their opinions of the locals with apparent disregard for the fact that the locals speak pretty darn good English
    --We are known far and wide for this phrase: "Doesn't anyone speak English here???"
    --American marketing culture has displaced local businesses
    --American mass media culture has displaced local culture

    Ergo: People in glass houses should not throw stones.

    So given my "do not judge lest one be judged" viewpoint, I naturally would question if there is something beyond mere irritation for this anti-Asian feeling.

    Something that everyone, even the most culturally blind tourist, has noted is that Chinese glass has replaced Murano glass in Venetian shops.

    But who made that decision to sell that stuff? Did Venice shopkeepers sell out their own?

    Well, we heard loudly and clearly that within Venice, the locals are upset about "Asian Mafia". As two different locals explained to us with quite a bit of passion, they had originally thought their enemy was Naples/Sicily Mafia, which not only markedly has increased graft in Venetian government but also underwrites all the Somalian sales guys on every darn bridge.

    They are far more concerned, though, right now with Asian businesses and business takeovers that are multiplying so fast that there's no way to keep up with it.

    Undocumented workers are pouring into Italy to supply these illegal businesses, and that influx displaces total earning positions in a city that needs local tax dollars to underwrite its very expensive infrastructure.

    In their minds, Venice is already plagued with being one of the entry points for East European sex slaves; these local Venetians feel they have been equally targeted as an entry point for Asian worker slaves.

    I cannot attest to most of the above, although there certainly are more and more international articles on this fact (Google "Venice Chinese Mafia" for an initial sampling).

    But I can agree that on the tourist front, there are more and more and more Asian independent (as opposed to group tours), who because they have never had any type of religious background, are wont to take flash photographs and shout loudly at religious sites.

    Up to now, though, we certainly had not seen anyone take pictures IN THE MIDDLE OF CHURCH SERVICES.

    I think taking wedding pictures in the middle of a Catholic mass at the end of the center aisle probably crosses most cultural lines of WHAT NOT TO DO.

    Yes, it happened at the San Geogio Maggiore church (bride with professional photographer).

    Yes, we were stunned.

    On a positive note, at least she did not stand next to the priest at the altar.

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    Thank you so much, uhoh. :)

    Back to slogging away at this report...

    Leaving politics behind, we left the church. The tower was closed for renovations, so we just headed past the sailing boats for the cafe I remembered from 2009.

    Yep it was there, and it was still as uncrowded and nice as I remembered. We ordered cappuccinos, enjoyed the view and made our next series of plans:
    --get to our room
    --head up to Peggy Guggenheim's
    --have lunch

    We walked back to the vaporetto stop and headed for our hotel. We now saw that we only had to look for the equestrian statue of Vittorio Emanuele II to find our hotel from any viewpoint.

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    Our room was small but nicely appointed, super clean, and was facing the lagoon. We were high enough up that we heard the din off the crowds below but not the specifics, which tends to work out.

    Vaporetto passes in hand, we hopped the Line 2 to Accademia and found our way to "Peggy's".

    My husband's reaction to her place matched the impression my youngest and I had in 2009. Strange (and tragic) bird that Peggy was, she had snagged an ideal locale on the canal along with a place in art history. A lot of rich people have collected art; very few collected so much really good art.

    As we headed back to Accademia, I told my husband that I had a favorite stopping place under the bridge--mediocre pizza, perfect "drop". There would be a line, I predicted, but we could get in fast. He was drooping and agreed to deal with any crowds at the Accademia Foscarini.

    Sure enough, there were no seats. The head waiter said, "20 minutes." I said we'd be downing beers in the bar, would wait at its doorway and could run at the slightest signal. He laughed and said, "You could probably be seated in 10 minutes."

    And in 10 minutes, we had a table by the canal's edge.

    The pizza was not great. The beers were cold, our umbrella shaded us from the sun, and we did people watching for an hour.

    Life is good.

    We had been up since 5:15 a.m. by now, and we just could not take in anything daunting. I threw out this idea:

    "I have never been to Lido. It's not far. We could vaporetto it out there, and just wend our way back at will. We have no dinner reservations for tonight."


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    We enjoyed our vaporetto ride to Lido, mainly because we were able to inch our way up to the front seats after a few stops. The day was wonderful.

    Our goal was to walk to the beach on Lido, checking out hotels and restaurants as we strolled. We were impressed. I told my husband that there's a constant battle on this board as to whether or not one could stay on Lido and actually experience Venice at its best.

    My new opinion: If I had little kids, I'd certainly choose to stay on Lido during the summer when the vaporetto lines run a bit more frequently. We saw so many people enjoying the island on bicycles, and there was such a relaxed feel to the place as opposed to the pressed crowding in Venice.

    The beach was quite nice.

    After a couple of beer stops, we headed back to our vaporetto stop and returned to San Marco.

    We were still in the mood for walking, and so we decided to explore the end in which I'd never been: Arsenale and Castello. From the vaporettos, had seen the lovely park down this way, and everything seemed quieter.

    On our stroll, we passed the Naval Museum. I wish we had had time to visit it. I remember being fascinated about the history of Venice when I came there in 2009, especially since the city's role was never emphasized in school world history classes. We had spent hours on other nationalities, studying explorers like Vasco da Gama, Balboa, etc, but were never told that in 1410, Venice had a navy of 3,300 ships. I know no one ever told me that for quite some time, this lagoon's civilization controlled the seas.

    Once we reached the Castello area, we ended up walking the length of Via Garibaldi. A few hundred feet in, my husband starting laughing. "These are real locals. I was beginning to wonder!" And it was true. I don't know if we saw any tourists in this area beyond those who were renting apartments. We did see students who looked as those they were living abroad.

    The wide street was full of shops and cafes, but not the glitzy kind. It was Sunday night, and everyone was out. Little kids were running across the street playing ball, chased by their family dogs who were barking excitedly. Groups of friends were seated around outdoor TVs, shouting each time their team scored.

    Eventually we went a bit too far, trying to loop around the back end of the canal at the end of the street, running into dead end after dead end, and were faced with the fact we'd just have to return the way we came.

    At this point, we were dragging, but I wanted to check out a restaurant our food tour guide had recommended: Osteria Oliva Nera

    I sent my husband back to the room to take his turn at the shower, and I found my way to the restaurant. There was a line-up in the street waiting to get in. The place is actually in two separate buildings a few feet apart, and the owner Isabella is constantly moving between them. I do not know how in the world she spotted me amid all the people outside, but she quickly found an 8:00 reservation for me for the next night.

    I returned to the hotel to shower--and to prepare my husband for our next Venetian experience.

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    Ah, good to know about the Castello area. I'm going back to Venice in November (when I expect it to be much quieter - last time Dorsoduro was dead at night) and I might look for somewhere to stay there.

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    We had been eating high on the hog for almost two weeks now, and I figured tonight was the night to spend nothing. I had read about a take-out place, Alfredo's Fresh Pasta to Go on Trip Advisor, and thought, why the heck not?

    On our way there, I had my husband check out the two locations for our two reservations for the next night. He looked at the menus and the atmospheres and said, "We'll think about this tomorrow."

    Onward to Alfredo's.

    This hole-in-the-wall take-out place was in an alley lined with waiting customers. Somehow, we were able to place our order inside within 5 minutes, though. And our wait outside was pleasant. The concept and the owner** had drawn an eclectic crowd. We all were downing beers from the cooler as we stood outside, and everyone was exchanging stories about where they had come from or where they were going.

    We grabbed two more beers when our orders were up in 15 minutes and searched for a place to sit. Taking a couple corner turns, we found a quiet spot by a small canal bridge. We sat on the stairs alongside to watch all the gondola action. Two college girls also found steps nearby, and they and I had great fun rating the relative "hotness" of the various gondaliers passing by to my husband, who would respond with, "No, I thought he was an '8', myself."

    Yes, we were greatly missing our 20-something daughters, who would have been laughing just as hard with Dad.

    Our impression of our meal? Well, the pasta wasn't that great. The sauces were salty. But my husband said he'd go back just to be around the owner for five minutes again. Alfredo just exuded kindness.

    **I am so very sorry to report that when I double-checked to see if the hyperlink to the restaurant's Facebook page was still working, I saw a notice that Alfredo had died in the middle of August, just two weeks after we met him.

    Five minutes with this guy, and we felt we had known him all our lives. What a loss.

    The family is renaming the place so as not to use his good name for their own commercial purposes:
    Dal Moro's Fresh Pasta To Go

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    We're on the same wavelength. My husband said he'd stay down that way should we come back again.

    I think, though, that my enjoyment of it had something to do with the summer night. The street is quite wide for Venice, and so all the people out enjoying it, filling it, made it great.

    I don't know how I would like it in November when the locals would have moved inside. There are probably some photos online of it at a different time of year. Here's a photo I found from Dec 2010 which certainly could be offputting:

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    After finding a place to dispose of our take-out trash (which not everyone bothered to do, I must report) we wandered back to St. Mark's Square, enjoying the dueling orchestras and loving watching the kids pretend to ballroom dance.

    My husband had a gelato, and we returned to our hotel. Before turning in, we opened both sets of curtains so the lagoon view would be both our goodnight sight and our morning awakening.

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    Thank you very much, TDudette. I'm so hoping I finish this report in my lifetime. I only have one day and a morning in Venice to go, but we fit so much within those hours that this report will have a bit more to go, that's for sure.

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    We woke up to an overcast day, and a peek out the window confirmed drizzle.

    Our plan was to get to St. Mark's at opening. We first had a nice breakfast downstairs, and if you recall, the concierge had told us to get a water taxi back to Marco Polo airport because we would not want to miss their wonderful breakfast, which opens at 7 a.m.

    Well, the breakfast was good, but it was not THAT good. My husband looked at the offerings and said, "I am becoming less and less inclined to worry about a water taxi."

    Still, we had a predicament. The convenient vaporetto stop outside our hotel went the roundabout way to Piazzale Roma. With my recovering hip and knees, I'd have to go over two bridges--two rather big sets of steps--and then walk quite a bit to get to the vaporetto that would get us to Piazzale Roma quickly.

    So we'd probably be taking the "slow bus" route, Line 1. Hmm, we'd think about that later.

    The line to get into St. Mark's was around 100 feet long at 20 minutes before opening. Well, I knew to drop our backpacks at a side door of an adjacent church, which would allow us to skip to the front of the line once we showed our check ticket.

    Except we couldn't find the place where we could skip.

    No matter. The rain had stopped, the line moved quickly, and we were IN. Of course, as we entered, I saw the skip spot.

    OK. Here's the deal for St. Mark's newbies:
    You can pay online for a place in line. Worth it? Not if you are there are the start of the day. Admission is free, darn it. You are going to have to see other things that day and you can start here.

    You must pay separately to see any of the following at the junctures where one finds them:
    --The Treasury
    --The Altar
    --The Second Floor Museum (the original horses, the view over the Square, etc

    Again, as a veteran, I could tell my husband that the Treasury was no Topkapi but I felt the Altar area and the top floor were certainly worth it.

    I had equipped my husband and myself with earbuds, a St Mark's map, and mp3 files of Rick Steve's St Mark's tour. What surprised me this time was a far different behavior on the part of the crowd compared to that in 2009.

    Many of the more respectful group tour leaders had equipped their groups with earphones to allow the leaders to speak softly into microphones. Others could care less--they shouted to their clients at will. I witnessed again people who relentlessly took flash photography, even after being corrected by church officials. And I saw other people using the same mp3 program we were doing, only they had put their phones or iPads on speaker.

    The lack of courtesy and respect got to me, and my husband knew I was about to say something to the guy who "flashed" right next to me with his speaker on high.

    "Don't. The people who run this place are going to have to find a way to deal with this. It can't be your job."

    He was right. But the behavior IS disheartening. The lack of courtesy to others and an unwillingness to acknowledge the value of silence mystifies me.

    Anyway, my husband was impressed that the Rick Steves' things had worked out so darn well. We both like professional tour guides, but one of our problems is that we feel trapped by the tour guide's interests. Having an impersonal mp3 file meant that we could skip anything we wanted without hurting some person's feelings.

    Anyway, we enjoyed looking at the Altar area a lot, and I myself was looking forward to seeing the original horses again upstairs. I absolutely adore them. As I told my husband, these original brass sculptures gave me the same chills that The David used to do in Florence.

    One problem: I had forgotten how steep those stairs are. There are certain angles one has to respect after a hip replacement, and I was eyeballing the incline to make sure I would not "de-socket" myself in the process. So I looked a bit strange as I maneuvered my way up in a rather unorthodox manner.

    It was worth it. My husband loved the horses as much as I did, and he loved taking in the view of St. Mark's Square from above.

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    We did not proceed to see the Doge's Palace, or the tower, or the Museo Correr. My youngest and I had visited these in 2009, plus we had toured the Gallerie dell’Accademia and the Ca’ Rezzonico. I knew these would take a lot of time and energy, and my husband and I agreed that we would just take our time and enjoy things until we stopped enjoying them!

    In retrospect, I think I should have revisited Ca' Rezzonico because this palatial house is itself a work of art. It would have fit in beautifully, and I don't think it would have put my husband into "art coma".

    Instead, we visited three of my favorite churches: the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and the Santa Maria dei Miracoli.

    Hopping onto a vaporetto, we got off at the Salute stop, entered ,Santa Maria della Salute, and sat down to take it in. Although the drizzle had stopped, the day was still overcast, and I wish my husband had seen this octagonal church dedicated to the Virgin when there was a bit more sun brightening up the interior.

    No matter--he really liked it because of its "clean" interior. Yes, the building is in the Baroque style, but the building materials harmonize in shades of gray. It's hard to believe that architect Longhena designed it when he was only 26 years old.

    Tintoretto's "Marriage at Cana" looked perfect in its setting, and this church is a perfect way to appreciate Titian, whose various works can be found on the ceiling, the alterpiece, and in the nave.

    We had hoped we'd find a stop for a cappuccino nearby, but that was wishful thinking on our part. Instead, we headed for our next "church stop", the the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

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    Getting off at the St. Toma stop, I used my MapsWithMe(aka "Maps.Me" ) app, which works offline, to find our way to the church.

    My daughter and I had gotten lost in this area with a regular map, so this was the perfect opportunity to see if that app was any better than holding out paper.

    It worked very, very well. Because one can zoom in, a lot of the little alleys that don't show up on other maps can be seen on the Maps.Me app. Not every hotel or restaurant is marked on it, but enough are that one can get the gist of where one is. Plus the day before, I was able to put "pins" on exact addresses, even if our restaurants were not in the app's database.

    We stopped for a quick cappucino near the church before starting in. We then saddled up the mp3 files, floor plan map, and earbuds. Rick Steves would again be our tour guide.

    I was so happy that my husband enjoyed the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari as much as my daughter and I had. As visited as it is by tourists and as decorated as it is by such gorgeous works of art, it somehow manages to keep its "churchy" feel. This place has an amazing Titian, "Assumption of the Virgin", and even a Donatello "John the Baptist" and many more interesting paintings and sculptures.

    As it was nearing lunch time, we knew we had to do one cancellation for our evening meal quickly. We decided to cancel the Osteria Oliva Nera (which meant we were opting for the uber expensive Il Ridotto). We called the restaurant and apologized for cancelling on the same day. Isabella's response was, "No worries! I can fill the table easily with walk-ins tonight. It's so helpful when people at least bother to let me know."

    So we still felt guilty, but a teeny less guilty.

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    Caught up with your TR now!

    With what were the zucchinis stuffed at La Subida, please? Thanks for the link to Ana Ros. An oodle is 1/5 of caboodle, fyi.

    LOL. Funny about your ITS ARTWORK photos! And where did you find gelato in Trieste?! We visited only Miramare and the area around the water’s edge but did a cursory and unsuccessful look for gelato.

    Lots of trouble with the way the Allies carved up the world, eh? Horrible to read what your mother witnessed, sartoric.

    Venice is magical. More, please!

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    I think the zucchini blossoms were stuffed with ricotta.

    We actually ran into quite a few gelato/pastry/cut fruit shops in Trieste once we headed a couple streets away from the harbor.

    A lot of side streets run parallel to the harbor off of the main square, and these are the areas of intense "passeggiata" (people strolling to check out each other). That's where there are a lot of cafes and bars and gelaterias around.

    I forgot to add in the report that for that reason, we stopped both days in Trieste at an outdoor cafe whose name we never learned (it had a purple canopy if that's any help) in one of those side streets that had everything from chaise lounge seating to high tops.

    It seems to be standard Trieste practice to serve some good nibbles along with the drinks, so we spent around an hour each day there making up stories about the couples or families passing us by.

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    TDudette--If someone had suggested a day trip to Trieste to me a year or two ago, I would have questioned it. Now I think a day trip from Venice to spend an afternoon at Miramare would certainly be sensible. I think of how much time it took for us to get to and back from Burano in 2009, and it's about the same time investment.

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    After leaving i Frari, we wanted a quick bite. We got a take-out wrap and looking for our new favorite type of eating spot: steps leading down to a canal by a bridge so we could observe gondola action.

    "Gondolier Central" here near the church was funny. A really cute charming gondolier snagged customers coming down the bridge steps, probably headed for the church, and the wife in any party automatically was pulling on her husband's sleeve to consider it. As soon as the deal was made, the guy disappeared out the corner and brought out a far less, ahem, "charming" gondolier to take them. It wasn't quite a bait-and-switch, but I'm sure the wives felt that way. The charming one would wave to them as they left, would turn to us and wink.

    Business was brisk.

    Using the Maps.Me app, we threaded our way out to the Rialto Bridge and over to Chiesa Santa Maria dei Miracoli.

    I may only have found this out-of-the-way church in 2009 because we had stumbled on it, but if one wanted to find an ideal location for a wedding, this church is IT:
    --Located on a really cute square that is
    --By a canal (a gondola can deliver the bride and bridal party)
    --Colored inside in pink, white and grey marble
    --Proportioned perfectly

    And if you are the bride and groom, everyone would be able to see you by the altar--it's high up a step of stairs.

    So if you are looking for a wedding location, look no further:

    The story behind the church is based on the icon of the Virgin Mary. It is known as "I Miracoli", The Miraculous, and it was credited with many miracles before the church even existed. It drew so many pilgrims that someone had the bright idea to use their donations to build a church around it. So in the 1480s, the church was built according to Pietro Lombardo's design.

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    Trip Report again...

    We left the Chiesa Santa Maria dei Miracoli and found our way back to the Rialto stop and headed for home. The day had turned pleasant, plus fate allowed us to head near the front of the boat to enjoy our Venice again.

    We saw sitting by us two new arrivals with ear plugs holding their iphones. I mouthed, "Rick Steves" and they laughed and nodded. They had 1.5 days there, and they were trying their best to make the most of it. As we neared Accademia, one leaned forward and asked, "Tell me honestly, did you like the Guggenheim?" Before I could answer, my husband said, "I love Peggy." So they nodded to each other and made it off the ship just before the gates closed. I hope they enjoyed it.

    As I said before, our hotel had a perfect view of the lagoon, San Giorgio Maggiore, and all the tourists hustling to and from St Mark's Square. We felt we should take advantage of it, and we sat in the hotel's outdoor area, drinking and nibbling happily with our latest reads. Part of the entertainment was watching the waiters fight their never-ending battle with the pigeons (all the tidbits come out hidden under napkin cloaks and one is wise to put a hand over one's drink just in case).

    We also got to watch during this rest period and during our stay a never-ending parade of cruise ships. In a city where the low skyline is only occasionally dotted with domes and towers, it almost seems obscene to have one's sunlight blocked out by these massive ships. When my husband said something along those lines, a couple sitting next to us said, "Yes, but there's no better way to see the world."

    We bit our tongues. Well, actually, I think both of us quickly gulped our beer. Hey, it works the same.

    It was time to shower and dress for our finale restaurant, Il Ridotto.

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    One of the reasons I had the concierge at Londra Palace book a table for us at Il Ridotto was a simple one-paragraph article that caught my eye a month before we left. The guy more or less said, "Just eat here." It was near our final hotel, and I thought, "Heck, sounds like this is a 'last night' type of meal."

    Our food tour guide was not as enthusiastic about it(thus her recommendation of Osteria Oliva Nera). I looked at the Il Ridotto pictures online again, and wondered about its stark interior. I read some bad reviews. And quite frankly, once I had tracked down its location, I again wondered about my choice. Its storefront-type outside didn't look inviting at all.

    But my husband said he was really up for a good tasting menu and wine pairing, and this place had it. Plus he found it interesting that the outside was so off putting. "These guys are certainly not trying to nab walk-in tourists. I have high hopes." Ergo, his vote.

    We had a marvelous experience. We were greeted by an older man, whom we found out later was Gianni Bonaccorsi, the chef. Consisting of two small rooms, the restaurant uses brick walls and mirror to create its vibe. Since we were on the early side, they offered us our choice of two tables in the larger room. We chose one right in front of the back mirrored wall. This gave both of us a view of any dining action in the rest of the room plus a peek at the outside. Different table settings of Murano glasses were the dominant color splashes in the otherwise stark decor. And those glasses would be changed throughout the meal.

    We debated between the fish or the fish/meat tasting menus (either one was 70E), chose the fish, and asked for wine pairings. The tasting menu was five courses, along with an amuse bouche.

    The dishes were beautiful and tasty, and we enjoyed each one.

    What surprised us most, though, was how superb the wine pairings were**. This was not a place where if one downed the wine a little fast, a little more was poured into the glass. No, each drop was measured. But we had no complaints: our wine surpassed the standard of "informing" the food. In fact our dessert, a Pistachio Bavarois Cream Tangerine Gel, tasted pretty blah until we sipped our accompanying wine. Wow.

    **I would later read on our plane flight home that Gianni is the tasting brain behind the bacaro Aciugheta, famous for the depth of its wine list, which is caddy-corner from the restaurant.

    There had been complaints on some of the reviews about the service. We had a very good experience in that regard. It was a leisurely, well-paced dinner, and Gianni himself and another waiter were our primary servers. They weren't ultra friendly, but they also don't speak a lot of English. All I know is that when we left, both the waiter and Gianni came out into the street to see us off.

    Is the restaurant worth its Michelin star? For France, no. But I'm convinced Venice simply does not have the culinary offerings I could find within any two blocks in, say, Paris. So I do think this restaurant's quality is worthy of recognition.

    If one is on the fence, I'd suggest you make reservations for lunch and put yourself in Gianni's hands.

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    It was a great evening, and we purposely zigzagged alleyways away from our hotel to the Rialto stop. We made sure we took Line 1 (the slow line) all the way down to San Zaccaria. We again lucked out and were able to sit in the front. It was a gorgeous way to end our last night in Venice.

    Travel arrangements beckoned once we got to the hotel. This was decision time. We had several options for our airport return because of our location: an alilaguna OR a water taxi (between 100 and 120 Euros) straight to the airport; a water taxi to Piazzale Roma and then our pre-paid airport bus (a total of 65 to 75 Euros); or the method that would be "free" because we had already paid for RT airport bus plus a 48-hour vaporetto pass, a vaporetto to Piazzale Roma plus airport bus.

    If we had had even the slightest bit more luggage, we would have opted for the water taxi straight to the airport because it involved the fewest steps.

    Both time and bridge staircases were constraints between the "fast" vaporetto (Line 2) and the "slo-mo" vaporetto (Line 1) that both went the shortest distance to Piazzale Roma. To get the faster Line 2 meant more staircases and a longer walk, one that would be very hard for me to do with luggage with my physical limitations. So we would be playing against time no matter what line we chose.

    As we approached the Londra Palace front desk, we decided we were going to chance it: we would take the slo-mo vaporetto (closest stop) back to Piazzale Roma in the morning and hop on the airport bus. In our minds, our budget decision automatically "reduced" the cost of the meal we had just eaten (Il Ridotto had equaled our cost for our Trieste tasting meal, only this time it was for two persons rather than three. Egads).

    To make sure we could get out on time the next morning AND grab a quick coffee when the breakfast opened at 7 a.m., we checked out that night.

    If one has struggled through all of this trip report, you may recall that at the very beginning of the trip, we had difficulty in achieving a hasty departure at the Antiche Figure, even though we had done everything possible the night before and the morning of our departure.

    Our Antiche Figure history repeated itself here. The desk clerk, a person who had twice given us the wrong key (and was rather stubborn about its being the wrong one), did manage to complete our transaction without entering the wrong CVC. However, he would completely forget about us by the next morning. Heck, he would forget about us within ten minutes the next morning.

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    We woke again to our view of the lagoon, sad to leave.

    We made it downstairs by 5 minutes to 7:00, dropped our key off with the previous night's desk clerk, grouped our luggage by the door, and were helped by the buffet staff to pre-order coffees before they were totally set up. In fact, the waitstaff hustled so fast that we were able to eat yogurt, fruit, and some yummy bread/jam too.

    At 7:10, we left our table, grabbed our luggage and headed out the door to the right for the first bridge stairs.

    My knees and hip meant I had to take every step slowly and carefully, but yeah, I was in much better shape than I had been two weeks before when trying to make it across the Scalzi Bridge WITHOUT luggage.

    I turned at the top of the steps to exclaim my achievement to my husband but... husband.

    Knowing we were in a time crunch, and figuring that he'd catch up to me somewhere, I kept going.

    Finally I heard panting behind me just as I turned into the vaporetto walkway in time to get our ride.

    "You won't believe this," my husband said, out of breath. "That desk clerk ran out of the hotel and demanded that I return to check out."

    When my husband had yelled back to the desk clerk that not only had we checked out the night before, but that HE was the person who did so and that he had taken his key this morning, the desk clerk was having none of it. So my husband ran back and explained again. This time, a female associate at the desk sadly shook her head at my husband's explanation (my husband said she must have had it up to here with her brain-dead colleague), and quickly and sharply said something in Italian.

    My husband was reluctantly "released" by the desk clerk.

    Even though we were able to snag the vaporetto before it left the dock, we were running close to the mental deadline we had created when we had dropped our daughter off at the airport the day before.

    And then we started laughing. The morning was just glorious. Our luggage was stored, we were sitting at the front of the boat. We were watching early commercial Venice kick into gear on the waterways. If the worst that happened was that we missed our flight, then we could deal. We are old enough to know that having a beautiful hour like this just doesn't happen often.

    Note: After the fact we realized that timewise and exertion wise, we might as well have taken the closest vaporetto to the hotel the “long way” around Venice to get to Piazzale Roma in just about the same time.

    Our disembarkation off the vaporetto at Piazzale Roma with luggage was uneventful. By this point, I knew every ramp and curb step-down in the Piazzale Roma area, so I had no physical problems whatsoever. We found the airport bus rank (that took a bit of head-scratching but then was so simple--duh, the one closest to the docks) and waited maybe five or ten minutes for the next bus.

    We were on our way back.

    Having been to the airport just 48 hours before, we knew exactly how to get inside, get upstairs and find our well-roped off US Airways line. And although we enjoy flying on Delta, we could not help but note that their lines were again in chaos over there.

    We were through security with time to spare, and since we had managed to get Business Class upgrades (as my husband said, we got to "live large" this trip in so many ways), we enjoyed our lounge time with WiFi, newspapers, and the makings for me in the various coolers of an a.m. spritz, my way of saying good-bye to Venice.

    The End

    Bless you if you have made it all the way to the end of this report. If you have any questions, I'll be happy to answer as best as I can.

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    That is so kind of you, uhoh_busted.

    I think I was so determined to get this trip down in writing because as my husband and I expressed to my mother and a friend last night, we realized that somehow, against all odds, this was a trip where we learned a lot. And while we have always, always traveled to learn, that does not mean an exponential increase in knowledge occurs.

    Granted, if one is on a cycle, one tends to take in local scenery--or in my husband's case, local bars--and as a matter of course, one tends to learn a lot about how people live.

    My husband, although he speaks no language other than English, does speak "beer" fluently, and he loves to buy rounds wherever just to get the gist of things.

    But we were not on bicycles for most of this trip.

    And we were staying above and certainly eating above our normal spending points, which tends to remove one from any kind of a "pulse" on the locality.

    We both thought it was interesting to begin our time in Venice (a city where we had both been before, but in different decades) with a locally raised guide whose family would leave Venice forever after centuries of residence. Once her parents died, that would be it. She and her husband had already moved to the mainland; her children would have no interest in returning.

    Yet we ended in Venice with time spent in the Arsenale district where there is still very much a local life.

    We are also so happy that we "plopped" a lot along the way and talked to locals throughout Slovenia, Trieste and Venice, this time because we are so much older that we had the window of opportunity to dare to ask questions--and all of sudden we were happy that being older meant that not one person was offended by our asking those questions.

    So I think so much of the trip's worth was that we had aged.

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