Family of 5 Italy Trip Report

Jul 7th, 2005, 04:52 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
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Papa Rand, I'm enjoying your trip log very much, but I've got to interrupt with a question here (just for future reference, please): Are not all vaporetti no. 82's created equal? They don't all follow the same route? Anyone can answer here. Thanks, and keep writing. By the way, did you record in a journal as you went, or is this all perfect recall. Whatever, I'm impressed.
jmw44 is offline  
Jul 7th, 2005, 05:45 AM
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Hi MRand,

As I said before I love your report. It is full of great family vacation memories. Good's speed to your friend who is off to Iraq. My son is there for 8 months and has seen more than anyone should have to experience. He WAS a reservist and was "back door drafted". This is way you need to travel with your family (if you can). The expereinces are fabulous, but the memories are so sweet.
yipper is offline  
Jul 7th, 2005, 05:49 AM
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Sorry, typing too fast. Should read, this is WHY you should travel with your family.

Also, such sad sad news from London.
yipper is offline  
Jul 7th, 2005, 03:30 PM
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Yes, Yipper, my family and I too feel sadness and sorrow for the London victims and their families and friends. I also feel that all of us who love travel were targets today because just by chance any of us could have been on those London subways or buses with our families at the time of the attacks. I have complete confidence in the courage and resiliency of those indomitable Londoners.

Thanks to everyone for their very positive comments and I will try to wrap this up by the weekend. jmw44, thank you and I will try to post answers to your questions later this evening.
MRand is offline  
Jul 7th, 2005, 04:27 PM
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Thank you MRand for such a wonderful
report. You made us feel like we were
part of your trip. I am so excited to
visit Italy with my teen-age daughter.
This will be our first visit. I am
so looking forward to our trip, after
reading all about your trip. We will
be visiting in August. Thanks again
for all the valuable information and
great stories.
Alpicella is offline  
Jul 7th, 2005, 08:57 PM
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Alpicella - good luck to your and your daughter on your trip and please post the results on this board when you get back. If your daughter has any questions, I'd be glad to ask mine and pass her answers along.

jmw 44, to answer your questions - (1) the No. 82 "express" vaporetto goes in both directions around the island so I think that our problem was too hastily catching the next No. 82 that came along that was headed in the reverse direction from which we had just come. (2) I did keep notes on this trip. I used to try to keep much more detailed notes while traveling, but that never seemed to work and I would abandon them mid-trip. Now I simply note the names and addresses of restaurants where we have each meal, a few words for each of the major sites or activities of the day, and then any other very brief miscellaneous "memory joggers" to remind me of things later on. This way I can literally summarize a day by writing 2 or 3 minutes' worth of notes. Of course for recall of this trip's details it also helps that we've been back less than a week and that I can consult the family for help.
MRand is offline  
Jul 8th, 2005, 05:01 AM
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Thanks for responding. You've made my morning coffee this week a virtual get-away. J.
jmw44 is offline  
Jul 8th, 2005, 05:10 AM
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Thanks for a great report. So informative and entertaining all in one post. Only got to Rome for 8 days in January with my adult daughter. Your post makes me want to see the rest of Italy. Such a wonderful place in every way. My favorite city was Paris until I went to Rome.
maryanne1 is offline  
Jul 8th, 2005, 03:08 PM
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Thank you for your wonderful feedback. I didn't plan on this report being anywhere close to this long, but it's been a lot of fun.

Thurs. June 30 (Venice)

Last full day in Venice and in Italy. Mom and Dad wake up early. Good friend who had suggested itineraries before our trip said that if we went to Venice, we had to take in Piazza San Marco early in the morning, before the hordes arrive. San Marco square is like a magnet the way it keeps drawing us back. We immediately dress and head out, leaving the kids a note. The morning air is cool and clear after last night’s storm, and the streets are largely empty. After a brisk 10 minute walk, we arrive in the square, and have it largely to ourselves. It looks so much bigger without thousands of people in it. Now we’re taking pictures a lot of pictures, as workers start to filter in. We size up San Marco Basilica, Palazzo Ducale, and the Campanile from all angles. (The Clock Tower is shrouded in scaffolding covered with a strange four- or five-story tall covering with the Eiffel Tower on it.) Gondolas with deep blue colored canvases are lined up and bobbing in the waves. We're thinking this is a great city.

The kids must be waking up now, so we take the No. 82 express vaporetto up the Grand Canal to Rialto and have a leisurely breakfast with the kids at the hotel. I suggest we go back to San Marco (there’s the magnet again) so we can see the interior of the basilica before the lines grow too long. Only daughter and youngest son are ready right then so we head out. I take them a different route to the square. I realize a Renaissance architectural masterpiece is only a couple of blocks from our hotel---Santa Maria dei Miracoli. We find it easily---a small jewel box of a church with an unusual barrel vault roof and thin white marble exterior walls and façade, bordered on one side by a small canal. The church is equally beautiful inside. Santa Maria is a real find and one of the most exquisite churches I’ve seen anywhere.

We now take a different route to Piazza San Marco and quickly become lost. We are wandering through the back streets of Castello siestre and finally emerge on the waterfront on the east side of San Zaccaria, a fair distance from our intended destination. We follow the waterfront back to the square, where a long line to enter San Marco Basilica is already forming. I hold our place while daughter and youngest son attempt to link up with Mom and middle son. The line moves much more quickly than I anticipated, and soon I’m in the church by myself. The interior is covered with golden mosaics, unlike anything else I’ve seen in any church on this trip or any other. There’s St. Mark’s tomb. Wasn’t there some archaeological controversy whether the tomb actually contained the remains of Alexander the Great? I pay the 1.50 Euros to see the Pala d’Oro altarpiece. Maybe I’m starting to overload on religious art, because it looks gaudy to me. The religious Renaissance art in the churches is amazing, but like friends whose trained ears can detect very subtle differences in sound systems that my ears just can’t pick up, I’m starting to not be able to appreciate the distinctions from one artist to another. I need a dose of modern art. That means some Biennale exhibits and Peggy Guggenheim should be on my itinerary today.

I rejoin the family, who is now in line to see the church’s interior. I stroll the perimeter of the piazza while waiting for them. Mom, daughter, and sons want to check out Murano this afternoon, so we go back to the hotel for lunch. We stop at Enoteca Boldrin, Salizzada San Canciano 5550, which turns out to be a fabulous self service restaurant serving low-priced fresh, grilled vegetables and pasta dishes cafeteria-style. It is one of our favorite value meals on the trip. We will definitely return for our final lunch tomorrow on our way to the airport.

After a nice rest, it’s on to Murano in a free private water taxi arranged, of course, by the hotel and no doubt paid for by a glass manufacturer on the island. I’m not crazy about the Murano trip, but everyone else wants to go and any excuse to get back out on the lagoon with its wonderful breeze and beautiful views sounds good to me. It’s a twenty minute ride down our small canal to the lagoon past Isola di San Michele, the island that doubles as the city’s cemetary, and into the Murano’s lagoon. Murano looks like a mini-Venice. It’s not ugly, but to me it lacks some element of charm. The taxi, (amazing!) delivers us directly to a waiting escort at a glass factory. Years before when my wife was a young girl living in Asia (her family was career military) she saw a fascinating glass blowing exhibition, and she hopes that will be repeated here. The furnace room is oppressively hot, but watching the glass heated to softness and then molded does hold a certain fascination. Tacked on the walls are postcards of nudes and a few anti-globalization posters. We are then taken to the “big item” showroom, which does have some interesting items, and when the “guide” senses our disinterest we are steered to the souvenir showroom. My 11 year old notices they do have little glass pigs, but not like the ones he saw yesterday in Venice, so he’ll wait to buy one when we return to Venice. The "guide" was courteous and amusing, not a high pressure salesman.

We stroll down along Murano's main canal to the vaparetto stop for the No. 41 back to Venice and soon we’re at the Fondamente Nove stop enjoying gelato. We decide to investigate the mysterious “blue light” in the Giardini that our youngest noticed the first night in Venice, so we get on the next No. 41. By the time we round the “tail” of Venice’s fish, he is sound asleep. Mom and daughter volunteer to take him back to the hotel. Middle son, whose is always game and has developed a fledgling interest in modern art, and I disembark at Giardini to investigate. As we suspected, the “blue light” is actually a Biennale exhibit. It is called “Mare Verticale” by Italian artist Fabrizio Plessi. There’s a lot of modern art I don’t like, but this large structure is oddly compelling. It looks like a giant 100 foot metallic canoe sticking into the sky and anchored on the other end into charcoal rock resting in a square pier just offshore. Not only are blue lights imitating falling water coursing down video display screens that run the length of the "canoe," but as we approach we realize the recorded sound of rushing water is emanating from the it. The Biennale program that I pick up later that day says that the “Mare” is an “atavistic metaphor for a journey into the unknown” and “this symbol of life irradiates a light leading to the non-perceived , but it is not an unknown that causes fear; rather, it consoles because it indicates new itineraries and horizons.” Exactly what middle son and I were thinking. We amply document the “blue canoe” in photographs for youngest son/little brother. Another large exhibit looks like a 30 foot high Ku Klux Klan hood. This merits investigation, but the admission fee to the Giardinin Biennale exhibit is 15 Euros apiece and closes in an hour-and-half, so we decide there is just enough time to satisfy our modern art craving by hopping the No. 82 express to Accademia Bridge and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

We arrive at Peggy Guggenheim with 50 minutes to browse the collection. Another intriguing Farizio Plessi rushing water rectangle sits on end near the entrance to the Guggenheim. Perhaps it “proposes thematical itineraries based on contemporary art practices in the urban context, which suggest possible common definitions of European cultural and public space.” (Just kidding - we liked it!)

I am stunned when we walk through the doors and the first major work we see is Henri Magritte’s “Empire of Light” - a twilight scene in which a dark home in the foreground illuminated by a street lamp, with a bright blue sky and white clouds in the background:
( ) This is one of our all time favorite “modern art” paintings and we had no idea it was in this collection. Ah, the serendipity of travel. You may recall this because it was the inspiration for the cover of one of my favorite albums from the 1970s -- Jackson Browne’s “Before the Deluge." (Compare the painting with the album cover:
( )
The collection is interesting, but we gravitate back to “Empire of Light” several times. The young American docent standing nearby is well-versed in the history of the painting, but hadn’t heard of Jackson Browne or “Before the Deluge.”

Our 24-hour vaporetto pass expires at 6:05 p.m., so middle son and I have ten minutes to use the vaporetto to get back to the hotel. We hoof it to Accademia Bridge and catch the No. 1 “slow boat” (stops at every stop) which conveniently deposits us ten minutes later at Rialto. We have some fantastic gelato at the entrance to Rialto bridge (to the left on a side alley as you face the bridge, under the dirty white awning labeled “Michelangelo.”)

We rendezvous with the rest of the family. Everyone wants a twilight gondola ride. Jonatha the gondolier is hanging around with his boat in the small canal right in front of Antico Doge. My attempts to feign disinterest and hunger to negotiate him off his 85 Euro asking price are utterly unsuccessful when the family urges me to ride “NOW.” It is very relaxing as we cruise the back canals after a short trip in the Grand Canal. Jonatha in his broken English explains his blonde locks by saying his grandfather moved to Venice from Sweden. He tells us that his father was a gondolier and trained him and he must live with his parents and sister in Venice because it is far too expensive for a single person to live alone in the city. He says the are over 480 bridges of all sizes in all the large and small canals in Venice, and an equal number of gondoliers. He must keel the gondola over so we can negotiate some the lower bridges on the small canals. He says the storm from the night before resulted in an unusual wind today that has resulted in a couple of inch rise in the water level in Venice. Wife and kids love the gondola ride and it is part of The Venice Experience, so I’m okay with it too.

We search in vain for highly recommended Osteria del Alberto on Calle Largo Giacinto Gallina 5401. By the time we locate it, they are no longer serving. We retreat to a restaurant adjacent to our hotel that was recommended by our gondolier Johnatha - Trattoria al Vagon. Although they appear to be closing by now, the pregnant hostess graciously seats us and dotes on the kids while we have an enjoyable final dinner in Venice. We are full but content, and agree the time to say goodbye to Italy has come and we are ready to go home.

Fri. July 1 (Last Day)

We wake up to darkening gray skies for the first time on the trip. Thunder rumbles in the distance. We eat breakfast and finish packing. Wife and youngest son dash out to beat the rain and buy the small glass pig at Mauro Vianello glass store on Calle della Mandol in San Marco. Alas, we have violated the First Law of International Shopping: buy it the first time you see it. Mauro Vianello is closed.

The downpour begins and daughter, middle son, and I abort our plans to cross Rialto into San Polo siestre to see Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and Scuola di San Rocco. It’s as if the weather it telling us, too, that our trip has come to an end. The family reunites for a second reasonable, fantastic lunch a few blocks away at Enoteca Boldrin. In the rain, we then load our bags in the water taxi that will take us to the aiport.

We have one final thrill in store—our water taxi driver decides to race some friends in other boats to the airport in the rain. As we enter the choppy lagoon, he suggests we close the door to stay dry. To imagine these water taxis and the way we feel right now---think the final chase scene in James Bond’s “From Russia With Love.” It is a wild, entertaining (85 Euro) ride and a fitting finale for Venice. We enter the small but stylish Marco Polo airport terminal (it's a long, long walk from the water taxi pier!) two hours before our British Airways departure to Manchester.

Too soon we’re boarding the smaller-than-anticipated Embraer commuter jet and taxing out on the runway. Peering out my window seat, I think back a mere thirty days earlier. On May 31, I sat before my computer, thinking about bagging the trip because it seemed just too late to put together a trip of this magnitude. I made an appeal on this site for ideas:
( )
Within an hour, elaine, Vetty, bobthenavigator, and Dayle had responded with great suggestions for itineraries and last-minute bookings. By the next day, Grinisa, LoveItaly, kmh7, Intrepid 1, Statia, and Henry had all pitched in with encouragement and more ideas. Inspired, by midnight that day I had hotel confirmations in Milan, Cinque Terre, and Rome and leads on others. In a very real way, this community made this unforgettable trip possible for my family and me. In return, t’s been a real pleasure to share it with you.

Now we’re accelerating down the runway, headed up and east over the Adriatic. A hard right turns brings us around almost directly over Venice and I have a window seat and an unmatched bird's eye view. The sun has come out and I can plainly see the “fish shape” of the city. I can easily pick out Piazza San Marco and gleaming white Rialto Bridge. Then quickly Venice is behind us. Thirty minutes later we’re flying over spectacular Alpine peaks to Manchester, then home.
MRand is offline  
Jul 8th, 2005, 03:17 PM
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Great reports! My friend and I have recently returned from South America and plan to travel to Italy in August. Any advice for 2 young, married women who enjoy traveling will be appreciated.
jay_lee is offline  
Jul 8th, 2005, 03:39 PM
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Sir, I must tell you that your trip report was a much-needed dose of Italy for me, while I am stuck here in NYC this summer. Congratulations on wonderful trip with your family, and on a second career as a travel writer. I have a bad cold and the last two installments were just what I needed today

Oh, and the Jackson Browne reference - nice!

Step two - Pictures!! You must post them somewhere and give us the link. Pretty please?
faredolce is offline  
Jul 8th, 2005, 04:50 PM
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Just a delightful report, MRand. Thought I'd also mention that you got a better gondola price than we did -- I doubt that you could have done better. I think its always a comfort to know you didn't pay much more than others!

Now, you'll have to plan another trip for us all to vicariously enjoy. Welcome home!
KathrynT is offline  
Jul 8th, 2005, 05:35 PM
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Hi MRand,

What a great and enjoyable report! I'm so glad you decided to go for it and that the family had such a wonderful time.

You have more than returned the favors for the Fodorites. Thanks for the kind mention.

Confession: I've spent a total of 6 days on 2 trips in Venice and have yet to do the gondola thing!

Buon viaggio!

Dayle is offline  
Jul 8th, 2005, 06:27 PM
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Mr. MRand,

just let me add my kudos to everyone else's --fantastic trip report! You are to be congratulated for a job well done and a trip well taken!

wlzmatilida is offline  
Jul 8th, 2005, 07:07 PM
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This is one of the most pleasurable trip reports I've read in a long time. Love all the details and your writing style.

mille grazie
bluefan is offline  
Jul 8th, 2005, 08:17 PM
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MRand, again, thank you for sharing your familys visit to Italy. Words cannot express how much I have enjoyed your adventure.

I would imagine that your family will take more trips, and truly hope that you will share those with us also.

Sometimes last minute trips are the best. No time to get absolutely worn out thinking about all the details for months on end.

Best wishes to you and your dear family.
LoveItaly is offline  
Jul 8th, 2005, 09:45 PM
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Such a wonderful makes me even more anxious than I already am for my trip in Sept. When your children are old, they will still be remembering this trip!
SusanP is offline  
Jul 9th, 2005, 12:07 AM
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I echo the other comments - wonderful report: Superbly written evocotive, and makes me want to rush off to the travel agent immediately.

Now what was meant I doing when I sat down to browse this board well over an hour ago?
willit is offline  
Jul 9th, 2005, 05:48 AM
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The Jackson Browne album cover I referred to that was inspired by Magritte's "Empire of Light" is "Late for the Sky" and NOT "Before the Deluge," which is a very good song on the album (I think they're called CDs now).

On the flight home, I asked each of our children to list their favorite things while the trip was fresh in their minds, and I think upon reflection that posting these may be of interest to other families who may be thinking about a trip to Italy. (My comments are in parenthesis.)

17 year old daughter:
1. Swimming off the rocks in the Cinque Terre (Manarola).
2. Eating gelato in the square in San Gimignano in the evenings.
3. Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museum Tour.
4. Venice shopping.
5. Water taxi to the airport and gondola ride in Venice.
6. Venice hotel (Antico Doge)
7. Driving in the Cinque Terre.

15 year old son:
1. Roman Forum.
2. Tuscany (mostly San Gimignano).
3. Swimming in Manarola.
4. Dinner at Ristorante Latini (Certaldo, near San Gimignano).
5. Vatican Museum tour.

11 year old son:
1. Rome hotel. (Apparently the old cage-style elevator and the Internet access outweighed the lack of air conditioning.)
2. Colosseum and Forum.
3. Hiking the Chenk (Cinque Terre)
4. I liked the hotel in Tuscany but it was hot. (Casale del Cotone outside of San Gimignano)
5. I liked the Doge's Palace but couldn't understand the guide.
MRand is offline  
Jul 9th, 2005, 06:01 AM
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MRand - Thanks for the fabulous trip report, such a pleasure to read. Loved the bit about the Jackson Browne album cover, and your Cinque Terre lodgings sound so appealing...hope you get take another trip soon.
LAwoman is offline  

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