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Finally...our 19 day glorious October 2007 (very long detailed) trip report to Italy!

Finally...our 19 day glorious October 2007 (very long detailed) trip report to Italy!

Old Mar 16th, 2008, 04:32 PM
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Finally...our 19 day glorious October 2007 (very long detailed) trip report to Italy!

Let me begin by thanking everyone on this board who made this the most amazing trip ever. I have used Fodor's talk for a couple years...gathering, asking, reading, etc. to create this (10 year Anniversary) trip of a lifetime which was a dream come true.

<u>About us:</u> My husband and I are in mid-40's (young at heart, hip and adventurous) and live in Southern California. We have 7 yr old son who made his own memories and adventures while staying with Grandpa and Grandma for 19 nights!

<u>The type of trip we wanted (and planned):</u> This was our <b>first ever trip to Europe</b>....a &quot;second honeymoon&quot; filled with it all: culture, art, history, romance, adventure, food, wine, off-the-beaten-path experiences, etc.

<u><b>THE PLANNING:</b></u> I love the planning phase as much as the trip itself (that's why I'm addicted to this board!). I immersed myself in reading practically everything Italian, about Italy, etc. We watched travel shows/movies galore about Italy. I experienced 2 &quot;burnouts&quot; during the planning which resulted in a couple months of anti-Italy.

<i>How I organized:</i> (this system worked best for me) I cut and paste specific excerpts that I wanted from Fodor's talk, news articles, travel websites and dropped the info into a MS Word categorized by A) city B)type: ie. FOOD, ACTIVITIES, LODGING, etc. I also used a 3 inch binder with tabs for each location and plastic sleeves to hold articles, notes, etc.

<u><b>Favorite Travel Shows:</b></u> Travel Channel's Samantha Brown's &quot;Passport to Europe: Italy series&quot; and Da Mosta's &quot;Head to Toe Italy Series&quot; (PBS).

We also enjoyed shows by Rick Steves, Rudy Maxa's Travel and Anthony Bourdain's &quot;No Reservations&quot;.

&quot;Visions of Italy&quot; is an outstanding disc series we highly recommend. It's an aerial tour of Italy. Breathtaking! A must for all Italy bound travelers.

<u><b>Favorite reads:</b></u> Ross King's <i> Brunelleschi's Dome</i>, John Brendt's <i>City of Falling Angels</i> and Marlena De Blasi's <i> A Thousand Days in Venice</i> (a must for all romantics!).

<u><b>Favorite travel books:</b></u> Fodor's, Access, Pauline Frommer's. We especially recommend the Access series (we used: Venice and Florence) and buy this book for any destination we take. For a 40-something couple, we have found that Access consistently has excellent advice for travelers like ourselves and is formatted to appeal to us.

others: Kerper's <i>The Collected Traveler-Venice</i>

<u><b>Dates of our trip: October 10-29, 2007. </b></u>

*Los Angeles to Venice (4 nights)
*Venice to Florence (2 nights)
*Florence to Cinque Terre (3 nights)
*Cinque Terre to Tuscany (7 nights)
*Tuscany to Florence (1 night)

<b>NEXT UP: VENICE.....

</b>
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 05:56 PM
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<b>Stay tuned.....

HOW THIS TRIP REPORT WILL BE ORGANIZED:

<u>Each city:</u>

1) our favorite highlights

2) day-by-day itinerary

3) what we'd do differently

4) what we'll do next time

Ciao for now!</b>
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 06:12 PM
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<b>VENICE:</b> the mystery, romance, history, beauty, art
…….no where like it on earth!

Venice photo montage: http://tinyurl.com/2gtoog

<u>Our favorite highlights...</u>

<b>*Wandering, Wandering, Wandering…</b>getting lost and making new discoveries in back alleys and canals off-the-beaten-path. Venice was like a maze waiting to be explored. We loved stumbling across art around every corner. <u>We steered as far away from the crowds as possible!</u>

*Exploring Venice <b>before sunrise</b> and having her all to ourselves. This was our favorite way to start our day. We enjoyed seeing how Venice come to life. It was fascinating to observe how everyday routines such as laundry, trash and provisions are boated in/out. It was especially beautiful to see St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge in utter solitude. Bellisimo!

<b>*Riding the Vaporetto </b>(water bus lines #1 &amp; #82)<b> the length of the Grand Canal</b> early morning and at dusk. A.M.: we loved being among the Venetians who were on their way to work/school. P.M.: we enjoyed seeing the chandeliers flickering in the grand palaces and the brilliance of the sun setting upon the buildings and casting a golden glow. (and yes, it’s true…all Venetians can hum a tune. We enjoyed the daily serenades by the Vaporetto operators.).

<b>*Our fave squares: Campo San Stefano and Campo S. Giacomo dell’Orio.</b> Here we spent countless hours lingering at cafes snacking and sipping (DH was on a quest to sample every Italian beer (birra); me: prosecco) while the locals gathered, chatted and drank their daily apertivos (Lo Spritz). We loved watching the children play soccer and ride scooters. Our son would be in heaven here. Second and third generations of families would come out for passagiata (the italian art of strolling, to see and be seen). This was Venetian life at it’s finest. We could fit in just fine!

<b>*The battle of the Orchestras at St. Mark’s Square</b> late at night with no crowds (and no pigeons!). So romantic with St. Mark’s as our dance floor!

<b>*</b>Our late night peacefully romantic <b>gondola ride</b> gliding down back canals with just the sound of the oar skimming the glassy water and our gondolier Roberto softly singing Italian love ballads. So cliche’….but truly a memory to last a lifetime. It seemed like we were the only gondola on the water. It was very pricey this time of night, but worth every penny!

<b>*</b>Our incredible stay at <b>Locanda Orseolo</b>: http://www.locandaorseolo.com/en/ A fabulous inn in the heart of Venice on a small quiet courtyard filled with Venetian flair and graciously warm hospitality. Here we enjoyed elegant breakfasts of decadent lemon crepes, grilled vegetables, cheeses/meats, pastries, fresh fruit, mint/green tea and blood orange juice. Our initial plan was to eat quick and start exploring, but we loved chatting with the other guests and having lingering conversations (hiking in the Dolomites, Classical Guitar, Italian Music, Venetian foods, Venetian nightlife….to name a few!) with our lifelong friends…the crew from LO: Gigi, Francesco, Barbara, Bruno and Igor. We knew we were going to miss this place terribly from day one.

When we first checked out Tripadvisor.com to read all the glowing reviews from past guests and how they bonded with the staff, frankly, we didn’t care if we bonded…..we just hoped for great service. But, it was the bonding and outstanding service that made our trip to Venice extra special for us.

<b> MORE VENICE- &quot;Our Favorite Highlights&quot; to come.......
</b>
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 06:27 PM
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Looking forward to your report.
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 06:31 PM
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Can't wait to hear about your fabulous anniversary trip!
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 06:36 PM
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Grazie Mille....

We love to share and are enjoying being able to relive our trip!



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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 07:14 PM
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Please, please, please hurry - we are leaving for Venice on April 1st and are staying at the Locanda Orseolo !!!

I have also loved the Access guides and have used them for 20 years - just bought the latest edition of the Venice/Florence version.
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 07:16 PM
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PART 2: VENICE
<u>Our favorite highlights.....</u>

<b>*</b>Watching the <b>Rialto Produce and Seafood market</b> set up and come to life. Be there <u>before 7am</u> for the best show! Incredible variety, freshness and color of vegetables/fruit. Seafood to die for. We enjoyed this so much that we got up early 2 days in a row. All you foodies would go bonkers! We vowed on our next trip to Venice to stay in an apartment with a kitchen so we can peruse the markets daily and eat like the locals do.

<b>*</b>Walking the <b>Zattare promenade and Dorsoduro</b> and seeing the Squero (gondola workshop) and the Lido in the distance. Being awed by the <b>Basilica Santa Maria della Salute</b> (one of the most photographed churches in Italy….and we can see why!)

<b>*The Museo Navale Storic</b> (Naval Museum). Interesting history and models of arsenal/ships. The guys will love this one! DH could've spent all day here.

<b>*</b>Art exhibit at <b>Palazzo Grassi</b>. http://www.palazzograssi.it/ A true juxtaposition of modern art meets old world Palazzo. Very avante-garde. The art collection rotates frequently.

<b>*</b>Dinner at lively <b>Vini da Gigio</b> http://www.vinidagigio.com/index_eng.html Here we explored Venetian dining at it’s best. Venetian “sushi” raw fish platter, black squid ink pasta, calamari salad, grilled monkfish and a sumptuous tuna tartare all washed down with a (couple bottles of) delizioso local Soave (white wine). That 2 hour catnap beforehand really paid off! Tip: <u>advance reservations are a MUST!</u>

<b>*</b>Fabulous Dinner at <b>Acqua Pazza</b>. http://veniceacquapazza.com/ This is where our italian phrasebook came in handy…..DH and I joked about an italian phrase in the book that stated, “we’d like something with no eyeballs”. Touche’. Before our meal was served, the waiter brought over a whole local (raw) fish called Breal/Dentex…eyeballs and all, for us to “approve”. Later, it was presented and filleted beautifully on a platter with thinly sliced grilled zucchini drizzled in olive oil. This meal melted in our mouths and we wiped the plate clean. It was washed down with a Supertuscan red vino and polished off with a homemade Limoncello (italian lemon liqueur). We dined outdoors, but next time would opt for their cozy, energetic inside dining room. This was our priciest meal of all, but worth it.

<b>*Peggy Guggenheim art collection</b>. http://www.guggenheim-venice.it/inglese/default.html Peggy’s personal very modern and beautiful collection in her canalside Palace Ca’ Venier. We visited Ca’ Venier on our first day. Hanging out on her terrace right on the Grand Canal was a good choice to soak in Venice while fighting off jet lag.

<b>Ca’ Rezzonico Palazzo</b> tour in a luxe Palace which displayed how the wealthy Venetians once lived. It boasts grand views of the Grand Canal and an outstanding art collection.

Still to come...<b>more VENICE highlights</b> (can you tell we loved this city???)
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 07:22 PM
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ready2travel,

First time in Venice?

Have you stayed at Locanda Orseolo before? If not, you are in for a fabulous stay.

Lucky you...I'm green with envy!

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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 07:22 PM
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Glad to hear you enjoyed your gondola ride!

In May, I will be in Venice [during my first trip to Europe] and am wondering what you paid for your gondola ride/how long the ride itself was. This is the one thing I want to definitely do, but am interested in the cost so I can budget accordingly.

Thanks in advance!
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 07:32 PM
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<b>PART 3: VENICE</b>

<u>Our favorite highlights....</u>

<b>*</b>Excellent <b>Shopping</b>. We discovered some fabulous unique shops and galleries (esp. in the area near La Fenice, near San Stefano campo and in the San Polo districts) where artisans displayed their wares and some were actually performing their craft. This surprised me since I thought that there would be all touristy and cheese-y shops in Venice (which there are so many!). We brought back some amazing watercolors of Venice from an artist with an extraordinary contemporary style (at La Pedrera bottega d’arte in San Polo).

We discovered a gem of an <b>antique shop</b> tucked away (near campo S. Angelo) when we found a small metal statue of Venice’s winged lion and an old bound italian scrip of “Ridotto” with my adored clown Pulcinella on the cover. Great finds at a bargain price.

On day 2, I spied a glass ornament <i>(santa on a gondola)</i> in a shop window. I should’ve bought it right then, but figured they’d be all over the place. Well…..no other shop had an ornament as nice as this one and we couldn’t remember where the shop was that had it. DH and I were on a mission and luckily on the last day, we stumbled across the shop. So….as they say, <u>“buy it when you see it since you may never find it again”! </u>

<b>*La Fenice Opera House tour</b>. We took the audio tour of this famous opera house which burnt down twice and was recently restored to it’s splendor. If possible, take a live tour....the audio tour was just okay. We were privy to be graced with an audition of male sopranos for an upcoming opera. It was awesome to be sitting in a grandeur theatre box with these men belting out arias.

<b>*Secret Itineraries tour</b> at the <b>Doge’s Palace</b>. We took this behind-the-scenes tour of where Casanova was housed during his jail term and included the attics and rafters of this fine palace. The palace itself rivals Versailles with it’s Golden Staircase, priceless artwork and massive marble arches. It’s also connects to the famous “Bridge of Sighs”. Tip: have your hotel make <u>advance reservations</u>.

<b>*Authentic Venetian Maskmakers</b>. Watching artisans create masks from scratch was amazing. We embraced one small shop owner who took such pride in his work…and it showed. The San Polo and area near campo San Stefano were filled to it’s brim with great authentic shops.

<b>*</b>Drinks at the swanky <b>Centrale Lounge</b>. http://www.centrale-lounge.com/en/index.htm A nightcap after 4 glorious days in Venezia. This hip place had great art, vibe and ambiance. I was REALLY craving a Dirty Grey Goose Martini, but the vodka selection was a bit “low shelf”. So…”when in Rome”….we enjoyed a Lo Spritz (me) and Limoncello (DH). It's a bit more &quot;NYC&quot; than Venetian, but boasts great Venetian contemporary art and unique Murano glass chandeliers. It even has it's very own gondola dock to arrive in style.

<b>NEXT....our day-by-day itinerary.


</b>
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 08:25 PM
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I am loving your report. It sounds like you travel like I do! We are taking our first trip to Italy in May, starting in Venice, staying at Locanda Orseolo, spending 2 nights in Florence, before heading to the CT and then Tuscany.

I'm looking forward to the next installments!
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 08:45 PM
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Buon Giorno Barbara,

Grazie for your kind comments!

You will LOVE Cinque Terre. Our fave of all. We stayed in Vernazza (love, love, love) at the La Mala Inn (love, love, love). http://www.lamala.it/en/index.html

Geez, I wish I were in the planning phase. We can't wait to go back! Hopefully...sooner than later!

Enjoy.....
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 08:54 PM
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a_cafe_of_dreams,

Funny, before our trip I knew we were going to do a gondola ride, but when we arrived in Venice, there were so many that it looked like a circus. I got very turned off. It seemed so touristy (which I'm not against, since we're tourists) but mostly...so unromantic.

During the day there are dozens of filled gondolas on a single canal and many people watch from the bridges, take photos and gawk (us included). It took away all the allure for me. However, doing it late at night with not another soul on the water was heavenly. I can't imagine it any other way.

I need to check my notes on price. It was more than we expected since we'd planned on 80E. Offhand I want to say 120E. It was near midnight and there were only 2 gondoliers. Our dilemma: we were leaving the next day so it was now or never. We tried to negotiate, but it was what it was. We checked with our hotel the next day and they confirmed that late at night, the price was fare. We felt that maybe we were ripped off, but our gondolier was fabulous. He told us stories, gave us history, etc. ....and the clicher: Ballads and all!

Enjoy!

Ciao for now....

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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 08:55 PM
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oops...I meant &quot;price was fair&quot;.

It's late....ZZZzzzz.
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 10:29 PM
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<b><u>The important stuff: What to Pack?:</u></b> It was our first trip to Europe. As a woman, my quest was to look stylish without taking a gazillion outfits. I had made lists (which sadly kept growing) a couple months in advance. A couple weeks before we began collecting our things, I put a clothes rack in our spare room which I hung my “wish list”. My goal was to cut that in half (or darn near!). I tried somewhat successfully putting together outfits that could mix and match. I like accessories, so this really saved the day. Hats, pashmina wraps, all to change the look of the same outfit. I should say that for a trip of this length, I’m not the carry-on type (especially with all the liquid rules). We had a 3 hr layover at JFK, so I wasn’t too concerned that the luggage would miss the connection. If it did, oh well…we’re in Italy!

I wouldn’t call myself a light or heavy packer, but I’m always happy with the amount I take. I read the horror stories of travelers who take a lot or a large suitcase which they have trouble storing/lifting in trains or over a dozen small bridges in Venice. We were going for nearly 3 weeks, but since we had a washer/dryer in Tuscany halfway through the trip, we packed for a 10 day trip….as lightly as possible....I'm happy to report, we did just that.

These items were godsends (and necessary!):

-<u>converter</u>

-<u>a smallish bag</u> that you can wear diagonally across your body. I found a stylish one at Diesel that had an adjustable strap and pockets for everything. It had zippers with snaps for extra security. It was big enough to carry all the essentials: my digital camera, maps, small journal, extra batteries/memory cards, tissue, etc. On top of that….it was cute!

-4 <u>compressed packing bags</u>…what a fab invention! (we bought 2 different sets of these and the ones from American Tourister were sturdier and worked out best). This worked out very well. We compressed our outfits in groups (ie: all clothes for Cinque Terre hiking in one bag, so we didn’t use it until we got there).

-2 large parachute <u>duffles</u> that packed into a small case about the size of a paperback. book. These we’d carry our dirty clothes home in so we could fill our suitcases with goodies.

-Packable <u>umbrella</u>

-(3)-2GB <u>memory cards</u> (I’m a photoholic)

-<u>iPod</u>: loaded with 2 playlists just for the trip: Italy-classics and Italy-lounge mix.

-3 (5” X 12”) heavy duty plastic zip top clear <u>“envelopes”</u>: one to hold receipts, one to hold paper mementos, one to hold receipts (just from purchases). This organization system worked like a charm for us.

-<u>Vitals</u>: meds, small first aid kit, Imodium, aspirin, wipes, antibacterial gel, sunscreen, moleskin for blisters, traveler toilet seat covers, tissue.
-a raincoat

-<u>small flashlights</u>

-<u>GSM compatible cell phone</u> (we ordered the “Pack Lite” through Telestial). We needed one for calling home to our son and while in Tuscany for a week without a land line in our cottage.

-<u>travel candles/matches</u> (to freshen stale room smells)

-mini spray <u>air freshener</u>

-<u>copies</u> of itinerary in each luggage/bag along with copy of Driver’s license and Passport.

-<u>International Driver’s License</u> (if renting a car)

-<u>travel alarm clock</u>


<b><u>THE FLIGHT</u></b>
Functioning on a few hours of sleep the night before due to last minute preparation and exhilaration, we flew out of Los Angeles (via Delta) on Wednesday, October 10 at 9am. With a 3 hr layover at JFK, we arrived in Venice-Marco Polo around noon on Thursday, October 11 (approx. 13 hours of flying time). Flights were (surprisingly) great. We had the entertainment system on the seat back which was awesome. Having a selection of movies, shows, games at our disposal made the flight seem shorter. We caught a few ZZZ’s wearing our complimentary eyemasks (in a nice shade of cranberry red….stylish!). Also, the attendant kept giving us vino…complimentary. Delta rocks!

I have to add that while waiting at the gate at JFK, I was a bit disappointed. What was wrong with these travelers? They didn’t seem excited…..didn’t they know they were going to Venice? Maybe they were at the wrong gate (nope, I checked a few times if maybe we were!). We were amped up and delirious….maybe it was our lack of sleep? Nope, we were finally on our way to Italia!

<b><u>MARCO POLO AIRPORT</u></b>
So, we’ve touched down in Venice. So this is how it feels. I need to be pinched! We load off the plane, easily go through customs (where when I say my very first “buon giorno” and “grazie” to the Italian customs guy, it comes out just plain bad). Oh well, I just need some practice. Next, we easily head to the luggage carousel. Signs are in English. Again, easy. We collect our bags and head out. We (again, easily) locate the ATM machine, get our Euros and head towards the “Information/Ticket” counter. The “info” gal spoke English nicely….bummer. We boned up on some basic Italian to make our experience richer and I vowed to use it as much as possible (which I did). This was too easy…..we bought our 3 day Vaporetto pass and the Alilaguna shuttle pass right there.

<b><u>THE ALILAGUNA</u></b> (water shuttle)
Next, we followed the easily (of course) marked walkway to the water shuttle. We’ve read all the horror stories about travelers who get lost, can’t get Euros, lose their luggage, are disorientated, etc. and this was starting out all too easy. Italy rocks! Since this was a special occasion for us (10 yr anniversary) we thought about arriving in style: a private water taxi, but I couldn’t justify the cost. Now, it did seem pretty cool arriving in a fast taxi hanging out taking photos of your first glimpse of Venezia, but still….molto Euro. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait too long and our “barge” (aka water shuttle) took off. Actually it wasn’t so bad. The water taxis’ whizzed by and we were in it’s wake. We actually enjoyed (who are we kidding?) the putt-putt ride over to take the scenery in. After nearly an hour, we were here. I envisioned how I would feel (which I did) and how I would act (bawl like a baby….which I didn’t) when I first laid eyes upon Venezia. Wow…we were finally here.

<b><u>FIRST IMPRESSION</u></b>
DH and I stepped off the “barge” and onto the platform together. &quot;1-2-3 Step&quot;. It was romantic and we were in the most romantic place on earth. However, it didn’t seem so romantic weaving through all the crowds and the cheese-y vendor stands. Hey, it’s October….low season??? We could only imagine how crowded Venice was during
high season…yikes! We had to walk through St. Mark’s Square to get to our inn. It was mind boggling how many people were here. Thoughts were going through my mind: What if I hated Venice? Was it a religious holiday? Why is a huge Dolce and Gabbana ad plastered all over that historic building? So we forged on, through the crowds and now through the pigeons. Queues and queues of people were lined up to enter St. Mark’s Basilica. I’ve always had this fascination about Caffe’ Florian and seeing the caffe’ for the first time was pretty exciting. So…our first impression of St. Mark’s Square: we appreciated it’s history and beauty, but quite frankly couldn’t wait to get out of there!

<b>To be continued.....

</b>
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 11:14 PM
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<b><u>VENICE: Part 2:</u>

DAY 1</b> (October 11, 2007)

<b><u>LOCANDA ORSEOLO</u></b>
We followed the easy map that instructed us to our inn, Locanda Orseolo, which I will affectionately refer to as <b>“LO”</b> for the remainder of this report.

First, I’ll give you some background info. I found this inn about 2 years ago. I stumbled across it on Fodor’s Talk when it was recommended by dozens of travelers. It was one of those same ole threads about “Where to stay in Venice”. You know the one were posters responses are: “I second LO”, or “Another vote for LO”, “We loved LO”, “We’ll only stay at LO”, etc. Then I made the mistake of checking out LO on tripadvisor.com. It seemed that weekly, a new post was made echoing the same as the last hundred posts. Was this place to good to be true? How can everyone who stays there be their friend? What if we stayed there and they clearly didn’t want to be our friend….would we feel bad (ha!)? After looking at the photos (especially the one where the staff looks like they stepped off the pages of Italian GQ and Vogue), I decided that this was the only place we had to stay. It seemed to have all the elements we were looking for: location, service, d&eacute;cor, on a canal, quiet, romantic, etc. So, I booked our stay well over a year in advance. And so….I continued to check tripadvisor weekly to see the(same old) new posts about LO’s outstanding service, Matteo’s crepes, impeccable breakfasts, how they treated their guests like family….yada yada.

So there we are, making our way to our LO. We had to lug our suitcases over only one small bridge. It was hard to pass since the gondola station was right there and tourists were stopped on the bridge hanging over the bridge capturing the photo ops. We managed to push our way through. We shortly found the gate to the LO’s courtyard and came upon the awning emblazoned with <i>“Locanda Orseolo”</i> that I’d seen in dozens of photos. It seemed so surreal to be here. We couldn’t believe how quiet it was. So conveniently close to St. Mark’s hoardes of people, but so peaceful.

We opened the door and were warmly greeted by Francesco who quickly ran over from behind the desk to warmly greet us and take our luggage. He genuinely made us feel that he was happy to see us. He called us by name without us telling him who we were….a little freaky, but pretty cool. The inn was richly decorated in deep reds and golds. It was tastefully appointed and exuded Venetian flair. I peeked at the breakfast room and saw the window door that gave access to a water arrival. Just then Bruno, who was in the back room, bolted out to give us a warm welcome. Okay, so now we get it…it’s all true what they say. I was finding myself beginning to formulate just what <b>my</b> post at Tripadvisor and Fodor’s would say about this great inn.

Francesco and Bruno took our luggage upstairs and showed us our room. It had a whimsical mural painted on the wall and it, too was richly decorated in reds and golds. It was also spacious and comfortable. We were very pleased. We unpacked a few items and made a plan of what to do. After all the research, we had our list of what we wanted to accomplish day to day while having lots of flexibility for spontaneity. On day #1, we didn’t have any plans knowing that we’d have jet lag. We were both feeling pretty good and exhilarated. We just wanted to let Venice sink in. So…we grabbed our map (I like and totally recommend the Red Maps series) and went on our merry way, but not without first getting another wholehearted greeting from Francesco and Bruno when we came down the stairs. We found ourselves both walking out the door with huge smiles on our face.

<b>Next……Part 3: VENICE OR BUST!



</b>
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Old Mar 17th, 2008, 12:00 AM
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Oh adventureseeker, please hurry, we are going to Italy in May and this looks like being a really good report!!
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Old Mar 17th, 2008, 01:24 AM
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<b>VENICE-PART 3

<u>DAY 1</u></b> (October 11, 2007)…continued

<b><u>VENICE OR BUST!</u></b>
We walked out the courtyard gate and into the opposite direction of St. Mark’s Square. Time to get lost! I had read that you can find your way by looking at the names of landmarks painted on the walls at each “intersection” of the passageways. This was so true. We just kept walking and taking in the sights/smells of Venice. Beginning to fall in love with her. The farther we got from St. Mark’s, so was the memory of our first impression. Every so often, we’d consult our map to get our bearings and a sense of where we were. We were headed towards the Rialto Bridge. We came upon Rialto and I didn’t have that “ooh aah” feeling about her either. She was packed to the gills with people. Aargh! We detoured and passed caf&eacute;’s filled with Venetians standing, chatting loudly and having a snack…we realized how hungry we were.

<b><u>CAMPO SAN STEFANO</u></b>
Soon we found ourselves at a somewhat large square called Campo San Stefano (San Marco district). It was a beautiful spacious square that had its share of outdoor caf&eacute;’s. Little did we know that this would become one of our favorite squares in all of Venice. We like the hometown feel of it as Venetians were hanging out. This would be a perfect place to have our first meal. We grabbed a table and the server (looking like an Italian Rod Stewart) came out with his notepad and pen ready to take our order. We used our broken Italian and hand gestures to ask for a menu while pointing at dishes in the case. It was like a scene out of an “I Love Lucy” episode. But, hey….we got our food and we’re in Venice. Our first meal in Italy: salad mista with cheeses &amp; olives; mushroom risotto, flatbread. Polished off with a beer (birra) for DH and a Prosecco for me. The meal was good and the ambiance superb. We ordered another glass of beer and Prosecco toasting each other to our first day in Venice. I could hang out here forever.

<b><u>PEGGY GUGGENHEIM COLLECTION</u></b>
We wandered towards the Accademia bridge and I spied a couple gondoliers sitting on the bridge taking a break. This photo op would be one of my fave photos taken in Venice. We hung out on this wooden bridge taking in the Grand Canal and the activity on it. Seeing the numerously packed gondolas and tourists clamor to capture photos of them was a bit unnerving. I have always loved gondolas, but was quickly losing my allure for the romance of it. We found ourselves near Peggy Guggenheim’s Ca’ Venier palazzo where her art collection is housed, so we decided to have a peek. It wasn’t easy finding the entrance, but after going through a few passageways, we found it. I fell in love with the courtyard with shade from a large old tree also a fine sampling of garden sculptures and Peggy’s beloved dogs’ memorial. We made our way inside and went from room to room viewing her art collection. I imagined her living there and how each room was set up. It was a beautiful palazzo with a terrace right on the Grand Canal. Talk about location, location, location. DH and I walked out onto the terrace and stayed for a long while watching the activity on the Grand Canal and rejuvenating ourselves.

<b><u>WINGING IT</u></b>
Back to LO and that same warm greeting. I wonder if these folks ever have a bad day? The owner Barbara was there so we met her. She was equally pleasant and warm. Back to the room to freshen up. Tonight, we had no plans for dinner and were just going to wing it. Out and about once again….wandering. It felt good not to rush to be somewhere. We just followed the passageway to see where it took us. Every moment being a photo op. A mosaic here, a sculpture there. We stopped in a cozy trattoria and had a basic meal of salad, pizza, pasta with a carafe of house red. A decent meal at a decent price. Food/Wine are big parts of our travels (which you’ll find as this report continues). Day #1 was just quick and easy.

<b><u>ST. MARK'S ORCHESTRAS</u></b>
About 10pm, we wandered towards St. Mark’s. We could hear the orchestras playing in the distance. Once we stepped unto the square we realized how peaceful it was. People were sitting on the ground, others in the caffe’s….and not a pigeon in sight. I thought we’d end our first night in Venice having a drink at Caffe’ Florian, but it seemed that the best battle of the orchestras was across the way. We headed in that direction. Instead of grabbing a table, we just did as others did, move from orchestra to the next…with St. Mark’s square as the dance floor. Ultra romantic. This is how we found ourselves loving St. Marks’s…when we had her to ourselves. Even the Basilica was looking more beautiful. We listened to a few sets of music while swaying and taking a few spins on the “dance floor”. I reminded DH that we hadn’t had a gelato yet. So…we had a mission. Mission accomplished......

<b><u>HAZELNUT GELATO</u></b>
Before we left home, a friend told me all about Hazelnut Gelato. She said that it’s been 8 years since she had Hazelnut Gelato in Italy, but still craves it and can’t find anything as close since she’s been home. So, naturally, I had to try it and became a Hazelnut junkie from my first lick. That and Pistachio was my combo.

<b><u>DAY 2</u></b> (Friday, October 12, 2007)

<b><u>SLEEP….WHO NEEDS IT?</u></b>
We’re up at the crack of dawn (6am). I’m one of those travelers who runs on full adrenaline and can’t really sleep soundly until I crash and burn 3 days later. We were surprised at how dark it was this early. It’s only us and the streetcleaner sweeping away all the trash and debri to make room for more. It was exciting to be out so early and we were glad to have dragged ourselves out of bed. Why sleep when there is so much action to be seen? While most were asleep the city was coming alive. Boats filled with provisions were making their drop off’s. Some were collecting trash, others bringing supplies in. It was bustling. The famous Rialto produce and seafood market was our destination. I’ve read how interesting it is to watch it being set up. We came upon the Rialto bridge. There wasn’t a soul on it or near it. WOW! DH took a photo of me on it with my arms spread wide saying….”I have her all to myself”! Funny, at that moment I began to have a warm fuzzy place in my heart for that bridge.

Just over the bridge I spied both bars: Bancogiro and Naranzaria http://www.naranzaria.it/eng-home.ht...t/eng-home.htm Fodor’s Girlspytravel wrote rave reviews about these 2 bars and it was on our list to do a pubcrawl one night. Even our friends (yes, they’ve now advanced up the ranks to be called friends) at LO endorsed both these places saying that is where they choose to hang out. We peeked in at both places and got excited about the possibility of spending time there.

<b><u>FAMOUS RIALTO MARKET</u></b>
Nearby was the Rialto Market. Vendors were whistling tunes, some singing. Vendors were taking pride in setting up their produce just so. We were overwhelmed with the variety/freshness of the produce. Some of which we’ve never seen before. It was all very interesting and enjoyable. So worth getting up for. The fish market was yet another spectacle. The vendors happily and loudly chatting with each other while cleaning and setting up the seafood. Tossing a fish back and forth. It all had really good energy. We thoroughly enjoyed witnessing it all.

<b>VAPORETTO</b>
We then caught the Vaporetto (line #1) and took it the length of the canal. We loved it. As it puttered along....Venetian workers, students, and kids got on and off. The vaporetto operators were singing Italian songs. It was pretty awe-inspiring to see the sun come up and the building became awash in vibrant color. On the way back, we took line #82. We got off and head to St. Mark’s and once again were in awe. The sun was just beginning to rise and created a halo of pinks and oranges over the Campanile. Stunning. We knew that St. Mark’s would become an early morning/late evening date for us.

Back to LO for their sumptuous breakfast. And it didn’t disappoint. I could go on and on, but I won’t. We were feeling smug while having our meal knowing
that we already had a full day’s activity under our belt. What else could Venice have in store for us? We engaged in delightful conversations with other guests and our new LO friends then excused ourselves to get cleaned up to tackle Venice....once again!

<b>Next....Let's get busy in Venice!



</b>
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Old Mar 17th, 2008, 01:26 AM
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Cathies,

Grazie!

What areas of Italy are you visiting?
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