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I'm being followed by a balloon shadow, balloon shadow, balloon shadow (Italy trip report)

I'm being followed by a balloon shadow, balloon shadow, balloon shadow (Italy trip report)

Sep 8th, 2006, 12:37 PM
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I'm being followed by a balloon shadow, balloon shadow, balloon shadow (Italy trip report)

I finally I got around to writing some sort of trip report for my trip to Italy the latter half of May. It isn't done, so this is going to be in installments – including the photos. I hope I still hold your interest through the end!

My itinerary was subject to many tweaks and just before I purchased my plane tickets I decided to throw in two days in the Tuscan countryside with the main goal of going ballooning. Ballooning in Tuscany was the one must see, must do on this trip so most of rest of it was subject to being jostled around the free dates for ballooning. Robert Etherington's ballooning adventure is quite popular so the only actual available date was May 25th – and oh how I prayed for good ballooning weather on that date! He told me that May is usually the best month with September a good second so I was fairly confident to have decent weather. At any rate, I was committed to the hotels and really wanted to see that part of Tuscany anyway so it wasn't like it was going to be a hardship!

So, my itinerary was thus:

Arrival in Venice, with three nights there. A train ride early in the morning to Florence for two nights, with a car pickup in Florence to drive the scenic S22 road through Chianti... ending that day in Pienza for two nights. Then, a drive to Rome, drop the car, and 3 nights there. A whirlwind trip!

My last visit to Venice was over New Year's of 2000/2001. I also visited Florence on that trip. I had visited Rome in November 2004 but had never visited the Tuscan countryside before so I was thoroughly anticipating seeing old favorites and making new favorites to visit again - and as a matter of fact I will be repeating this trip with my parents in May 2007 – for the latter half of May or a little longer.

Here are some photos taken during the time in Venice. I took 500 photos in the first 24 hours! But only 100 more during the remainder of my time there – I slowed down a little bit. Enjoy a few of them and I'll be back later with some actual reportage. I haven't posted all 600 online, maybe 200 if that. I broke them down for easier viewing.




flygirl is offline  
Sep 8th, 2006, 01:55 PM
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Hi flygirl!
I just looked at the first of your pictures (supposed to be working). They are so beautiful! However did you get all the people to stay out of your pictures? ;-)

Lovely - looking forward to your entire trip report.
LCBoniti is offline  
Sep 8th, 2006, 02:16 PM
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This is a great start to your report. Loved the pictures! My favorite is in the canal set, with the hanging laundry and the cool light reflections on the water. Some great ones in the gondola set also. Now I REALLY want to go to Venice. Looking forward to reading more.
noe847 is offline  
Sep 8th, 2006, 02:17 PM
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Love your photos! You are Beth?
Loved that you took all the critter pics!
SeaUrchin is offline  
Sep 8th, 2006, 03:08 PM
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"Balloon shadow" reminds me that I just read Cat Stevens is about to have a new album released.
Underhill is offline  
Sep 8th, 2006, 03:16 PM
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I hot air balloons. I crew for a pilot in the Houston area and can definitely be considered a "balloonatic!"

I look forward to seeing the balloon pictures!

The other pictures were terrific! You must have been packing a squirt gun to get the people out of your photos! I don't know how you did it...
moldyhotelsaregross is offline  
Sep 8th, 2006, 03:58 PM
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I look forward to your report and I REALLY enjoyed your pictures...I like the way your categorized them....I see you're a girl after my own heart, you take A LOT of pictures, as I do, but it can certainly be fun doing the editing after you come back...a way of still being there.
lyb is offline  
Sep 8th, 2006, 04:30 PM
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I think flygirl's secret is some early morning walks!
noe847 is offline  
Sep 9th, 2006, 02:48 AM
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Thanks everyone! I do take an excessive amount of photos.

Noe - you are right! I get up early anyway and with the time difference, those first days saw me up very early. Imagine only a few hours later when the cruises docked - madness. I'm glad I got up as early as I did. LC - early morning Venice and mid-morning Venice are two completely different things.

SeaUrchin - c'est moi!

Now to keep up the momentum of the first installment - I'll try to post up more today...

Glad you like my photos.
flygirl is offline  
Sep 13th, 2006, 08:09 AM
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Your pictures of Venice were wonderful, thank you for sharing. I am a new poster, although not new to garnering information from this forum. I leave in two weeks for my first trip to Italy with the first stop in Venice. I've been doing nothing but reading and researching but it just can't compare with the visuals that your fantastic pictures provided. I especially loved the pictures of the children.
barbrn is offline  
Sep 13th, 2006, 09:07 AM
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thanks Barb, wow! I'm pleased you like them so much. I guess taking 600 over the course of a few days pays off (I didn't post all 600, just the ones I felt were the most representative of the trip...)

I'm ashamed to say I still haven't had time since my first posting to add to my report - this week is utterly slammed and I'm not sure about the weekend as I have a full social calendar. I'll try though.

I have several photos from the other locations - including of course the ballooning ones!
flygirl is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 06:56 AM
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Well, now I'm back again, trying to include another installment in this story. I hope I can finish the whole thing before Xmas, ar ar ar. I'm heading to Albuquerque New Mexico this Wednesday for the Balloon Fiesta so I'll have yet another ballooning trip report shortly!

Here goes:

I took Air France through Paris to Venice. If anyone remembers my posting from the spring, I wasn't sure if the bewilderingly short connection AF allows in Paris was a bright idea and in the end I opted for the 3+ hour layover. I was quite glad I did because the 50-odd minutes connection time they offer is a joke. Why they allow for that is beyond me – if you are reading this, please heed – CDG needs more than an hour for connections if you are coming from the US. The good news is that they broke their perfect streak of losing my luggage and it actually arrived with me. You can imagine my horror at Dulles when I left – I was so proud that I had managed to pack only one 22 inch case for the whole trip and they simply wouldn't let me carry it on. There was a bit of a tug-of-war at the ticket counter but in the end I lost. Since I hadn't done triage on my luggage as I usually do (one small carryon, one checked) I was biting my nails for a while. But, it made it – wonders never cease.

When I landed in Venice I couldn't believe I had really waited five years since the last visit! What is wrong with me?? Because I had already been in transit for quite some time I decided to splurge with the water taxi straight to the Hotel Wildner. That's a spendy trip but it was so much fun.

The Wildner is a great little hotel and a wonderful value. There are a few photos in the links above which are called “the view from my room” and the view was certainly grand. I only paid 220E if I recall correctly. It's a few doors down from the Danieli, right on St. Mark's Basin, so you can get the same view for about a quarter of the price! I did walk into the Danieli - it's quite an elegant hotel but I'd as soon stay at the Wildner unless I was on my honeymoon or something.

My best meal in Venice was at Osteria San Marco. Don't be put off by the name, proximity to St. Mark's in this case does NOT mean mediocre quality. It was fabulous and in fact my stomach hurt after I left; I ate so much. (Well, it was that and the full BIG bottle of San Pellegrino that I drank.) There I had a 1/4 carafe of prosecco, the above devil-drink (gassy water) and a big caprese salad (big enough for a meal) and also ravioli filled with ricotta and drenched in butter and topped with lightly sauteed asparagus. In order to find it on Frezzeria, you need to head west while in St. Mark's square. When you are about two-thirds of the way down the square, look off to your right and you will see a little sotoportego. Once you go through this, you will see the gondola ranch (I call it this because there must be 10-20 gondolas all lined up there, ar ar ar). Turn left and keep walking. You will shortly intersect with Calle Frezzeria.

I also met up with Monica on this trip. She was ending her Italy trip in Venice; I was beginning it. So we met for dinner each night and my first full morning in Venice (after sleeping off the jetlag) I was up quite early and walked from my hotel to La Calcina where she stayed and had breakfast with her at La Calcina's outdoor terrace. You will see many photos from my morning walk, in the links above. I must say early mornings are the best time – you have the city to yourself (and a few locals walking their dogs, and the odd storekeeper and restaurateur). I'll have to come back later with the restaurants she chose since when we met up for dinners I let her pick from her lists. She's much more organized than I am and especially when it comes to food! (check out her many food photos, they are amazing!)

I must say here that three days is simply not enough, not enough by far, for this city. It takes me that long to settle down. I think I had Stendhal Syndrome (not Stockholm syndrome! although I suppose I was held captive by the city so maybe that isn't far off the mark either. heh heh).

I will catch major grief in some quarters but I only went to one museum - Ca Rezzonico. I went on a guided tour that had me inside St. Mark's for all of 5 minutes. I went into a few smaller churches but most of this trip was walking, walking, walking, walking, walking, walking, walking, walking, walking, walking, and of course photo taking. And walking. My last trip 5 yrs ago saw me going in to several museums and churches and since it was SO nice out (and my last trip was in winter so I didn't cover as much city ground) I decided to spend more time outdoors). I did very much enjoy the boat tour we took one evening. They are quite easy to find, but if anyone is interested I will look up the one we took.

A few observations:

Pigeons + kids = cute cute cute. pigeons - kids = da** shi**ing birds. (I hope this isn't censored, I thought it was funny!)

Gondoliers on the Grand Canal are either brave, or lost. I watched a few navigate their gondolas as we passed in the vaporetto. Maybe the best word for them is “deft” (at handling the waves).

Peggy Guggenheim's dogs all seemed to die very young! Out of something like 12 dogs only a few made it past age 10 and the rest lived 1 or 2 years it seemed like. She buried them all in her garden and she is buried next to them.

I am going to take the brave position here (quite controversial) and say I prefer Venice without all the bloody tourists. (which, of course, I was not one.. ha) The best time to wander around is very early or late if you don't want to feel like you're at a crowded rock concert. It was an interesting contrast to see Venice in late May, over early January. In January you can walk forever and see no one it seems.

You can find any famous Italian designer you can imagine, in Venice. It was far more interesting in that regard than say, Fifth Avenue.
flygirl is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 07:02 AM
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That's weird, it didn't include my edits. sigh.

Anyway, I had added that Elisabetta and the other managers at the Wildner were wonderful, very friendly and welcoming. I'm staying there again for sure!

And now, Florence is next. I'll try to get that up sooner rather than later!
flygirl is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 09:34 AM
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Whenever you get to it, flygirl, please do continue. This is a pleasure!
LCBoniti is offline  
Oct 7th, 2006, 11:08 AM
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Flygirl - what is the weather like in January? How cold was it? Probably not as pretty as the spring with no flowers, eh?
Thanks - gorgeous photos.
cobbie is offline  
Oct 8th, 2006, 03:52 AM
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Cobbie - in January, the sky was brilliant blue for a few days and rather overcast for part of it too. Quite cold, at least that year. I did like it because of the fog and the feeling that you really were in another time - less people and of those, much less likely to be wearing shorts and a bum bag. ar ar ar

LC, glad you are sticking with me here, sorry this is taking so dreadfully long.

and here are some more photos, to go with the next segment.

flygirl is offline  
Oct 9th, 2006, 11:47 AM
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I think I hear crickets! ar ar ar

don't all rush to look at my photos at once now!
flygirl is offline  
Oct 9th, 2006, 05:37 PM
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My trip from Venice to Florence was mostly uneventful but for a little bit of a surprise at the train station. I had gone the day previously to buy my ES Italia tickets to Florence and used the ticket machines instead of standing in line for a ticket. I wasn't paying attention and when I bought the ticket hit the button for Venezia/Mestre to Firenze. I imagine you know what happened... I showed up with plenty of time to spare for my 9AM train – but from the wrong station! Yep, you guessed it, I needed to get a ticket from Venice's main station to Mestre and another one to Florence. I had the Mestre-Florence leg... and the only way I made it was to jump on the first train to Mestre (which was the only one I could have taken to make the connection on time) and hope it wasn't a long run to the correct track. As it turned out it was no problem at all – once off the one train I merely had to walk across the platform – a distance of a few feet – but I was sweating it until I got on the ES train! The next train into Florence was that afternoon and I didn't want to waste it in a train station. Take heed – if you get your own tickets make sure to get both legs sorted out!

Once in town it was rather grey and the second surprise of the day was that my hotel, the Antica Torre di via Tornabuoni, had a problem in one room the night before.. and had put the person there in MY room thus leaving me room-less for that night. Why they couldn't put me in a different room I don't know – I asked. They sent me to the Albergotto, just up the street, for one night. It was no problem at all in the end because they took care of the taxi ride up and the Albergotto was also a fabulous hotel. I may not have found it but for that little hiccup and I'd definitely recommend it as a place to stay, too. My room rate was 250E a night for the Antica Torre and 230E a night for the Albergotto and I stayed two nights total.

It would be a tossup which one I liked better, too. The Antica Torre had by far the best view and of course the rooftop terrace. My own room there had a terrace, which, if you stretched your neck, you could see the Arno! (see photos) I didn't make a lot of use of the room terrace due to the lovely rooftop one. The room was large enough but not massive like the Albergotto... and it had carpeting not hardwood floors. It did have a huge bathroom which is always a plus.

The room in the Albergotto I liked better – spacious room... hardwood floors.. big windows which when opened allowed the breeze to waft in through the long white sheer curtains... spacious bathroom with tile flooring.. but no terrace. In the end the terrace really counted for a lot so if you are going during a time of nice weather – I would recommend the Antica Torre. If it is too cold to be outdoors you could go with either one but I'd likely stay at the Albergotto. You won't be displeased with either.

I had the best meal in Italy (this time) in Florence. I stumbled across this excellent enoteca by perusing Time Out shortly after getting settled in. My meal was simple: a glass of Brunello (10E), Crostone with melted gorgonzola, honey, and celery as an appetizer, and, ravioli in a light cream sauce, filled with pecorino cheese and pear. The ravioli was delicate and had the appearance of a tiny package, tied up at the little neck, rather than a square blob as you see here. The whole meal came to 25E and I ended up going back AGAIN before I left since I knew I'd never find that in the US. The food just melted in my mouth. It's very close to the Duomo, if anyone wants to find it let me know and I'll look it up – but it is in Time Out Florence.

I also have to give rave reviews for my walking tour the next morning. It was on basic Florence history and amazingly well done. It was the Original and Best Walking Tours which you can find it on the web at www.artviva.com. I saw that Michael Palin proclaimed it his favorite walking tour in Florence and since hey, he's my fave Python, not to mention a truly inspiring traveler - so why not check it out. The woman who guided us was getting her doctorate in the Italian Renaissance and she was very thorough as a result. I learned some interesting little factoids on the walk – here are a few (which may be apocryphal but nonetheless entertaining):

“Stinking rich”: the rich used to be buried under the floorboards of churches – the richer you were, the better your “real estate” in a church – with the richest being up near the front. Naturally, dead bodies underneath tended to stink. “Hole in the wall” signifies the little tiny holes built into palace walls with a tiny door on either side. The rich folks inside would leave food and other goodies in their “hole in the wall” for the poor to come by and take for themselves and their families.

We didn't just learn little factoids, she also dissected artwork both on churches and buildings as well as inside them. After the walk I bought three books - two on the Medici (April Blood by Lauro Martinesi, about the Pazzi conspiracy to murder the Medici brothers.. Medici Money by Tim Parks), and the third one was Brunellschi's Dome by Ross King. I also got a number of my gifts for friends and family - Florence is great for leather items so it's going to be a leather birthday for everyone this year (and wedding, etc etc). I bought some beautiful watercolors from a street artist along the Arno. I am a sucker for flowers and especially poppies. I also walked my buns off in Florence – including a walk to Piazzale Michelangelo. That was a stunning view and I wish I had gone up a little closer to sunset. But it was wonderful nonetheless. I definitely got my exercise on this trip.

Next up – into Tuscany! (including Pienza and the ballooning ride).
flygirl is offline  
Oct 9th, 2006, 06:49 PM
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Great pictures, flygirl! We were in Florence in February and, although we were blown away by the beauty of the city at that time of year, your pictures are fabulous!

On your Walking Tour of Florence, do you remember your tour guide's name? We had a young woman also getting her doctorate named Sylvia and she sounds a lot like your guide.

I hope you will have pictures of your balloon ride!
LCBoniti is offline  
Oct 10th, 2006, 03:10 AM
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thanks LC!

I'm almost to the balloon photo portion of the report... Pienza is next.
flygirl is offline  

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