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ITALY – ON AND OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Venice & Northern Italy

ITALY – ON AND OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Venice & Northern Italy

Old Sep 29th, 2016, 02:34 PM
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ITALY – ON AND OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Venice & Northern Italy

I spent ten days in Italy this July, sandwiched between visits to the Baltics and to Crete. I’ve come to the realization that while I enjoy visiting all of Europe, Italy really is my favorite. No matter where else I plan to go, I always seem to include Italy in the itinerary. Of course, it IS pretty central so that helps. I found really inexpensive flights on Ryan Air to/from Vilnius and Crete. (I’m doing separate reports on the Baltics and Crete, to make it easier for people researching those destinations).

Photos: www.pbase.com/annforcier/italy__venezia

I hadn’t intended to make this a study in the contrasts of ON vs OFF the Beaten Path but that’s what happened. Although I’ve been to Venice several times, my husband had only been once, 14 years ago and so wanted to see it again. Since I have way more vacation than he does I had been traveling solo in England and the Baltics before getting to Italy and I had five days in Italy before he arrived. Last year I’d had a great time on Lake Garda so decided this year to do Lake Iseo, and also to visit a couple of nearby towns I’d been meaning to for a while but just never were a priority – Brescia and Cremona, and to revisit Mantua. Since we had 5 days in Venice we did a day trip to Udine and Cividale del Friuli and another to Padua. None of these towns are in the top tier (or even the top two tiers, except maybe Padua and Mantova) of ‘places to go in Italy’ and they were very ‘un-touristy’. I was probably the only American, and one of only a handful of tourists much of the time. As opposed to Venice.

I enjoyed visiting all these towns – absolutely don’t regret it. BUT – there IS a reason some places are heavily touristed. And there are pros and cons - while there is less to see, less ‘ambiance’, etc. there are of course less crowds, a more ‘real’ feel to these off the beaten track towns. Venice was incredibly crowded – much more so than when I was last there, eight years ago – and sometimes the crowds made being there unpleasant. And it’s more expensive. Our hotel in Venice was over twice as much as the hotels in Iseo and Cremona. But it was VENICE! – no comparison to anywhere else and in my opinion, worth the crowds to see it. But I have to say seeing the difference in ‘ON vs OFF’ the beaten path was striking.
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Old Sep 29th, 2016, 03:13 PM
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Nice pics, isabel - Venice rarely disappoints, does it?
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Old Sep 29th, 2016, 04:09 PM
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I always love your photos, isabel.

Agree that there is a trade-off between on- and off-the-beaten-path destinations. I like to do a little of both when I can.

Looking forward to reading more. I enjoyed the Baltics report, too.
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Old Sep 29th, 2016, 07:49 PM
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Great photos Isabel, thanks for sharing
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Old Sep 30th, 2016, 02:29 AM
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Stunning photos. I just spent an hour looking at your shots of Venice, the Greek Islands and the Amalfi Coast. Brought back many memories. You've got a great eye.
Diane
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Old Sep 30th, 2016, 04:25 AM
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Thanks!

Lake Iseo was nice enough, but there is a reason you’ve heard of Lakes Como and Garda (and Maggiore) but probably not Iseo. The scenery is not as dramatic, the lakeside towns not as picturesque, hardly any villas or gardens or castles which the other lakes abound in and which make them interesting places to visit. There is also more industry and pollution around the lake so it’s not as pristine to swim or boat in. It’s the smallest of the 4 major Italian lakes but it has the largest lake island in southern Europe – Monte Isola. It has the things people come to the lakes for, namely blue-green water and mountains. I’d say the scenery is more dramatic than the lower half of either Como or Garda, but not as dramatic as the upper half of either of them. Since Lake Iseo is less tourist dependent than the larger lakes, it has been protected less – there are areas of industry and unattractive developments, and the medieval lanes, although cared-for, haven't all been prettied-up for visitors. A Scottish woman I met who lives there (she works as an interpreter so can live anywhere, she lives in Iseo “cause it’s cheap and has a view”) said the lake is quite polluted from the industry and also some of the smaller towns dump their sewage into it. I will say I didn’t see many beaches, people windsurfing, boating, or swimming, like I did at Lake Garda. There were a few guys fishing. There are boats in the small harbors of all the towns, mostly small motorboats, but I didn’t see any sailboats out on the lake.

What it doesn’t have is a lot of tourists – and virtually no American ones. So also not a lot of tourist ‘stuff’. There are enough restaurants, pizzerias, and gelatorias but no shops selling the things tourists want to buy (ceramics, clothes, jewelry, etc.). And while both Iseo and Lovere are quite nice towns, with winding lanes, pleasant squares and nice waterfront promenades, there is not much in the way of castles (Garda has three good ones) or Villas with gardens to tour (all three of the other lakes have those).

Monte Isola has several small villages around it’s perimeter (it’s basically a mountain in the middle of the lake). I had read that they were charming fishing villages but they really didn’t have much charm, a few motorboats. You can easily walk between two of the towns, Peschiera and Sensole, and that is certainly a pleasant walk. There is a tiny castle ruin high above Sensole and a church at the very top of the mountain (that would be quite a hike, I think there is a small bus).

The ferry, almost empty even in July, runs up and down the lake but only a couple times a day in each direction, so planning is necessary. There is more frequent service from Monte Iseo to the town directly opposite it on the mainland, Sulzano. Iseo is a half hour train from Brescia, with frequent service.

Iseo is a nice little town. The lake in front of the town is beautiful, you can see a couple of other towns across the lake and hills. The town itself is fairly large, but pedestrianized, with several winding side streets and a couple of little squares, some arcaded blocks, a nice old church, the remnants of a small castle. There is a long promenade running quite a distance along the lake.

So if you really want that off-the-beaten-tourist-track-almost-no-English-speaking type of place, this is it. But there is a reason those other lakes became more touristy. I think Iseo is really nice, but for my next Italian lakes trip I will probably go back to Como or Garda. Although I will admit that the fact that I had a lot of thunderstorms/cloudy weather and the hotel I stayed in was way worse than those I stayed in on the other lakes may have somewhat influenced my take on the place.

Photos of Lake Iseo (end of gallery) www.pbase.com/annforcier/italian_lakes
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Old Sep 30th, 2016, 07:35 AM
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You've done it again !
Super shots of my favorite site for taking photos.

I loved your collage #359---very creative.
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Old Sep 30th, 2016, 03:59 PM
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Thanks Bob


One day I did a day trip to from Iseo to Brescia, a short (½ hr, 3.3€) train ride away (in fact you have to pass through Brescia to get to Iseo). The area around there is full of vineyards but doesn’t have the tourist infrastructure of Tuscany, etc. A woman I met on the train said the area just doesn’t encourage or promote it, and a lot of locals don’t understand why not. There are only a few vineyards open to visits and very few tours to them. The train station in Brescia is pretty large, it’s on the main line between Venice and Milan with connections to all over northern Italy. I had considered staying a night or two in Brescia but the reviews of hotels anywhere close to the train station made it sound pretty sketchy. Once I got there it really didn’t look that bad.

Photos of Brescia: www.pbase.com/annforcier/brescia

BRESCIA is nicer and more interesting than I though it was going to be. It was a Roman city so has quite a lot of roman ruins, plus a couple of really nice squares and an interesting new/old Duomo combo, several towers, lots of churches and a castle. All quite worth visiting and pretty close together. The center of town (where all that stuff is) is a good 20 minute walk from the train/bus station, not unpleasant, but not terribly interesting. However, they have a metro (the smallest size city in the world (193,000) with an actual (underground) metro, very modern) and it’s one stop from the train station to Piazza della vittoria, which is the large fascist era central square. It was built in 1932 after demolishing the medieval era buildings that were on the site.

But one block from there is the lovely Piazza della Loggia which dates to 1433 when the city invited Venice to rule and protect it from Milan’s power-hungry Visconti family. The clock tower in the center of the Loggia is similar to the one in Venice. The Palazzo della Loggia is today, as in the past, the seat of city government. Adjoining that is Piazza Paolo VI which has the three most important buildings in Brescia. The oldest is the Broletto which includes a crenelated tower (Pegol Tower) and the Loggia delle Grida. Next to it is the Duomo Nuovo, Baroque built between 1604 and 1825 which has the third highest dome in Italy. Next to that is the Duomo Vecchio, built at the end of the 11th century. It is a rare example of round plan Romanesque architecture. Most cities, when they decided they needed a new Duomo, just expanded the one they already had. But in Brescia they built a totally new one next to the old one so today we can see the original one still standing.

A few blocks further is the “Brixia Archaeological Area” which includes a Roman temple ruin and theatre. These are now on the UNESCO World Heritage List. And one block further is the Santa Giulia complex (also on the World Heritage List). This is a huge complex (10€) that includes three churches, Santa Maria, San Salvatore and Santa Giulia, part of a Benedictine nunnery/monastery founded in 753. These churches, which include incredibly frescoed chapels and a beautiful crypt plus two cloisters, are only part of the complex. There is a huge museum with findings from Roman and Bronze Age occupations of the city. During the Roman era the monastery area was occupied by an extensive residential quarter with houses decorated with mosaics and frescoes and these have been excavated and can now be seen via walkways built above them. The whole place is fascinating and can take hours to see.

About a 15-20 minute, not terribly taxing climb from the center is the Castle, one of the largest and best-preserved fortresses in Italy. The oldest part, the donjon was built by the Visconti of Milan in the first half of the 1300s on the remains of a Roman temple. The imposing ramparts and outer wall were built in the mid 1500s during the rule of Venice. Today the whole area is part of a pleasant part and much of it can be visited for free. But while it may be large and well preserved it somehow managed to be pretty boring. I think there might be views of it from the ‘other’ side (not the city side) but I had no idea if there really were, or in any case how to get there.

I spent about 4 or 5 hours in Brescia, saw the ‘sites’. It looks like a perfectly nice city but for the size, the number of really interesting things (I think I saw most of them) is small. If you are passing through and have the time it’s worth a stop but it really just doesn’t compare with Verona or Padua or other cities in the region.
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Old Oct 1st, 2016, 06:14 AM
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thanks, Isabel, for introducing me to an area of Italy that i don't know at all.

I'm not sure that I'd want to make a special visit there but I can see reasons to pass through on the way somewhere else, so thanks!

and lovely photos, BTW.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2016, 06:29 AM
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Yeah, those places were all places I'd come across when researching other trips but that didn't make the "A list" of places we wanted to visit. But since I had a few days with no specific agenda I figured I'd check them out. And like I said, I hadn't really thought about what a contrast it would be from these little-tourist-visited towns and Venice but it ended up being very sharp. So that was interesting.

CREMONA – I’d seen photos of Cremona’s Duomo and it looked pretty wonderful, and I like to explore new towns so I decided to do a couple of days there. Definitely off the tourist radar, Cremona is a good size market town (population 70,000), flat, prosperous, nice. The main thing here is the Piazza dell Comune, one of the prettiest in Italy I think. The Romanesque/Gothic Duomo (1190), with it’s white marble façade is gorgeous, the campanile – the Torrazzo (1250) is the third tallest brick bell tower in the world (502 steps – it’s older than the other two and is the oldest brick structure over 100 meters that is still standing) and features an enormous astronomical clock, (original, 1583). There’s also the octagonal Baptistery (1167) and the Loggia dei Milti (1292). The whole ensemble is beautiful from any angle.

Photos of Cremona - www.pbase.com/annforcier/cremona

The rest of the town is certainly pleasant, and there are a number of churches and palazzos that are interesting, but apart from that, the only other thing a tourist would find interesting in Cremona is the fact that it is famous for violin making. Antonio Stradivari was born in Cremona in 1644 and died there 93 years later. There is a museum of violins and stringed instruments, a Stradivarius Festival and over 100 currently working violin makers.

I wandered around the center of Cremona (about a 20—30 minute walk from the train station). There are quite a lot of shopping streets, plenty of eateries, some nice buildings. The town has a nice feel to it, but not the ‘wow’ this is cool to be in such an old town feel. They were having an ‘event’ of some sort so there were crafts booths, entertainment, street food, sidewalk sales, antique car show, all kinds of stuff going on and very lively till at least 10 pm. The duomo and surrounding piazza was nicely lit.
But at this point I’m thinking though that ‘off the beaten path’ sounds better than it actually is. Lake Iseo is no better, in fact less pretty/interesting than either Como or Garda. Brescia and Cremona both have some gorgeous buildings, but overall are not any better, and in fact a lot less interesting than the towns ‘on the beaten path’. Since I’ve seen most of the main ‘tourist towns’ in Italy it’s interesting to check out some of the others, amazing actually that places like these Piazzas, Duomos, etc. just exist in towns with people just going about their normal days. Put piazzas like the ones in Brescia and Cremona in any city in America and it would draw hoards of tourists, but stuck between Florence and Bologna and Venice, people just pass it by.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2016, 10:14 AM
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isabel - Cremona would certainly interest me because of the link with stringed instrument makers; I should love to see where Stradivari and his mates hung out! Did you see any references to them?
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Old Oct 2nd, 2016, 11:13 AM
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Isabel, thanks for this trip report--I always enjoy your take on places and photos.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2016, 04:24 PM
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ann - Stradivari was literally all over the place in Cremona. There was a month long festival going on (I think it's every summer) and the TI had lots of stuff about him.


So for my second day based in Cremona I decided to do a day trip to Mantua. I had been there four years ago on a day trip from Verona, and really liked it so I wanted to see if a second visit felt as good. Also, the last time I was there it was brutally hot so all I wanted to do was eat those frozen lemon ice things. And my feet were hurting in whatever shoes I had so I went shoe shopping. Of course I remember it being a beautiful city as well. I was there only a few months after they had an earthquake – no visible damage but lots of scaffolding (though there was more this time, so apparently it’s just normal renovations keeping those 700 year old buildings in shape). Anyway, because of that earthquake the Ducal Palace had been mostly closed. They were charging a ‘reduced’ rate of I think 5€ but only had about 3 rooms open. And it was so hot that after exploring the town I didn’t bother with Palazzo Te. This time I did both.

Photos of Mantova - www.pbase.com/annforcier/mantova

The center of Mantova (55,000) (10 minute walk from the train station) is made of three or four small but very attractive interlinking piazzas, surrounded by medieval and Renaissance churches and buildings, each opening into the next ‘creating an illusion that you are strolling through a series of opera sets. Mantova and the Palazzos are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both times I’ve been to Mantua there has been significant amounts of scaffolding, but even so it’s still lovely. One of the two main squares, Piazza Erbe has the Palazzo della Ragione (with café tables under the arcades ) and the Torre dell’Orologio with a 14th century astrological clock. It’s not the tallest tower around, but’s it feels large and is very impressive. But the best thing is the Rotunda di San Lorenzo, a small, round 11th century Romanesque church that is exquisite.

Adjoining Piazza Erbe is Piazza Sordello, home to both the Duomo and the Plazzo Ducale. Plazzo Ducale is the main reason a lot of people come to Mantova – it’s a castle (Castelo San Giorgio - one of the most classic ‘castle looking’ castles in Italy), plus a palace, several courtyards, and a church. It was once the largest palace in Europe and has something like 500 rooms. Room after room of gorgeous art, frescoes, etc. To walk the entire ‘route’ was about a mile (inside).

Mantova is situated on a peninsula surrounded by lakes and the view of the Mantova skyline with the castle, palace and churches reflected in the lake water is just stunning. Does require about a half mile each way walk across a bridge (nice walking path separate from the cars though so it’s a nice, if long, detour just for the view. I did it both times I was in Mantova, that’s how nice it is).

The other main ‘thing’ in Mantova (other than just the town itself) is the Palazzo Te, about a 20-30 minute walk from the center. Also huge, but not quite as big as Palazzo Ducale, but the frescoes are even more amazing, if that’s possible. And a good number of them are not religious (most frescoes are), in fact there’s a porn room, mostly featuring beastiality. Kind of interesting actually.

Part way between the town center and Palazzo Te is the old fish market over a canal which is really pretty (the canal and the views, not the fish market itself).

There are also a number of pleasant shopping streets. All in all, Mantova makes a wonderful day trip. Between visiting both Palazzos, having lunch (pumpkin ravioli seems to be a local favorite) and wandering around the beautiful city center it took me from just after 10 when I got there, till about 4:30. Mantua is also not “ON” the main Italian tourist route, but it does get more space in most guidebooks, and I’ve seen people considering it in questions here and on other travel forums. But I saw no tour groups and northing was crowded. On a beautiful July day there were just enough people in the museums, at the cafes, etc. so you didn’t feel like you were in a ghost town but not so many as to ‘get in your way’.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2016, 01:30 AM
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Like how you travel and your descriptions. And, of course, your photography.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2016, 02:56 AM
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this sounds like my sort of travel.

adding Cremona and Mantua to my ever burgeoning list of places in Italy that I must visit.

Thanks!
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Old Oct 3rd, 2016, 06:17 AM
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Hi Isabel,

Your help was greatly appreciated as we planned our trip to northern Italy. Thank you!

We just returned and I just wanted to say that it was probably one of the most diverse, interesting trips we've taken. We went to places generally not found on the first-timer's itinerary but each was very unique and special: Venice, Bassano del Grappa, Garda, Cremona and Milan. We had a car and did a few day trips out of Bassano, Garda and Cremona.

It's great fun to read your experiences of places we've just recently visited. Off-the-beaten-path stops provide a break from the intensity of popular places. They also off-set the costs, as you mentioned. But the wow-factor was there for us throughout our trip!
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Old Oct 3rd, 2016, 08:07 AM
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Stunning photos, isabel. The low-light shots in Venice Duomo are incredible. What camera, please.

Cremora was on DH's and my list--now I doubly sad we missed it!
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Old Oct 3rd, 2016, 01:51 PM
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I think Cremona is worth a few hours or an overnight - but unless you are using it as a base - or are interested in violins - I do think other towns in the region have more to offer. The main piazza and the buildings surrounding it are stunning but the rest of the town, while pleasant, isn't quite as amazing as I found others to be (Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Mantua, Ferrara, Modena, Bergamo - to name a few of my favorites). I would put Cremona at the bottom of that list (which doesn't make it undesirable, something has to be last).

Glad my report is helpful though. I'm planning next years travel and first place I go is trip reports.

Re the low light shots in Venice - most were this year and my cameras were both Panasonic, the FZ300 and LX7, but a few of them were older shots. In fact the ones of San Marco with almost total black sky was from an older Nikon coolpix.
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Old Oct 4th, 2016, 03:50 AM
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After five days of laid-back un-touristy Italy I got the train to VENICE

There seems to be lots of debate on travel forums as to whether or not Venice is ‘worth it’. And two camps of opinions. The ‘too crowded, too Disney-like, not worth the trouble’ people and the ‘this is one of the most beautiful, unusual, incredible, places in the world, full of history and art and architecture and ambiance like no where else and you so have to see it’ people. I fall into camp two.

“Is Venice ‘worth’ it?” – well yes of course it is, even with the crowds it’s some place so special, someplace that words and pictures just cannot evoke the real experience. But along with many of the other destinations that are overrun, largely due to the cruise industry, I would advise to go off-season. Heat and crowds generally do not bother me, but in the case of Venice, the crowds were SO bad in July that I would say really try to avoid cruise season, which I think runs from May through October. You do need to factor in weather – Venice as anywhere else looks best in the sunshine. Venice can be horribly humid as well, past trips I remember it being very uncomfortable. This year the weather was glorious, bright sunshine, low humidity, temps in the low 80s. But after four visits to Venice in summertime, my next will certainly not be in high season.

But I will come back. In fact, I’m tentatively planning a trip for next March.

On my three previous trips, in 02,04 and 08, I found if you just walked a ways from the Rialto/ San Marco corridor you could find yourself all alone on a peaceful calle. Not so much this time, at least not in the middle of the day when the cruise shippers were out and about. The vaparettos were jammed, the trashcans overflowing, the stores and restaurants mobbed. There were certainly less people if you got away from the major sites but a city the size of Venice can only absorb so many humans and when those cruise ships are in port (and there were only a couple each day I was there, there can at times be about six) people seep out of Piazza San Marco and the Rialto area into the rest of town.

Before 10 am and after 6pm was better, but even getting to Vaparetto stop near the train station by 8:30 in the morning each day, there were no seats on the Vaparettos. It was also still standing room only at 9 or 10 at night. There are also far more stores of all kinds, more of the touristy ones, of which there were plenty even 8-10 years ago, but also more clothing stores (chains both high end designer shops and High Street type like H&M, Coin, Promod, etc.). A lot of the souvenirs have gotten cheaper, but also cheaper made. The little tiny masks that I have for my Christmas travel tree are real ceramic. They were €6 eight or ten years ago, now you can get the same size for 1€, but they are plastic and cheaply made. And they have a very tiny sticker on the back that says ‘fabrico in PRC’. Lots of stores have prominent signs stating, “everything made in Italy, no China”. Which obviously means that lots of the stuff in other stores is made in China. And many of the store proprietors, or at least employees, are clearly Asian/Indian/Pakistani, not Italian.

Overall on this trip my biggest photo challenge was getting shots of canals that didn’t have 3-4 gondolas in a row – looking like an animated Disney ride on a track rather than a real boat. Last time I was here I’d have to wait for a gondola to have in the photo, this time I have to wait for there not to be one (or just one). The gondoliers were all texting, smoking, and listening to music via ear buds, or talking to the gondolier on the gondola right behind him, and not exactly paying attention to their passengers. They look totally bored. In fact, so did a lot of the passengers. And there were long lines waiting to get a gondola. Entire tour groups would be taking gondola rides (have to check that box off your list of things you did in Venice). So there would be huge groups of gondolas so close together they were almost touching. The tour groups are a PIA but so are people with their gigantic double strollers, selfi sticks, and sun umbrellas. OK, enough complaining, I think you get the idea. In case people didn’t believe me about the crowds I took a few shots to illustrate it - http://www.pbase.com/annforcier/image/164093114
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Old Oct 4th, 2016, 01:31 PM
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I did really like the hotel we stayed at. Hotel Palazzo Odoni on Fondamenta Minotto in the Santa Croce district, an easy 8 minute walk from Piazza Roma (2 bridges) and no more than 20 minutes from the train station, (3 bridges). Very easy even with luggage, although we travel pretty light. It’s a lovely canal that is much quieter than the surrounding area. The canal and surrounding buildings are really among the loveliest in all of Venice. Much less touristy, real stores (hair salon, hardware store, pharmacy, etc. as well as some touristy shops). The hotel is in an old Palazzo. Ring the buzzer on the double doors (#151) and they buzz you into a lovely little courtyard. Reception is up a flight of stairs (47 to be exact). Everything is very lovely, very Venetian. We had a ‘small’ double, and it was pretty small but had everything you needed – Wi-Fi, mini bar, AC, large nice bathroom. Excellent breakfast with made to order cappuccino, fresh croissants, fresh fruit, etc. 147€ double.

We had five nights, four and a half days, in Venice. We did two day-trips, one to Udine and Cividale del Fruili and another day to Padua. The on-verses-off-the-beaten-path comparison was made even more striking by these day trips as Udine/Cividale especially, but also Padua, are the exact opposite of Venice in terms of crowds, tour groups, etc. The other days we just wandered around Venice. We bought a two-day vaparetto pass, and even though at times we were packed into them like sardines, it was still worth it. And not just for transportation sake – Venice is really not all that big so walking is the best way to get around. But riding up and down the Grand Canal is just such as great experience that having a pass so you can do it at different times of day and night is great. No matter how many times I do it I can’t get over how beautiful those buildings are, and the way they are set on the canal. Last winter I read several books set in Venice and they really came alive as we floated past those palazzos. One night, with a full moon peaking in and out of the clouds, the ride was especially magical.

I had never gone up any of the bell towers in Venice so this trip we did three. The Campanile San Marco is the most famous – great views of the piazza below, of the beginning of the Grand Canal, the roof of the Basilica, Santa Maria del Salute and San Giorgio Maggiore. But interestingly – although the guidebooks all tell you this - no canals. We got there pretty early, around 9:45 and there was about a 15-minute wait for the lift, which only holds about 20 people and takes several minutes up and back. When we were leaving, less than an hour late the line was huge.

Although you can get to the rest of Venice by walking, to get to San Gorgio Maggiore you need to take a vaporetto. To get there from Piazza Roma, just under Venice’s newest bridge, Ponte della Costituzione you go around past Tronchetto (the ‘artificial’ island that has a car park with 4000 spaces, cheaper than Pz. Roma but requiring a vaporetto ride or the ‘people mover monorail’ whereas Pz Roma is walkable to the rest of Venice). Then it goes past the cruise ship terminals. That whole area is very ugly. But the Guiducca canal, while still nowhere near as beautiful as the Grand Canal, is interesting. San Gorgio sits on it’s own island, not connected to any other by a bridge. So although seen by most visitors to Venice across the Grand Canal from Piazalle San Marco, it doesn’t get many visitors itself. The view from Campanile San Gorgio Maggiore is even better than the one from the San Marco Campanile since it includes San Marco, and you can see at least a couple canals.

The third tower we climbed was the Scala Contarini del Bovolo. (Actually that was the first one we ‘climbed’ as the other two both have lifts). The Scala is a beautiful tower with an exterior spiral staircase – reminiscent of a snail shell, thus the name – which has elements of Renaissance, Gothic and Byzantine architecture. It really is one of Venice’s ‘hidden gems’ since even though it is really close to Piazza San Marco most people miss it. You certainly have to be looking for it, no way you could just stumble upon it. It’s down a couple alleys from Campo Manin. There are some tiny signs. But worth looking for.
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