Italy Trip Report Single Mom wTeen

Jun 8th, 2004, 09:05 AM
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Yea Sarah did seem to have most mishaps on the trip - splitting her head open, being left behind on the bus and then getting locked in the bathroom. Good thing she's pretty good natured.

Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 10:10 AM
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Joelle, that was a hilarious story about the bathroom (although I bet it wasn't funny at the time!)

Not to worry, I did not feel judged re your comments about cats. If anyone did any overlooking of circumstances, 'twas I who forgot about your guide standing you up at the Vatican Museums, may he have the curse of the seven-year itch for doing such a thing and wrecking your experience.

I hope you were able to console yourself on the Duomo stairs in Florence that this was going to burn up a dozen gelato's worth of calories...
Sue_xx_yy is online now  
Jun 8th, 2004, 10:21 AM
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<<What is the difference? [between prosciutto cotto and prosciutto crudo] I don't remember there being any difference when it was listed on the menu other than sometimes he would get prosiutto pharma.>>

prosciutto = ham
cotto = baked (like "deli ham")
crudo = raw (or cured--prosciutto di parma is a famous, very fine version)

Sounds like Isaac loved the prosciutto crudo. Sometimes cotto versus crudo is clearly marked on a menu, sometimes not.

Poor Sarah locked in the bathroom. . . My exhusband NEVER got the hang of Italian locks. Since you can turn them around more than once to lock them, he was always turning it the wrong way and getting us even more locked in (or out) of various places. Once, a public bathroom attendant had to get me so I could speak to him through the door of his private toilet and direct him which way to turn the key. All the lady bathroom attendants were in hysterics.

Keep the report coming!
ellenem is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 03:32 PM
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Wednesday 5-25-04 Venice

I let the kids sleep in though I would have liked to be up and out earlier. Yesterday was traumatic enough. We set out about 10:30, with no particular plan or itinerary. We stopped and got some big thick chocolate chip cookie/biscuits and followed the signs to San Marco.

We came out of a small dark alley right at a gondola stop. I didn't know it at the time but we were pretty close to the Rialto Bridge. Of course we are approached for a gondola ride and the kids want to do it, might as well do it now. But I know I'm going to get hosed when he says "200 E for long ride" "Okay, 100 E for shorter ride" I take the 100E ride. I knew it was going to be pricey but I was hoping 100 E would get us a longer ride.

It is a short ride but we went under the Rialto Bridge, we saw Marco Polo's house, Casanova, and some other palaces. We got to go down some quiet canals and people above us on bridges took our pictures. It was over in about 25 minutes. That was the only disappointing part of it. But how can you take your kids to Venice and not have a gondola ride?

We continued over the Rialto Bridge.

Along the way I saw a shop that sold the most beautiful cameos and I saw one pendant with a woman wearing a small diamond. It was soo pretty and 200 E. I've never spent that kind of money on jewelry for myself. I thought of the advice that if you see something you like, buy it right then because you may not find it again, but I kept walking. I was immediately sorry because I could not imagine how we would ever find it again in this maze like path of ours. Oh well, it wasn't meant to be, I said to myself.

Eventually we found our way to San Marco. Isaac bought some food to feed the pigeons while Sarah complained that they were filthy diseased creatures that no one should go near. I couldn't resist and took some food and let a few land on my hand. I would have liked to have gone inside the Basilica, but it looked like at least an hour line. We'd all pretty much had enough of art, museums and churches so we just walked around.

It was time for lunch so we walked a little away from the main tours spots and found "Trattoria Canonica" Isaac had his favorite pizza prosciutto which he proclaimed one of the best. Sarah and I shared a pepperoni pizza. Of course the waiter had to warn us that pepperoni was a vegetable. What confusion that must cause among tourists.

The prices on the menu were very cheap so with only 2 pizzas I expected a much lower bill than 43E. The coperto was 7.74 and 12% servizo.

I saw no need to leave a tip. 12% turned out to be pretty common servizo charge in Venice but that was the highest coperto I ever paid. But the food was very good and I guess that's still pretty reasonable for Venice. The address is 30124 Venezia, San Marco.

Sarah and I wanted to shop and Isaac wanted to feed the pigeons so we left him at the square with some Euro and Sarah and I wondered around, buying little inexpensive masks as gifts to bring home.

After we found Isaac again we took the #1 vaopretto to St. Paulo, got off and got on another one back to San Marco. I bought a 24 hour pass with a discount for the kids. Everyone says this is such a charming ride. Well, maybe when it is less crowded. It was so crowded, we couldn't sit by the window, Isaac found a seat outside but there were so many people standing around him he couldn't see anything.

Isaac did have an interesting experience while he was playing his gameboy on the boat. A couple of Italian kids came up to him with their gameboys and noticed they were playing the same game. They managed to communicate somehow. Oh the international language of video games.

On the whole however, we found the vaporettos to be about as charming as any other crowded bus, and a little more nauseating.

We could have gotten off at our St. Toma stop but Sarah wanted to see if we could find our way back from San Marco. She also wanted to find that shop so I could get that cameo.

Amazingingly we took the exact same route back and found the shop. So I bought the pendant. It really is very lovely. She did the paperwork so I could have the tax refunded, I did get it stamped at the airport, but never found a place to mail it in.

I cannot believe how easily we found our way back to the apartment, without even looking at a map. In every other city we got lost constantly. In the city you are supposed to get lost, we didn't. At least not today.

We came home, climbed the four flights of steps and rested before setting out for dinner at 8. We decided to try a nearby trattoria recommended both in Chow Venice and Great Eats in Italy, Trattoria San Toma. It was very easy to find in camp S. Toma.

We ate outside and as it was almost the end of our trip and I still had $$ in my account we decided to go for it. I had prosciutto and melon--the melon was very sweet. Isaac had prosciutto pizza and Sarah Sausage and pepperoni. The sausage turned out to be very much like American pepperoni. I had gnocchi ragoo and grilled vegetables. The gnocchi was wonderful. I'd had gnocchi somewhere in Sorrento that was nowhere near as good.

Then we had dolce and she invited us to come inside to pick what we wanted. Sarah and I had some kind of chocolate cake and Isaac had some kind of cherry torte. It was all very good. Then we had café (Americano for me, I can't handle espresso) and cioccolata for the kids.

We stayed and talked and enjoyed the parade of people passing by. The total bill was 95 E and we decided it was just as much a Venetian experience as the gondola but cheaper and lasted longer!

Sarah wondered if they'd ever be content to eat at Applebee's again. I know I'll never stomach another Pizza Hut pizza.

Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 03:42 PM
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Thursday, May 27, 2004 Murano

Our last full Day in Venice and Italy. Sarah and I got up early to get pastys and brought them back to the apartment.

We left at 10 and walked to San Marco (couldn?t talk the kids back into a vaporetto) and took the #42 vaporetto to Murano. DO NOT TAKE THIS BOAT TO MURANO. You sit far below, can hardly see out and it's nauseating that low and it stops EVERYWHERE.

It took us an hour an a half to get to Murano. It was not a pleasant ride. Did I mention my kids argued the entire hour and a half?

We did get to pass an enormous Princess Cruise ship. The size of it was unbelievable. Sarah was convinced there was an ice rink on it and wanted to be there. They both thought a cruise would be a good idea. Yea sure, no problem.

Finally we got off the board and went to some glass factories to watch the glass blowing. Isaac especially enjoyed watching them make the glass vases. He could have stayed there all day, watching. I kind of wish we had gone on one of the tour boats because we didn't get to see the infamous horse demonstration which I think the kids would have enjoyed..

After the demonstrations we walked along, enjoying the scenery and shops. Sarah bought a tiny little flamingo and Isaac bought a larger dolphin.

We stopped to eat at a café along the canal. Della Marow. I mention it's name in order to suggest you eat elsewhere. This was our worst meal in Italy.

I had spaghetti with garlic oil and hot peppers that was actually pretty good. But Sarah ordered penne with meat sauce and Isaac had spaghetti with meat sauce. They bought Isaac and me the same spaghetti with hot peppers. The waiter was quite insistent that we ordered the same thing. Hmm, I'm pretty sure that what I ordered sounds nothing like "ragoo".

Finally the waiter agreed to take it away and bring Isaac what he ordered.

In the meantime we see pools of congealed grease on Sarah's dish. She can't eat it. I taste it and it was truly awful. Worse than a tavern (sloppy joe) at a midwestern church supper.

Then the waiter brings Isaac spaghetti and he tastes it and begs for water because it is so spicy. It's got the same green peppers as was on mine. The pasta is cold. The spaghetti is spicy hot. We are quite certain that all the waiter did was take Isaac's plate with the spicy spaghetti and dump that nasty meat sauce over it.

So I'm the only one that ate my lunch. Usually when we don't finish our plate the waiter notices and looks hurt and we feel guilty. This time we hope he asks "You no like?" But of course he doesn't.

I only had 1/2 hour left on our 24 hour vaporetto tickets so we decided to go back after lunch. I had hoped to visit some other island but the kids have a low tolerance for time on vaporettos.

This time we took the #5 back to San Marco. It?s a straight trip, no stops. This is the boat to take.

Everyone is a bit irritable so we decided to go back and rest. Of course this is the time we get lost. I know the joys of getting lost in Venice have been extolled everywhere, but when you are hot, tired, had a lousy lunch and are with irritable and fighting teenage siblings, trust me, there is nothing charming about being lost in Venice.

The good thing is that it is hard to stay lost for long in Venice. We managed to find a familiar square and get back to our apartment. After a rest, I was regretting not seeing the inside of San Marco and we still had gifts to buy. Sarah agreed to come along.

We shopped along the Rialto Bridge, completing our list. By the time we got to San Marco it was closed at 5:30. Oh well. We were tired so I thought we should have an expensive drink at one of the cafes on the square with an orchestra. Sarah had an 8.50 E cioccolata and I had a 15 E café with Kailua.

Ah, but the way they brought it out--beautiful china with a delicate pink rose pattern on a silver tray, Sarah had a little pitcher of milk and one of chocolate to pour into her cup. It also came with a carafe of ice water.

We could see the basilica and watch people, sipping our expensive drinks. We even saw one hapless couple sit down with their ice cream cones and be politely shooed away by the waiter. It must have been one of the waiter's birthday and the orchestra played happy birthday. Sarah said she could get used to being rich. Needless to say, we don't live like this at home. Well if this trip motivates my kids to work hard and be successful to live this way, this is a good thing. Hey, not that I don't work hard!

Anyway the bill came and I was expecting a high cover charge but how about 8.90 e "musica supplimenti?" 32 E for coffee and hot chocolate. Sitting with your daughter in St Mark's square? Priceless. Besides, we leave tomorrow and I need to unload some euro.

Sarah and I got a little lost again on the way back and happened upon a campo that was a little neighborhood with little children playing on plastic Little Tyke playground toys and old ladies sitting on benches talking. We found a place where the real people live!

We were so beat when we got back (remember those four flights of steps!) nobody wanted to think about dinner. I wasn't even hungry but the kids didn't really have lunch.

About 8:15 we figured we'd better eat. We stopped at a window with take away pizza and calzone, but there wasn't anything that appealed to the kids so we kept walking.

Not far from our apartment is a Chinese restaurant recommended in Chow Venice, "La Perla de Oriente." Chinese food in Italy? Why not?

It's a lovely little place; pink napkins folded prettily, pretty pink china. Sarah and I had spring rolls that were the best restaurant rolls we've ever had (we make these at home and think ours are the best). I had hot and sour soup, okay, but I've had better.

The kids had stir fried noodles that were served first in the manner of a pasta primo. Then I had sweet and sour pork that was just excellent, Isaac had fried prawns in the best lightly crispy batter and Sarah had a wonderfully tender lemon chicken. This is one of the best Chinese Restaurants we've ever been to. With 1/2 liter of house wine, coke and water, coperto and 12%servizo 39 E total. It was a nice end to our trip.
Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 03:50 PM
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Oh this is so sad for me, the last installment, I've been enjoying reliving this trip by typing it and posting it.

Friday, May 28, 2004. Arrivederci to Italy

Time to go home. I think we are ready. I never did figure out how to call a taxi. Gee, would have been nice if the rental agent could have helped. When she came to check us out she just helplessly said she didn't have the number. It just killed me because there was even a dock in front of our door and a taxi could have picked us right up.

Instead we dragged our suitcases down four flights of steps, schlep them over the cobblestone street, not even really sure where we were going--trying to find the bus station.

Fortunately by following signs to Piazza Roma it was not too far, we only had to heave our suitcases up and over two bridges. We found the bus station but we also found a taxi stand and it seemed that was the better way to go. 80 E he told me. No problem. It was a very nice way to leave Venice.
The kids thought it was much nicer than a vaporetto ride. No kidding.

Our trip home was exhausting but uneventful.

So Isaac's favorite 3 things in Italy
were: The cat sanctuary, Fragola granite, and the pidgeons in St. Mark.

Sarah's top 3, Shopping, the Colleseum and gelato

This was pretty much a once in a lifetime trip for us, and I'm really glad we did it.

If I had to do it again the only thing I would change is that I would PACK LIGHTER.

Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 04:10 PM
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Bravo, This is one of the best trip reports I have read on Fodors. Your attitude says it all...once in lifetime trip.

There are people who post and complain about the cost of food, hotel, water taxi. You knew this trip was special and showed your children how to travel...Do the unusual and spend the extra Euros on drinks at the cafe in San Marco square. The time you spent just sitting there with your daughter was well worth it and a memory to last a lifetime. Taking a water taxi to the train station and shelling out 80 E makes you feel like a queen as opposed to a tired, distrunted traveler trying to get home.

I hope you get the chance to travel again and I can read about it.

grosenb is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 04:17 PM
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What a wonderful report. Easy to see you are a great Mom. I hope you can find some way to go again.
degas is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 04:41 PM
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Joelle, thanks to you, and Sarah and Isaac, for a wonderful trip report. It was a delight to read. What a great gift you, and your late husband, have given to your kids. Best wishes for many more adventures, Maureen
mvor is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 06:18 PM
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Wonderful trip report - your kids are fortunate to have a Mum like you.

Thanks for sharing.
indie is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 06:42 PM
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What a wonderful and true to life trip report, Joelle. It sounds like you and your kids had a wonderful trip together. I're a great mom!
Statia is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 06:48 PM
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Thanks for the kind words for my report. It was pretty wordy, but I wrote down just about every detail so my kids and I could remember it all.

Preparation for the trip with sites like these helped me be a little more free with my money. When I first read that a gondola ride could cost over $100 I didn't think I could possibly afford it. I had time before I took the trip to get used to the idea. The same with the cost of coffee on St. Mark's square.

I think I probably will think of a way to get overseas again. I always wanted to go to Paris, but then again, we really didn't do Venice justice....

Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 07:30 PM
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Thanks for the great report, Joelle. It was a fun read!
abby97 is offline  
Jun 8th, 2004, 08:37 PM
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Wonderful report, Joelle. I almost felt as if I was along with you. I kept interrupting my family (who were glued to the TV) to read them small portions. We did a similiar trip last year with our then 14 and 11 year old daughter and son, so much sounded familiar.

My son, who protested loudly at the thought of visiting museums before we left, actually confessed yesterday that he now likes art. They also both told me that history was much more interesting now that they have been to some of the places they are studying in school. Brought a big grin to my face, I have to say!

Thank you for sharing your wonderful experiences. I hope you get to finish your visit to Venice (with a side-trip to Paris) soon!

KathrynT is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 05:53 AM
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One of the most memorable times of my trip to Italy in 1997 with my mother (one of many memories) was sitting on balcony on St. Mark's Square sipping diet coke with real ice. It was such a treat to just watch all the activity and rest. I have really enjoyed your report.
charsuzan is online now  
Jun 9th, 2004, 11:07 AM
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I really enjoyed your trip report. I was also widowed at age 42 with a 13 and 10 year old boy and girl. I thought about going to Europe with them but have to admit that I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and did not quite have the nerve.

Not to mention, during the teen years it was really difficult to get them to break away from sports, band and camp activities.

I did go to France with my daughter later, but I have yet to be able to persuade my son to go. He's still much more interested in mountain climbing in the US.
Sally is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 03:03 PM
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Hi Sally--I had six years to get ready for this trip, I would have been pretty overwelmed at the idea of taking my kids to Europe soon after he died. I did leave them with my sister and go to Israel but that was a tour group where I appreciated being taken care of and being told what to do.

My daughter was not at all excited about going on this trip. She resented missing her last day of middle school and she didn't want to go that long without skating. I just didn't give her much choice and I don't think she's sorry now

Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
Jun 9th, 2004, 04:47 PM
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thank you soooo much! We leave tomorrow,starting in Venice. I had a bisy day at work today but felt as if I needed to watch my 'soap opera'..couldnt wait to get home and see the last segment!!! I think im gearing up for the gondola ride but not sure!!!! I almost hate to think of it that way...but was looking forward to the vaporetta. Maybe a very early ride will be the trick..if we can get up that early with the time change! thank you again !!!Karen
kmoncrief is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 10:50 AM
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Joelle, You told us Isaac and Sarah's three favorite things.........what were your's?
Grasshopper is offline  
Jun 10th, 2004, 01:15 PM
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I've stayed late at work just to finish reading your report. Your trip and your family sound wonderful: I love Isaac's theory about the used tissues preventing pick-pocketing, and I love imagining Sarah doing her axel practice in an Italian square (even if she never got the chance- what a great image!)

You have such a sly sense of humor (and such an understanding that sometimes teenagers just need to sleep or they will explode) that I kept cutting and pasting your most quotable lines into a Word document to share with my husband.

For everyone's delight, here it is...The quotable JoelleinItaly04:

1.) The kids have never seen a bidet and are grossed out when I tell them what it is for. Later when Sarah realizes the shower is too small to shave her legs she decides that is what the bidet is good for.

2.) Oh yea, I've always believed that being herded and crushed on your way to church is a wonderful prelude to a spiritual encounter.

3.) Most of the stuff here is crap. They have a lottery and two lucky winners on the bus get to take home free crap.

4.) My kids are finally getting into the long leisurely Italian dinner. A wonderful thing is happening. They talk. They talk to me, to each other. They talk about school, friends, they joke.

5.) We kind of picked a theme which was how babies are portrayed. My kids noticed these artists must not have spent much time looking at babies because they are all out of proportion. We played pick the ugliest baby. Okay so we are not art connoisseurs.

6.) But we did see a lot of babies! I never realized there was such a common theme of showing the baby Jesus playing with baby John the Baptist. He's so cute with his little animal skin romper.

7.) Heaven is on the top. Right at the level you are walking around are scenes of hell. Compared to going up more stairs, hell's not looking too bad.

8.) Okay a preserved finger is cool but babies being born are gross. Whatever.

9.) In the mean time Isaac entertains her by playing hangman; they slip the paper back and forth under the door. This is the best I've ever seen these two get along.

10.) I let the kids sleep in though I would have liked to be up and out earlier. Yesterday was traumatic enough.

11.) A couple of Italian kids came up to him with their gameboys and noticed they were playing the same game. They managed to communicate somehow. Oh the international language of video games.

12.) On the whole however, we found the vaporettos to be about as charming as any other crowded bus, and a little more nauseating.
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