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Tales from Venice, Bologna, Pienza and Rome

Tales from Venice, Bologna, Pienza and Rome

Old May 15th, 2013, 03:21 AM
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Great report. Looking forward to more.
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Old May 15th, 2013, 03:52 AM
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ttt to read later.
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Old May 15th, 2013, 04:07 AM
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I'm enjoying more trips from this post.
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Old May 15th, 2013, 04:11 AM
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ttt
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Old May 15th, 2013, 04:20 AM
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Looking forward to more of Venice . . . always.
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Old May 15th, 2013, 04:28 AM
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Old May 15th, 2013, 04:44 AM
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Hi Caze, I have made the same connection in Frankfurt to Venice with no trouble whatsoever, I think you were just unfortunate on that day, sounds like they ran out of gates for your flight plus getting a boarding pass at the understaffed transfer desks in many european airports is always a challenge. What a frustrating start, but I am glad you made it safely to Venice. Why did you have to get a new boarding pass for your connecting flight? I had a similar problem 10 days ago trying to get a boarding pass from the Air France transfer desk in Paris, almost missed my connection. I wished they had self service machines for people who only need boarding passes without having to get out of border passport control. Waiting to read the rest of your reports!
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Old May 15th, 2013, 04:57 AM
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Great job, can't wait to read more. You sound so much like me. Question - isn't the water taxi a $100E? If you spit between 3 other couples, wouldn't it have been less? Just wondering if they cost more than I had previously read.
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Old May 15th, 2013, 05:22 AM
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Working on the next installment, but wanted to answer your questions.

DAX - Our transatlantic flight was postponed due to the sequester (not the airline's fault). I don't know the details but something like the number of air traffic controllers was reduced with the budget cuts, so they had to control flight takeoffs. So I knew we were delayed before we even left. That caused me to miss my original connecting flight, and I was put on the next one. Because it was a new flight, I had to get new boarding passes in Frankfurt. But though it was a little annoying to wait in a line that never seemed to move, it was only a little hiccup and we were doing just fine! But self-service machines sound like a much better idea!

Travelmamana - I can't remember the exact cost, but yes, the private transfer is something like 100E or 120E. However, we didn't know anyone to coordinate with so couldn't have shared the cost. So basically, you are paying a premium to have someone else coordinate a shared trip - but still half the price of a private transfer. I suppose you could stand in the arrivals area and try to flag down a stranger to share with you, but I think that might be difficult (though not impossible).
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Old May 15th, 2013, 05:46 AM
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SATURDAY, APRIL 27 – VENICE

We woke up after a pretty good night’s sleep, around 7:30AM. I was pleasantly surprised that we didn’t have too much trouble with jet lag on this trip – especially because I’m the biggest sleep baby that you have ever met. I need 8-9 hours of sleep per night to be happy, and my husband jokes that I need a sensory deprivation chamber (no light, totally quiet) to fall asleep. But again, the jet lag really wasn’t too bad. We took showers and went to the little breakfast room when breakfast became available at 8:30AM. Nothing too fancy, but I thought it was delicious. Good coffee (the best we had on our trip), scrumptious croissants, rolls, juice, and yogurt. Perfect for what I wanted. We talked to Lorenzo a little bit about how he bought the building about 5 years ago and renovated the whole thing. There are three guest rooms (we had a private bath, not sure about the others), and he lives with his family upstairs in a separate apartment. My husband and I have a number of rental properties so it was interesting hearing about it from a Venetian perspective. I explained that I had heard about him on Fodor’s, which he found intriguing. The power of the internet!

After breakfast, we headed out about 9AM. We only had 1.5 days in Venice, as it was the destination that got the short end of the stick once we nailed down our itinerary, so we had a lot to accomplish! For reference, our hotel was located in Castello, near the San Zaccaria waterbus stop and about 5 minutes from St. Mark’s Square. It was in quiet area and we appreciated how close we were to major sights, especially because we were there for such a short time.

My plan for the day was to do a couple of Rick Steves’ self-guided walks, Rick Steves’ Grand Canal vaporetto tour, visit St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace and then get some dinner and visit St. Mark’s Square at night. I wanted to make sure that we left time to “get lost” as well so that we could discover some backstreets. Well, I shouldn’t have bothered planning to get lost, because it was the first thing we checked off our list when we immediately made several wrong turns as we left the hotel. It did make being lost less stressful, because I was thinking to myself “perfect, I had planned to do this later in the day anyway!” And it was really neat…the streets were pretty quiet because there weren’t many people out because it was still early, we saw trashboats picking up trash, and just generally felt like this was more of the “real” Venice. Of course, we wouldn’t realize the significance of the empty streets until later when we fought the throngs around St. Mark’s Square!

Eventually, we made our way over the Rialto Bridge and to the fish market. I love to cook, so visiting markets is always a treat for me. We took photos of the fish, wondering what it would be like to actually buy cuttlefish or one of the other unusual options and cook it. Sure, there were lots of gawking tourists, but also plenty of locals actually buying fish to make it enjoyable. Then, we headed to the produce market around the corner. Wanting to get in on the action, I used a combination of the three words I know in Italian (I was up to about 20 by the end of our trip!) and hand gestures to purchase a half-pint of strawberries. They turned out to be mediocre at best, but we still enjoyed eating them right by the canal and watching the market.

We continued walking toward the Frari Church, using good old Rick as a guide. When we got to the Frari Church, we wanted to go in but it turned out that a wedding was about to happen! I actually thought it was great because dressed-up guests were outside and it was a good reminder that real people activities happen in Venice too! (Though for all I know, it was an American tourist getting married there.) The ticket sellers told us that we could go in for 15 minutes now, or come back after noon. We were afraid that we wouldn’t make it back so we decided to do a quick look (3E each). We had downloaded Rick’s audio tour but we didn’t have time for the whole thing. So we skipped around a little, taking in what we could. Some pretty great art that is nice to see in the place it was meant to be showcased. And that’s about all of the art commentary you are getting from me, because I definitely do not have the art education to give further details!! We considered going to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, but my husband wanted to find a bathroom and didn’t want to go inside anything else at that point.

So the bathroom adventure began. We had planned our self-guided walks a little inefficiently because we wanted to get to the markets first thing, so next on our list was to do Rick’s walk from St. Mark’s Square back to the Rialto Bridge. So I figured that we would just walk towards St. Mark’s Square (the starting point of the next walk), stopping wherever looked good for a bathroom. I was feeling very confident in where I was going, and felt extra cool that we used a traghetto (2E each) to cross the canal. Well, apparently, even those of us who consider themselves good at reading maps and possessing a good sense of direction, are no match for Venice. We wound up heading towards the Accademia bridge instead. And then we saw a sign for a public WC and decided to look for it. But not so simple. The signs did not really direct us to where we needed to go, but rather than give up and just go to a café, order an espresso, and use the bathroom, we decided to be cheap and hold out for a public restroom. Well, after turning in circles a few times and asking directions, we finally figured out that we had to actually cross the Accademia bridge to get to the bathroom. After what was no less than 45 minutes, we triumphantly found the bathroom, only to see that you had to pay 1.5E per person to use it! Lesson learned, just buy the coffee to use the bathroom in the cafe! I also realized at that point, knowing how much water I drink and the resulting consequences, that maybe I should have budgeted more for restroom use on the trip, whether paying for public use or buying coffee to gain access.
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Old May 15th, 2013, 06:27 AM
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After what was no less than 45 minutes, we triumphantly found the bathroom, only to see that you had to pay 1.5E per person to use it! Lesson learned, just buy the coffee to use the bathroom in the cafe! >>

you used to be able to buy a vaporetto pass that included use of public toilets but it wasn't much use when there wasn't one in the vicinity. Venice is one of those places where you just have to use the loo at every possible opportunity!
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Old May 15th, 2013, 08:53 AM
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SATURDAY, APRIL 27 - CONT'D

At this point, it was nearing lunch, we felt like we had already walked a million miles (and to think I was worried about gaining weight this trip from overindulging!), and were a little frustrated. Especially because I realized that I had lost our map that had been in my back pocket and we made several more wrong turns without making much progress towards St. Mark’s Square. Serious insider tip: do not walk around Venice without a map!

So we decided to stop for lunch before doing the next “walk.” Food is always my antidote to travel frustration! We were in a reasonably touristy area, between the Accademia bridge and St. Mark’s Square, but managed to find a somewhat quiet street with a restaurant that had no English menu (a good thing in our book) and specialized in fish. The table next to us was eating what appeared to be sampler platter of seafood, so we pointed to that and also ordered some pasta with tuna and red sauce. My husband wanted a glass of wine but I was going to pass. So my husband tried to order a glass, but we were presented with a carafe instead (his Italian is even worse than mine, if that is possible). Rather than argue with the waiter, I decided to take one for the team and enjoy a glass or two of white wine with lunch – the trials of traveling! Some of the fish was pushing the boundaries of what I like to eat, but my husband was all over it and then we enjoyed the pasta as well. Most fun was that a Norwegian couple sat down next to us and we started chatting. I love meeting random folks along the way. So interesting to meet people and learn why they are traveling and what they do in the rest of their life. I also noticed throughout the trip, that though we were constantly surrounded by tourists, I felt that a smallish percentage was American. In my American-centric world, I found that a little surprising. For some reason, I had expected to see more American tourists than we did, which now seems a little silly. So we wrapped up our enjoyable lunch – with a bottle of water, our total came to 45E. This was also the start of the trend where we would wait forever for a check. And not because we wouldn’t ask. It seemed common that once we received our food, we waited forever to be checked on again…to see if we wanted dessert, the check, etc. Oh well. We weren’t in a hurry!

Now the crowds were really picking up and on some of the main streets to St. Mark’s Square, we were elbow to elbow. But we carried on and got to the Square. It was still possible to find a little step and enjoy the sights around us. Following Rick’s guide, we walked back towards the Rialto bridge looking at various points of interest along the way.

We brought an unlocked cell phone with us and wanted to buy a SIM card. I had looked up the location of a Vodafone store that was right next to the Rialto bridge. But once we went over the bridge, I could not locate it. We asked a shopkeeper and she seemed to tell us to go back over the bridge, but I knew that wasn’t right. So with more asking, we eventually found a TIM store – just as good! The woman in the shop spoke English and was very helpful in getting us all set up. Our card had some amount of storage that was plenty since we were just texting and making phone calls (and not using smartphone capabilities) and cost 23E. After that, we started home, where once again, I got confused on what side of the canal we were on. The snaking turns of the Grand Canal really seemed to throw off my sense of direction. So we walked over the bridge and ran smack into the Vodafone store I was originally looking for. Hmmm…maybe I should not assume that I know more than the locals regarding directions!

We found our way back to St. Mark’s Square (by now, we were getting the hang of things) and wanted to use Rick’s audio tour of the Square itself. At this point, our headphones broke. We had been sharing one pair, so that meant we had nothing. Fortunately, we found a camera shop right on the square, where we overpaid for headphones (18E). Then we did a shortened version of Rick’s tour before heading to the Basilicia for our timed entry at 4:05PM. We reserved online in advance (entry is free, but reservations cost 1.5E each), which was the best suggestion ever! There was a huge line and as I explained to my husband that we would get to walk right in, I think he really started to appreciate all of those hours I spent pouring over Fodor’s threads.

http://www.venetoinside.com/en/saint_mark_s_basilica/

We walked in and enjoyed Rick’s audio tour. The Basilica is beautiful and grand, though I’m glad that I saw this one before St. Peter’s in Rome, since that one is even more amazing. At this point, I will say that sharing headphones and walking around like Siamese twins really left something to be desired. I have no idea why we didn’t bring two phones (or another ipod or whatever). I think it just escaped me that we would be able to use the audiotours without having phone capability, so it’s not like we would have had to buy two SIM cards. That is something that I would definitely change for future trips, because we would get annoyed with each other when one person would start walking one direction or turn their head too quickly, ripping the earbud out of the other person’s ear. Oops!

Next we headed to the Doge’s Palace next door, where I had also prepurchased tickets (16E each) online.

http://palazzoducale.visitmuve.it/en...isita/tickets/

Again, we sailed past a large line at the entrance. But once inside, I was confused because everyone was lining up again. Using the mantra that you should never get in a line unless you are sure you know what it’s for, I went around it to see what was going on. Turns out that line was only for a special exhibit that we weren’t interested in seeing, so we skipped past that line too, causing a cascade of people to follow us who realized that they didn’t need to wait either! We walked through the Palace using our guidebook for descriptions. To be honest, I thought it was just okay. I think that was partly because we were tired from walking all day and had a little jet lag, but also because the building itself wasn’t as impressive as some that I had been in. Since it was a “palace,” I expected the building to be really grand. Compared to something like Versailles, it wasn’t at all in my opinion. It was interesting reading about the Council of Ten, seeing the weaponry, and walking through the prison, but for some reason, I wasn’t totally enthralled. I will say that I got totally claustrophobic going over the Bridge of Sighs because everyone was stopping to take photos, and it was so crowded I couldn’t move at one point. Yikes!

One note: I had planned to see the Square, Basilica, and Palace in the late afternoon in the hopes of missing some crowds, but I don’t think that I was successful. It was great that we skipped the lines, but everything was still pretty crowded. If you had a longer stay, I would follow others’ advice and go first thing in the morning.
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Old May 15th, 2013, 08:54 AM
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SATURDAY, APRIL 27 - EVEN MORE!

It was about 5:30PM at that point so we headed back to the hotel to change clothes and have a few minutes of downtime. The weather had been ominous all day, but so far, had held out. We headed out with a plan to barhop and eat cichetti, instead of having a sitdown meal. We walked towards the Rialto Bridge area and were trying to use some Rick Steve’s suggestions. We found one in a back alley that was perfect. We got some wine, ate a plate of delicious meats and cheese, and sat outside, happy to be in Venice! It started to drizzle, but we had an umbrella, so we braved on, trying to navigate to the next suggested place. Eventually, we found it and it was a younger scene, with beer for 1E and wine for 1.5E! We grabbed drinks and a couple of bites to eat and stood outside under a covering with college-age kids. We were enjoying people-watching, and my husband went for a second drink to take advantage of the prices. At this point, it started to rain a little harder, and I wondered what I was thinking when I chose to put on a too-long maxi skirt and flip-flops. Between holding up my skirt, holding the umbrella and trying to navigate, it wasn’t working, so we bagged the recommendations and just looked for places on our own. We stopped at another couple of places for drinks and food, and while not quite as interesting as the first two places, we were happy.

Feeling satisfied with our pub crawl, we headed back to St. Mark’s Square hoping to catch the “orchestras.” I would call these quintets or small ensembles, but that is beside the point, I suppose. The rain had definitely put a damper on things because many of the groups were not playing and of the two that were, they were facing the buildings and playing towards tiny crowds. My husband really wanted to sit and get a drink, and I explained that it was very expensive. In his inebriated state, he decided that it was worth it, so we sat down at Café Florian, ordered one drink for him and a dessert and enjoyed the music for a bit. We sat inside but the windows were open to the music. After 20 minutes or so, we were caving to exhaustion, so we got the bill. I think it was only then that my husband really understood what I meant about the prices, because for our one drink and dessert (plus the 6E each cover charge), the bill came to 48E! We laughed about it the next day. Part of the experience!

We had a fantastic, if exhausting, day. Because of our short time in Venice, it was scheduled as one of our busier days and was easier to manage mentally because we knew that our trip schedule took on a slower pace the longer it went on. Tomorrow, we would finish off our Venice sightseeing and then head to Bologna…
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Old May 15th, 2013, 09:27 AM
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nice report, caze. you packed quite a lot into your first day!

looking forward to more....
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Old May 15th, 2013, 09:52 AM
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Lovely report...really enjoying it...more so as we are heading to venice in a couple of days!
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Old May 15th, 2013, 02:43 PM
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Old May 15th, 2013, 04:13 PM
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Thanks for the great details! I am not going to show my husband this section because i want to sit and drink at Cafe Florian
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Old May 15th, 2013, 04:27 PM
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Caze: I was cringing when I read your decision to sit at Cafe Florian! I have heard worse traps in Italy costing hundreds for a couple of drinks.

Willowjane: your husband will feel better if you tell him that a couple years ago Venice passed a law forbidding people to drink from their own bottled water inside the St Mark square (for trash reasons), police were handing off tickets to unsuspecting tourists who drank their own bottled water while sitting/walking inside the square when the law was just passed.
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Old May 15th, 2013, 05:32 PM
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You should have gone to the Scoula San Rocco; there is are toilets and a cafe on the premises.

All those cicchetti bars around the Frari have toilets, too.

Thin
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Old May 15th, 2013, 06:12 PM
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caze, i wonder if you are the child i gave away when she was born. nice to find someone who plans as obsessively as i do but is flexible enough to deal w/ break downs.

i differ from you in that since i feel any dining space i walk into that has no trilingual picture menus will give me a good meal, i splurge on lodging. but hey i'm an architect, living in a self designed and built house.

the best meal i've had in italy hands down was about @ emotional break down time 3;30 pm, near starvation. my ex and i walked into a cafe and had freah gnocchi con crema and insalata mista , i've ever had. pre euro probably L20,000 = 10/11 $C.

as far as i'm concerned i can be happy anywhere in italy: venezia is my favourite one of a kind; sicilia ; italy @v40% off cmplete w/ active volcanos. the lakes one of the most stunning landscapes in the world w/ an ideal climate. i'm a ferry slut: love being on the water..
great movie "il megio d'gioventud' " 6 hours of italy 1950- 2000+/-.

dolce fa niente literally sweet doing nothing sums up the experience.

i speak decent italian: couple of community college classes; 2 two week stints @ language school in florence. think of it as vacation w/ college credit has opened some amazing doors as in meeting a principessa veronese @ her daughter's palladian villa and invited to lunch the next day at the old palazzo, because her travel wet dream is the pyramids of mexico which i've visited often. great pay back eh

i learned in my 50's mainly , it would be a laugh for you if you want even greater access to that food. maybe you did but if you didn't a stay @ an agriturismo can sometimes be like your private restaurant

looking forward to more

ciao bella
AndrewDavid
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