Spaghetti!

Trip Start May 07, 2012
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15
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Trip End Jun 06, 2012


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Flag of Italy  , Veneto,
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It’s Monday morning so we’re up and away to Italy. The train from Munich to Verona stops at Innsbruck for 3 minutes so we jump on quickly to find our reserved seats in a 6-seater compartment has 4 people in it already and no room for luggage. Fortunately we find another empty one and settle in for the three and a half hour journey and what a really scenic trip it is. Head uphill from Innsbruck through the Austrian Alps to the Brenner Pass then we start the downhill leg which descends through the Italian Alps and into a hundred miles plus of vineyards and orchards of Northern Italy. A bit hacked off by the German ticket inspector charging us a supplement of 11 Euros each to use this train purely because it travels through Italy. We may have to lodge our first written complaint of the trip!

Arrive in Verona for a 2 hour stopover before the Venice leg of the journey. After the Salzburg experience we were not too surprised to find that once we’d checked our bags into left-luggage and walked the 20 minutes into the City Centre we had just 90 minutes to look around one of the iconic cities of Italy – whilst carrying our weighty back-packs in sweltering heat. Anyway we gave it our best shot and saw the Arena, Cathedral, Castle and the important bridges but with a continuous eye on our watches. Here’s a tip for anyone thinking of doing this trip: don’t do what we tried to do in Salzburg and Verona!

Anyway back to Verona Station and the very helpful attendant at left-luggage drew us a plan of our train and the platform so we knew exactly where to wait for the first-class carriages. Unfortunately he told us the wrong end of the train so when the Milan to Venice Express arrived with a 2 minute stop in Verona we had to ‘sprint’ 100 yards with our luggage from the front to the back of the train with a rather sweaty John just loading the second case on board as the whistle sounded and door shut.

Journey to Venice takes 90 minutes. We arrive at Santa Lucia station and wow!!! The Grand Canal is 50 yards right in front of you and the sight literally takes your breath away.  Think of everything you imagine about Venice; blue water, gondolas, bridges and beautiful buildings. Also hoards of people – something you need to get used to during the daytime as Venice has 26 million visitors a year!! Fortunately it is only a 15 minute walk to our hotel with only one bridge to cross and this is one of the few canal crossings that had a ramp so we can wheel the cases. Hotel OK but going economy in Venice doesn’t give you a lot and certainly not a view – location fine though. Staying at our hotel was ‘Elfie’ a scatty and scaredy-cat little Yorkshire terrier who was on holiday with her owners, Fred and Kat, from Washington DC. Because of the volume of people in Venice they have to carry her around in a shoulder bag all day to save her getting trampled to death!

We unpack quickly and head out for our first evening in Venice. It is truly a magical place with alleyways and courtyards running off the main walking thoroughfares and small canals running at all angles from the Grand Canal with hundreds of big and small bridges linking the pieces of land together. Have a drink in one of the many picturesque squares early evening and then dinner pre-booked in the garden of a nice Italian restaurant called Ribot. Concerns about ‘rip-off’ Venice are allayed by the bill for a lovely two-course dinner with a bottle of Montepulciano coming in at just over 50. After dinner we wandered round for a bit to soak up the atmosphere but it’s been a very long day so retired to bed to prepare for a full days sightseeing.

Up and ready the next morning at 9am. This is the only place where we’ve booked a tour in advance; a two-hour morning walking tour and an early evening one-hour boat tour. The morning tour was great and the guide really good. We got lots of history and facts about Venice and a brief tour of the famous St Marks Basilica (being able to jump the massive queues by being on the tour). Although St Marks Square was absolutely mobbed it really is a wonderful sight and very atmospheric particularly as we were there at noon when the timepiece bells perform their full repertoire.

The second part of the walking tour was a wander around the less known alleyways and courtyards of the City. As per normal there was one irritant in our tour group, an Australian gentleman who kept trying to get involved and nodded his head furiously whenever our guide provided us with facts and information. Eventually his vertically challenged wife started thumping him each time he tried to ask a question (I think on behalf of the rest of us). The highlight of his day was when the guide asked someone to help her hold up a map. He was straight on the spot to fulfil the task and in the process unfurled it to completely cut off his wife (and we suspect not accidentally) from the rest of the crowd!

After the first tour we had a few hours before the boat trip so we took lunch by visiting a couple of Bacari bars. These are small and normally old bars (Venetian institutions) that serve glasses of wine and cicchetti which are slices of toasted bread with various toppings such as creamed salt cod (bacalao), beef and porcini mushrooms, anchovies etc. There is no menu but the chef who works behind the bar just makes up a different selection every few minutes topped with whatever takes his fancy; a fantastic economical and fun way to lunch – pretty similar to tapas style munching.

It is worth mentioning that we appeared to be the only people in Venice who hadn’t heard or felt the earthquake that happened at 9am this morning. All the other tourists had noticed something and there had been some minor damage in Venice (statues falling off their plinths etc) although the major problems were further south near Modena where 17 people died.

The boat trip was excellent as there were only four other people plus the guide and the driver on our boat. We went around the Lido and then completed virtually a full circuit of the Grand Canal before berthing at 6.30pm. During the tour we went past St Georges Island where Janet’s Dad was barracked for a period whilst in the Army in the late 1940’s. We had enjoyed the day so much (clear blue sky and sun right through) that we decided not to go back to the hotel but to try another three Bacari’s that we had read about. So we just drank wine and ate cicchetti for the rest of the evening, spending quite a bit of time in one of them chatting to Richard and Brooke a couple from Virginia, USA who were great company.

Janet even had time to discover a new favourite drink called a Spritz which apparently is a classic Venetian aperitif – ingredients: Aperol (similar to Campari), white wine and soda water. We ended the evening with a cappuccino and brandy near our hotel just as thunder and lightning started so a sprint to the room in pouring rain ended the day before midnight. Just as we were about to turn out the light we saw a mosquito in the room but couldn’t manage to kill it. Read more tomorrow……

 
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Comments

alanbrydon
alanbrydon on

I am on tenterhooks about the mosquito..........

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