A Travellerspoint blog

July 2011

Venice, Getting Lost

Why not, You can't get too lost in Venice.. can you?

We met the others staying at the B & B; A couple from Courtney on Vancouver Island and a woman and her mother from Germany. There is a nice selection of cereal, yoghurt, pastry, canned fruit, tea, coffee, juice and eggs to choose from.
It is now 10 pm and Roger is snoring quietly beside me. We were out and about for almost 12 hours today and he is worn out.
We began our self-guided tour in San Marco square and attempted to follow a planned guide. The morning had showers and the 5 Euro umbrellas were selling quickly. We passed and so did the showers. Our first stop was St. Zachariah dedicated to the father of John the Baptist; the walls are covered in paintings by Van Dyke, Bellini and others. We found San Giovanni in Bragora where Antonio Vivaldi was baptized. From here we explored the Sant Elena district, which is home to many of the locals. It is quiet as you wander down the lanes. Voice drift from the homes and the few local shops are closed for siesta. A stop on the Canal for coffee and wine and free Internet becomes a lunch stop. I order a dish called a bit of everything so that Roger can try all the local dishes. It is mostly seafood and although it is not my thing I try everything. It was perhaps a bit too much seafood for even Roger.
A nap further along on a bench beside the water and we are exploring again. We work our way through the Castello area; the highlight being San Francesco Della Vigna, set in an area that at one time was surrounded by vineyards. Its cloisters are a quiet haven to admire the old convent and the tombs.
We work our way to Cannaregio and enjoy a birra and wine and use the WC.
Our next wander takes us through the Jewish Getto. The term Geto originated in Venice and referred to a medieval foundry where metals for cannons were cast. Until Napoleon conquered Venice in 1797 Jews were only allowed to live in the getto. The city depended on them for money lending and for doctoring, but come curfew them were in the getto. The high buildings attest to the fact they could only build up not out. This is where you come today for kosher food and accommodations, but most of the Jews live elsewhere in the city. The bas-relief panels have quite an impact. A very sobering moment is a colourful city.
We stopped for a cup of fresh fruit and to drink some of the wine we had bought earlier in the day. You can only walk past litres of wine for under two Euros so often.
Time to head past the termini to the Santa Croce and Dorosdura area. It is a very pretty area with nice views along the canal. Very warm and sunny and expensive. Backtracking we cross the Academia Bridge and find a cafe for dinner. Panini for me and spaghetti for Roger. We again watch the dance of the street hawkers and the police. One on the squares was a family neighbourhood with children running all over playing games. No grass in site, but lots of people to run around. We run into the couple we met the night before and chat a bit before zeroing in on some gelato. Yum.
We have been out for hours and hours and head home to wash up, read and have a sleep. A great sleep, as it appears I slept through a major rain/thunder/lightning storm.

Posted by Mari Anne 09:51 Archived in Italy Tagged venice church sites castle wander getto Comments (0)

The family divides.

Two to UK, One to Vancouver and two to Venice.

sunny 29 °C

Breakfast is very crunchy bread/toast topped with Nutella and/or spreadable ricotta cheese ... yummy! Roger wanted the bread and Tracy the Nutella which means we have yogurt and muesli to carry with us on the train to Venice ... change in plans ... we actually ended up eating it before we left ... :) (Aren’t vacations wonderful!)?
Roma Cabs picked up Tracy, Joyce and Doris at 10am for the Airport (another handsome young Italian man for their driver). Tracy is on British Air at 13:35. She will get Grandma and Doris checked in for their flights with Swiss Air, which leaves at 15:10. Roger and I will simply walk over to the termini stazione at 13:00 and catch our train. Lets hope all goes well. No lets just assume all goes well ...
Things must have gone well as we have had no messages of despair.
The train was very nice and left on the button. there was a mom and daughter in our seats, but we left them there as they were going to Firenze only. They had been on the road over 24 hours as art of a group of 8 from Florida. Seated beside me the young girl was very good, but tended to take up a lot of space for such a small person and talked non stop until she finally passed out for a bit. When they left a family from China joined us. Ken and his wife and daughter had their train from Rome that morning cancelled due to a strike. They had to buy new tickets at a much higher cost and will have to apply later to get their money back for the first set. It was never quite clear why they were boarding in Firenze; I guess they had to take two trains. Also joining across from us were students, Shirley from Houston and Kate from Minnesota. It is almost time for them to return home. They almost got off at the stop on the mainland before Venice...whoops.
The train arrives and I phone Andrea our host. That is 'Andraya' as in Andrea Boticelli, not 'Andreeea'. He has instructed us to take the vaparetto or common water taxis, but I want to walk. Luckily there is a strike and only one is running so I get my wish. We manage to find the Rialto station and follow his directions to the B & B. Like in Rome we are on the third floor in number 9. How cool is that.
This is his home and it is just like the photos.... beautiful. He is a teacher in his other life and is very helpful to suggest what sites to see and suggests a dinner location when asked. We clean up and begin our travels. No cars, no vespas, no trams, just people and boats. We find Rosa Rossa and are seated inside where there is air conditioning...sort of. While I am not up to a traditional Italian meal with all the courses we start with a litre of house wine and a selection of bread and a plate of cold meat and olives. Roger is still craving meat. We follow his up with our first plate. Roger has the chefs recommended Salmon Lasagna and I opt for a pizza with vegetables and feta. They are both really good! Roger ate his then half my pizza. Time for dessert, Tiramisu for Roger and Chocolate Gelato for me that has a creamy surprise in the middle.
At this point I make Roger take a photo of Johnny Depp's jacket that he presented the restaurant when he was there filming 'The Tourist'. This movie is a must see. This instigates a conversation with the couple at the next table. They are from Philly, and she has been teaching here in the field of law. Her office sent her over. Not a bad deal! We chat until the wine is finito and then some before we wander out again. We find St. Marco's square and enjoy the nightlife as we cruise the warren of streets. They are sparser, but there are still the hawkers of handbags, toxic jelly toys and illuminated flying 'things'. The restaurants spill out into the square and string quartets entertain with pizzazz. Workers are setting up the square for a concert tomorrow night featuring Sting and an Orchestra.
Trying to find our way home is a challenge so we finally manage to make our way to the rialto bridge and from there we are able to find our home for the night.

Posted by Mari Anne 03:19 Archived in Italy Tagged venice england train vancouver rome flights Comments (0)

Rome, Italy

A whole day to explore

The group is fed and watered. A load of wash is done, but as I touched the metal counter above the clothes washer and wiped a drip of water from the floor I got a shock that went up both arms. We let the load finish and turned it off.
So the decision is no hop on and off tour, no guided tour. We are walking. Having done the walk ourselves two nights ago we had a good idea where to go. The plan of the day is walk ten minutes and sit ten minutes and see how the seniors do. This more or less worked.
We took them to the Coliseum with only one break and sat for a bit. OK it is more crowded than when you walk at night but I was expecting hoards of people and it was not too bad. There was no one lined up for the tickets on the side we came in and the main line up didn't seem that bad at all. Next sit down was at the forum. Half the fun is watching the tourists, the nuns in their many habits, the local hucksters and the tour groups that wander along looking hot and tired. Joyce is magnetically attracted to the stalls, but has yet to buy a long sleeved white shirt or a five Euro handbag.
We get them to the Victor Emmanuel Monument before crossing a very busy street in one piece. Now to find a place to eat on the way to Trevi Fountain. Voila, we turn a corner and a Pizzaria appears on the sidewalk, in the shade on a side street with no motorized traffic.
Our server speaks French and is very helpful as we order a litre of white house wine, mixed grilled veggies, a veggie pizza and a salad Mista. While we wait out comes a very tasty white bread and the oil and vinegar for the salad. We put some on our plate to dip the bread. This is all quite filling and we chat with two girls from Portugal that sit next to us. One Marianna spoke English quite well, the other did not say much so we think she does not speak English. By the time we leave she has Roger's email and will contact us.
They never bring you the bill unless you ask so we don't see the young waiter who served us for a bit. When we do Joyce said some thing along the lines that Tracy was looking for the handsome waiter. When asked Tracy explained what Joyce had said and blushed. The waiter quite liked that and on his way out we could see him telling his buddy. Tracy went in the Doris to pay the bill and when she came out she explained, much to our amusement, that the waiter had asked her out tonight. We said our goodbyes to the girls from Portugal and the waiter met us as we left to say he would be here tonight if Tracy would come by. Tracy said if she did that her mom and dad would be with her. He said no matter. LOL
Trevi fountain was just around the corner and Joyce and Doris threw their coins in and before we made our way out of the crowd we said hi to a fellow with a Vancouver Olympic shirt on. Turns out he and his girl friend are from Surrey and went to Holy Cross and knew several people that we know.
Now it was finally time for Gelato. Ah.... it was very good. We tried 8 flavours between the five of us, but the chocolate with nuts was my favourite. Again it was only about ten minutes to the Spanish Steps and after Roger tried to get them to walk up the steps and got peels of laughter a taxi was hailed. Tracy and I opted to walk and let others enjoy a little space as no vans showed up and we have already experienced too many in a taxi.
After a gin and tonic and a card game we head off to pick up dinner. A small tasty chicken and some green beans to add to the salad we already have and a bit of pasta to finish off the pasta sauce. Roger is craving meat.... perhaps chicken will help but I Imagine he needs red meat. Roger insisted on more wine, but we can take the leftovers with us on the train.
We are washed and packed so head out again into the night. Wifi in Rome is spotty. The place we went to last time won't connect properly so we go to a place we had passed. They advertise bar and food, but were not very polite when we wanted only bar.... then we saw their prices and decided to move along. 10 euros for a cocktail s a bit much. We passed an internet place which had wifi as well as their own computers for use so for 4 Euros for an hour we got all the plane info organized for tomorrow and people checked their email.
A special hug to Vivienne's friends and family on what would have been her 40th birthday. We miss you Vivienne. Also a hug to Heather and family, sorry to hear of your loss.

Posted by Mari Anne 03:18 Archived in Italy Tagged people city apartment rome explore 5 Comments (0)

Rome, Italy day three

Wow.. now what?

sunny 28 °C

Tracy and I headed over to the termini to check out tour options. After finally finding an info site we discovered they don't have brochures out and ready for travelers. But we did talk to Guido who works with green line hop on and off buses, so we can stop by there tomorrow and get a deal.
We got a taxi and the five of us squeezed into a cab for four. Pretty funny. I have pictures. We arrived at the Vatican and it was not that busy. We had reserved tickets that probably saved us five minutes, but we were in in no time. We split up for the first hour exploring the area around the Cortile Della Pigna Courtyard. There are Egyptian displays including the mummy of a woman who died three millennium ago. Her hair was red with henna and on the lid of her coffin lid was the stuff she packed on her journey to the afterlife.
We moved onto animals as Egyptians worshiped them as incarnations of the gods, and brown tablets with Sumerian writing. The next rooms displayed more Roman statuary, frescoes and artifacts. Everyone was crowded around the Belvedere torso, which is all that remains of an ancient statue of Hercules. Then the round room, which shows some idea of Roman grandeur, the floor tiled with what, was once the bottom of a roman bath.
The long walk to the Sistine chapel begins. A quarter mile of tapestries maps and sculpture. Tracy pointed out the tapestries were made in Belgium. The Raphael rooms were amazing. His students finished the frescoes started by 25-year-old Raphael who was quite handsome and sophisticated. We have been in and out of rooms, down halls, up stairs and down stairs and again we are lead downstairs. You begin to wonder if you will ever get there when you see a sign reminding us of proper attire for the chapel and we are in. We found seats along the sides and just sat and took in the sites. People were stopped at the door and asked to cover up, people were taking pictures and warned to stop, many were loud and ever few minutes they were shushed and the noise level lowers for a moment and then builds. No words here...just look it up.
The long walk back takes you by everything Pope related. Stoles, hats, rings, bibles and all. We make our way down to the washrooms and order drinks while Roger and Tracy nip up to get some very mediocre pizza and we enjoyed our break. Again we walk down and return the two audio guides and make our way outside.
A 15-minute walk to the left brings us to St. Peter's Basilica. We find a spot for Joyce and Doris to sit and watch the world go by. The vote is taken and we go in. The line up is short and we pass security. Again I have no words to describe what I see. The mix of emotions, of the wealth in the Basilica and the poverty in Rome, the beauty, The Pieta, done by Michelangelo at age 24 was remarkable. It was too late to see the tombs, but there is always another time, we did throw coins in the Trevi fountain after all. There was a service going on and the temptation to stay was strong, but we chose to move along and this time we found a taxi van and our return trip was much better. Certainly not as entertaining. Dinner was Egg and chips for Joyce and salad. Simple, but really we're not too hungry. The Gin and Tonic and wine are much more appreciated. It is already after nine so we head out to find Internet. You have to register at McDonalds and have a phone number where they can text you the password. We find another place and buy a beer and get hooked up, but for whatever reason it kept kicking us out of gmail, which is where I need to be to get travel details confirmed for flights on Friday.
We also tried to plan something for the seniors. While a riverboat ride seemed a possibility the reviews on Trip Advisor all panned it. Lousy food, the river is below city level so no views and so on.

Posted by Mari Anne 13:24 Archived in Italy Tagged peter basilica rome vatican saint piazza Comments (0)

Rome, Italy day two

So another full day.

sunny 30 °C

Had a great sleep. Slept with the windows open, which allows fresh air, but it is noisy. I guess Rome never sleeps. Breakfast was cheese, crackers, muesli, tea, coffee and yogurt.
It took some time to get everyone organized and out the door. After a moment of directional confusion we figured out how to get where we were planning to go. Our first stop was interrupted by Joyce's need for American coffee from McDonalds. Their wifi was not working, but Roger, Joyce and Doris had their sit down and Tracy and I went off to explore the Baths of Diocleziano (Emperor Diocletian). Very cool! Around 300 AD these were the largest baths in Rome with a complex of pools, gyms, and schmoozing places that could accommodate 3,000 bathers at a time. The baths are now a church called Santa Maria Diegli. The current nave of the church was the Tepidarium of the baths (a cooler room which people entered after going through the hot room (Caldarium). The church's central area is football field sized. Behind the altar is where a 32,000 square foot swimming pool used to be. The church we saw today was partly designed by Michelangelo (in 1561). The other neat thing in the church is a meridian line, a line on the floor in a north south orientation. There is a small hole 65 feet up on the wall. When the sunlight sweeps across the meridian at noon it shines through the hole and will indicate the date on the meridian line (the line is marked with dates of the year in Latin).
We then backtracked to the National Museum of Rome at the Palazzo Massimo. It is a floor of busts of famous Romans and random busts and statues that show hair and dress styles. The next floor is filled with Frescoes and Mosaics that are absolutely amazing. They have been rescued from ruins and are displayed in a climate-controlled environment.
We may head back for another day, as there is so much to see. We stopped ay a cafe where we managed to order some food from a totally non English-speaking server. We had a Salad and shared some vegetarian calzones. Roger and Tracy had the coffee and declare it very good. Tracy had a brownie of sorts that melted in your mouth. Some of used the WC that was located through a narrow space and down some stairs. It had the usual squat toilet and while there is a cubicle for women the wash-up area is shared with men.
A stop at the grocery store netted us some fresh pasta, sauce, gin, ice cream, melon, banana, and other tasty tidbits.
After a game of Settlers of Catan we went out for our night walk. I went over the plans with Tracy and she mapped out the route and was our guide of sorts. We made our way from the Termini area through some quieter residential streets and found our way. We passed Nero's Golden House and arrived at the Coliseum. 50,000 Romans could pack this stadium and cheer as their favourite gladiators faced off in bloody battle. The Coliseum on the right some open ruins on the right and more touristas. We passed the memorial to Vittoria Emanuele II, Arches, and just amazing sights. Our goal was the Campo de' Fiora. We managed to miss it and arrived at the River
Tiber and crossed the river. Along the shore walk is a strip market with food, goods and classy sit down restaurants. There is supposed to be a nice bike path, but there is so much down there the path is basically made impossible. We picked up some fresh licorice and dried figs. We crossed back over on the next bridge through the Jewish Getto to the Campo De' Fiori. During WWII 2000 Jews were take to concentration camps and only 50 returned. At Campo De' Fiora the piazza is watched over Giorano Bruno an Intellectual heretic who was burned on the site in 1600. The Vatican protested when the statue was erected, but the angry locals over ruled them. Be hind the statue apartments are built right into the walls of the Theatre of Pompey where Julius Caesar was assassinated. We made our way to Piazza Navona. It is huge and is the remnants of a huge oval racetrack. Its central point is the Four Rivers Fountain. The four river gods are Ganges, who is holding an oar, Danube who is turned to admire the central obelisk, Nile, who has his head covered, and Rio de la Plata, which is in Uruguay and is looking quite shocked up towards the church.
We find our way to the Pantheon where we feel the first drops of rain we have felt since leaving Paris. The area is full of protesters. The signs suggest it is a protest against the Mafia. With the few drops of rain the men selling toys and stuff all appear with umbrellas. We must have been asked at least 25 times if we wanted an umbrella. It showered for a while with a few rumbles of thunder and lightning off in the distance, but we're from Vancouver so what is a bit of rain.
Across the way we find Tazza d'Oro del Caffe, locals come here for coffee slush with cream. Further on we pass through the Piazza Caprancia where big shots built palaces with towers just for show. Then came a 6th century Egyptian Obelisk taken as a trophy by Augustus after his victory against Mark Anthony and Cleopatra in Egypt. This sits in front of the parliament buildings where we saw guards all over the place. No obvious politicians or Mafia.
We cross over the noisy north/south stroll and found the Trevi Fountain. Masses of people here, but we threw our obligatory coins with our right hand over our left shoulder into the fountain. Oceanus rides across the waves in his chariot pulled by horses and horn blowing tritons. Are the coins in the fountains used to feed the city's poor? Good question.
The Spanish steps are about ten minutes away and this brings us to the end of our tour. The steps are named Spanish due to the Spanish embassy to the Vatican that located here. At the base of the stairs is a fountain with a half submerged boat recalling the urban legend of a boat that was left here after the flood of 1598. Beer cans litter the streets and we see the last of the umbrella and doodad sellers and make our way home. A twenty or thirty minute walk straight up one street to our neighbourhood and in the door by 11:15

Posted by Mari Anne 13:23 Archived in Italy Tagged night fountain walk spanish steps rome colosseum forum trevi Comments (0)

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