A Travellerspoint blog

Italy

Milan and on to Paris

Why are there no shows in Venice or Milan.

sunny 25 °C

We are the only ones this morning for breakfast. I thought I heard some one leave early this morning. I have squirreled away a couple of yoghurt and crackers for the train rides and we will pick up water closer to the station. The walk is lovely, but gets busier as we near the termini. We watch the masses arrive (especially the ones with loads of luggage ... yah for back packs) and try to figure out where to go from here.
The train does not indicate what track until just 15 minutes before it is scheduled to depart. Coach 6, seats 11 & 14. Only it turns out these tickets are for the 25 of MAY! Same train, same couch, same time, same trip as the one we should be on in, now in July ... The nice conductor sold us new tickets and confirmed our connecting trains to Paris in the evening were for the correct date. Whoops. I guess with planning for over a month I am allowed one mistake (the conductor realized it was an honest mistake, as we had a print out with our ticket for May sandwiched in between two other tickets for July, but he could have charged us an extra 100 Euros fine for not having a valid ticket). We had great seats too. The last row in the car, which are three together and only the two of us taking up 3seats ... :)
We navigate Milan fairly well with just the city map. This is a bigger, newer and more cosmopolitan city (plus wider streets and many of the guys dressed in suits and women in dresses ... Milan is a fashion centre after all). We are in the banking section so we are able to pick up some cash to replace the money we spent on tickets. It was not that much.
Roger was hungry so we had the crackers and yogurt and then went off to find Teatro alla Scala. We were taking a photo in front when a local man stopped to tell us it was closed. We knew that, but he directed us around the corner to the La Scala museum. Wow, the insides are amazing. We got to go in the theatre, in several of the audience boxes where they would normally have chairs for people watching the production. The theatre is huge! They had the large chandelier lowered down and were cleaning it, plus the curtains were open and we could see the whole stage ... wow! It was incredible! Of course, the stage is an opera stage, so it's raked at an angle from the very front to the very back, but it has trap doors here and there, plus lots of hydraulics so the can raise or lower chunks of the stage whenever they need to. It's a technician's dream stage! The audience boxes, the velvet, the historical displays were all worth it. Roger of course was over the top. He had been on stage with La Scala when they came to Vancouver in 1986. He sang quietly from the box we were in ("Caro Mio Bene") so he can now say he sang at the theatre itself ... :)

We had heard shouting in the square across from the theatre the whole time we were inside it so we crossed the street to the square to find out who was protesting about what. A tiny group had signs Alpha Romeo and the word Cobras? I'll look that up later. Needing a WC we stopped at a McDonalds. Roger had a huge meat craving and bought two meals for us (yes they have meal deals at McDonalds in Milan too...) The price was right, the fries were better than ours at home and the location was great for people watching. Venice has one McDonalds, which we never actually saw, and Rome and Milan have piles of them, only they call them Mc Cafe.
Across the square from the McDonalds, is the Duomo, an amazing cathedral/church/structure with figures all around and a very short line up. We decided to go in. While we could take backpacks in, I had to just about empty mine for the security guard before I was cleared. Once again an amazing vista. There are two Cardinals here who have been made saints. I would not really wish my decaying body on display, but I think there is no chance I will ever be sainted.
We walked past all the upper crust stores that you see in every big city and sit in a park serenaded by the toilette in the corner of the park that is beeping, insisting it needs to be serviced.
Milan has mosquitoes!
We enjoy the park and find our way towards the stazione through a very interesting neighbourhood. Lots of Chinese food, Japanese food, Indian food and big groups of men, so I prefer to keep on walking to a more "family area" to stop for a drink. I would have loved some Asian food, but felt a little overwhelmed. We end up at a place that gives you a plate of food with your drink plus a functioning bathroom and a TV with the local news. Major bonus! The wine is good, the toilets so so, the snacks are decent and the news shows a fire at a train station. We finally figure out it is Rome and won't affect us. We have a game of cards in front of the station, watch an animated phone call by a young woman, watch a kid ride his bike around selling Birra, buy some yogurt for breakie, watch some pod casts by Rick Steves on Italy and our train is here and leaves on time. Weather is hot, but not too hot and sunny.

Posted by Mari Anne 10:00 Archived in Italy Tagged venice train milan scala teatre alla duodo Comments (0)

Venice, so many vaporatto

Glass, lace, churches, boats and sunshine.

20 °C

Day two finds us enjoying breakfast alone, but the others are up by the time we leave. The wind is brisk and while the sin tries to shine through the clouds are winning. As long as the rain continues to hold off we will be fine. Without maps we make our way to St. Georges the Anglican Church. The service is BCP and the hymn tunes are unfamiliar. The relief priest is from England, as are most of the visitors although one other couple is from Canada. Toronto. The altar is at the back of the sanctuary and the rector has his back to us when he prepares communion. The service is under an hour and we head back home so that we can get our travel supplies for the day. We fight the mob in San Marco campo and get our one-day vaparetto tickets. First stop will be Murano, but we will circle half of Venice and see many of the areas we walked yesterday, but from the lagoon.
The lagoon is bumpy but the ride is fun. We leave Venice and head across the lagoon and choose to bypass San Michele the Cemetery as Roger is getting hungry and we think food options might be limited there. We opt for the third stop at Murano away from the crowds. The town is wonderful. Unhurried we wander and at first all we see is the residential area and then we cross the canal and find a spot for lunch with the required free wifi. The rain is holding off, but the wind is still high. The food is good and reasonable. Unlike most toilets we've seen which are the squat variety. This toilet is big enough for a wheelchair and has a seat. The seat is so high my feet don't touch the floor.
Murano is known for its glass. The furnaces were sent out to the Island for fear of fire in Venice. We enjoy wandering and looking in the shops.
We want to go further so we find the vaparetto for Burano, which is known for its lace. The ride over is still bumpy and when we arrive the vaparetto for Torchello is ready to go so we grab that right away. Torchello is where the first mainland refuges settled to escape the barbarian hordes. Today it boasts about 20 residents and was a peaceful way to spend part of our afternoon. At one time there were 11 churches here, but the land was not hospitable to farming, there was no water and the mosquitoes and malaria were big problems. The remaining church is said to be the oldest one in Venice and in front are the ruins of a baptistery from the sixth century, as at that time you were not allowed to enter unless you were baptized. There was a wedding going on at this time so we did not enter. This island has cats. Lots of cats. Venice itself seems to be a dog city as we only saw two cats, one mouse and lots of dogs.
The garbage is being collected outside our window. This is done by boat and handcart.
We stop at Burano on the way back. It is filled with brightly coloured houses of all hues and intensities. The name Burano comes from the breeze, which protected the island from mosquitoes and malaria. Burano is known for its lace making and the prices on the island are cheaper than in Venice. Some very beautiful work and some cheap stuff. The public washroom has closed for the day, as are all the little shops. It is time to head back to Venice.
We make all our connections and take the Vaperatto from the stepping off point in Venice the same direction we started in the morning so we could do a full circle. A wander through San Marco brings us to some sandwich shops and a light supper. A glass of wine and we wander Listening to the orchestras spaced out around the square. We learn that you cannot sit on the ground in the square. We just wander more turning right and left at random, but finally find our way home map free. Yea!

Just a few rather random thoughts.
My favourite sign so far on the trip are the two places in Ephesus that advertised Genuine Fake Watches.
I liked watching people in shirt shorts and sleeveless shirts get stopped at the church doors. It is fun to see a man in a pretty shawl. My favourite were the two young men at St. Peters who were wearing shorts that didn't meet the rules. They managed to pull them far enough down their butts to get the knees covered. It was fun to watch and it was fortunate the shorts and underwear on the one were both black. Then we got to watch them try to climb the stairs with the crotches so low and tight.
In the church in Venice, San F. there was a corpse of a girl, Catherine who gave herself up to be martyred. I need to look that one up.
St. Peters has Italian Confessionals and Bilingual Confessionals.... English and Italian.
Venice’s water comes from the Alps.
Our B & B is located on the fourth/top floor of a building almost halfway between the Rialto Bridge and San Marco Square. There is a lift, but of course we don't use it. The big metal door is unlocked and a solid wooden door opens into the common area. The rooms are filled with antiques and interesting decorations including a life size Indian boy dressed as a servant. The walls are covered in rich fabrics and the beams are solid and big across the ceiling. The walls are thick and the windows close then there are shutters that you pull shut.

Posted by Mari Anne 09:53 Archived in Italy Tagged burano venice san marco windy murano torchello gelatto Comments (0)

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)

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