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Northern Italy Road Trip Part I

Author: Jim and Donna C. (More Trip Reviews by Jim and Donna C.)
Date of Trip: October 2010

Our driver was waiting for us as we had arranged.  Opted for a private car to Gatwick, as we weren't sure of the connection times.  As it turned out we had plenty of time.  At Gatwick we checked in with BA, then through security and up to the business class lounge.  Have to take advantage of that elite status while it is still available.  We were both pretty tired and hungry.  BA had a nice spread of salad and cold cuts, coffee and water. 

Headed down to the flight to Venice.  Checked in and -- no one there.  Seems as if we had a head start on the gate announcement.  Boarded an old 737-400 for the two-hour flight to Venice.  Landed at dusk with a nice view of the city. 

gondola venice italyPicked up our luggage and headed to the taxi stand, where we were able to catch a cab to the hotel, Alle Torre in Mestre.  The hotel was pretty nice.   We have a ground floor room, king bed, en suite bath -- small but very workable.  We checked for bed bugs, finding none -- as this seems to be a U.S. problem centered around New York. Thankfully dropped our stuff and collapsed -- for a while that is.  We have a 0700 appointment on Friday for a photography tour in Venice -- and we have no idea how to get there, yet.  Got our stuff together and fell thankfully into bed.

Friday October 8, Clear, cool and sunny.

Woke at 0515 to the hotel wakeup call and Jim's cell phone.  Hurriedly dressing we made it to the front desk by 0600.  The desk clerk directed us to a nice breakfast down stairs.  We grabbed a couple of cups of coffee, a croissant and headed out to the bus stop in front of the hotel.  We bought a couple of bus passes from the night clerk at the front desk.  He told us that when we saw the bus we wanted we were to wave at the driver. 

Hey it worked, we boarded the bus after flagging it down at 0617.  Now the problem of what to do with the damned passes.  Jim tried to stick it into every slot on the IMOB machine.  Finally figured out that you wave it in front of the machine and it validates it.  Oh well -- a mornings' entertainment for the locals on board. 

Arrived at the Plaza di Roma bus area in Venice.  Walked all around looking for Mike¸ our tour guide.  Found the stop at 0650.  Mike showed up at 0700 as scheduled. 

venice italyMike took us on a walking tour of the back streets of Venice.  We took lots of photos of Venice in the early morning.  Shopkeepers opening stores, sweeping the streets with their "Harry Potter" twig brooms, and unpacking vegetables from their boats. All in all we walked well over six miles, taking the Tragehtto twice across the Canal and ending around 1030 for an early lunch in Piazza de some-saint. Our lunch consisted of "toast" (hot ham & cheese sandwich) and a coke.

After lunch,  we bought two 48 hours passes for the land buses and Vaporetto (Venice water bus).  We walked around the city until we were exhausted.  We were trying to power through the 1400 jet lag drop off, but at 1600 we had enough.  We caught the bus back to the hotel.  All public transportation is crowded.  We stood most everywhere we went.    Our legs were really cramping by the time we hit the hotel about 1630. 

Venice is just what you would think.  There are no cars, only boat traffic; canals instead of streets and pedestrian walkways.  All over the city are stacked platforms that are set out to walk on when the tide is high.  Many of the windows and verandas are still covered with bountiful, bright flowers.  Such a beautiful and picturesque city, we are taking lots and lots of pictures.  We were told that most people live on their second floors as the first floors often flood at high tide.  Talk about adaptation.

We rested for a couple of hours then decided we were hungry.  At the front desk we were told that there was no place local for dinner and recommended that we go back into Venice.

We got ourselves together and headed back into town.  We decided to go to a restaurant we had passed in the morning's photo tour.  We took the Vaporetto to the Academia stop, crossed over to the restaurant arriving at 2130.  We were told we could be seated but the restaurant closes at 2200.  Wow, so much for eating late in Europe. 

Had a reasonably good dinner and headed back to the Vaporetto and to Plaza di Roma bus station, eventually arriving at 2330.  We caught the last bus back to the hotel at midnight.  Dragged our poor bones into a welcoming bed.  We were tired and sore but enjoyed the day.

Saturday October 9, 2010 -- Another beautiful day.

We woke up around 0700, got ready for the day and went down for breakfast.  We didn't realize that breakfast was included here, nice surprise.  We were out the door by 0900 to finish touring Venice on our own.

We waited an hour for the bus.  Two other buses passed by, full.  One actually stopped, but no one could fit in, so we waited for the next one.  We talked with a young couple from Delaware that were on their honeymoon.  They were catching the bus to get to the cruise port. We finally got to Venice and caught the Vaporetto to Plaza San Marco.  We had to stand in both the bus and the Vaporetto.  It's Saturday and everybody under the sun is here.

Along the waterfront there are many vendors and small souvenir carts.  Jim bought himself a Venezia hat and t-shirt.  We found some inexpensive little carnival masks for our granddaughters for Christmas and found a couple of inexpensive carnival masks for ourselves for Halloween on the cruise ship back to the U.S.  We found a nice mask for about 35 Euros for our home.  We were looking at some paintings and decided to think about if we really wanted one or not.

We went into San Marco Plaza, which was crowded, and decided to go into the Basilica.  The line was long, but it moved pretty quickly.  We got almost to the front of the line when we saw a sign that said we had to check our backpacks.  I stayed in line while Jim went all the way across the plaza to an area down the alley where they were checking bags. 

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