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Venice - Padua - Bologna - Tuscany

Day 4 - Saturday 2nd July 2016

sunny 30 °C

Time to hit the road after our two full days exploring Venice. We squeezed back into our car and headed off to the town of Padua which was only 30 minutes away. Padua has Italy's second oldest university and there are outdoor markets six days as week. After arriving and parking we wandered down to the market place, lots of stalls selling fruit and vegetables, leather good and tourist stuff, and also two arcades of butchers and cheese shops displaying their fresh products. Again it was a hot day and didn't take long for us all to get tired, even though we'd only been there a short while. We headed back to the car via a supermarket to pick up some supplies for the week ahead.

We drove out of Padua heading south to Bologna, our cousins had earlier today disembarked from a cruise in Venice and had rented a car and were heading there also so we arranged to meet. Bologna immediately strikes you with its ancient buildings and quite sadly have a "dirty" appearance, like a black stain from all the wear and tear of time. We navigated our way through the streets on foot after parking and met up with my cousins at an eatery for lunch. As they had other arrangements, we split from them and ducked over for our obligatory coffee shot - and still only 1 euro a cup.

Today we were headed to a villa in Tuscany hired by my brother for the entire week and where we were all gathering. It has 11 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms and for this week there are 28 of us staying there. Whilst Bologna would have been nice to explore, Vicky and I decided in the brief time we had that we would challenge the climb up the tower so we could view the entire city from above. It was certainly a challenge, 498 steps and 97 metres up inside a brick tower in the heat of the day. It took a while to get up top after several rest breaks but the views were amazing as you can guess.

The kids had stayed on ground level so once we descended back down we got to the car and set sail for the villa which was a further 1.5 hours away. Stopping to refuel - 60 euro to fill a small car ouch! - we finally hit our destination just after 7pm. Most of the people were already here, the kids already in the pool. After carrying our bags to our rooms I was also in the pool very soon to cool off.

The villa is four storeys high, and we got allocated the top floor. Needless to say it's a long way up and down the stairs as there are no elevators. The house is grand and dates back a couple of centuries and made of solid stone. I heard someone say that it used to belong to a Countess. Interesting that there are two sets of stairs, the servants had a seperate smaller staircase to the side of the main one. It is set on a huge property and the gardens were immaculate, and a massive swimming pool too. They rent this property out for functions like weddings etc, there is a large outdoor covered area also.

Once everyone had arrived and settled in, we enjoyed pasta for dinner - cooking and cleaning for 28 people is a huge task. We settled down to watch the big soccer match on TV, Italy vs Germany which was a quarter final of Euro 2016. Sadly for us and probably the entire country we are in, Italy lost in a penalty shootout and are out of the tournament. Biggest disappointment of the holiday so far!

Posted by Ace from Oz 08:09 Archived in Italy Tagged venice bologna tuscany padua laterina Comments (0)

Venice (Murano and Burano)

Day 4 - Friday 1st July 2016

sunny 30 °C

The plan for today was to visit some neighbouring islands and look around. We slept in a little given we had a late night, and after breakfast caught the bus back into Venice. Our first stop was to visit the island of Murano, home to the Murano glass that has been made on the island for centuries. We caught a vaporetto to the outer north part of Venice, then changed and caught a different one across to Murano. On the way we cruised past the island of San Michele, the entire island is the local cemetery and adjoining church.

Once we landed in Murano we immediately ran into our friends from Sydney (who were here for the same reason as us to meet up in Tuscany) but funnily enough there we all were in Murano. Every second store on the island sells glass, all different shapes and colours and arrangements. We browsed a few stores, bought a coupe of small pieces and got to watch a lady who was making 50 glass figurines for an order.

Again this was another hot day, so we sat for a drink and bite in a bar before moving onwards in search of the Murano Glass Museum. Here we found pieces dating back hundreds of years and some more recent.

From here we walked back to catch another vaporetto over to Burano, the island is a little further away from Venice. Burano is famous for its lace products, so many stores were selling lace. Burano is a small island but the houses are very colourfully painted, usually no two adjoining houses are painted the same colour. It provided a lovely view for the tourists. Burano even has its own "leaning tower" which looked almost like it would topple over just by looking at it.

The trip back was long, first the vaporetto back to Venice via Murano, and then we decided to catch the one that went around the outside of Venice the long way back to the bus terminal - this one alone took an hour. We choose this as we were leaving in the morning and had wanted to see the other side of Venice from the water.

Having arrived at Marghera after 8pm tired and hungry we went straight to the same pizzeria from two nights earlier for a meal. I stuck with a pizza this time, and it didn't disappoint. Back home to shower and rest for tomorrow we drive south to Tuscany

Posted by Ace from Oz 08:37 Archived in Italy Tagged burano venice murano Comments (0)


Day 3 - Thursday 30th June 2016

sunny 30 °C

Part of our accommodation deal here in Marghera Included breakfast. Signori Lorenza put out a spread of cereal, pastries, fresh sliced cold meats, fresh bread and the coffee machine was well used. After a filling breakfast she gave us detailed instructions on getting to Venice, the train station was a mere 200 metres away so very handy and the trip took five minutes.

Once off the train we purchased a 48 hour travel card which gives you unlimited rides on the "vaporetto" - the Venice form of public transport like a small ferry. The ticket also included bus fares to and from Venice which we used from that point onwards as the bus stop was right outside our accommodation.

Venice is a maze of lanes and bridges crossing canals. There is no structure so we decided to head off in one direction. It was fun getting lost and every so often we would consult the offline maps we loaded so we could work out where we were. The lanes of Venice are all shops - pretty much a split of tourist shops and eating places. You needn't walk more than 20-30 steps and you'd find food. The first thing I realised is how cheap the food and drinks are. 1 euro for a coffee macchiato, we bought plenty of water due to the heat and they were 1-1.50 euro a bottle. Even a whole pizza or a plate of pasta for around 7 euro.

We stepped into the church of St Lucia, a beautiful and ornate structure. Unbeknown to us we walked to the end of the church and there in a glass coffin is the mummified body of St Lucia, her face covered with a mask but her feet clearly visible. Back out in the heat many hours were spent wandering and viewing the sights, the gondolas cramming the canals. Public toilets in Venice are rare, and when you find one you have to pay to use them. Travel tip - don't leave it too late to go cos you may be looking for a hour to find one. I quickly learnt the best way to multi task is to find an aircon bar or eatery (to rest and cool off) that has food and drink (for sustenance) that has toilets (for necessity)!

The aim for the day was to make tracks and end up in St Marks Square. By the time we got there it was half an hour before the basilica was to close so we lined up and walked through the grand church. The ceilings were all covered with gold covered mosaics and quite pretty to see. By the time we walked out we had no energy, having walked all day in the heat so we caught the vaporetto back to the bus station and caught a ride home.

We had planned to meet friends of my kids who lived nearby for dinner so we showered and caught the bus back to Venice. A stroll through to the restaurant where we sat al fresco and saw the sun set and ate fine food and enjoyed the company of our Italian guests. By the time we walked to catch the overcrowded bus and get home it was past midnight and I was totally exhausted again.

Posted by Ace from Oz 23:37 Archived in Italy Tagged venice italy Comments (0)

Milan, Verona, Venice

Day 2 - Wednesday 29th June 2016

sunny 30 °C

Italy's border patrol is nowhere as strict as ours in Australia, all we did was have our passports stamped and we were out. No customs forms, entry cards etc to be completed. We met the girls at the car rental place, got our vehicle - VW Golf station wagon, then tried to work out how we would fit all our luggage in. We finally got going, a few small issues working out how to drive a manual in a foreign country and driving on the opposite side of the road!

- [ ] We decided we would try and make our first stop at Lake Iseo, to see the Floating Piers that were installed recently and only there for three weeks. There are 200,000 floating plastic cubes all joined together and covered in fabric and stretch 3.1kms across the lake to various points. Sad to say we just couldn't get there as the traffic was just crazy. We pulled over for a bite to eat - my first tasted on Italian soil - and were happy with my huge panini (Italian for bread roll) filled with cold meat and cheese and lettuce. We drove off and tried again but after such a long while moving nowhere we decided not to waste more time and turned around and left.

We had planned to spend the afternoon touring Verona so figured our time was better spent there rather than in traffic going nowhere. We parked in an underground parking lot and set foot to see the sights of this old city, the setting for Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet". We passed by the Roman Arena, a big coliseum style open arena in the middle of Piazza Bra. They were setting the inside up for some nightly operas starting in a few days time. We passed on the opportunity to go in and look, the plan was to go towards the end of our walk.

First stop was to be Juliet's Balcony - even though the play and characters were fictional the town decided to create a balcony due to the number of people over the years asking to see her place. They choose a little courtyard in Via Capello (as that name closely resembled Romeo's surname of Capulet). A number of tourists crowded the courtyard and there was a statue of Juliet also where it was said to bring good luck to those who rubbed her right breast. Lots of luck must have been promised out as the breast was shiny from the countless thousands of hands that had touched it. Vicky and Stephanie both had turns and got their pics taken.

We headed then to the Piazza dei Signori, with a statue of Dante in the centre. Right beside this we bought tickets and went up the Torre dei Lamberti (Lamberti tower) and got to see all of Verona from up top. Beautiful day and sights to see from the best vantage point in town.

We made our way to Piazza Erbe where the locals had their tourist stalls of souvenirs and fresh fruit. Prices seem cheap compared to what we pay in Australia even allowing for the exchange rate differences. We stopped by and entered one of the many churches that adorn the town. Apart from the cool relief of stepping inside and out of the hot sun, the architecture was amazing. Very colourful and ornate, this would be the first of many we'd be seeing this trip.

We crossed over the river and walked along the side of it until we came to an old brick bridge that led us across back to the Castelvecchio (old castle). We had intended on seeing the Roman Arena but were too hot and bothered, not to mention Adam and I have had little sleep over the preceding 48 hours. We jumped back into the car and headed to our booking near Venice. As we had our own car and no cars can get into Venice, I choose a bed n breakfast in Marghera which is on the mainland about 10km away. A grand old house we were warmly greeted by Signora Lorenza and her nephew Lorenzo.

First duty was to shower, so humid and hot walking around and by now it's been 48 hours since my last one! Signori Lorenza recommended two places to eat nearby, we walked down to the Pizzzeria Capri. My first cooked meal on Italian soil so I wanted something simple, I ordered a spaghetti al pomodoro (spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce), and wow it was EXACTLY how my mum makes it back home. It was just an unbelievable coincidence that the sauce was the same in every respect.

A tiring first day in Italy, I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow from exhaustion. Big day tomorrow - Venice!

Posted by Ace from Oz 22:40 Archived in Italy Tagged venice verona milan juliet marghera Comments (0)

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