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Emma & Maneesh on the Big OE

Italy - The North

ITALY | Saturday, 3 October 2009 | Views [551]

Us on one of the many bridges in Venice.

Us on one of the many bridges in Venice.

September 30th

Today was our planned day off to catch up on things, have a more relaxing day and plan our coming weeks of our trip. We woke to a beautiful morning to find ourselves surrounded by massive mountains and the orange sun rise kissing the peaks above us. We spent the morning doing washing, then cleaning the van, and labeling photos. After having rolls for lunch, Em did her diary, and I did more photo labeling, in between other jobs. It was nice to spend the whole day in a campground, I thought we might have done it a little more often than what we have, but we have tried to make the most of our time I guess.

Hamish was not feeling so good, so he slept and read for the day, to try and get himself right as quickly as possible. This was a shame – the mountains around us were spectacular, and he really wanted to go and climb them! Em and Hamish did go for a little walk in the late afternoon to see a pretty little lake nearby.

We had a nice easy dinner that evening, and got to bed at about 10pm.

October 1st

After a nice relaxing day doing jobs while staying in the camp we thought it might have been a easier to get up out of bed, but it wasn't. Anyway we got away at a reasonable hour, and drove about 130km south to Verona. This was described by our sometimes unreliable travel guide book as 'the most beautiful town in Italy'. It is also where Romeo and Juliet is set.

We made good time, and arrived at what we thought was our campsite at 10:30am. Turns out that the camp was closing that day so we had to move. The campground operator kindly directed us to a city camper park-up which is not a campground but a safe place to park up, with water filling and emptying facilities. By the time we got organised and found this spot it was 11:30am. We parked, locked up, then wandered into the town (which actually has a population of about 250,000!). Within 5 minutes we were greeted by city gates which date back to Roman times. Very cool to see, as we have not yet really encountered this during this trip. We walked further and enjoyed looking in the streets and shops. We found a place to eat lunch quite soon after that, and got into sampling some Italian cuisine. Between the three of us, we covered some major food groups: pasta, risotto, pizza, and bruschetta. They were all very tasty but also quite rich meals.
From here we moved on, and walked further into town. One of the main features we wanted to see was the Roman amphitheatre, and shortly after lunch we came across this. I guess it is a mini Colosseum (we should be able to tell you in a couple of weeks). It was very impressive, especially as it still has its marble facade and terraces. It is still used today as the main music venue in Verona, and seats more than 25,000 people. Not bad for a stone structure made nearly 2000 years ago! We spent close to an hour wandering around inside the ampitheatre and under the stands, before continuing our journey.
Our next find (planned) was the piazza, which was a small square set amongst very highly decorated buildings. This was a small taster of what was ahead in Venice, as the stalls in the piazza were dominated by Murano glass (Venetian glass) and Venetian masks. We did not make any purchases here apart from fruit, just enjoyed looking.
By the time we finished here we thought it was time to start wandering back to the van, so we set off on a different track. We came across 'Juliet's House' on the way where you can see the Juliet's window and a statue of Juliet. I am not sure how this all came about because Romeo and Juliet is fictitious, but there were feuding families in Verona, so maybe there is a small amount of truth to the story's plot. Hamish made sure to follow the local legend, and rub Juliet's right breast to bring him a new lover! After a few photos here, we continued our walk back to the van.

When we got back to the van I washed Sven, as there was a car wash area. This was a long overdue job, but we had not really had the ability to do this. Afterwards we just relaxed in the van, played cards, then turned in for the night.

October 2nd

Today was one of our two days allocated to explore Venice so we were up early, and on the road just after 8am. We had a smooth trip there, and found the campground without any problem which was a nice change. It was a campground on the mainland, and either required a one hour bus journey or a 20 minute ferry ride across into Venice.

We got our site sorted out and managed to catch the 11am ferry which was fantastic. We were blown away right from the time we stepped onto the ferry really. The water we crossed was filled with lanes, which looked like a road in the water really, lined with street lights, and speed limits. After we got into Venice we wandered around just to start to see it. Wow, what an amazing city. We had heard it all before: 'Venice is a canal city, and it is a city like no other'. Well, now we know that this is all true. It seemed to have a charm like no other, and I think this was the waterways and pretty bridges, as well as the fact that because of this there are no bikes or cars to contend with, so all of the streets a pedestrian streets, and alleyways, some of which are so skinny it is difficult for two people to pass each other.

We spent the first hour wandering around and simply taking things in, before we set about seeing a few things we had selected. After stumbling across a very cool art shop, (which sadly we walked away empty handed from) we headed for the Piazza San Marco. This is the city square really, and is also home to the highly decorated Basilica de San Marco. Hamish had not really seen a church like this, so after checking our bags in with a blatantly rude man at their storage desk, we entered the church. It was something different again for us too, as all of the art work inside were mosaics, and the floors were stunning geometric patterns of different coloured marble. One thing Em and I both noticed was the dips and irregularities in the floor. This is due to the gradual erosion and sinking that is happening to the entire city. By the time we were finished in here it was past lunch time and Em had two hungry boys (me and Hamish) on her hands. We had a recommendation for a place for cheaper food and found it. Em and Hamish bought a slice of pizza which was brilliant. I had a pizza from another stall. Once we had replenished our energy stores we continued exploring the nearby Rialto markets. Again we walked away empty handed, but enjoyed browsing. We continued to walk a few of the back alleyways, away from the crowds of people. We got a little lost along the way, which was part of the adventure, and some kind old Italian man stopped off and gave us some directions which helped us with our bearings. We liked the little, quiet canals with washing strung between the tall houses on each side.

We were headed for one of the ferry stations further up the Grand Canal, but stopped off along the way for a coffee and toilet stop. We also got distracted by some Tiramisu we saw in a shop window (Tiramisu is from this region of Italy); wow it was good - really good. We made it to the ferry station, and hopped on a ferry to go back down the Grand Canal by boat. It was a cheaper than a Gondola, but still very enjoyable way of seeing Venice from the water. The trip took nearly an hour. We hopped off near Piazza San Marco and started our slow browsing walk back towards our ferry stop, exploring the markets on the edge of the grande canal along the way. It was after 6pm at this stage and the streets had really emptied out. We caught the 6:30pm ferry back to camp.

We had been told by some Italians at Oktoberfest last week that “Venice is the city of the love”. Well we fell in love with it today. What an amazing city. Em and I found this extremely refreshing after feeling a little 'citied out' over the past few weeks.

Once we got back to camp I cooked up some dinner, then Em and I stayed in the van and did some internet jobs, while Hamish went across to the camp bar and had a good night with a Contiki tour group that were over there singing Karaoke.

October 3rd

Today was day two. We were more than happy to head in again today, caught the 9am ferry across the water and into the city centre. We arrived shortly after 9:30am, and soon found that everything did not open until 10am. Hamish left Em and I and wandered around the streets doing some more exploring, while Em and I went to the Peggy Guggenheim museum, located at her house in Venice. She was a collector of modern art, and this displayed her personal collection, including works from Picasso, Dali, and Magrette, and Giacometti to name a few. Em had studied a number of these artists at school. I on the other hand had not, but we both really enjoyed it. We were in there for just under two hours and we both walked out feeling very happy we had gone. I personally found this a nice change from the previous art museums we had been to as there were not just landscape or still life paintings. We met up with Hamish at midday and we headed straight for a pizza shop we had flagged the day before as our place for lunch. We were not disappointed in our selection either and enjoyed eating our pizza in the sun in a square with a quite badly leaning bell tower.

We wanted to head back to the markets after lunch, so we wandered through some new alleyways and spotted a gelato shop which sold tubs, rather than just cones. We had said our new Italian food of the day would be gelato, and it was great. We got 12 scoops in our tub, then went and sat near one of the many statues around the place and dug in. It was great. We chose six flavours: coffee, tiramisu, lemon, mango, hazelnut and Venetian cream. They were all so tasty, and between the three of us it did not last long.

We made it back to the Rialto markets after this and Hamish made a few purchases. Em was keen to purchase some small items of jewellery but just could not find anything that she liked so was a little disappointed with this. Afterwards we headed across the other side of the Grand Canal and found an area we had not explored yesterday. It was very touristy, with shops everywhere, but it was still enjoyable. Hamish and I have both had a higher than normal tolerance of shop browsing in Venice, and I think it is because it is different; lots of leather shops, glass shops, and art shops. I ended up buying myself a leather satchel. It was not something I had considered buying but thought it would be a nice thing to buy with my leaving present from my Irish workmates. Hopefully I will end up using it in Ireland next year.

It was another enjoyable afternoon, but the crowds were starting to get even bigger and we were all about ready to head on back to the campground so we started wandering back to our ferry stop. We were distracted by an art shop along the way and bought a colourful print there (a watercolour of a canal, gondola and buildings), before getting to our ferry and waiting until 6:30pm to catch the ferry back to the campground to finish off another fun, but tiring day in Venice.

Hamish cooked us dinner tonight which went down a treat, then we all had an early night.

We all feel like we have seen enough of Venice. It was fantastic, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. It is cliché but it really is a city like no other, the canals, buildings and general atmosphere were all so enjoyable.

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