Published: May 23rd 2006May 23rd 2006
Venice is AMAZING! We stepped out of the train station and directly onto a wide promenade that followed the water’s edge! The weather was sunny and warm with a muggy breeze and a wide blue sky. People were eating gelato, lugging suitcases and buying Murano glass from the souvenir stalls. The kids and I were surprised that the ornately decorated buildings lining the water actually as beautiful and regal as they appear in travel brochures. We just kept saying “look” and “Can you believe we made it to Venice?” Gene found a bank while I bought vaporreto tickets. We were both quite proud of ourselves, but would discover the next morning that the 24 hour vaporetto tickets were worthless as the boat-bus drivers went on strike. We were amazed at how well the kids had all traveled, they lugged 30lb suitcases and 15 lb backpacks up and down hundreds (literally) of stairs! They drug them on and off of trains and buses-even up a steep airplane stairway! All after getting up at 04:00a.m. and flying through their normal sleep schedule. We met Riccardo and we were so relieved and happy to meet him, as he was helpful, energetic and quite humorous!
Our hotel room was on the 3rd floor, but the view out our huge windows was nice, we overlooked a courtyard with plaster crumbling off of the brick walls and brightly colored flowers in window boxes.
We went on “The Doge’s Secret Itineraries Tour” Friday morning. Our guide was a very feisty woman who stood maybe 4”10 on tip-toe. She was very educated in European history and made the stories of ancient Venetian Aristocracy fascinating. We were surprised to stand in the very cells where Casanova himself had been imprisoned. His daring and very lucky escape made him famous, but infuriated the nobles. Noah and Gene were very impressed with the ancient arsenal of swords and other weapons, some swords were 8 feet long! Savana enjoys the beautiful architecture so she had over 150 photos by the end of the day. Kaela and I enjoyed the hidden doors, & the air of secrecy that enshrouded the nobles as they ruled ancient Venice.
Yes, we let the kids con us into an overpriced gondola ride…”But we are in Venice”, they whined. It turned out to be a smooth and relaxing ride. Walking all over Venice had gotten a bit hot and with no vaporettos (on strike) we were exhausted. So, we took a gondola ride through the cool and breezy canals- we even saw Mozart’s home.
We wandered through the Beautiful Church of Mary as the priest led vespers in Latin. There were a few people enjoying the service. Riccardo told us that the church was built to thank Mary after the plague was finally gone. We then climbed into the “ferry gondola” that carries people to the other side of the Grand Canal for only 50 cents. Thinking it felt a bit wobbly to stand in, I carefully perched on one edge of the canoe shaped gondola. Since the other 8 people all remained standing, my family thought they would ride local style- which amounts to standing in an overfilled canoe while boating across the wavy lagoon. Just as they were feeling good about this idea, the gondolier accidentally hooked the oar lock on part of the end of the dock and threw them all off balance. Gene shot forward immediately! While he was able to regain his balance, he had set off a domino affect that tumbled each of the kids over sideways! No one actually fell in, but the kids all sat down for the rest of the ride, and I laughed until I had tears running down my face. Not to be shamed into submission, Gene stubbornly stood for the rest of the ride while the other passengers held their breath.
We stopped in Bolgna on our way across the country, and had a walk-about. It is not as pretty, as functional cities go, but the piazza (center) was ancient and the Neptune fountain and the architecture were gorgeous. We happened into a historical art museum with works as old as 1265 (most of the art was religious or family oriented). The elderly Italian hosts spoke only a few words of English, but they were so pleased that we were enjoying their heritage that they pointed at many things and rattled along in Italian as if we understood. They especially liked Savana, and pinched her cheek and hugged her often. One particular Italian Grandma even hurried about opening windows for us to take pictures of amazing views below. She just giggled and talked the whole time we were there. We did actually understand a bit, since charades works well, and many words are similar. Everything here is an event!!
Today our wonderful GPS turned evil! It sent us towards Cinque Terra, our listed destination…via a cobblestone bike trail, I swear! The “road” was actually inches wider than our tiny car, and at one point we were driving under footbridges that connected houses together! When we saw the stairs approaching, we new we were in serious trouble! We were all hollering and waving our arms about in a hysterical fashion when at the last second an alley only inches wider than the car showed up on our left. Having no other choice than stairs (and steep ones at that) we squeezed down the alley. Good thing there was no on-coming traffic! We made it through the tiny town of Pignone and risked our lives on hair pinned turns on a not-quite-wide-enough-to-be-called single lane trail. After much time and sweat, and many life-&-death jokes, we came out on the top of a mountain with an incredible ocean view! Ahhh, but now we must get back down into the valley and towards the sea. We then had more adventures in the small town of Cinque Terra, like eating whole bodied creatures (sea bass with it’s head, large shrimp with eyes and 4” antennas) and climbing down OSHA condemned stairs without rails, and climbing out over ocean boulders into the incoming tide by hanging onto a well placed rope. Around here you learn to follow the graffiti, since it is telling the next traveler where to turn. We took a much more normal route home, (we programmed the GPS to take larger roads, not shortest route) and we were relieved to see normal traffic. On our trip into town we had only passed 2 cars, and those were very tight squeezes so we were glad! All in all, it was a WILD day.