Published: September 15th 2012July 22nd 2012
Courtyard at Hotel Tivoli
The window to my room is directly above off in the right hand corner!
Morning came early as it always does when I'm traveling. I awoke feeling refreshed, definitely ready to start a new day. I opened the window to my room to take a look outside. Dawn was already breaking across the rooftops of Venice as the city and her inhabitants roused themselves from slumber. I dressed quickly, put on my walking shoes and headed downstairs for breakfast.
There are many unique features to staying at the Hotel Tivoli, not the least of which is the incredible breakfast they fix every morning for their guests. This is not just a continental breakfast mind you, no sir. Breakfast includes coffee (made to order), an incredible array of baked goods, pastries, fresh bread, toast, hard boiled eggs, ham, cheese, cereal, yogurt along with fresh juice. What did I pay for this amazing repast? Not a dime. Isn't that amazing? The only thing that comes close is the Hotel Corona in Roma and even they don't offer hard boiled eggs in the morning.
Hotel Tivoli has an enclosed courtyard where you can hang out anytime you like during your stay. I was unable to take advantage of this during my last stay as spring had
not yet arrived. I remedied that during this visit. Each morning, I'd have breakfast in the courtyard surrounded by grapevines, flowers and sunshine. The sparrows often got an extra meal as they were not shy about hanging around the tables waiting for food. If I left my pastries unattended they'd converge on my table as one taking what they could. I worked out a compromise with the sparrows offering them a bit of toast each morning. The birds in return would regale me with their conversations occasionally bursting into song.
I finished breakfast, got another coffee and I was ready to go. Today, I was traveling to Conegliano to visit my friend Sam. I bought my train ticket the day before at the Santa Lucia station which is directly inside Venice. Santa Lucia is one of two rail stations in the Veneto, the other being Venezia Mestre on the mainland. Santa Lucia is always bustling with activity at all times of the day. When I bought my ticket last night, I took careful note of the train schedule north to Conegliano so I knew when I had to get to the station. Santa Lucia has the standard ticket counter
where you can get your tickets or you can try the automated kiosks and purchase your ticket there. The automated kiosks are easy to operate, touch screens, accepting all major credit cards. You can also choose your language, Italian, English, French, German, Spainish. If there's one word of advice that I would offer here it's to be careful of individuals who "want to help" you figure out the machine. I did not encounter this in Venice but there were signs warning travelers to be careful when using the machines.
I have however encountered individuals who "offered" to help me out when I was traveling by train in Florence and Roma. In short, just be mindful of your surroundings no matter where you happen to be traveling and you'll be fine.
I'm a lot more comfortable traveling by train than ever before. I owe that confidence to the fact that I commute to work by train every day Monday thru Friday. Nevertheless, it's a really good idea to pay attention to all the announcements when traveling by train thru Italy. Train schedules change all the time, trains arriving on a different track then originally posted or a strike could
Enclosed courtyard by Hotel Tivoli
This courtyard is one of many routes you can take passing to and from Hotel Tivoli out into the city.
happen thereby disrupting travel everywhere. I've experienced each one of these traveling thru Italy, to me it's just part of the journey nothing more.
Santa Lucia is a well organized train station. At least I think so at any rate. Train schedules are posted everywhere, announcements are made 24/7 and if you've got a question you can generally get the answer you need in most cases. I got on the correct train but I admit that I experienced a momentary misgiving as I didn't see any notices by the track. I did note the departure time was the same as what was printed on my ticket so I just decided to go for it.
The train was not really crowded so I had no trouble finding a good seat by a window. I wanted to make sure I could see every bit of my surroundings as the train departed from Venice on it's way to Conegliano. The train I was on actually went further beyond Conegliano, I'm not sure exactly where though. All I know is that Conegliano came after Treviso and that's what I had to pay attention for. Riding by train to and from Venice is
an altogether different experience than taking the shuttle. The primary reason for that is that the windows on the shuttle bus are tinted so you can't see out. There are no such obstructions on the train and so you have a really awesome view of Venice as you pass over the Venetian Lagoon to the mainland.
On the mainland the first stop you'll make is Venezia Mestre railway station. I wasn't paying too much attention to what was going on in the train car, as I was looking out the window. At that moment I was interrupted by a gypsy woman holding a picture of a child in my face asking for money. It was right then that the conductor saw what was happening and very firmly told the woman to leave. The woman didn't argue and vanished into the next train car. I noticed that there were a few other gypsies on the train who'd gathered in between train cars and they were busily counting the money they'd gotten from travelers on the train.
This goes back to my earlier point about being mindful of your surroundings when traveling. I think it's fair to say that most
gypsies don't mean anyone bodily harm, all they want is your attention and thus your money. All the same, it's best to avoid encounters all together as you may end up in a situation you don't know how to get out of. When the train stopped in Mestre, I saw the woman who'd approached me for money get off the train. Suddenly, she looked directly up at me as the train began to move. I don't know what was going thru her mind but I saw her immediately get on another train most likely to continue soliciting money from travelers.
Conegliano is about an hour north of Venice by train so it's really not far at all if you think about it. Conegliano is actually pronounced "Conejan
" in the local dialect but I didn't know that immediately. When we passed thru Treviso and I heard the conductor say the next stop was "Conejan"
I had a momentary panic thinking I really had gotten on the wrong train. I knew that wasn't the case however so I relaxed and continued to take in the countryside from my window.
Here's some background on Conegliano in case you ever travel there.
Conegliano is truly a small town with a population of about 36,000. Conegliano is famed for many things, two of the most important ( to my mind) are it's wines, and Conegliano is also the birthplace of Cima da Conegliano who is a famous Italian Renaissance painter who lived from 1459 to 1517. Cima da Conegliano's work is famous throughout Italy and Europe. If you're staying in Venice, you can see Cima da Conegliano's art at the Gallerie dell' Accademia which is only a stone's throw from the Hotel Tivoli in Dorsoduro.
I heard the conductor make the final announcement that we were approaching Conegliano, as I looked out the window, I could see the train station approaching on the horizon. At last, the train came to a complete stop and I stepped off the train to find myself standing in Conegliano.
In the midst of that crowd I saw my friend Sam making his way over to me. I was greatly looking forward to seeing Sam again since my last visit to Venice. I've come to believe that there is no such thing as coincidences in life. All things happen for a reason in life and that
Birds at breakfast
This little guy flew right up on my table took a bit of pastry and sat down on the ground and started eating.
includes the people you meet. Out of these new associations, you have the opportunity to grow and also learn from others you meet.
Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
I know this to be true because I've experience this every time I travel. My friendship with Sam sprang began simply enough, an online language exchange in other words we were (and still are) pen pals. I remember on my first to trip to Venice, Sam came all the way down from Conegliano by train for lunch and to show me around. Sam only had the afternoon to hang out because he was leaving that same evening with friends to go to Ireland. I knew that Sam didn't have to take time out of his day but I've not forgotten it. That in my view is a true friend.
Sam took me thru the historical center and we began to climb slowly upward to a high hill. Conegliano
has it's own castle of which you can see the battlements and the tower from down below. There are two pathways up to the top, one steep, the other a very easy climb. Sam gave me my choice so of course, I took the higher road. The path that we took was a steep climb that lead upward in between the battlements. It was high noon already, the sun was shining overhead and it was starting to get hot. Arriving at the top of the hill, you have an unparalleled view of entire city and the surrounding countryside.
Not much remains of the castello at the summit but the actual bell tower. I did a little research and I discovered that the actual castello was built in the 10th century. The bell tower is now a small museum that overlooks Conegliano itself. Aside from the bell tower, the summit is home to many beautiful trees, flowers where there are many opportunities to just sit comfortably and simply take in the view. If you pass thru Congeliano, I recommend a trip to the castello, you won't be disappointed.
Sam took me to his house where I had the pleasure
of meeting his parents. Sam's mother made spaghetti alla carbonara from scratch, which for me was pretty awesome considering that the only time I eat spaghetti alla carbonara is out of a Stouffer's box. In short, there's no comparison, not at all. Sam's father makes homemade grappa. Not just that, Sam's father has many, many, different flavors of grappa. If you're not familiar with grappa, it's an alcoholic beverage that is distilled from what's left of grapes after making wine. I confess that I've no idea how long it takes to actually make grappa, but I happen to think it's delicious. A word to the wise. If you've never had grappa you sip it, don't slam it like a shot, trust me on this.
Shortly after we finished lunch, Sam's girlfriend Federica came over and the three of us took off together in Sam's car to Treviso.
There are more photos below