We proceeded swiftly through the terminal on to immigration. All 51 of us passed through with no problems then gathered in baggage claim.
After arriving in Milan we boarded Salvatore's bus which took us to Treviso by way of Verona.
Because of the restrictive rules about taking buses into Italian cities Salvatore had to drop us off just outside the touristy part of town. We spent about two hours checking out the old buildings and trying to cool off in air conditioned shops. There seemed to be a lot of very well-dressed locals wandering the streets. Everything seemed so expensive no matter where we looked.
That night we stayed at the Hotel Oasi in Treviso. A very nice, clean hotel. Too bad they didn't turn on the a/c until the next day.
For dinner we walked down the street to the Spaghetti Club for a great pasta dinner. The single beer I had at dinner plus my jetlag put me right to sleep despite the heat and humidity in my room.
My wife and I met thirty-five years ago when we both worked for the airlines. We got out of the business when deregulation "ruined" it. Now she takes me with her students on her educational trips abroad.
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Forty-Five minutes later...still waitingEveryone had plenty of time to freshen-up in the restsrooms as we waited and waited for our luggage to arrive. Meanwhile I could imagine the always punctual Jurgen waiting for us just outside the customs area door.
Of course when the baggage finally did start to come out on th belt ours was the very last to arrive (First on, last off). That's what we get for getting to the airport so early.
The tour beginsJurgen was all smiles when we met up outside the baggage claim. He quickly got us all on the bus and headed toward our first stop in Verona. He didn't shut-up for the first hour of the trip telling us all about what we would see and do, what to watch out for and a little bit about himself. He had us all cracking up from the minute we got on the bus. He's done enough trips to know that it was important to keep us all awake the first day so that we would be truly sleepy at bedtime. Little did he realize just how much this group could sleep.
We were lucky enough to get a nice air-conditioned bus with tinted windows. It was stifling outside but we were quite comfortable inside.
This photo shows a dam over the Adda River (a tributary of the more renowned Po)
A virtual parking lotJust as Jurgen was winding down we started slowing down. Then we stopped completely. Traffic was at a standstill. This is when we got our first glimpse at the skills of our driver, Salvatore. Somehow he got our huge bus through the traffic and off at the next exit. He found a road paralleling the Autostrada. After maybe 15 minutes of driving, checking his GPS and jabbering on his cell phone all at the same time, he brought us back on the A4 somewhere past Bergamo. As we entered the highway we could see a two car accident blocking the road. All the drivers stuck behind it were out of their cars yakking on their cell phones or conversing with the other drivers.
Our first stopHaving been on a couple of these motor coach tours in the past I knew that European driving laws mandated that bus drivers have to take a 15 minute break every 2-3 hours of driving. I eagerly awaited our first stop. I was getting a bit peckish.
Soon enough we pulled into one of the omnipresent Autogrills found along the highway. Inside are extremely clean toilets, very good food, cold drinks and some pretty nice souvenirs. I picked up a bag of Bounty candy bars, a nice big bottle of Orange Fanta and a bag of chips. A healthy Italian lunch. Foolishly I passed up buying some of the salamis, pepperonis and cheeses sold in the little grocery section. I assumed I'd get a chance later in the trip.
VeronaWe would be spending our first night just outside Venice clear on the opposite side of Northern Italy but first we would make a quick visit to Verona.
Downtown VeronaJust inside the old town wall is the pedestrian-only zone of old Verona. The city is best remembered as the setting for Romeo and Juliet but it offers much more. This part of town has some of the best gelato and graniti (Italian Slurpee) stands in Italy. With temperatures in the mid 90's we would be needing a lot of these.
The famous Juliet balconyThis is the major tourist sight in town. Even though there is absolutely no proof that this balcony had anything at all to do with Romeo and Juliet (it's actually believed to be part of an old bordello) all the tourists flock here to take photos and rub the chest of Juliet's statue down below it.
The winged lion of St. MarkI feel I know quite a bit about American and English history but I know very little about Italy's. I was surprised to learn that the mighty City-State of Venice once ruled Verona. This Renaissance building features the symbol of the rulers of Venice, the winged lion of St. Mark.
The best of ItalyFor months before our departure Gail and I talked about all the gelato we were going to sample on this trip. When we saw this huge Gelateria with over 50 flavors we had to make a pit stop. Gail got a coffee flavored single dip while I got my favorite, Nutella.
The Roman Coliseum of VeronaVerona's most impressive sight and its most genuine one is the huge Roman amphitheater sitting in the middle of the town. It's in better shape than the more famous Coliseum in Rome. It is still used today for Operas and concerts. The giant head is a prop being brought in for "Aida".
Overnight in TrevisoWe weren't lucky enough to get hotel accomodations in Venice most likely because of the expense. In the past EF has put us up in Lido de Jesolo on the Adriatic Coast. It's a bustling shore town with a good bit of night life that normally keeps the kids occupied. But at the last minute EF changed our reservations and booked us into the Hotel Oasi in Treviso. Once we got the a/c going it turned out to be a nice comfortable hotel. Dinner was at the Spaghetti Club just up the street and it was wonderful. It was our first chance to sit down and meet some of the people in our tour group. The guy in this picture is Jim Aspros. He became a legend on this trip. I've never met anyone who had more fun on a vacation than this guy. That day in Verona Jim had tried to withdraw money using his AAA credit card he had purchased just for the trip. When he couldn't get money out of any machines he discovered that he had an expired credit card. He spent most of the day trying to straighten things out. With it being the weekend his problems continued through the next two days. It never dampened his enthusiasm.