Off to Medalena near Ferrara to Chris & Shelagh’s new pad, a wonderful house with lovely grounds and a pool.
Chris was back in the UK for a few days so Shelagh greeted us as we arrived. The sun was shining so we headed into Port Garibaldi for lunch and a walk around - a nice relaxing way to start to get to know the area. We also went to the local national park where there were flamingos aplenty on the water.
Next day we were to pick up Chris from Bologna airport and on the way went into Ferrara as the 1000 Miglia - the most famous car rally in Italy - happened to be using the town as a stop before heading on that evening
Led in by Ferraris of various ages paying tribute to the race ( as well as being a place to show off their cars) they were followed by Mercedes and Alfa Romeos before the main attractions rolled into town. Comprising of car types that had raced in the original races it was a great spectacle and we had a great spot to watch the cars in the town centre. A
perfect time for us to be there. Then we picked Chris up and went back.
Bologna itself was only an hour or so away so the four of us went into Bologna to do a walking tour with an American tour guide ( he lived there) he took us around the town explaining all as well as making a few things up we think - but fun.
On Friday we met up in Ferrara with Linda and John Walsh. (Linda is a textile artist who Sue has exhibited with over the years). It was great to catch up with them as they were heading further south in Italy for a few months.
After they left we wandered the town and gatecrashed a private event with an artist exhibition opening with her art set to music. A lovely setting in one of those hidden courtyards with four saxophonists playing.
Next day off to Florence for the weekend with Shelagh and Chris. As we had booked a walking tour for later we split up for the afternoon. Sue and I went in to La Palazzi Vecchio and saw an art exhibition which was great not only for the
work but the superb setting. After which we walked up to Michelangelo’s Square to look over the city and get absolutely drenched as the heavens opened yet again.
We met up with Chris and Shelagh at 5pm and walked the town with our local guide who seemed very knowledgeable if a tad earnest - then dinner and a swift beer at the craft beer bar just across the road from our Airbnb- result.
The Saturday was all about wandering the city and hitting the tourist spots and church’s including Santa Croce, which was magnificent and held the tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo and Dante. The frescoes and chapels were amazing.
The church itself looks onto the Piazza Santa Croce, which is the site of the annual soccer game in medieval costume, the Calcio Storico Fiorentino. Check it out it is a cross between Hurley, boxing, wrestling and football - ouch!
Of course we also walked across Ponte Vecchio and sampled the Gelato.
Our last walking tour was outside the city walls with an entertaining guide called Francisco. We looked back over the town and walked around the towns outer walls and battlements which apparently Michelangelo designed,
before walking through an art college and stopping at an outside bar where we had a plastic cup of cheap red wine and others in our party had the local delicacy spread on bread - tripe. He also explained the presence of so many pictures of Mary around the town. Apparently they were today’s equivalent of security cameras ie God is watching so be good!
By this time it was throwing it down and we still had to head to the restaurant the guide had booked, a terrific and obviously local family run restaurant called Trattoria Buzzino. Francisco ordered lots of local starters to share & then the four of us had the steak florentine, well you have to in Florence! A great place away from the tourist traps.
Then back to the train station to head back. Unfortunately the trains were up the spout and we managed to miss the last one from Ferrara so had to grab a taxi for 50 euros.
A few days later Sue and I headed into Venice as the Biennale had just opened and we were picking up our friend Rosi at Venice airport that night. The exhibitions at the
Arsenale and the Giardale were very varied and it was by far the largest art expo I have ever experienced. https://www.labiennale.org/en/art/2019
So many exhibits, it is impossible to comment on them other than I really liked the Russia house and when visiting the
GB house we were told it was ‘closed for cleaning’ so I said we might be back in two years! Outside of that there are hundreds of fringe exhibitors which you just stumble across, some in palaces, around Venice.
We picked up Rosi at the airport slightly late as Sue’s google calendar had adjusted the time by an hour!
The following day we picked up Jack, Ella and Anna who Shelagh had kindly invited out for Sues birthday. They brought with them some lovely weather so we had a BBQ by the pool & ended up playing games around the fire pit, a fun evening.
On Sue’s birthday the 8 of us went into Ferrara and hired bikes to ride the walls and out to the river Po for a picnic - a lovely day followed by a wonderful birthday meal at Euforia just 50 yards from Shelagh’s house.
The weather was being
kind to us while the children were here and next day we went to lido de spina - a long stretch of sandy beach for the morning and early afternoon before Jack , Ella, Anna and I went into Ferrara and found the oldest wine bar in the world - Al Brindisi.
That evening we dug out 3 bottles of Prosecco we had bought on the Prosecco Road and had a tasting before dinner - followed by a quiz where we all had to ask 5 questions each. The jury is still out on one of the questions, Rosi!
Next day Rosi and the kids flew back to the UK and the rain came back! It was great that Rosi & the kids could join us for the long weekend. A huge thank you to Chris & Shelagh.
You may recall when we were in Perth we met with Rob and Jacquie who we had travelled with in Peru. As luck would have it they were in Italy on a biking tour and were staying an hour away from us so we picked them both up before heading into Padua.
Two terrific cathedrals in Padua the
del Duomo and Basilica Di Sant Antonio. We’d like to visit Padua again but with better weather.
Tuesday was our last full day with Chris and Shelagh and as the weather was good we went into Commachio, a small town on the coast, with canals, which made it feel like Venice but without the crowds. A lovely lunch and walk ensued before heading back.
Our last few days without Chris and Shelagh involved meeting up with Rob and Jacquie once more and staying overnight in Venice which was most enjoyable after the day trippers left the city.
Our tour guide in the rain in Venice was very good and took us to many places away from the main crowds including the Church of san panteleone which houses the largest canvas painting anywhere by Paulo Veronese. It took him from the age of 24 - 44 to paint and it was the first church ceiling painted on canvas. To this day it is not known how he got it to stick to ceiling.
I would recommend the tours - https://www.freevenicecitytour.com/free-walking-tour-venice/
He also mentioned that picnics were illegal in Venice and they weren’t allowed wooden pizza ovens because of
the fire risk, so other Italians consider them to have the worst pizzas in Italy.
Vivaldi strangely was also considered to be a pornographer as his music wasn’t church related and the only time the aristocracy could go to his concerts was during the Venice festival while everyone wore masks masks.
After saying goodbye to Rob and Jacquie we spent our last day in Venice wandering and avoiding crowds where possible. A boat ride brought us to San Giorgio Maggiore a terrific Church setting for the work of Sean Scully, an Irish artist. We also stumbled across the newest Banksy which was created at the beginning of the Biennale- apparently he was also selling his work anonymously in the middle of St Marks Square before being moved on by the police!
The Acqua Alto bookshop is also worth a visit with it’s gondola full of books and walls of books outside in the rain.
Back to Shelagh’s for our last couple of days where Olivia and her friends Hannah and Ruby were now also staying for the weekend & enjoying the house & pool.
And next off to Cinque Terre for something completely different
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