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Published: October 16th 2016
VeniceDay 259 Monday 3rd October 2016 – Piran to Trieste
Plink, plink, plink, “Whats that noise?” must be the fridge, but it keeps going and then I think there was a flash of light in the room so I get up and look out the window just as a huge fork of lightening streaks across the sky and I see that it is pouring rain outside and the sound had been rain against the window. Look at the clock and see that it is 5am and that the alarm was set for 5.15 and we need to walk 15 minutes to the bus station – damn. Laid back in bed for that last 15 minutes watching the lightening and then got up and started to pack. By some miracle by the time we had to walk out of the apartment at 6.15am the rain had stopped but the lightening continued.
The bus station doesn’t have much shelter and in fact if we had of been there in the middle of the storm we would have got drenched. Stood around with others with our fingers crossed that the rain didn’t return and just as
it was starting to sprinkle our bus arrived. The distance from Piran to Trieste is 35 kilometres and should have taken about 30 minutes but our bus was doing a milk run and it took 90 minutes with him stopping at every bus stop along the way. The rain held off for most of the trip till we arrived at our destination and it then started up again so we were forced to take shelter in the bus terminal for nearly an hour. At the first sign of it easing we took off for our 20 minute walk to our new home, and despite the rain it was a nice walk till just before the hotel we had to clamber up 4 flights of stairs. Been really lucky with the last few hotels in getting early check ins but not with this one and we were told we could leave our bags there and return at 2pm.
The hotel is located close to all the main sites in town and the area looks really lovely but today it was still drizzling a bit and the wind picked up to a minor gale, so it wasn’t exactly pleasant.
Found a café to take shelter for a bit and had a late breakfast and a coffee and then pressed on with some more site seeing but the wind was so strong and cold that we were soon looking for another café. Had a long slow coke till the sun started coming out and headed down to the main plaza for some people watching till it finally turned to 2pm and we could go back to our hotel and get our room.
Had another long walk around town before settling at a café for a drink as the sun set. Beer is expensive here, but maybe it is just that we have been travelling where beer is cheap and it is now a rude shock. Most locals seem to drink Wine or Aperol Spritz and this is what we will probably need to switch too. The wind made an unwelcome return as it got darker which made it very unpleasant sitting outside so we headed off for a feed. Always feel guilty having pizza when we travel to other countries when we should be eating the local dishes but of course tonight being in Italy didn’t need
Grand Canal at night
to worry so pigged out on a great pizza. Day 260 Tuesday 4th October 2016 – Trieste
The bed in our hotel is divine so it was easy to sleep in till 8.30. Just knew that most things would open late here so no need to be galloping out the door at daybreak. We are staying in a renovated old home and the place doesn’t have a kitchen so for breakfast they sent us down the road to a café with a voucher. Got an “Italian breakfast” that consisted of a small glass of Pineapple juice, a great coffee and one croissant. Not a lot to it but it was all good quality.
After our feed we headed up the hill to the main tourist site in town which is the Cathedral of San Giusto and the town fort behind. The Cathedral was built in the 6th
century on top of a Roman Gateway, which you can still see evidence of. The original Cathedral was 2 basilicas that were destroyed, rebuilt and then joined and is an intriguing mish mash of styles and architecture. Would not call
Nibblies you get with your drinks - and I have already eaten one of the sandwiches
the building stunning or beautiful but it was incredible for all the bits of history including parts of the original Roman mosaic flooring. Adjoining the Cathedral were the sad remains of a Roman Forum and behind that an imposing Fort that had great views of Trieste from the roof.
Wandered back down the hill to check out the Roman theatre that seems so weird sitting in the centre of a busy town alongside noisy traffic. Walked further down the road to the train station to pick up our onward tickets for tomorrow. As expected the lineup for tickets was huge and it wasn’t moving but there was an automated machine next to the line which we decided to give a go. Had just seen two other locals try the machine and give up in frustration but we didn’t have a problem although it was a bit slow. Got our train tickets for tomorrow and got out of there while the others were still standing there waiting. Had another long walk around the town photographing all the great Art Nouveau buildings, stopping for a drink at a café and grasping the vibe that we are now in Italy.
Palazzo del Governo
The town is in the process of a sailing festival at the moment called Barcolana, with a huge performance stage built in the main square and lots of stalls all over the place. Unfortunately for us the music and festival stuff doesn’t really happen till after we leave.
Had a short break back at home and then went back to the bar we drank at yesterday afternoon. Today I stuck with a beer but Shelley went the Italian way and had an Aperol Spritz. The waitress was so nice and with each round she would give us more and more food, started with a bowl of chips and Pretzels, second round came with an additional bowl of olives and gherkins and the final round we got a club sandwich each. We had to leave before we ended up with a complete leg of lamb and a cheese cake. The drinks are expensive but all the food was completely complimentary so in ways it works out okay.
After all the complimentary food we were not exactly hungry but just shared a pizza before heading home for an early night. The temperature is not freezing (like
Grand Canal looking out to sea
Tasmania) but the wind is strong and it is not exactly pleasant to be walking around after dark. Tomorrow we are off to a city that is legendary for its history, location, architecture and unfortunately its hordes of thousands of tourists – Venice. Day 261 Wednesday 5th October 2016 – Trieste to Venice
Wow we sure struggled out of bed this morning. Our train wasn’t till 12.15 but we had to leave the hotel by 10, so we hung in our room as long as we could. Put on our backpacks and did the 20 minute march down to the train station where we had to sit and wait. Picked up our tickets yesterday but before we got onboard had to validate the tickets which is basically just punching our tickets into a machine that puts a time and date on it – if you don’t you can be hit with a heavy fine.
The train was modern and new but not a lot of leg room, there was plenty of room for our backpacks in overhead racks. The train ride was only 2 hours
Ancient Roman Arch built into the side of a building as seen from our room
and we had plenty of stops along the way, the scenery was nothing spectacular but I did enjoy going past the shipyards at Monfalcone and seeing the huge ocean liners being built. Not staying in Venice as such as we just couldn’t afford it but staying on the mainland in the suburb known as Marghera, so we got off at the Venezia Mestre Train Station. Walked to our hotel which is the Vienna Hotel and must say this is no Ritz but the best we can do on our budget. Went for a walk around the local area and it is typical suburbia, and a bit rough around the edges and doesn’t feel like Italy at all. Got a beer at a café before looking for an early dinner. Generally, we only eat breakfast and dinner and skip lunch, or maybe we might have an afternoon coffee or beer and snack but today we were both hungry so an early dinner seemed right and of course we just couldn’t get it. Discovered that no one does an early dinner or late lunch with most places only opening at 8pm for food. Walked for miles till we ended up on the
other side of the train station and got an expensive small roll at a bar, before heading home. Enquired at the hotel and was told of a restaurant that opened in ten minutes at 6.00pm – damn!! Chilled in our room for an hour till I realised that small roll wasn’t enough to fill me so we headed up and tucked into some pasta. Both meals today came with a cover charge, which we didn’t get in Trieste so we are thinking that it is a kind of tourist/sucker tax for Venice. Day 262 Thursday 6th October 2016 – Venice
We are in Venice and we are both keen to get stuck into this town so we were up early and out the door as quick as we could. Walked down to our train station and picked up our tickets to Venice St Lucia train station, from the automatic machines at the station. Just cannot believe how slow the whole process is and takes a good 2 to 3 minutes to print out a large ticket that allowed us to travel the ten minutes to the next station. There are
about a dozen machines at the train station and queues of people at each one because the machines are so slow. Saint Lucia is a dead end and every train that goes there has to pass and most (but not all) stop at Mestre, which is our station so that means you have a train every few minutes.
As stated the queuing and buying the ticket took longer than the journey and it felt incredible once we got to Venice Saint Lucia and to walk out of the train station and look onto the chaos that is the Grand Canal. Ferries, water taxis, barges and of course Gondolas were going in all directions and cannot believe that none are crashing into each other. Only got two days here so we figured we wanted to see a few of the top sights and ended up buying a “Venice Card” that would give us free entry into the things we wanted to see. Did the sums and figured we would break even on what we wanted to see and a bonus on anything else. Today we decided to just walk down to St Mark’s Square and see the “numero
Venice - St Marks Basilica
St Marks Square from the roof
uno” sites and anything else along the way and tomorrow travel out to Murano Island.
The walk from the train station to Piazza San Marco takes 50 minutes and is fairly easy and hard to get lost as there are signs along the way and just have to follow the crowds who are all generally heading in the same direction. The closer you get to St Marks the heavier the crowds get and as some of the lanes are very narrow it can be a bit of a crush at times. Nearly the entire walk is lined with restaurants which are fairly expensive and souvenir shops most of which are reasonably priced. The real joy of walking through Venice is steering off this tourist trail and ducking down some laneway and discovering a small plaza or church or maybe a lovely canal bridge.
Eventually we reached St Mark’s Square and despite all the crowds it is still an instant “wow”, and takes a long time to absorb the beauty and enormity of it. Decided to just head into the Doge’s Palace and start checking out the history. The Doge’s Palace was where the Venetian
Doge (leader) and the rest of the Venetian Power base stayed and ruled over their empire for 1,100 years (697-1797). Not a big fan of the Venetian empire or the doge and will never forgive them for the sacking of Constantinople in 1204 – no one holds a grudge like me, so sort of felt like I was walking into an utterly evil place. Thankfully the shear gaudiness and over the top ugliness of it had me in stitches, sure it was the fashion of the day, but really guys what were you thinking!!
From here we wandered next door to look over the Basilica – Wow. This place is a huge mish mash of styles and again we could laugh at its gaudiness, but, you know I think we actually really love the place. Paid extra to go on the roof and look through the museum where they have the original four bronze horses that were stolen from Constantinople in 1204 (bastards), and had to laugh at the description on them where they said they didn’t know where they came from – a thief never admits his crime even after 800 years. The basilica was a
real highlight for me.
In the corner of the square was the Correr museum which was a collection of historic artifacts and art over two floors in a large building. Must admit that nothing here was overly spectacular and endless paintings of Mary and the baby Jesus just about had me bleeding from the eyes, except they were done so badly we couldn’t stop laughing.
It was late afternoon so we started slowing walking back to the station stopping at lots of churches on the way – oh joy. Finally got back to the train station and stopped at a bar to have a beer and a spritz as we watched the sunset over the chaos of the Grand Canal. It had been a fantastic day, with Michele reliving her visit here 30 years ago and with me seeing it for the first time. Finally got a train home and a feed at the restaurant down the road. Day 263 Friday 7th October 2016 – Venice
Had such a great day yesterday that it was a pleasure to be up early again
and running out the door as quick as we could. At the train station we not only had to get tickets to St Lucia for today but also tickets to Florence for tomorrow, decided to buy them at a counter instead of a machine and lost 30 minutes of my life I will never get back – buying train tickets can be a frustrating procedure here.
Finally got our tickets and our train and were standing at the Grand Canal once again. Today rather than crossing it we wanted to cruise it. Needed to get a ferry to the Island of Murano and discovered to our shock that return tickets cost 15 Euros each. Then had to join a human scrum to get onto the wharf and after a 30 minute wait get onto an overcrowded boat. Despite the hassle it was fabulous to be out on the water and after cruising the grand canal we hit the open waters of the Venice Lagoon and onto Murano Island.
Michele wanted to see this island as it is the centre of glass production in Venice and of course where all the Murano glass comes from
Grand Canal late in the afternoon
(except for the tonnes of fake stuff). There is a small but neat museum on the island that houses some of the more unusual glass pieces like real sized crickets, beetles, butterflies and bees made from glass. The real gem in the museum are the videos showing how they make the more incredible pieces. The rest of the island is taken over with cafes, workshops and souvenir shops and because the tourist numbers are slightly less than the main island it is a bit more pleasant to be walking around.
We grabbed a ferry back to the train station and managed to get a seat on the stern and had a great ride back even though we got a bit wet as the high speed water taxis roared past in the choppy waters. Back on dry land and we once again headed back down to St Mark’s square visiting more churches along the way and wishing we could mix it up with a synagogue, mosque or Satanic palace. The pick of the churches was the Franciscan Basilica which even impressed me, with its huge memorial altars. One of the altars depicted one of the doges sitting on
a pedestal supported by black slaves wearing rags – truth in advertising I guess.
Stopped at a café on a smaller square for a couple of drinks and soaked up the incredible atmosphere before making it down to St Mark’s square. Crowds today were slightly higher today, and we did notice two liners parked in the port so this maybe why, but still felt it was at a level that we could cope with. It was now almost 6pm so we took a slow walk back to the station going via a different random route, and surprisingly enough didn’t get lost or need to use the GPS along the way. At the train station we were hit with utter chaos as most trains had been cancelled or delayed for up to an hour. Everyone including us were running from one platform to another (there are 20 in total) trying to find the next train that would be leaving and finally boarded one that took off after sitting idle for 15 minutes. Slow trip back as the ten minute journey took 30 minutes with lots of stops – something is wrong with Italian rail today. Got a feed
at the same restaurant down the road and because this is our third night we were treated like royalty. Venice has been an absolute joy, and in some ways we wished we had more time here but in other ways it is nice to see it and go before perhaps the charm can wear off.
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