Italy Tour Days 5, 6 and 7

Day 5           Florence to Venice via Verona             Sunny and very hot

 Today, we travelled up and through the Apennine Mountains and through some very picturesque agricultural countryside.  We like the way Italians build roads – when you come to a hill, go through it!  We were surprised at the number and length of the tunnels that we drove through. 

Our coach is very comfortable, with plenty of leg room, reclining seat backs, tray tables and air conditioning, with individual air vents.  Aida has a system where each day we rotate our seat positions by moving 5 seats in a clockwise direction.  This means that everyone gets a turn at the front and the back – very fair system!  Our luggage is delivered to and collected from our rooms on the days that we are travelling so there is no lifting of suitcases for us to worry about.

When we got to Verona, the medieval setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, we walked through the narrow streets to see Juliet’s balcony and to take photos to record our visit.  There is a statue of Juliet there that is supposedly lucky if you rub her “chest”, so we have a photo of Richard doing that!

We were given lots of free time to have a walk through the very clean and charming market square – we walked past the Verona Arena to the square.  We bought a sandwich and sat in the lovely little park to eat it and soak up the atmosphere.

We arrived in Venice late in the afternoon – the bus dropped us a short distance from our hotel as he wasn’t able to come any further because of the canals.  Our suitcases were delivered by boat, and we walked the short distance along the canals and over several little bridges to our hotel, the Hotel Carlton and Grand Canal, which is on the Grand Canal.

We couldn’t believe that we were actually walking along the canals in Venice!

After checking in to the hotel, we went for a short stroll to check out the area, had a cuppa and met the rest of the group at 5.45 where we were taken to an area where Globus had organised Gondola rides for us all.  There were 6 of us in each gondola and e spent almost an hour gliding through centuries-old canals, being serenaded as we went under famous bridges, past lavish palaces and quaint piazzas.

After that wonderful experience, we caught private water taxis and were taken for a Venetian Night Out in a lovely restaurant for a tasty four course meal with local wine – Richard has discovered the local red wine and had one or several!!!

After dinner, Aida took us for a walk through the back streets, ending up at St Mark’s Square, where we were delighted to find several musical groups entertaining both the paying customers and lots of people who were just happy to stand and listen.

One group would play and when they we were finished a few pieces and stopped for a break, the group outside the next restaurant would start and this continued around the square for some time.

After a lovely evening, we met Aida and were taken home to our hotel in water taxis.

 Day 6                    Venice                             HOT and HUMID

 At 8.00am we were collected by private boat and taken for a lovely ride through the canals to the waterfront, just past St Mark’s Square.  We met our local guide for a tour of the Doge’s Palace (the Doge was elected by the people, like a president or prime minister), which was an impressive building.

From there we went through a secret passage, across the Bridge of Sighs to the prison cells.  The Bridge of Sighs is so named because, as the prisoners were being led across the bridge, they were able to catch their last glimpse of Venice, knowing that they wouldn’t ever get to see it again, and so they sighed….. so the story goes!

From there we went to see a demonstration of glassblowing, a dying art.  We were impressed with how easy the glassblower made it look and how quickly he produced a jug.  Richard bought Sandy some Murano earrings and necklace as a souvenir of their visit to Venice.

The group dispersed to do their own thing and we  went up into the belltower, where we had a magnificent view over the whole of Venice, approximately 7 square kilometres, and also over St Mark’s Square , itself.  The bell in the clock opposite has two figures that strike the bell at 9am, 12noon, 6pm and 12midnight (see photos in the gallery).

We met up with the rest of the group and Aida took us to our private boat for a cruise past the islands of San Giorgio, Santa Elena and Lido to the picturesque fishing village of Burano, which is famous for its lace and pastel coloured houses.  We had a lovely lunch in an air conditioned restaurant – it was very, very hot and muggy outside!

After lunch, we had plenty of time to stroll through the many lace shops, where we made some purchases, before heading back to the boat for our ¾ hour trip back to Venice.  Aida then organised for us to take a the bus (water bus) back to our hotel – it stopped across the canal, so we only needed to walk a short distance alongside the Grand Canal, and over two bridges before we were home at the hotel.

After a much needed shower, we downloaded our photos and did our blog before getting packed and organised to leave Venice tomorrow morning to head back to Rome.

We have really enjoyed our first visit to Venice.  It is such an unusual place, having canals instead of streets – it is such a different way of life.  History and culture seemed to come to life with an entirely new perspective – like so many of the places we have been fortunate to visit, the things that we have previously learnt about, have come to life with a vitality and beauty that is really difficult to put into words.

 Day 7           Venice to Rome                         Hot

 We were up early and went for a walk along the canal in the strange misty, foggy morning, and came back in time to see our suitcases being loaded onto a little open boat to be taken along the canals to the bus.  Richard was able to get a great photo of the little boat shrouded in mist and our suitcases balanced seemingly precariously. We also saw a delivery boat and a green garbage boat – very interesting!

Today was a long day as it was time to make our way from Venice back to Rome, some 570 kilometres, mainly along the Autostrada, retracing our steps from Venice to the outskirts of Florence through the fog and then down to Rome. The drive through the Tuscany region was beautiful, with its mountains and fertile farming areas, including Aida’s favourite sunflowers. We stopped for a morning tea/comfort stop and then again for lunch, arriving in Rome at about 3.30.

We have come back to the Albani Hotel (the same one we stayed at last weekend) and were pleased that they have given us a much nicer room on the other side of the hotel from where we were last time.  Our room has a private balcony overlooking the park and is very modern with mauve walls, lime green carpet, bright floral curtains, white bedspread, tiled bathroom with panels in different bright colours – orange, mauve and blue.  It sounds revolting, but is very nice!

We had a shower, did some washing and then got “tarted up” for our Farewell Dinner.  We were taken in the coach to a restaurant in the centre of Rome, where a room had been set up for our tour group.  We sat with a lovely couple from Canada – John and Rosemary, who we seem to have a connection with, and Tom and Laurel, who are also lovely. 

We had a delicious five course meal, traditional Italian style.  Richard has been so impressed with the food as you can see by the photos and Sandy has managed to eat some of the courses as they made them especially without garlic.  There was a more than ample supply of red wine, which Richard has consumed at meal times, and has also taken a liking to the Italian beer, Nastro Azzurro, which he drinks at other times. Sandy won a bottle of bubbly by getting the answer correct to a question asked by the proprietor of all of us. Richard thought his luck had changed when he saw a reasonable sized coffee cup heading his way, thinking that he was going to get more than just two mouthfuls, as per the Italian Espresso way, but alas, the cup was only ¼ full and he had his usual two mouthfuls of black, sweet coffee!

We had a young couple, Chris and Sarah, on their honeymoon, and they shouted each table to a bottle of bubbly. We were entertained by a local flautist, Maurizio Orefice.  All the girls headed off to the ladies and took their cameras with them!  The ladies bathroom had lots of fresh flowers. At the end of the night, the proprietor came around and gave all the ladies a fresh red rose – maybe just so that he could kiss us all !!!

After dinner, Rafaelle and Aida took us for a drive in the coach, to see Rome by night – absolutely beautiful.  Rafaelle was even able to stop at St Peter’s square and the avid photographers were able to get off the bus for a few quick photos.

On returning to the hotel, we met up with some of the group for a goodnight drink in the bar.  We were able to say goodbye to a lovely family, with Italian background, Franco and Franka and their two delightful teenagers, Elisa and Anthony.  (Sandy told Franka the story of her sister, Maria’s friends, Frank and Frances!) We also met a lovely couple from the United States, Janet (!) and Phil.

We met so many lovely people on this tour – too many to mention here in this blog.

As most people will be checking out at various times tomorrow morning, starting from 5.00am, we said most of our goodbyes tonight.  We have an extra two nights in Rome for more adventures.

One Response to “Italy Tour Days 5, 6 and 7”

  1. Janet says:

    Some of those bridges look familiar 🙂 Oh and by the way, Dad touching Juliette’s ‘chest’ will mean that he will find himself a new love – bad luck Mum 🙂 See you soon.

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