A Travellerspoint blog

Gondolas, gondolas.....

semi-overcast 20 °C
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Well all I can say is that Venice certainly floats our boat! We've experienced all the options, from water taxi,

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Vaporetti

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and of course the quintessential gondola ride.

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After emerging from Santa Lucia station (guess who was chuffed by that name?) into the film set that is The Canal Grande, we taxied over to our lodgings, the Palazzo Tiepoletto , pulling up to the water door (!)

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to be greeted by (yet another) Lucia, who handed over the keys and explained (in brisk Italian!!) where everything was before leaving us to soak up the incredible atmosphere of La Serenissima. The windows of our (surprisingly affordable) apartment provides a dress circle view of the busy Canal (think of St Kilda Road, but a lot wetter), with everything from the postman to hearses travelling via aqua.

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After settling in and unpacking, we hit the calli (laneways) and campi (squares) of our labyrinthine neighbourhood, San Polo, and tried not to get lost. Many little shops to keep the girls happy, selling everything from masks and jewellery to the ubiquitous antici murri (Murano glass). After dinner at a local ristorante, we retired to our beds, with the watery surroundings lapping us off to our dreams.

Yesterday after breakfast, we jumped onto the vaporetto (ferry) down to Piazza San Marco which, as expected, was chockablock with tourists. We passed by the Bridge of Sighs

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into the Piazza and took in the sights of the Campanile and of course the eponymous (and magnificent) church.

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We opted not to sit down for a drink at one of the local bars (we learnt our expensive lesson last time, didn't we Monique Mullins?!) but wandered further for gelati in a little campo. After further wanderings through the alleyways (not really caring if we got lost), Lucia was starting to get scratchy so we stopped for lunch. Clearly, hunger was the reason for her bad mood.

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We then sauntered over Rialto Bridge (which was also packed with shops and tourists)

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A few presents for the girls' school friends were purchased and we also lingered at a fantastic shop selling Venetian masks (I confess I even bought one).

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Eventually we found our way back to the apartment where we had a short rest before heading off again on the vaporetto to San Maria de Giglio for our twilight gondola ride.

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It lived up to the girls' expectations though I think L was a little disappointed that the gondolier didn't include Santa Lucia in his repertoire (my explanation that it was actually a Neapolitan song not Venetian went over her head). Afterwards we headed back for a dinner of pizza and pasta (washed down with a very nice local Valpolicella) at a charming ristorante close to our digs before collapsing into our beds to float into our watery Venetian dreams.

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Posted by Melbinman 01:31 Archived in Italy Tagged venice Comments (0)

Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

sunny 22 °C
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Verona is of course the setting for that most famous story of the two star crossed lovers. The city fathers obviously know how to make a few Euro out of this work of fiction by designating a particular balcony as 'Juliet's balcony'.

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Like the bridges in Paris, visiting romantics have attached love locks in the alcove below as well as scrawling soppy messages on the walls. A bit naff.

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We wandered further around the town yesterday and the ladies were pleased to happen upon Via Mazzini, full of fashion boutiques and the odd gelateria.

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A little more was added to the luggage load including (mea culpa) by your scribe, purchasing a tie and a short sleeve shirt (didn't expect it to be so warm, pleasantly surprised!). After exiting the shopping strip, we came into a big piazza containing Verona's Roman arena, dating back to the time of Christ. We grabbed a bite to eat at one of the many al fresco ristoranti in the square and then had a wander around with the girls showing off their ballet skills.

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On the way back to the apartment we grabbed some gelato which tasted as good as it looked.

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We returned tired but sated to our apartment to pack for the next leg of our Italian journey, to Venezia! I'm penning this from that very place but more on that tomorrow. By way of a taste, here is the view from our apartment, on the Grand Canal.

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Ciao from la Serenissima!?

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Posted by Melbinman 10:27 Archived in Italy Tagged venice verona Comments (0)

A tale of three cities

That would be Como, Milan & Verona!

sunny 23 °C
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We've certainly been on the move in the last couple of days. Yesterday we boarded the train at Como for the short hike to Milan where we opted for a short 'stopover'. We were all pretty tired and cranky by the time we hit the hotel so with stormy weather looming we opted to get takeaway Maccas (and, yes, it does taste exactly the same in Italy). We woke to a glorious sunny day and got into our short sleeve tops for the first time. As our train to Verona wasn't until the afternoon we caught a tram into Milan city centre (lovely old trams much like Melbourne's W class ones) to see the huge baroque Duomo.

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We ventured inside the massive cathedral to marvel at the towering vaulted interior supported by massive stone pillars. Thank goodness this amazing building was spared the ravages of WW2 bombs. The strong smell of incense from the Sunday mass taking place, as well as the spooky sight of the embalmed remains of two long dead cardinals, soon prompted the girls to head to the uscita. We then switched from God to Mammon as we discovered the equally huge Galleria Vittorio Emanuele adjoining the Duomo.

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Topped by a magnificent glass dome, the Galleria (known as 'Milan's living room' due to the number of locals wandering through), was full of all the expected swish boutiques such as Prada, Furla and Gucci.

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Although some window shopping took place, let the record show that B made no purchases whatsoever (Sunday is a day of retail rest as well, it seems!). After a light lunch at a cafe opposite the famous La Scala opera house

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we grabbed a cab to the centrale statzione for the train to Verona. They don't do things by half in Milan as the station itself was a huge stone edifice, erected in the Mussolini era, it appears.

The 90 minute Eurocity train trip passed some beautiful countryside including Lake Garda with distant views to the impressive snow-capped Alps. We lucked out with our apartment in Verona which is located in an old palace - Palazzo Maffei - right in the middle of a lively piazza in the old part of this beautiful walled Romanesque city. Here is the stunning view from our apartment window.

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The Sunday market was in full swing in Piazza Erbe including two acapella male choirs competing for the attention of the bustling crowd at both ends of the square. Our apartment is in the white building behind the statue of the Venetian lion (the Venetians having conquered the city in the 1400s).

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With the late afternoon sun beaming down, there was a fantastic atmosphere and you wouldn't be dead for quids as they say. With tummies rumbling, we sat down for an al fresco dinner to enjoy the passing piazza parade.

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I decided to try the local specialty, squid ink pasta, but Lucia didn't like the look of it.

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It was delicious, especially washed down with the local Pinot Grigio, also enjoyed by B.

Afterward we retired to 'our palazzo', to rest up for a full day of further exploration of this charming city.

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Posted by Melbinman 13:16 Archived in Italy Tagged verona duomo milan Comments (0)

Bella Bellagio!

rain 15 °C

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The day dawned a bit wetter & wilder than anticipated (another thunderstorm woke me in the middle of the night) but it was not enough to thwart our plans for a trip around Lake Como to Bellagio. After a big hotel breakfast to fuel our day, we umbrellaed our way down to the embarcadero to board the ferry for our 2 hour cruise (shades of Gilligan's Island: 'The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed...')! Actually it was a very pleasant journey, stopping at several unbelievably picturesque towns along the lake, with the imposing Italian/Swiss Alps looming large above them all.

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The many expensive Italianate (what else?) mansions dotting the shore confirmed that there's a lot of serious money in this part of the world.

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We had a jolly time onboard, with a group of Italian students being amazed that Australians spoke Inglese. Many mentions of 'Kangaroo'. By the time we approached Bellagio, the weather was starting to clear so after disembarking we grabbed some lunch at the chic Princess Restaurant, adorned with photos of Audrey Hepburn a la Breakfast at Tiffany's (suspect the proprietors were of the 'cheerful' persuasion!).

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We then engaged in a post-prandial meander up and down the winding alleyways of this beautiful town.

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Naturally this involved shopping, and with all the charming little shops dotting the landscape, the ladies were spoilt for choice. Lucia was on the lookout for a small leather wallet and here's a photo of B teaching her the ropes of negotiation with the (aptly named) negozianti (shopkeepers).

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She landed her prize as did Olivia who bought a pair of sparkly 'Italian flag' earrings to go with her recently pierced ears. Not to be outdone, B spied a nice handbag (no. 3) which made it back onto the boat to Como. As for me, I settled for a gelato ( I will leave my shopping to Florence and Rome I think).

We had planned to take the fast boat (hydrofoil) back but as the skies continued to clear into a lovely late afternoon we decided to take the leisurely route again as you really cannot rush the gorgeous vistas of Lake Como.

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Back in town we grabbed some pizza at a little ristorante and some more yummy gelati on the walk back to the hotel. Tomorrow we head off to Milan for a brief stopover before venturing east to Verona. Andiamo!

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Posted by Melbinman 14:16 Archived in Italy Tagged bellagio Comments (0)

Farewell to Old England forever...

(Well until we win Lotto anyway)

overcast 19 °C
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Well we're barely half way through our trip and already we've had to buy another suitcase to fit in our purchases. I say 'our' but of course my contribution to events has been minimal. Yesterday Olivia walked me up and down the length of Oxford street as she single handedly lifted the UK economy by several percentage points. I did manage to buy a shirt and get an expensive haircut in Carnaby St. (I knew I shouldn't have mentioned I was a lawyer).? After recovering from shopping Armageddon, we met up for dinner with Olivia's teacher Robin Nicolson and her partner Russell who had flown in from Italy that day . Olivia was particularly chuffed to catch up and was reassured that she couldn't get into too much trouble for wagging school if her teacher was guilty of the same thing!

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Afterwards we dropped into Hamleys, the famously huge toy store, where we saw HM Queen Elegobeth and made some further essential purchases of stuffed Beefeater Bears. ?

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Today it was up early to catch the flight from Heathrow to Milan. It was sad to leave the Old Dart but we were all excited to be heading off to Italia.

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It was quite a bit warmer on the continent and by the time our car arrived at Lake Como a thunderstorm had rolled in. After we had checked in at the Hotel Como and settled ourselves, the weather had cleared so we strolled down into town and joined in the 'passeggiata' with the rest of the denizens. The historic duomo and town square glistened after the rainstorm and made an imposing sight.

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After Lucia's 'wobbly meter' started to reach critical mass after a tiring day of travel ?, we made a quick dash back to the hotel for our first meal in Italy including the obligatory (yummy) gelato.

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The weather tomorrow looks kind for our day cruise on Lake Como to Bellagio, really looking forward to that.

Ciao for now!

Posted by Melbinman 12:59 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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