Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Italy, Part 1 - Venice

16 days : 5 flights : 800+ car miles : 6 bus trips : 5 train rides : 3 ferries : 7 cities : 2170 photos

Italy was Awesome!

Jeremy and I just returned from our vacation to Italy. The planning started much like it had last year. "How many days should we go for?" "10 should be good." "Maybe 12" "Okay, 14 at the most." "Yep, 16 sounds good." 16 it was.

Why 16? Well besides there being enough there to do for several years, I figured out that taking the trip over labor day and including the weekends on both sides, it would only cost me 9 vacation days on a 16 day trip. I liked that math.

We started the trip in Venice. Since the trip to Venice was tacked on at the end, we only had about one and a half days to spend there. Better some time than none, and we got to see and do almost everything we wanted.

After flying from Houston -> Chicago -> Dusseldorf -> Venice, we landed around noon the "next day." Surprisingly we even managed to keep ourselves up until 10pm that night, so we weren't too effected by jetlag. There are several ways to get onto the island of Venice, but for simplicity (and time savings) we chose to use the ATVO bus. The boat would have been nice, but it was fairly overcast when we landed and we were already tired of travel and just wanted to get to the hotel. The most important thing we learned about travel in Italy is to "stamp and validate." Whatever mode of transportation you are using, you almost always have to get a ticket and then stamp and validate it. I think this is because you can buy as many tickets as you want and just hold onto them until you are ready to use them. Then you have usually around an hour or more on that ticket once validated.

In Venice we stayed at the Carlton Capri Hotel. It was just on the other side of the canal from the train station and the bus terminal, and the walk across the island to Piazza San Marco was only about 30 minutes. It was nice because we didn't have to schlep our luggage across the island and over all the bridges. The hotel itself was also very nice and there was always a doorman. The room was small, but standard size for Venice, and the breakfast was actually quite wonderful. The only time on our trip when we had a hot breakfast. I would recommend staying here.

Our time in Venice was spent walking around and just enjoying the city. We had our first meal at a nice outdoor cafe on a small side street called Trattoria Pizzeria Antico Gafaro. The pizza was so delicious that we wound up going back there the next night for dinner. Both times I ordered a pizza with prosciutto and sweet corn. It was delicious. We also took the advice from a friend of ours and ordered the house wine mostly everywhere we went. It is always good and almost always the cheapest wine on the menu.

While Venice has a lot of beautiful "tourist sites" to visit, the most amazing part about Venice for me is just walking along the streets and allowing yourself to get lost. The island isn't that big and eventually you'll figure out where you are. We spent most of our day on Tuesday doing this. We also hopped on the water taxi and took it all the way down the Grand Canal. While doing this we listened to an audio guide by Rick Steves that we had downloaded (for free) before leaving for Italy.

As a side note here, I'll mention the Rick Steve's Italy Book as well as his free downloadable audio guides. These were great and we used them for everything from a tour of Venice, to Pompeii, to sites in Rome. They are perfect 45 minute tours and very informative. Did I mention they are free? Ah, at last, something to do in Italy that doesn't cost money. Oh wait, it did cost 6 Euro each to ride the water taxi. Damn.

Also in Venice we spent some time picking out our halloween costumes for this year, awing over Murano glass, listening to music at night in Piazza San Marco, taking pictures on the Rialto Bridge, and checking out the fresh fish market. Yea, that was interesting. We also took a gondola ride. Okay, well sort of. Since there are only a few bridges crossing the Grand Canal, there are several spots where you can take a traghetto (gondola) ride from one side to the other. The cost is only 0,50 Euros and it's only about 1 minute long. But it was pretty cool, and if you want to act like a local then you'd best stand, as only the tourists sit down. Plus, it is way cheaper than the 100 Euro real gondola rides.

After Venice it was time to head off to the Cinque Terre.

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