We had a wonderful time in Venice. The trip planning started in the spring of last year and I want to give a big “thank you’ to all the posters here who gave such valuable advice… This is my first trip report, sorry for the length. Here we go…
Day One – Travel
My trip of a lifetime was with my 2 good friends, Nancy and Sue. We started our trip in Pittsburgh. We said goodbye to our luggage and waited for the flight to JFK at 1 pm. Arrived at JFK about 2:30 and checked in at the Delta Sky Club lounge for $25 pp – for our 5 hour wait. We had drinks and snacks and enjoyed people watching from the lounge. They started boarding the plane about 6:45 pm. And the flight left more or less on time at 7.45 pm. We had our dinner then settled in for the overnight flight – not much sleep by Sue and me, but Nancy relaxed in her Ambien induced slumber.
Day Two – VENICE - Saturday March 30, 2013
We arrived in Venice close to 9:30am. Picked up the luggage, looked around the airport for an ATM and found one near the baggage claim area. I tried to get ACTV tickets from the machines but they wouldn’t take any of our cards so we went to the ACTV desk and each bought a 3 day vaporetto pass for 35 EU. Found the water taxi desk and got our taxi and dock number (we had reserved the taxi in advance at a small discount) and headed to the walkway toward the dock. It was an easy 10 minutes walk to the docks. We each had one suitcase and one carry on. The gentleman at the water taxi desk was very kind and had called Kimberly (the landlord) to tell her we were on the way. It was drizzling rain a bit so we sat in the cabin until we got to the Grand Canal. The driver was very nice, told us where we were, pointed out landmarks and names of buildings and palaces (promptly forgotten) as we cruised the Grand Canal and under the Rialto Bridge. We took the water taxi to the landing dock closest to our apartment, where Kimberly met us and showed us the way to Corte Gregolini and our home for the next three nights.
Calle Gregolini is just off the main thoroughfare of Calle Dei Fabbri, but very quiet. The courtyard looks like it must have looked hundreds of years ago; there is an ancient well in the center. I found the listing on VRBO. The 2 bedroom apartment is beautiful. The large window by the dining table is right on a small canal and the gondoliers go past every few minutes with their passengers. We spent a lot of time watching the gondolas go by, rain or shine. It was very funny to have the passengers taking photos of us and we took photos of them. Sue and I have single beds and Nancy has a double. We both have en suite bathrooms. Bonus, we are on the main floor. There is a patio and even a washer/dryer. We settled up with Kimberly, unpacked and walked over to the Rialto Bridge, then across and to the produce and fish markets. By noon, it had started to rain harder. We roamed around for a while, trying to get our bearings then we stopped for a late lunch in the San Polo district at the Osteria Vivaldi. We ordered 2 pizzas and red wine to share and it was delicious. After our meal, we made our way to the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari Church, paid our fee (3 EU) and walked through the church; we were able to take photos with no flash. The church was filled with gorgeous paintings. There was no restroom so I crossed the square to Caffe dei Frari, ordered a 1 EU coffee and used the bathroom upstairs. Culture shock. The first experience with the ceramic hole in the floor!
We were all very wet by now so we walked back to the apartment, put what we could in the clothes dryer then Nancy and I changed into dry shoes and went in search of the grocery store Kimberly told us about, “Supermercato Punto”. It was near Campo Manin and we didn’t get too lost at all. The advice about having a good map is priceless. Nancy bought rain boots at a square nearby for 12 EU, they were selling for 20 EU on Calle Dei Fabbri. At the store we bought coffee, salami, cheese, water and what looked like OJ but turned out to be grapefruit juice. After our snack back at the aprtment, we walked to the Gelato Fantasy store on the Calle de Fabbri, just at the end of the block. We then walked to San Marco Square. It was dark by then and still wet so not very many people were out. The square is a 10 minute walk from the apartment, if that. Clocks turn back one hour in Italy tonight and we were starting to feel the jet lag so we went to bed a bit early.
Day Three – VENICE – Sunday March 31, 2013
Easter Sunday. It’s still overcast and a bit rainy. We went to San Marco Basillica for the 9 am mass but got there about ½ hour early so we stood around toward the back and watched the end of the 8 am mass. The church was brilliantly lit up for Mass, all the gold mosaics were just beautiful. Of course, the mass was in Italian, but we followed along. There were not very many people for the 8 am mass but considerably more for the 9 am. Still, not as many as I thought there would be. After mass, we headed back to the apartment to warm up a bit. We had reserved the 10:55 am Secret Itineraries of the Doges Palace Tour and got there 15 minutes early. It was so nice to walk right past everyone in line. :) The tour took about an hour and ½ and was very interesting and the Palace is stunning. The tour took us through rooms and dungeons that are not included in the regular admission; we walked across the Bridge of Sighs also. When we exited the Palace, the square was now filled with people and the sky was clearing up. Sue headed back to the apartment to regroup, Nancy and I took a side trip to Hard Rock café so she could buy T-shirts.
Met up with Sue and we walked to the Rialto vaporetto stop and got on the first boat headed toward the train station. We wondered how long the trip would take – to be ready for Tuesday when we take the train to Florence. Got off at the train station and figured out the vaporetto schedule. The sun has come out and it is a beautiful day. We hopped back on the boat – headed in the other direction, towards San Marco this time. We got off at the S. Marculoa stop for the Casino and walked over to check it out. They wanted 10 Eu just to go in so we left there and wandered around. We ended up on the Strada Nuova. We were far away from the crowds at San Marco and it is so pretty here. Lots of shops :) By this time we were hungry so we looked for an interesting place to eat. We went into La Maddalena Restaurant. I had lasagna for my Easter meal and it was the most delicious lasagna I have ever had. Nancy had pasta and clams, Sue had pasta with seafood. Of course, we had wine.
We continued our walk on the Strada Nuova and saw Magdelene Church then found our way to the Ca D’Oro boat stop and hopped back on. Cruising up and down the Grand Canal… I could do it all day. We got off the boat and found our way to Campo San Barnaba, where we did some shopping around the square. I found a darling toy shop and bought some gifts for my grandchildren. We got back on the vaporetto and passed the beautiful Santa Maria della Salute Church and then passed the island where the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore is. I took some beautiful photos. We got off the boat near San Marco and looked at artists and all the people on the Riva Schiavoni then walked to San Zaccaria church. We made our way back to San Marco Square, window shopping and people watching and taking pictures. It seems we always end up at San Marco Square. By then it was almost 7:30 and we went back to the apartment. We ate our cheese and salami for dinner. Later we stepped out for a walk up and down the Calle dei Fabbri to San Marco Square and had more gelato at a different place, which I can't remember the name of...
Day Four – VENICE – Monday, April 1, 2013
We walked to San Marco Square (again!) to catch the vaporetto to the other side of Venice – to the Fondamente Nova stop then on to Murano. The boat passed the cemetery island of San Michele. Got off at Murano (Colonna stop) and didn’t know which way to turn so we walked left – This is where all of the factories are and we stopped for a private glass blowing demo for 3 Eu. It was fascinating and worth the small fee. Then we went into the showroom – such beautiful glass art! There was no sales pressure here. We walked a bit farther, to a few more showrooms, then made our way back to the boat stop. I stopped back at the first place and bought a beautiful glass bowl from the Guarnieri Vetreria Gallery that had caught my eye. They packaged it to twice it’s size and assured me I could toss it from the window and it will not break. I’ll need to buy a new carry on bag to fit it inside! We had a quick sandwich at an outside café across from the vaporetto stop as it was almost 11:30 and we had not yet eaten that day. We then walked to the right and came across the main street of Murano. We walked the length of the main street stopping to shop and look and made our way to the Faro boat stop to catch the ferry to Burano. This time, the boat was very crowded.
We got to Burano about 1:30. It is so lovely! The houses are all brightly painted. Everything is clean and every corner was a photo opportunity. We went into one of the lace shops we came across and made some purchases then strolled up and down the streets. Each one was prettier than the next. We went into Bar Caffe Palmisano for a bathroom stop, got a table and had cannoli and wine. Walked around town for a while longer then took the boat back to the Fond. Nova stop in Venice. I took lots of pictures in Burano. It had turned cloudy again but they still show just how beautiful this island is.
We decided to walk back home from the F. Nova stop, past the hospital (and boat ambulances!) to the church of Sts Giovanni e’ Paolo. We passed Santa Maria Formosa church and made our way back (again) to San Marco Square. Got back to the apartment about 6:30. We headed out to dinner at 7:30. We found a nice place, Al Vaporetto Trattoria. Sue and I liked our meals but Nancy’s came with unsuspected peas and she didn’t like it. About 9:30 pm we went back home to pack up for the train to Florence tomorrow. I’m sure I had gelato again today, but I can’t remember when
Day Five – FLORENCE – April 2, 2013
We made the trek through the streets with our luggage. Due to a wrong turn, we ended up having to haul our suitcases up and down 3 bridges instead of one! Got on the vaporetto for the last time at the Rialto stop and off at the train station. We are pros with the vaporetto now The 3 day pass was a good value for us. It was only 9:15 or so we looked for a place for breakfast and found the cafeteria Brek that I had read about. We all had a nice, inexpensive breakfast with delicious coffee and pastry and walked back to the station to catch our 10:25 am train to Florence. No troubles at the station, we found our track, train, car and seat with no issues, everything is clearly marked. We stowed our luggage and settled in for the 2 hour ride.
I had dreamed about going to Venice for years and the city is as magical as I had hoped it would prove to be. We did a lot of planning and researching and I wondered if the trip would live up to my expectations. It did and more. My only regret is that we did not have time to stay longer.