Hello from Italy – our home for the next six weeks! We have waited a long time to visit here again.
July 1-5 – Venice
Venice (or Venezi in Italian) was our first stop on our tour of Italy. Venice is in northeastern part of the country, spanning on a group of 118 small islands, separated by canals and linked by bridges. The city and lagoon are listed as a World Heritage Site.
We didn’t stay right in the Venice, but in a great Airbnb apartment in Treviso, a neighbouring suburb. Treviso is renowned for its production of Prosecco wine (yummy!) and is also where Tiramisu was created. What a delightful combination! It was also home to some seemingly wealthy and well dressed people. Fantastic people watching here! Funny to see some of the women in lovely dresses and heels, hop onto their bicycles and pedal away. Lots of highend shopping; restaurants and cafes around every corner. We really enjoyed our stay in Treviso – it was nice and quiet to come home to after fighting the crowds in Venice.
Venice was a 30 minute train ride from Treviso so it was an easy commute. We spent two days exploring this fascinating city.
Part of the charm of Venice is that it seems to be floating, but the city was actually built on ancient wooden piling. 10 million tree trunks (think forest) were sunk into the marsh 100’s of years ago and are still protected by the mud. Hard to believe that is what the city sits on!
Climate change is causing sea levels to rise in Venice which are threatening the stone work under the city. Areas around Piazza San Marco can flood even during normal high tide but severe high tides can cover almost the entire city and have been cause for evacuation. Venice is not only sinking at a rate of up to two millimeters per year, it is also tilting a bit – about a millimeter or two eastward per year.
Piazza San Marco – very busy city:
The Grand Canal starts in a lagoon near the train station where we arrived and makes a large, reverse S-shape through the districts and ending near Piazza San Marco. It is 3,800m long, 30–90m wide, and five meters deep.
The Grand Canal has some MAJOR water traffic on it! Boats, water buses, water taxis and gondolas cruised and filled the water. Small but powerful waves and salt caused by heavy traffic, speeding boats and cruise ships in the lagoon are also contributing to the erosion on the stone and brick work Venice is built on. Yikes!
There are three or four bridges major bridges that cross the main canal for the heavy foot traffic and many smaller ones throughout the city. It was easy to get lost in Venice, which we love to do. Except when it is for a long time. And it’s hot. Then Joe the Navigator spends time reading maps and Italian street signs. :0
This is Marzipan!
When in Venice, one cannot miss the opportunity to sail down the tiny canals in a gondola. Two hundred years ago 10,000 gondolas in Venice were the only source of transportation. Today there are 500; used only for tourists.
We wanted to stay clear of the actual Grand Canal so we went in search of a gondolier in the ‘burbs’.
Giovanni was kind of old (Joe’s age, tee hee) and crabby and barked some historical information as we sailed:
Giovanni had been a gondelier for 33 years; perhaps a year or two, too many.
At an average of 3-4 fares a day and 80€ for 30 minutes, seemed like it was good money. We took his snarkiness in stride and we were glad to have such an experienced operator on the tight corners, under low bridges and two way, narrow canals.
It was peaceful, romantic and riding the small, quiet canals was a highlight of our Venice experience!
We also travelled by ferry for 45 minutes to the island of Murano.
Passed the garbage men:
The famous Murano glass has been produced here for centuries. It dawned on me that I have a few Morano glass Pandora charms! Maybe these are early Pandora? Lol
Murano is a destination for tourists and for art and jewellery lovers alike. We toured the glass museum:
Venice was a great city to explore!! Thanks to our new Aussie friends Sue and Paul that gave us the lowdown on what to see and do here!
Joe wanted to mention a few famous Venicians:
Marco Polo – explored Asia in the 13th/14th centuries and inspired Columbus’ explorations with his travel book.
Casanova – Giacomo Casanova was an 18th century Venetian con-man and womanizer.
Veronica Franco – Venice was well-known for its hedonism (Carnival was perfect for illicit meetings between masked strangers), and the most famous Venetian courtesan was Veronica Franco. This explains all the masks for sale….
Antonio Vivaldi – This composer was born in Venice in 1678.
July 5-10 – Lake Como
Como, a northern Italy city near a border of Switzerland, is a lively, scenic place at the southern end of Lake Como; opening up to a gorgeous, villa-rimmed basin.
(I just noticed every city on this map ends with ‘O’ or ‘A.)
Como is more urban than the smaller and more, picturesque Lake Como resorts. For the first time ever, our Airbnb host picked us up at the train station! It was funny to see my name on a sign.
The charming historical centre was typical with pavement cafes, little squares and quiet lanes. We never tire of Old Towns; each one is unique.
Duomo is Como’s impressive cathedral which was built and added to over several centuries. Inside were some very beautiful tapestries, unusual in a cathedral.
The funicular connects the city of Como with the village of Brunate up high in Lombardy; you can barely make it out in this pic:
The line has operated since 1894, and is used by both tourists and local residents.
The funicular goes up 1,084 metres (very high!) with extensive views over the lake and city. And gorgeous villas!
Happy Hour in Como means great free appies too!
We were hit and miss on restaurants here. Some good, some bad, and some were clearly not enthralled with tourists. We had a fantastic dinner at one restaurant that made up for all the rest. We shall describe for you foodies:
Marinated salmon in a beetroot crust with beet and turnip slices:
Poached egg on bed of spinach, asparagus, chanterelles mushrooms, Parmesan foam, and black truffle sauce:
Dessert: Strawberry cheesecake and lemon tart:
The highlight of our stay in Como is when we took the ‘slow ferry’ to the resort town of Bellagio. The hazy morning gave us two hours of non-stop, gorgeous scenery.
Every ferry stop was beautiful. Clusters of villas filled tiny alcoves or large villas span across mountain faces for miles.
The haze had cleared on the trip home so we were able to marvel at both sides of the lake.
Somewhere here, George Clooney and his wife spent the 4th of July in their villa – they are so lucky!
Bellagio is a small village between the two southern branches of Lake Como. This elegant tourist resort has lots of charm even with the daily influx of us tourists. The historic village of Bellagio only has a population of around 200, compared to 900 beds for tourists.
Rick Steves was here so we had to stop for lunch:
This wine store had a wine tasting machine. Insert your €’s and help yourself to some samples:
With lovely views within the walls, boutiques, picturesque lanes, and a choice of restaurants and bars, we could see why Bellagio is one of Italy’s top holiday destinations.
This would be a great base to explore other neighbouring villages of Lake Como. For us, Bellagio was a wonderful place to spend the afternoon. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous…
The heatwave in Italy has been very trying. I have never done well in high temperatures; the heat tends to suck the energy right out of me. So it has been surprising that Joe is suffering the most.
We look for any form of shade, drink lots of water but still have to limit our time outdoors. Even after 8 or 9pm, it was still 30-35c and with no AC in restaurants, it is quite uncomfortable dining outside. The Italians seems to be climatized, either that or they have all had their sweat glands removed.
July 10th we move on to the Cinque Terre; five tiny fishing villages on the Italian Riviera, linked together by trains and trails. This one has been on our bucket list for many years and we are really looking forward to it.
Take care and see you soon!
Paula and Joe