2006 Venice

Saturday 12th August

Andrew had decided that although we had an amazing party for my 50th birthday, we need a holiday too, as he usually takes me away for my birthday. We drove to Stansted to catch the 2.15pm flight to Treviso airport just outside Venice.

On arrival we found a coach which takes you almost all the way into Venice. We boarded and were driven as far as the Grand canal. On our map the hotel looked about 10 minutes walk, in reality we walked up and over several bridges before finding San Marco Calle, Goldoni, where the Hotel Bonvecchiati is, no mean feat with heavy suitcases.

We were about two minutes walk from San Marco Square at this hotel, nice & central.

We have room 229 en suite with a balcony. Check in accomplished we were shown to our room, where the bed is 2 singles, the chair is broken, the chest of drawers is locked, the safe won’t open and the bedside lamp doesn’t work. An hour or so later most of the problems are solved. We went downstairs & realized that it was persisting down, so opted to eat in the restaurant.

We sat in the conservatory dining room and had a really lovely meal and a most welcome bottle of wine. Watched the people with umbrellas walking over the bridge and up the road. It was reminiscent of the Ave Maria clip in Fantasia, I really enjoyed it.

We retired for the night and were lulled to sleep by the gondoliers singing. Just one cornetto, {sorry O Sole Mio…}

Sunday 13th August

We went down to the conservatory restaurant for breakfast, the sun was shining and it’s a beautiful morning. Went out to explore Venice, walked through San Marco Square which was all under scaffolding, we discovered later that there was a Pink Floyd concert here last night, most fed up that we missed it by not going out in the rain!

There were queues a mile long to go into the Doges Palace, so we walked down to the Grand canal and stopped at a cafe for an espresso, behind the Campanile Tower.

We strolled along the banks of the canal in the Castello region. Found a bronze statue lying in the water, she is called La Donna Partigiana and is a monument to the women who were killed fighting in world war II, we were lucky to see her as she is only visible at low tide.

A little farther on there was an amazing gondola statue in steel, could find no information on this, it hasn’t even a reference on the map. The Giardini gardens are behind it we wandered through them, on the other side is San Pietro Island, we stopped at a little cafe on via Garibaldi for wonderful artichoke and Parma ham pizzas before exploring further.

Went over several bridges, including the Rialto, where we wandered around the fruit and veg. market. Bought some figs and stopped for another coffee. Then walked into the Dorsoduro region and found the Chiesa San Moisé 1668, with the humpless camels, our guidebook calls it the ugliest church in the world, a bit harsh we thought.

We went past the Museum of Science and Art a lovely building with stunning windows, the gates were shut. Further on we crossed the famous wooden Accademia bridge, built in 1932 as a temporary bridge. The Accademia is a stunning building and houses the worlds largest collection of Venetian paintings. We ate at Ristorante Gianni sitting by the canal Della Giudecca in the Dorsoduro area, excellent pasta & wine. Afterwards we sauntered back to the hotel, a fair old walk, on the way we stopped to watch three men playing classical music on wine glasses, I recorded some of it, they sounded great. Time for a nightcap then to bed…

Monday 14th August

After breakfast, we set off by water taxi to the ferry that goes to the Lagoon Islands, as we decided to visit Murano and Burano today. I did some more video recording as we went down the Grande canal, I love water taxis, so much more fun than cars, and you get great views of all the old building as you travel. A lovely scenic crossing over to Murano, famous for it’s coloured glass. Murano is a very pretty island with a canal running up the centre of it, and lots of little bridges, so you can cross over every couple of minutes to view all the shops. From enormous chandeliers to tiny animals anything and everything in glass.

We had lunch in a little restaurant called Birreria by the canal, pasta and wine, both really good, before exploring further.

There’s a beautiful church the Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato at the top end of the island, part of it dating back to the 12th century. The stunning mosaic floor dates from 1140 and incorporates fragments of ancient glass, the new additions to this beautiful church were built in the 16th century.

Having exhausted all the tourist sites on Murano we proceeded back to the ferry to visit Burano. According to our book it takes about an hour to walk around Burano which is the island of lace, each lady has her own special stitch so it takes several of them to make each item. The Scuola dei Mereletti was founded in 1872 and still runs today, the local lace is extremely expensive as it is so painstakingly difficult to make. This is also a fishing community, and Burano’s other claim to fame is the brightly coloured houses, it’s a really picturesque little island.

The shops are full of gorgeous clothes, I really loved one lace skirt in particular, it was truly stunning, noticed that it was over €3,000 – so I put it back on the rack.

We stopped at a little bar for a drink, then meandered on around the island market, bought some cherries & local wine, a lovely relaxing day.

Later back in Venice we found an ancient little restaurant down a side street we ate excellent steak there. And so to bed……

Tuesday 15th August

Went to San Marco square nice & early, only the pigeons for company so I bought some seed and fed them. We booked tickets to visit the Doges Palace & Basilica tomorrow.

Boarded a water taxi down the Grand Canal to Tronchetto as we have booked a day out in the Dolomites today. Went passed the lovely Leonardo art gallery and the massive fish market, a fabulous building that looks as if it should be a theatre. There was no one to meet us when we got to Tronchetto, which just happens to be the furthermost point that water taxis go to, and is the industrial area. After a while we gave up and caught a bus back to central Venice as there is nothing doing here.

We headed for the Cannaregio region which has a Mexican restaurant Iguana, on the canal at Fondamenta della Sensa which we fancied for lunch. We’d not been to this area yet, and according to our guide book most tourists don’t come to this unspoilt area of Venice.

The Scuola Nova on Fondamenta di Misericordia is a grand old Gothic building.

The Madonna dell’Orto is a fabulous Gothic church and has a huge amount of works by Tinteretto on display, unfortunately it was closed, so we can’t see his paintings here, but there are some in the Doges Palace, will have to look out for them there instead. Wandering further we found the house where he lived at 3399, Fondamenta dei Mori.

We walked around the Campo dei Mori square, named after the statues of three Moors which are carved into it’s walls. Over the bridge is the Ghetto area where the Jews were made to live back in the fifteen hundreds, only a few Jewish families still choose to live here now.

We headed back to Fondamenta della Sensa and ate at Tofelis, an excellent little restaurant by the canal as the Mexican was closed.

It was a long walk back to the hotel, but another warm evening, so we sauntered back over the bridges, and stopped for dinner at Gianni and a nightcap along the way. Back at the hotel there was a message asking if we wanted to visit the Dolomites on Thursday instead as they had cancelled the trip for today and hadn’t managed to let us know on time.

Wednesday 16th August

It was time to join horrendous queues for our Doges Palace tour. We walked up to the Bridge of Sighs first and took some photos from the outside, we will be able to go inside it from the Doges Palace. The inside square of the Doges Palace is almost identical to the outside square of San Marco. We went up the Giants staircase, to the area where to Doges were crowned and on into the palace, then walked along the colonnade on the first floor. The ceilings of the palace are very ornate and quite beautiful, as are the lovely Gothic stained glass windows. We wandered through all the chambers of the palace, very ornate wooden carvings and the huge table for conferences of the Council of Ten.

In the sala del Maggior Consiglio we found Tintoretto’s Paradise, taking up a whole wall. On the third floor in the Collegiate rooms are his paintings of Bacchus and Ariadne crowned by Venus.

The sala dello Scudo has maps of the world covering every wall with two enormous globes in the centre.

Went down into the torture chamber, through very low tunnels and 16th century cells, where petty criminals were kept, and from where Casanova famously escaped in 1755.

Went into the Bridge of Sighs, an awful place to keep the prisoners as they could see all the people on the outside enjoying life whilst they rotted away in confinement. The window sills there are still covered in graffiti written by the convicts.

We walked down passed Teatro la Fenice to the pretty little square Campo San Stefano where there are lots of shops full of antiques, masks and plenty of little cafes. You can sit outside them and hear music from Palazzo Pisani. We opted for Lucky Corner and ordered wine for me and a beer for Andrew and a sandwich and some dolce. The waiter asked if Andrew would like large beer, when it arrived was the largest beer we’ve ever seen, about 2 litres in a huge tankard the height of a wine bottle.

Refreshed we sauntered on and crossed the Accademia bridge into the Dorsoduro region again as we had passed the Peggy Guggenheim museum the other day and wanted to visit it. This is in a building known as the Palazzo Nonfinito, originally planned to be a four story palace, it never got beyond the ground floor.

Peggy bought it in 1949 as her home, and it was eventually opened as a museum for her eclectic collection of modern art. The front garden has a throne and beautiful statues dotted around. The museum is modern and airy inside, we looked at all the exhibits then went to get a drink and sit out on the Grand canal side patio area. Halfway down the rather grand staircase to the terrace is a statue of a man with a huge erection, astride a horse it is called Angel of the City sculpted in 1948 by Angelo Marini. Apparently it still embarrasses unsuspecting visitors today.

We walked into Santa Croce region, which was roughly back towards the hotel, and found Capitan Uncino Taverna in a little square, musicians were playing, a little white church had bells chiming and it advertised the best seafood risotto in Venice. We sat outside in the sun and ordered the risotto, steak to follow and a beer each whilst we perused the wine list of about 250 bottles. The risotto was sublime, everything else was wonderful. We walked back over the Rialto Bridge to the hotel, time for bed…

Thursday 17th August

We left Bonvechiatti by 7.30am to get the water bus N82 from the Rialto Bridge to Tronchetto for 9am again. Miriam the tour guide did arrive after we’d sat drinking coffee awhile. We were introduced to a family of four who would do the tour with us. We all piled into Miriam’s people carrier and drove out of Venice, and across to the mainland.

We headed north to Cortina d’Ampezzo, the most exclusive skiing resort in Italy, where in 1956 the Winter Olympics were held. We parked up by Corso Italia the main street.

Cortina is a very picturesque village, looking more like something out of the Swiss Heidi books than Italy. There is a pretty white church and murals painted on some walls, yummy looking cake shops, too good to miss, so we went to sample one with a coffee. A copper globe sat in the middle of the square, beside the designer shops.

We met up with the others after an hours wander and continued to the mountains. Our next stop was at Lake Misurina where there is a lovely view of Monte Sorapiss and the Cadini group of mountains. We had lunch provided by Miriam of cheese & bread with tomatoes.

Andrew & I had a walk around part of the lake, watched the cable cars going up the mountain and would have gone up in one if we’d had time.

Miriam drove as far up the mountains as the road allows, then she pulled into a car park outside a lodge called Rifugio Auronzo, we went in for a hot drink.

We drove back down the mountain road to Torronzo dei Tadori where we saw the cute little red train that goes up the mountain track. The water here is bright green, at the Lago di Sorapiss apparently the colour comes from suspended powdered debris from shrinking glaciers on the north wall of Punta Sorapiss. There are supposed to be herds of chamois in the trees above the lake, unfortunately we didn’t see any. There is the bridge with the winged lions and a ravine and aqueduct. The ancient church is all that is left of the original town. We drove back to Venice where Miriam dropped us off at the bus station, we ate at Le Notti d’o Venezia in a little square near the Rialto Bridge, then made our way back to the hotel.

Friday 18th August

It rained most of the day, we went out for a wander around the local shops and ate lunch at Rialto Novo in a little side street. It was still persisting down so we ran back to the hotel to pack as we leave tomorrow.

We ate in the hotel in the evening as we didn’t fancy another soaking, watched the gondoliers go by from the conservatory restaurant.

Saturday 19th August

Went for a drink at the bar of the hotel La Fenice and sat outside under the Rialto bridge. We decided to eat at the Duemila restaurant on the opposite side, as it looks very nice and we’ve not eaten by the bridge yet. Risotto and pizza for our last meal as we are departing at 5.35pm from Treviso airport. Wandered back to San Marco square to feed the pigeons again, they are so sweet.

We checked out and caught a last water taxi to the bus station, then the coach back to the airport. The flight home followed, we dropped off the car and luggage and went down to Café Balti for dinner.