Day 1 & 2 (Thursday, Oct 17/Friday, Oct 18)
Lufthansa! I can’t stop saying it. In case you don’t know, that is the name of the airline we took to Frankfort Germany and then on to Venice. The plane we rode over the ocean was the biggest plane I’ve ever seen.
I’m happy to report that the trip to meet the bus and the flights so far have been uneventful. I had a window seat and there was no one in the middle! I was also able to get to know someone who is in our group. She was a wonderful lady!
Spoke too soon! Just found out there is an air traffic controllers strike in Italy. We need to wait about 15 minutes to find out more! Oh dear….I think this is a hiccup! 🙂
After an hour delay we were able to board the plane. The whole waiting area cheered! We flew over the Alps and it was gorgeous! Once we got our luggage we took a “5 minute” walk to ride a Water Taxi (known in other circles as a speed boat). There were 11 of us riding in the bowels of the speed boat. The hotel is what I would picture as a boarding house. Val and I each have a twin bed. I’m curious to see how we will both get ready in the morning. However, our room overlooks the street and off in the distance we have a view of the water. Evidently we are an easy walk away from the beach (the Adriatic Sea). I will need to put my hands in the water!
Tonight we had a welcome reception with our tour director and a dinner with everyone in our group. It was delicioso! Photos to follow!
Seems like we’ve been awake for 2 days…..wait….we have! More tomorrow!
Update on the “boarding house” comment….turns out we were the only ones that had a room like we did. Others had normal size showers, etc.
Early today the thought came to my mind “Mel and Val’s Italian Adventure”! This thought came to my mind as Val was showering and I heard her exclaim “Oh no, Oh no”! Turns out our 2 foot square shower with about a 1 inch lip all around was not draining (aka flooding!) So we managed to get a shower by using the water intermittently combined with using the sink conveniently inches away. Then I was challenged by the converter/adapter making us late for starting the day. I hate being late.
I said a few times during the day “Val….we are in Venice!” She finally asked me how many times I was going to say that. I told her until we get to Florence!
Anyway, we rode a water bus to another part of Venice. Our hotel is on Lido and and we spent the day in and around Piazza S. Marco or St Marks Square. We went to Doge’s Palace and had our very own tour guide named Carlo. After we lost one of our group members, we visited a glass blowing demonstration and store. More importantly we were able to use the toilet. We were welcome to visit it any time but did I mention it was about four flights of stairs up! We walked around for the rest of the day and enjoyed a nice dinner with Aunt Jeanie and Uncle Johnny and 2 other couple.
Day 4 (Sunday, October 20)
Today is a free day for us. The group is visiting 2 islands. We enjoyed a nice breakfast at the hotel. We all slept better having adjusted to the time difference. The street outside is quite noisy. During the night we were awakened by a hollering man in the street. I really wanted to get up to see what was going on but I didn’t .
We walked to the beach then had lunch….Caprese and Cappacino. How much more Italian can you get! We were in a beautiful little cafe so I was surprised when a pigeon came wandering in. He was eating cheese off the floor where the guy was making the pizza. We were giggling thinking the guy would be shocked but he just kicked him out of the way. Must happen all the time! An interesting fact about Italy. There is a cover charge at some restaurants. It’s to cover the cost of the table clothes, flatware, etc. This particular restaurant is $2.00 each! Trouble is I don’t know how you would know in advance. Honestly I forgot to ask.
I forgot to mention that our shower was fixed! So many things we take for granted. I am realizing how spoiled I am!
Tomorrow is an early day as we head to Florence. Our bags have to be outside our room at 6:15 a.m. in the morning (inside joke). So it’s off to bed for me!
Day 5 (Monday, October 21)
After our last breakfast in Venice, we boarded a water taxi to the mainland to board a bus. Our journey to Florence was foggy but there were breaks in the clouds as we crossed the Appeninne Mountains. The view was outstanding. We got our lunch at a local market and need to go back when we have more time. Then we had a guided tour to the Duomo in the center of Florence. The church we saw was amazing. It was a lot of walking. We finished off the afternoon viewing a leather making demo. They also taught us how to distinquish what is genuine leather versus the fake. The group then had a dinner at a Florence restaurant. I finally got internet connection and plan to update this tomorrow! It was great to finally talk to Bob. The internet connection is slow so actual Face Time didn’t work but we were able to talk a few minutes using “voice” only.
Day 6 (Tuesday, October 22)
Today was another “free” day for us. We have a few more free days because we didn’t buy all the optional excursions. We went to the Academy of Fine Arts (Gallaria dell ‘Accademia) where the statue of “David” is displayed. There were other exhibits of course. I have to confess that I don’t get the whole “art” thing. I like things of beauty but just don’t get the symbolism and allegory that the artist was “thinking” (if he/she even was!). Perhaps it’s just pretty. Anyway, I digress!
We then walked around and found some lunch. Today was one of those days that we planned the next meal during the other. Dinner was at a restaurant called “Za Za Trattoria”. It was wonderful! We were told about it before the trip and it was only about 1 1/2 blocks away.
Tomorrow we go to Pisa! We are both very excited and I should have more to update on tomorrow.
Day 7 (Wednesday, October 23)
Pisa! We had a nice breakfast before heading to Pisa where we visited the famed Leaning Tower as well as the adjacent cathedral and Baptistry. It was a quick visit but very neat to be there. One of the things about Italy is the limited number of toilet facilities. Today was the first time I actually had to pay. It was either that or buy something in a bar/cafe. Our Tour Director treated us to a little train to take from the bus to the entrance. What stood out to us was the assertiveness and abundance of street vendors selling junk on the sidewalk made in China. Even though it would be hard to have too many cheap plastic leaning tower mugs and umbrellas, I resisted! In fact, it got to the point that I offered my black IBM umbrella for sale to them! (Sorry, Bob). But he didn’t buy it so all is well.
I haven’t said much about the food but it is amazing here. This afternoon has been spent just hanging out, taking a nap, reading, etc. We plan to go back to Za Za tonight since the rest of the group is going on another excursion dinner.
Another awesome dinner. Val and I split a prosciutto and melon appetizer, I got fettuccine with creamy walnut sauce and a homemade custard with caramel topping for dessert (with a cappuccino of course).
Off to Rome tomorrow with a stop in Orvieto.
I was awakened a couple of nights ago by an odd siren. I got up and said “Oh great” thinking it was a fire alarm. I was ready to get dressed and trying to figure out what to take. Val said, “It’s an emergency vehicle outside.” The funny things was she doesn’t remember any of it!
Info on Photos
I will upload photos (or set up something else) once I’m home and have a reliable internet connection (and technical support!!!).
Day 8 (Thursday, October 24th)
We said goodbye to Florence and boarded a bus to Rome. On the way we stopped in Orviet0. Unfortunately it rained really hard most of the day. I was so excited to see the countryside but it was quite foggy and dreary. The rain did subside while we were up in the town of Orvieto.
To get to Orvieto, you have to take a funicular, which is really like a tram that goes up the side of the mountian. Then you squish into a bus to go to the town itself. Our tour director was very adamant about squooshing onto the bus. They only have a couple that run so it could take a while for all of us to catch buses if we weren’t assertive. It all worked out. We enjoyed pizza with 2 new friends and walked around a good bit.
Then we got back on the bus to complete the journey to Rome. We checked into our hotel. I am happy to report that we have a full tub with a shower in it! Woo!! We still don’t have AC and we are on the street so rest will be intermitent. But we don’t leave tomorrow until 9:15 a.m. in the morning so that will allow us to sleep in a little longer.
Our dinner was fantastic again! We had an antipasto of bruscetta, fried olives, what looked like mozzarella sticks but had mashed potatoes in them and salad. The we had lasagna and tiramisu for dessert. I’m sad to report that I forgot to take pictures! I think we are pretty tired.
One of the things I have enjoyed about this trip is meeting some wonderful people that are part of our group. It feels like I met them weeks ago!
Day 9 (Friday, October 25th)
Imperial Rome! Today we started with a driving tour that took us to the Colosseum. We were told that the real name is the Amphitheater. We had a wonderful tour guide again. This is another one of those things that you’ve seen in pictures but the pictures don’t do it justice. It was so neat to be there. It was also humbling to realize that many Christians were martyred in this arena, most of them eaten by wild animals. There was a cross at the entrance to the seating area giving us a reminder of what they suffered.
On the way there our tour guide told us that in Rome the traffic signs were just suggestions. I was so grateful to be on a bus. Many times on this trip I had to stop looking down at the traffic because other vehicles were so close.
At the conclusion of this tour we opted not to take the bus back to the hotel but to explore some of the sites that were closer to where we were. Val ended up guiding 10 of us through the streets of Rome and did a great job!
We had lunch in a little trattoria. Another thing that is unusual here is that restaurant employees stand outside on the street and recruit customers. In Venice they even gave us their business card!
From there we went to a church where St. Peter’s chains were supposed to be. For me it was a great place to sit a spell. Then we went to the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. Both were stunning and I’m so glad we went. From there we went to the metro station and took that back to the hotel. It was an experience all on it’s own! We’ve been warned again and again about pickpockets and evidently they are especially bad there. But we have learned that the main thing is to be smart and alert. We did a ton of walking today (and every day really) and I really felt it that night.
After we rested a while and freshened up, a group of us went out to dinner at a restaurant near the hotel. It was quite nice. Our waiter gave us each a complementary limoncello and it was quite entertaining to watch the expressions on peoples faces. It was very strong and very tart. However, since it was a gift we felt like we better not insult them so we made the best of it. HA HA
Day 10 (Saturday, October 26th)
Today we went to the Vatican City which is really it’s own country. Thankfully we got there early because, as we found out on the bus on the way, today was Family Day at the Vatican! There was this huge line of people waiting to get in. Oh. My. Word. There were SO many people. There was one point when I just wanted to flee and go wait in the bus. But I got to see St. Peter’s Church and the Sistine Chapel. It was amazing to actually be there and experience all of that in person. Our tour guide group up in the area and she says that what she regrets is that she doesn’t have the element of surprise as you enter the church. She seen it all her life and sees it every time she gives a tour. Again, she was fantastic.
I think I was still worn out after yesterday so gladly went back to the hotel to rest a bit after the tour. The weather was perfect today. After we rested, we walked around a bit and I found a really pretty Venetian glass necklace and earrings set that will be my keepsake from the trip. When I got back to the hotel and showed them off, they wanted to go back so I “escorted” 4 ladies back to that store.
Dinner tonight was wonderful again. Val and I shared appetizers of bruschetta and zucchini flowers. I got a homemade fettuccine with mushrooms. Then I got apple strudel which doesn’t sound especially Italian but was good nonetheless. Don’t you know we got another limoncello! This wasn’t as much and not nearly as strong.
Tonight we have to turn our clocks back an hour. As if we aren’t messed up enough as far as the time goes!
Day 11 (Sunday, October 27th)
Today we visited Pompeii. We left the hotel around 7:45 after our buffet breakfast at the hotel. Once again as we drove the weather wasn’t great for seeing the scenery. There was not much traffic in Rome at that time on a Sunday morning. One of the things I enjoyed about this trip was having our tour director, Misia, telling us the history of the places we went through or visited. Today was no exception.
We stopped at a small hotel/restaurant on the outskirts of Pompeii. The surrouding area was very depressed looking. The meal was traditional for that area. We started with bruschetta. The next course was gnocchi with tomato sauce. Then we had lemon chicken and a small salad. I wish I could remember the name of the dessert but it was a pastry that was deep fried stuffed with a ricotta type filling.
After our rather large lunch, we met our tour guide at the Pompeii excavation site. His name was Marco. We did a 2 hour tour and only saw about 5% of what was there. I had no idea that the destruction of this area occurred in 79 AD. I really enjoyed the tour.
We ran into traffic on our way back to Rome when about 5 lanes at a toll booth went down to 2 lanes. Val and I got pizza at a cafe on the corner. It wasn’t the best but the waiter was quite entertaining. He acted a bit like Mr. Bean in the movie Rat Race.
Once we got back to the hotel we packed up our stuff to leave in the middle of the night. I’ll explain in the next post.
Day 12 (Monday, October 28th)
Departure Day. We had to meet the bus to the airport at 3:00 a.m. for a 6:10 a.m. flight out of Rome. Needless to say we got very little sleep. I even got up around 12:30 a.m. to take a video of all the noise being made on the street below. A trash truck was dumping stuff right below our window. The windows were open the whole time we were away to get air because they are required to shut down the AC on Sepember 30th.
Once we got to the airport and checked in we were so excited to get some coffee. However, nothing was open that early. To top that off, there was no toilet paper to be had in all of the airport. I even asked a man coming out of the mens room if he had any! Talk about deperate, right?
The 2 hour flight to Frankfort Germany went fine and then we waited about 4 more hours to board the plane to Dulles. While there, we got a text that our sister Lauren was going in for a C section. While on the plane we found out we had a new niece!
So, after 2 plane rides, a bus ride and a car ride, we arrived safely at our parents house for a nice meal and bed! I still haven’t reovered. Once I do I will try to summarize my thoughts for the trip as a whole. I will also upload some photos (with the help of my live-in IT guy).
Until then, arrivederci!