I know, I know. This blog has been mostly neglected since our trip to Barcelona and Valencia for Las Fallas in 2011. I’ve been mostly on Facebook as it is a great place to consolidate. You can find me over there at facebook.com/baldheretic. I may not add you as a friend, but you are welcome to subscribe to my public updates which feature my photography and travel updates as well as the occasional funny cat picture. If I actually know you I’ll likely add you as a friend over there.
That being said, it’s time for another trip! Woo-hoo!
This time we’re back to Italy.
For those of you who have been paying attention for any length of time, you may recall that we were there in 2005 as part of our trip across Europe that included Amsterdam, Brugge, Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome.
That was our second major overseas trip and our first non-English speaking country to visit. It was also when I was just getting started in Photography so the pictures were somewhat primitive.
Three things that make this upcoming trip VERY exciting for me.
The first is the fact that we’re going to focus just on Venice, Italy and Rome. On the last trip we were pretty exhausted by the time we hit Florence and by the time we got to Rome I had lost most of my enthusiasm for the trip due to fatigue. This time around we’ll be in great shape and be able to really give Italy the full attention it deserves.
The second is that, in my humble opinion, my photography has gotten much better since that trip. I’ve picked up a few tricks and some skills since 2005 and I have always thought that, given the chance, I could do a MUCH better job than I did last time.
And the third is the food/wine component. Cynthia and I have, in the last few years, become amateur wine enthusiasts. We had some good wine in Spain and are really looking forward to trying various local wines while in Italy.
Once we are in Italy I will be updating here pretty much daily while were are on this trip, so feel free to stop by and check out select photos and anecdotes from our travels.
We’re in final preparations for the trip to Italy and I am at StressCon 3. Flight and hotels have been booked, rail passes secured, initial packing done as well as sorting out exactly which photo gear I will be taking on this trip.
To complicate things, I have a business trip to Orlando during the days leading up to the flight to Italy. That means I go to Orlando for work and fly back to Houston and turn around the next day to fly to Italy. It’s not all that tight of a schedule, but I have had to pack two separate suitcases so my Italy gear will be mostly ready when I get back from Orlando. This throws my planning and preparation out of kilter because I don’t have the week leading up to the big trip to verify everything on my checklist. I have to do it now and maybe a little the night before I leave.
She has a temporary crown so we are good to go. Poor Cynthia. She’s being a real trooper, though.
We caught our flight from Houston to Frankfort late in the afternoon on Thursday and then caught our connecting flight to Venice the following Friday without much incident. Our short hop to Venice had no gate assigned when we arrived so there was a little frustration there, but not a big deal.
After arriving in Venice and collecting our luggage we found our way to the water taxi stand and caught a ride to San Marco which was a short walking distance from our hotel.
We were happy to pay the fee for the taxi rather than catch the much less expensive water bus. Those things get very crowded and, as a I recall from our previous visit, are not very pleasant if you’re jet-lagged and shlepping a bunch of luggage. Plus the view coming in to Venice was spectacular.
By the time we checked in to the hotel we had been awake for going on 30 hours with only about 40 minutes of sleep on the plane.
Even though we had been awake for an insane amount of time we decided to push through. it was a little after 3:00 pm Venice time when we checked in to the hotel, but the weather was fantastic so we unloaded our gear and set out to explore.
Of course Cynthia immediately started hitting on the Italian men. Gondoliers are everywhere and will abscond with with your woman if you are not paying close attention
Venice is as beautiful as a I remember it from 2005. Simply fantastic. But very crowded. Especially around San Marco. But when the sun starts to set it dies down quite a bit. Plus, if you walk out in to the surrounding areas you can find some less populated scenes.
And you simply can’t turn a corner without seeing something that needs to be photographed.
We explored and ended the day with a nice dinner and then went for some much needed sleep.
Internet is spotty here at the hotel so updates are a little slow. Please bear with us.
To say Venice is crowded would be an understatement. Honestly, I don’t recall it being so jammed packed with tourists like this back in 2005 when we visited the first time. St. Mark’s Square is the worst with lines of tourist queuing up to gain entry to the cathedral and to the Doge’s Palace. Then comes Rialto Bridge lined up with booths selling the worst touristy crap you can imagine and throngs of eager buyers justifying their presence. After that it is the lines of shoppers stopping to look in every window to admire things from tennis shoes to designer handbags. Ugh!
Plus, it was hotter than we expected. The weather sites said 70’s during the day and 50’s at night. When the sun was out it felt much hotter. The evenings were cool, though. And far less crowded.
While we were there, there were at least two gigantic cruise ships that disgorged their load of tourists each morning and collected them each evening.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an awesome city and we are glad to have visited. Once you got away from the main sites it was very pleasant and picturesque.
The photos below don’t quite capture the magnitude of the crowds, but they give you an idea.
Ever since visiting Venice in 2005 I regretted not getting out and doing some night photography. I was going to go out and take some photos on our last night, but sadly it was raining. I swore if we ever made it back I would make up for it. This time around the weather cooperated and I was able to get some good photos.
We decided we needed to get out of the crush of humanity that is Venice during the day so we took a boat over to see the painted houses of Burano.
We sorted out how to get tickets and board the boat and even get off the boat to catch the second boat that would take us to the island. It all went very smoothly and even though Cynthia is not a fan of boats, even she enjoyed the trip over as the boat was pretty big and not overly crowded.
The island is really something to see. The houses are each painted a different, bright color and when the sun shines on them they simply glow. There’s a few canals and some bridges which makes it a bit like a miniature version of Venice.
All in all, very cool. We hung out for most of the day wandering the streets. It’s very residential so you would see kids playing or women doing their ironing in an open doorway or cleaning old shoes out of a window. We laughed a bit as we speculated what it must be like for them to look out their window and see picture taking camera gawkers plodding around snapping photos of everything. We laughed as we tried to imagine the same thing back home.
After we were done we caught the boat back and the ride was fine till we found ourselves dropped on the far end of Venice. We had to catch the Vaporetto back to St. Mark’s Square. This ended up being a grueling adventure as probably twice as many passengers crowded on to the boat than it was designed to carry. At the end of the ride Cynthia mustered a joke about how pleasant it was for a claustrophobic woman who hates being on the water to be in this situation.
More photos can be found in my Flickr set Painted Houses Of Burano, Italy
I have always treasured this photograph of my grandfather. It shows him standing in front of St. Mark’s Square in 1919 at the end of WWI. When we went to Venice in 2005 I tried to take have my own picture taken in the same spot he was standing. I got close, but there is now a railing around the pole so you can’t quite get there.
It was was the early days of my photography. I tried to line it up and got a pretty good shot of me standing in roughly the same spot. But it didn’t come out so well. Over the years I thought it would be good to go back with the photo in hand and take another picture of me in the same basic spot and holding a copy of the original photo.
This trip to Venice afforded me that opportunity so I printed out a copy to bring with me and below is the result.
Venice was a mixed bag.
I think the highlight of Venice was walking around and exploring and remembering our first visit. As we were doing this we came across the gondola repair shop we spotted on our visit 8 years ago. The Squero di San Trovaso is the official name. It’s a small square used as a boatyard to build and repair gondolas.
When we found this spot I knew we must be near the restaurant that we found on our previous visit. Neither of us could remember the name, but we we hoped against hope we might find it again and have a meal there while we were in Venice because it was so good. We knew it was down an ally and off the beaten path so we hunted around a bit to see if we could find it. And we did!
It’s called Ristorante San Trovaso and it was every bit as good as we remembered it to be. It was our best meal in Venice. Not that any of the other meals weren’t great, but this one was special.
Sadly, though, I think we’re done with Venice. We enjoyed our visit for the most part but there is no compelling reason for us to return. It’s a big world out there and there’s a lot to see. I am glad to have seen Venice before it sinks in to the sea or is converted into a Euro Disney park or whatever it is that has to happen to save it from it’s ultimate demise due to the ravages of time, tourist and the tides.
Next stop, Florence!
On Tuesday, May 1 we wrapped up a successful visit to Venice. We woke up, packed our things and checked out of our hotel and caught a water taxi to Venezia Santa Lucia railway station. We were fairly certain we could book a train to Florence without much trouble. We had our rail passes, but no reservations. We secured tickets and were on our way in less than an hour.
It was raining in Venice as we left and, as it turns out, raining in Florence when we arrived. It wasn’t a constant rain, more of an on and off kind of rain.
When we pulled in to the station in Florence it was in “off” mode so we decided to walk to our hotel which was only a 10 minute hike from the station.
Situated a bock from the Duomo, it was easy to find.
When we got to the hotel Cynthia was a a bit discouraged. I booked the hotel based on recommendations from Trip Advisor where everyone was saying how much they enjoyed their stay and how great the owners are and how conveniently located the hotel was to all the major attractions.
When we got to the hotel to check in Cynthia was not happy. The hotel is on the 4th floor of the building and since she hates european elevators she has to walk up the stairs to get to the room.
The hotel itself is nothing special. Very small and basic, but clean.
Cynthia was a bit put off by the fact that our room had 4 single beds in it. Granted, this kind of makes the room look a bit like a dormitory, but it’s not a shared space. We have the room all to ourselves. But this impression combined with the basic nature of the hotel combined with the rain and the fatigue of travel put Cynthia into a bit of a funk.
Personally, I like the room. It’s clean, the staff is personable and it’s a place to lay our heads when we’re not out and about seeing the sites.
I did my best to try and lift Cynthia’s spirits, but it was a struggle. We put on our rain coats and set off to do some exploring.
At this point Cynthia was getting pretty hungry and we stopped at a small cafe to see about getting something to eat for lunch. This was a huge mistake. The place was not very good. And when I say not very good, it sucked. The food was awful and the service was marginal at best.
As you can imagine, Cynthia was beginning to crater under the weight of so much disappointment.
We walked down to scout out the Uffizi and have a look at the Ponte Vecchio. The rain finally cleared off, but it was still overcast and damp. Florence is a dark, gritty city made up of stone buildings and stone streets. In these conditions it can be very gloomy.
Photographically, it was a bit of a bust. The gloom was not very conducive to much shooting. But the sun made a last ditch effort to come out toward the end of the day and this, combined with the rain puddles afforded me a unique photo opportunity
We wrapped up the day with a nice dinner and a bottle of wine at a restaurant near the hotel. This went a long way toward lifting Cynthia’s spirits. We got back to the room and we both slept some of the best sleep we have had the whole trip.