Can this be real?
Another early morning finds us heading into the train station in Montevarchi. This time our destination is Venice where we have a hotel booked for two nights.
The ticket agent advises that first couple of connecting trains out of Florence are full but gets us on the 12:25. We catch the 9:07 express train from Montevarchi which then gives us a couple of hours to kill in Florence. When we arrive in Florence we head off to find somewhere for a coffee. As we only packed one bag it is kind of heavy to be hauling very far however it is several blocks before we find a restaurant with outside seating. We whiled away 45 minutes or so sipping on our lattés and reading the guide book Keith and Helen loaned us on Venice.
Back at the train station we eventually find seating in the crowded waiting room. With about 30 minutes before we would be boarding the train I go searching for some sandwiches for lunch. Basically right around the corner from where we were sitting was a cafeteria with lots of empty tables. Had we known we could have saved a few blocks of walking hauling our bag. The panini’s were actually quite good and would fill the void until Venice.
Our train left right on time. For the first part of the trip there wasn’t a lot to see as we seemed to go through a lot of long tunnels. Once north of our first stop at Bologna the terrain appeared quite flat. The travel time to Venice was about 2 hours. Our first sight of this beautiful city came as the train was crossing the causeway. I couldn’t wait to get off the train and into Venice!
We easily found the ticket booth for the ACTV ticket booth and bought 3-day passes. Then it was onto the vaporetto towards San Marco (#1 route). The vaporetto is a slow moving water bus that stops frequently at various spots along the Grand Canal. Our designated stop was San Silvestro and our hotel was about a 5 minute walk from there. We rang the bell for Ca’ Angeli (Ca’ being short for Casa) and were buzzed in. The elevator took us to the 3rdfloor reception area where we checked in and were shown to our room. It’s a very nice room with a king-sized bed but not much of a view. That’s OK since we weren’t planning to see Venice from the inside of a hotel.
We didn’t bother unpacking but rather headed right back outside to start exploring the streets. The streets are very narrow. On most streets outstretched arms could touch the walls on either side. Venice is definitely a city where you need a map if you want to find a specific location. It is very easy to get lost in the maze of streets, canals, and bridges. However if you just want to wander and see the sights with no particular destination then you don’t need the map. It seems that every street you wander down opens up to an incredible view – especially if it is along the Grand Canal or if it ends up in one of seemingly hundreds of piazzas. Just point your camera in any direction and you will end up with a “postcard photo”. Venice is probably one of the most scenic cities I have ever been in.
We found a little pizzeria for lunch; right beside a canal where we could watch the gondoliers come and go. Then we wandered over to and across the Ponte Rialto (Rialto Bridge) and continued on along the streets on the other side of the Grand Canal.
Late in the afternoon we stopped in a piazza for some gelato and a rest on the park benches. Then it was back to the hotel to relax a bit before searching out some supper. We were about to experience our first real disappointment of our trip to Italy.
While wandering along the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge we had seen quite a number of restaurants right on the water. We thought it would be nice to have dinner along the canal and to be able to watch the boats go by. My first hint that we might have made a mistake was when we were presented with plasticized menus with color photos of every dish. I guess this made it easier to just point at what you wanted. That I should have trusted my gut instinct was confirmed when the bottle of wine arrived a couple of minutes after ordering it and both the salad and the pasta arrived together a couple of minutes later. We had just found the tourist trap fast food Italian restaurant! At least the view was good as the food was grossly under-whelming. The salad was OK but the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar to go on it were both quite tasteless. My Fettuccine Carbonera was not much better than Kraft Dinner! What a disappointment after the wonderful meals we have had at every restaurant on this trip. Even the paninis we had at the train station in Florence were a tastier meal than this one.
Well we soon blew that Popsicle stand and thought we’d stop for desert and maybe some vin santo nearer the hotel. We found a table at another little restaurant and proceeded to order Disappointment #2. My Tiramisu, while probably not the worst I have had, would be right up there. Susan’s lemon cake might have had a lemon pass it by but that was likely as close as it got to a real lemon. They didn’t have vin santo but suggested a sweet wine. While it tasted OK it was no desert wine. It was a perfectly uninspiring end to a perfectly insipid dinner.
Tomorrow has to be better as we made reservation at Helen & Keith’s favorite restaurant in Venice.