06.06.2009 - 09.06.2009
Trains are a great way to get around Italy. Nice views of the countryside, fast, clean and efficient, but you better hope there are no problems with your train. Or another train on the track in front of you - which was our bain in this case. We flew up through Rome, Florence and into Tuscany before we were forced to stop in the middle of the Tuscan countryside near Bologna for 3 hours, and with other delays, extending our 6 our fly-by trip to a solid 10 hours.
First peak of Grand Canal
Finally arrived in Venice and immediately exhilarated by our first peak at the Grand Canal, which snakes its way right in front of the main train station, Venice Santa Lucia.
Riding Oriago Centrale
Venice is made up of 117 islands, and the centre of town is a horribly expensive (and touristy), so we had booked our accomodation at Faronhof B&B, on the mainland in a town called Oriago, a 20 minute bus ride into the islands. Monica, our host, was fantastic and welcomed us with maps and tips, prepared a great breakfast every morning, and all in all was a pleasure to meet. She also lent us bikes to get around Oriago; a quiet suburban town made up of big fields and flat roads, and with a charming canal of its own.
Exploring the Canales, Rios, and Pontes of Venice
Our first stop in town was Piazzale Roma, Venice's main bus station. Being '29 or under' (just!), we were able to pick up a 72 hour transport pass for a bargain, nearly half price at 18 euro per person.
Hopped on the vaporetto around the island arriving near St Marks Square, and walked around the canals and small squares, getting lost in the narrow alleyways, as you do in Venice! One great feature are the signs on canal corners pointing you in the direction of main sights e.g Rialto, Piazza San Marco, Accademia or P.Roma, which allow you to keep your bearings somewhat. We lunched on the steps of St Marks in fine style, with antipasto and sandwiches picked up earlier at the Coop supermarket.
We worked our way around following the signs to the Rialto Bridge and had a walk down the sidewalks of the Grand Canal, watching the gondoliers plying away and navigating the waters - a pretty awesome sight. Venice is such a unique city, picturesque despite the mass of tourists, who alongside the canals, gondolas, vaporettos and historic venetian buildings, create a nice vibe and atmosphere unlike any other place we've seen.
'Frank' (the mule) carries everything
Good fun this evening riding bikes back home in Oriago, Deepak's bike equipped with two heavy shopping bags with tonight's dinner, a couple of bottles of mineral water, the camera bag and a backpack. Sumathi calls him "the mule", Deepak proclaimed that "Frank always carries everything".
Continued our good 'run' of workouts with yoga and a nice 5km run around Oriago - 'Sorrento 2 Surf' training coming along well.
Spent our second full day in Venice island hopping, starting off with Murano (famous for its glass), Burano (famous for its lace, and colourful houses), and the rest of the afternoon whizzing around on the vaporetto and making the most of our travel pass.
Murano itself was quite nice, with many shops selling all types of colourful and interesting glassware. The famous Murano glass is on show around town too, in the form of sculptures and artwork adding some vibrancy to the sleepy village.
Burano (the similarity in the names of the islands must cause endless confusion) was smaller than Murano and with a little less to see, although the colourful painted houses make for some nice photographs. This is more a living breathing fishing village, but the tourist dollars must make life a little more comfortable (albeit must be a bit annoying!). I'm sure theres a good story behind why the houses were painted such, similar to the Bo Kaap in Cape Town (seems like a long time ago now!).
From Burano, we enjoyed the summer breeze on the vaporetto across the lagoon, and ended up in St Marks Square, where we watched the sunlight fade and dusk settle, before heading back to the mainland.
Ciao, Spicy Salamino!
Our final morning in Venice before catching the plane to Budapest - we stored our packs at the left luggage counter in town and had a good walk around up and down the fresh fruit and fish markets alongside the Rialto bridge, and then up Grand Canal, soaking up the atmosphere. On a side street, we picked up a steaming hot spicy salamino pizza, and sat by the Rialto bridge to devour it - our last pizza before leaving Italy, and by god it tasted good.
Wizzing - but not so fast..
Soon enough, we resumed our journey with a 1 hour hop to Budapest on Wizz! Air, a low cost carrier based out of central Europe. Unfortunately, 1 hour to Treviso Airport, another hour waiting, and a half hour delay made the journey a half day affair.