Category Archives: Venezia

Our Trips to Venice

Travel Itch

I miss Europe. I love the mix of culture, cuisine, antiquity, and beauty that we have found in Italy.

We have excursions planned for this fall and next spring that will be novel and exciting. The Amazon will no doubt present its own set of adventures. Peru and Ecuador are mysteries to us. It will be amazing to visit South America and dust off a bit of Spanish. (can you feel the but…)

I miss Europe. I do. I had planned our last trip to Greece and Italy to continue for another two weeks. We cut short. I was told the weather in late June and into July and August gets oppressive. With some depressing grumbling, I changed plans and literally yanked our last two weeks of our Tuscany trip. In retrospect, I am glad I did. I flagged on some of our walks in Florence in late June. It was hot, still reasonable but hot. If July gets still hotter, I am so glad I came around and dropped the last two weeks.

Our plans for the next year: this fall, winter, and next spring are complete.

Next fall we are planning to return to Italy for a few months. I’ve started looking into villas for rent around Florence and Rome. We’ll use a villa as home base for our excursions into the Italian hillside and coastal towns. I can relax, content in the knowledge that we’ll be returning to Italy soon. Troubling though, I would also like to do some island hopping in Greece. On our cruise we found that there is an extensive ferry system throughout the Greek Islands. It’s not difficult to see Greece by ferry. Perhaps we’ll fly into Greece and wend our way back to Italy.

There is so much to do. We hope to visit Alaska by RV; tour China and Thailand; revisit Africa a few more times; visit friends in the south of Spain; visit family on Madeira Island; tour Ireland; drive through Eastern Europe, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and into Germany; visit Paris and tour the south of France; go skiing in the French and Italian Alps; drive through the Old South, the South West, and North West; canoe in Ontario. That’s just for starters. I have a scrapbook of places we hope to visit tucked away. Every time I come across an amazingly beautiful location or an adventure that’s not life threatening, I paste it into the book. I’ve done enough wacky and dangerous things in the past that I’m no longer interested in pushing the safety envelope. “Moderate” danger is ok. A charging elephant, canoe on the Amazon, bare boat cruising, diving with hammerhead sharks without a safety net, those are all OK by me. Class IV white water kayaking, technical rock climbing, or base jumping are “right out”. All this would be possible but for Ellen whose sense of “safe adventure” is clearly a subset of mine.

I truly hate the word, “blessed”. It smacks of a religious sense of “blessed by God”. As an atheist, that drives me crazy. I would rather say that decades of hard work, some risk taking, and a bit of luck made travel and adventure possible for us. We have the opportunity to enjoy ourselves after retirement. We will.


Getting Specific #2, Venice


Our apartment in Venice: We met both Nina and Tony briefly, they are wonderful people.

I asked Tony to recommend local restaurants that he would frequent. We had time to sample only one of those he mentioned: Ai Gondoleri just a few blocks away. It is more pricey than your typical pizza trattoria, but it was worth it. The risotto for two is a huge amount of risotto. It is quite good, but becomes monotonous about half way through. The zucchini flowers are good and the potato mousse is great. Their wine selection is amazing, we opted for wine by the glass which is a limited selection, but very very good. I’ve probably stated this earlier: the Tuscan wines are the equal of Napa and Sonoma wines.

out favorite restaurant in Venice:

We sampled a very limited number of restaurants, I am sure you can find your own favorite as well.


Venice Day 4, afternoon

It is pouring just now. We brought our rain parkas with us this morning. It was overcast and humid, the sun came out for the morning. While sitting at a corner cafe having a beer, the weather turned. You could feel the wind shift, temperature cool, and humidity rise. We walked to the supermarket to pick our evening meal, grabbed a gelato at gelato Nico, and as we walked home, the rain started. We’ve got lightening, thunder, and buckets of rain. I hope it blows over before our scheduled gondola ride this evening ahead of an evening concert.

Piazza San Marco was not as crowded as it was this past weekend. There were many gaps in the roving tour groups marked by their umbrellas or scarfs on a stick. One very loud group of Chinese stood out for their noise and the cloud of smoke that followed them around. We actually stopped for fifteen minutes to let them go ahead to San Marco.

We stopped for a quick bite at a cafe that had scrumptious looking wraps. I ordered mine, Ellen hesitated, and the counter gal heated my wrap and went on to make a drink for another customer. She made the drink slooooowly, on purpose I think. All the while an Italian fellow loudly conversed with patrons, and said to a woman who walked in behind Ellen, “I love you! I looooovvvve you” He was having fun and entertaining the cafe staff. Finally, the drink on its way to a customer, “counter gal” asked what Ellen wanted, and placed Ellen’s bruschetta on the stove. Moments later our order was handed to us. The price was good, my wrap of Proscuitto de Parma, Cotto, and Mozzarella was well cooked and tasted fantastico. Ellen’s bruchetta was cold. It too tasted great, but the “counter gal”s coldness suffused our meal, which we ate on a bridge over a canal. I would go back to have another, but Ellen wouldn’t consider it. One day I will know enough Italian to banter with folks.

San Marco square, though not super crowded, was not peaceful and after maybe twenty minutes strolling around, we headed back “home” to Dorsoduro, stopping for a beer and water at another cafe on Piazza San Vidal.

I really love our location on Dorsoduro. It is a fascinating fifteen minute walk to Piazza San Marco or a bit further to the Rialto Bridge. There are shops, and people, and cafes, and great food: sights, sounds, scents to be reveled in. Still I truly enjoy the peacefulness of our flat on Rio de S. Vio.

This morning we watched a gondolier ready his boat for service while sipping cappuccino at a bar overlooking the water. Crossing the old bridge, we watched him back his gondola down “our” canal. Retracing our steps back home, we found the goodlier setting up for customers on the bridge we cross routinely to get anywhere on the main island. After a conversation about the weather, and gondoliering, he agreed to meet us at 7:30 for a ride around Dorsoduro. I hope the rain abates prior.

We’re home now,relaxing. I could use some rest.


Ron L.

Venice Day 4

Ok, not up so early. We enjoyed a leisurely early morning.

I did a search on the oldest gelato in Venice and the fellow yesterday misrepresented his shop! The oldest is Gelato Nico in (drum roll) Dorsoduro, just down the street from our flat. We’ll visit later today, but for now we are off again to San Marco to see how crowded it is without the eight cruise ships.

Also the church that hosted last night’s concert is Chesa de San Vidal. We’ll walk by it on our way to San Marco in a bit.

Aside from visiting the square and perhaps one museum for which we have free tickets, we have no plans for today and can take in the city at our own pace.


Venice Day 3

We slept in a bit, then went out shopping for melon, water, and to get coffee. We avoided the tourist area entirely opting to walk around Dorsoduro, past the Zattere Vaporetto stop and further up the channel. The cruise ships are all gone with far fewer tourists walking Dorsoduro. We found a number of small squares on side streets, a local produce market, and a nice coffee shop. For the water and soap, we returned to the super market and returned home.

Next we set out for the Guggenheim Museum, which is close by. It was open and featured a retrospective of the restoration of Jackson Pollock’s Alchemy. The original is on display in the museum along with much of Peggy’s personal collection. Alchemy hung in her living room over a fire place and became dull with lint, dirt, and soot over the years. The restoration was done in Florence known for restoration of priceless artwork. One room of the museum features interactive touch screen video of the restoration process on three large screen monitors. We enjoyed the museum, then walked to the eastern tip of Dorsoduro, Punta Della Dogana, and returned home along the southern Dorsoduro canal.

At home we ate dinner in, eating eggplant lasagna, proscuitto de Parma with melon, bread, cheese, and Moretti beer. Nina, the owner stopped by for a chat and we ran into her husband Tony on our way out later. We decided to head to San Marco for some photography (we have not spent any time in the square) and to search out more gelato. The square on the Dorsoduro side of the old bridge was alive with locals and some tourists. The bridge had it’s typical crowd of selfie tourists. The lighting was great, low contrast with few shadows. It was overcast with none of the late evening warmth you would expect.

Wandering on we passed the accordion player, a fixture on the San Marco side of the bridge, and rounded the corner walking past an old church. Unlike every other time we walked this route, the church doors were open with a few people milling about the entrance. We walked up to look inside, there was a bright mural on the far wall of a military leader astride a white horse. The horse looked to be riding right out of the far wall. We could read enough of the posters door-side to know there was an Interpretive Vivaldi performance scheduled. Ellen asked a couple seated on the steps what was going on and in impeccable American English the said a Vivaldi concert was playing here at 9:00. Tickets can be bought inside. They were from Walnut Creek, she was a music teacher and the couple was moving to New York in the next few days. Her husband grew up in Menlo Park.

The ticket sales inside said it was open seating starting at 8:30 with the performance starting at 9:00. We bought two tickets, checked the time, and headed out to find that gelato ahead of the concert. It was 8:05 and we could not go far. In the square just past the church, we spotted a gelato shop. The shopkeeper asked, “How do you like Venice” and that started a conversation about Italy, culture, food, that lasted a while. The sure cherry gelato appealed to us both. The shopkeeper asked, “did you know this is the oldest gelato shop in Venice?” and handed us a business card. “No” we answered at the same time, I took the card, we thanked him, and headed back to queue for the performance.

The couple behind us, hearing our English, asked “where are you from”. The husband is a physicist and they’re driving around northern Italy.

Seated in the third row back along the isle, we joined in clapping as eight Italian guys strode past dressed in black from head to foot, all with black hair, and took up their instruments on stage. One harpsichord, a base, a cello, and five violent. The violent alternated first fiddle. The acoustics were excellent and the performance was flawless. You could hear nothing but the shuffling of paper and the octet’s shuffling of feet between movements. This was a very special moment.

The group will play Vivian’s Four Seasons tonight, but I”m not sure it will be at this local church. If so, we’ll be there.

We headed back home to get some sleep and to go to San Marco tomorrow early… finally!


Venice Day 2 evening

We met Markus and Alex at Piazza San Marco and again we were a bit late. We chose to take a vaporetto from Trastevere to the piazza. However the express boat was 15 minutes behind the two slow boats. We waited for the 5.1 express.

Funny the three times we’ve gone to the piazza, we arrived from three points of the compass, north, east, and south. We walked the piazza, went to their hotel room which was decorated in red and white, very nice and centrally located, then headed off to dinner at a local restaurant’s terrace on the top floor. The weather was comfortable with a slight breeze and the veranda plants were inviting: raspberries, blueberries, and tomatos. M&A were buying this evening as we had covered the night before. There was a very tempting bottle of Nebbiola on the wine list for $990e. I chose discretion and drank house wine that evening. The food was good, though Ellen’s cod was too salty. We talked well into the night, then left for gelato and a walk to the Rialto Bridge, which was quite close.

Heading back we missed the last vaporetto to Zattere and walked back to Piazza San Marco then over the Old Bridge to Trastevere. We’ve become quite familiar with the path from Trastevere to Piazza San Marco.


Venice Day 2

We ran a bit late meeting Markus & Alex in the morning at Piazza San Marco and had not eaten breakfast. Not too surprisingly, the square was largely deserted. There were a few people setting up for the expected flood of people; this early in the morning we had the piazza to ourselves.

The plan was to purchase a 12 hour unlimited pass on ACTV, Venice’s transportation service, and to visit Murano and Burano. We backtracked to find a cappuccino for Ellen and I and an ATM. Having an abbreviated breakfast after the sumptuous ones aboard ship was a welcome change. At home we usually eat a light breakfast.

Finding an ATM was a bit of a problem, no banks were open at 7:45 and most coffee shops were also closed or just setting up. I asked at a hotel where we could find an ATM and was directed to a small square with just one. Saved! We had passed a coffee shop and retraced our steps to get cappuccino. There was a wait and I left the group to find the ATM while they ordered coffee.

Following the hotel concierges directions I found the ATM. We had left our last Euro as a tip on the Odyssey and needed some Euros badly. On two trys the ATM failed to communicate internationally. Disappointed I headed back to the group and a coffee. As I arrived Ellen, Markus, and Alex were just sitting down with coffees in take away containers. As I was settling into a chair, the gal behind the counter setup a fuss about not having paid for the table, the coffee was take away. Ok, how much more for the table? Two Euros each, $8e more to sit! Wow. Dumb founded and joking about it, we continued our search for an ATM. We rounded a corner that opened onto a larger piazza just past the failing ATM and there were four more of them. The first one I tried worked, and worked as fast or faster than one in the US. Not all ATMs are created equal.

We headed back to the canal sipping cappuccino. There are many kiosks that sell tours of Burano and Murano, which is not what we wanted. To purchase tickets on vaporetto, you use the ticket kiosks at the vaporetto stops. We asked for a 12 hour pass which is no longer sold and had to purchase the 24 hr pass at $20e each. Not a huge issue, but at least 8 of those 24 has cannot be used and the vaporetto service shuts down between midnight and six am (roughly).

The ride to Murano was fun. The boat made a few stops on the way unloading and loading passengers, but generally remaining packed. This surprised me; I thought we had beaten the crowds. It turns out we did beat the crowds to Murano. Sure, there were hundreds of tourists, but it was not abuzz with thousands of us. A barker directed us left to a glass manufacturing demonstration as we departed the boat. This led us past a few shops selling glassware to a factory. We were ushered inside. A fellow created a vase and a horse from two glowing blobs of glass. It was fun to watch and though the artisan worked very quickly, the results were impressive. We couldn’t help but dally in the glass shops, though nothing appealed to us.

By now it was approaching noon. Every now and then a boatload of people disembarked. We pushed on to Burano rather than having lunch on Murano. Walking the main street to the vaporetto stop on the other side of the small island, we found the shopping area of Murano. There are many shops selling glass baubles of all kinds, from individual glass beads to overly ornate chandeliers. Alex was drawn into one shop that also appealed to me. Ash she picked up a pendant, a shop keeper came over and explained how it was created and what made it special. I was drawn to a very unusual ornate glass sculpture like thing in blue and beige. Alex decided against the pendant. I inquired of the sculpture and put it back down when the price was mentioned. It was not exorbitant, but we don’t need another thing to carry with us.

Off to Burano we went. As you might surmise by now, Murano is known for its glass factories. In the 1200’s (if memory serves) after a fire, Venice decreed that all glass furnaces would move to Murano which is how the island became a center for Venetian glass. Burano is known for its lace and its multi colored houses.

We strolled Burano’s streets, had pizza and beer (I had beer, the others water), took many photographs. The island never became crowded, not like Venice proper. Around 4pm we walked to the vaporetto stop and headed back to Murano.

Walking down the main street in Murano to the vaporetto back to Venice, we could not help but stop in some of the shops along the way. Stopping at the last glass shop near the vaporetto stop, the girls chose similar pendant and earring sets. The sop closed just after we walked out. Murano glasswork is quite remarkable. Most of the items sold are glass trinkets, mementos of a trip to Murano while some of the glasswork are truly works of art.

Back in Venice, we agreed to meet for dinner around 19:30 and headed our separate ways.

Venice Day 2, morning.

We met Markus Stiller? and Alexandra Zylenas? at St. Mark’s square, which was teeming with tourists. We took a large gondola across the channel to Dorsoduro to our apartment to get Tony’s restaurant recommendations and headed out to dinner at Al Gondolieri close by. The front garage style sliding door was up, but they did not open until 7pm. Italians, like Turks and Greeks, like to dine late. We made reservations and walked past a long queue for the Guggenheim museum. We had to ask what was going on at the museum as the line was 50 meters long. It turns out that the museum stayed open that evening and that it was free. we saw a similar phenomenon at the Colosseum. The last Sunday of the month the Colosseum is free, but the line to get in was ridiculous.

We skipped the Guggenheim for now and walked the peaceful streets of Dorsoduro, hoping to find the very point of the island with a great view of St Marks. We walked very slowly finding may excuses to take “that great photo” and happened upon a fellow playing medieval tunes on a lute-harp like instrument. I’m guessing it is a medieval lute, but I’ll have to check online. That took us back in time.

I cannot spend much time now; we’re off early to grab a bite in St. Marks before the hoards wake up and flood the square.

Venice Day 1, morning

Wow. I mean WOW. Seabourn handled customs into Venice Italy. We took a bus from the Odyssey, right outside the terminal. Unbelievable. No lines, no stamp in the passport (well, it’s probably stamped, I’ll have to check). We were dropped off outside the cruise ship terminal and took the “people mover” as Nina Croze the owner of the flat we’ve rented told us to do. That took us to a terminal which was a short walk to the vaporetto stop. A vaporetto is a water buss. There are probably eight vaporetto lines that run from the cruise ship terminus to various stops throughout Venice and even go to the islands of Murano and Burano.

We took the #2 vaporetto four stops to Zattere, Venezia. It was that easy. I called Nina from the cruise ship terminal and again before stepping onto the vaporetto. I got a “free message” saying “the party you are calling is not available at this time”.

We were warned more than a few times abord the Seabourn Odyssey that there would be ten cruise ships docked today and that with ten or twenty thousand people disembarking there could be a 90 minute wait for a vaporetto and a 60 minute wait for a taxi. I do not doubt that was the case later in the morning. We departed early and while there were short lines at the ticket kiosks, there were no significant delays.

Stepping off the vaporetto at Zattere, I called Nina once again and she answered. Nina is a very voluble happy gal. We had a brief conversation about our trip, arrival, where were we and that her husband,Tony, would meet us in a few minutes, About ten minutes later, Tony walked up, asked if I was Ron Leavitt and walked us 400 meters to the flat.

The apartment is exactly as shown on homeaway. It is ground floor, tiled, and newly renovated with lots of outlets for electronics and charging, huge windows which let in adequate light, and a door opening onto an inside courtyard. This is great and it is the largest of the flat’s we’ve rented thus far.

We walked the immediate neighborhood, then visited a super market, which was actually a supermarket, but with a butcher. Have you ever visited an Italian butcher? No? They are old school in the best sense of the phrase. We bought some prosciutto de Parma, sopresatta, bread, cheese, and other stuff. The meats are whole slab. You want prosciutto, they bring down the whole cured ham and slice, slice, slice. We had a bit of trouble getting amounts right, Ellen wanted .125 Kilo, the fellow asked 120? I said yes and we got .120 Kilo of proscuitto and another .120 of sopresatta. Initially I mispronounced sopresatto and we had a few funny moments before the connection was made and the slice, slice started. We also bought some eggplant lasagna and one thick cut tomato with a cheese herb topping. Food wise it is hard to beat the Italians. Heaven… and the bread. Oh…

We walked side streets back “home” walking over at least four bridges over the canals. We both collapsed on the firm bed for a siesta before our next adventure.

We’ll unpack later, for now we’ll stroll around and get our bearings.

I asked Tony for local restaurant recommendations, the restaurants he would frequent to avoid typical foreign cuisine: no hamburgers, franks, or ersatz pasta dishes when we can eat some of the best prepared foods in the world. We have a list of six restaurants ranging from typical family style to somewhat expensive depending on the wine you order. I’ve already “adopted” Nina and Tony.

Ellen just awoke and I’m sure she is itching to get out and do some exploring. I wonder what musical events are playing tonight. We’ll see.

Tomorrow friends from Germany are flying in to spend the weekend with us. Marcus and Alexandra have visited us in the states when they vacation in Hawaii. We’re a brief stop-over for them and helps break up a very long flight. Now we’re close to their home turf. This will be fun.

Over and Out for now…

Happy Trails..