CONTINUE  THE JOURNEY BY CLICKING BELOW
 
VENICE, ITALY
ROME, ITALY
ABOARD THE JEWEL OF THE SEAS
SICILY, ITALY (MT. ETNA & ALACANTRA GORGE)
MYKONOS, GREECE
EPHESUS, TURKEY
SANTORINI, GREECE (FIRA, NEA KAMENI, & THERASIA)
ATHENS, GREECE
NAPLES, ITALY
 
 
 
 
 
We arrrived in Venice after an uneventful journey out of Toronto, CA.  We sprung for the pricey water taxi (motoscafo) versus water bus (vaporetto) to go about four miles for €130 to our Grand Canal hotel, the Hotel Paganelli.  It was an overcast, warm day.  Coming in, we had a view of the spectacular Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (the Byzantine coupole church across the canal) and were situated within steps of Piazza San Marco / Palazzo Ducale.  The Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (soldier on horse) statue was just outside of our hotel, as was the Stazione Daniele gondola station.

Being off schedule, the first thing we did was drop our bags at the hotel and head out for pasta (at 9:00 in the morning)!  We enjoyed pastas bolognese / arrabiata / carbonara at a nearby cafe on Salizada San Provolo, just next to the Ponte San Provolo (pictured with the Trattoria alla Ravetta sign).  People looked at us a bit "funny," but we were happy to be eating in Italy!  We were also exhausted due to the [very uncomfortable] overnight flight and couldn't wait to get into our hotel room (which wasn't ready until about 1:30) for a nap.  We killed time by walking around Piazza San Marco and sitting in the nearby garden.  It was still early in the Piazza, so not yet crowded.  The four-piece bands played at every restaurant to attract patrons to the sea of outside seating.
 
 






















 
 
After our nap, we awoke to a bustling city and very warm afternoon.  The crowds in Venice are astounding, though this is understandable as the city is so colorful and vibrant and one of the biggest tourist destinations.  The joy of Venice is that, because it is an island, there are no cars.  All streets are pedestrian-friendly.  It immediately reminded us of Mackinac Island, with only the bikes and horses.  Of course, being a tourist destination (I venture to guess tourism is 90% of the local economy), there are vendors and street merchants at every turn.  The most popular item is the carnivale mask.  Mask shops line every street and corner.  Connor chose a red and gold mask (pictured later) for €25 that we spent no fewer than three trips out to select and procure.  We strolled along the Riva degli Shiavoni (the "main drag" on the water) past the famous Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs, featuring the arched bridge where prisoners used to cross from the Palazzo Ducale to prison).  We also admired a fabulous view of Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore (island housing the tall pyramidal tower with green copper roof across the water and Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore).  We rested a bit for the day and headed out to dine "al fresco" (as almost all meals were) just at the edge of Piazza San Marco.
 
 











 
 
The next morning, thanks to jetlag, I awoke at 5:00 and had the city all to myself.  I walked for about two hours through the labyrinthine streets to find the Ponte di Rialto, discovering tons of "photoworthy" views along the way.  I witnessed the city "come alive" with early morning food vendors delivering goods, the sun rising over Basilica San Marco, and a completely empty Piazza San Marco.  These are my favorite photos of the city, without question, and some of my favorite vacation photos of all time!
 
 

































































 
 
One of the nice features of our hotel was the rooftop terrace, which offers great views of the city.  The entry stairway was off limits during "sleeping hours" because it was right next to an occupied room.  I charmed the front desk attendant and convinced him to let me up (promising I'd be quiet as a mouse) to snap a few more early morning sunrise shots.  The terrace is pictured atop the roof of the hotel (above).  Also, a note about the picture of the "leaning" white tower along the Rio del Greci (immediately above and below).  This is Campanile dei San Giorgio dei Creci and is one of three leaning towers in Venice; there are a total of 10 in Italy.  Pisa is not alone!  Below are more views of the leaning tower from the top of Hotel Paganelli.
 
 







 
 
After breakfast of fresh fruits, pastries, and prosciutto in the nearby Hotel Paganelli annex building, we ventured out. 

On our list for the next two days, we wanted to take a gondola ride and walk to the Ponti di Rialto (we made it to the gondola ride but didn't walk over the bridge until the next day).  We made it a "thing" to have at least one (often more) gelato tasting of the day while in Italy.  Let's just say we exceled in accomplishing that goal!  We also planned to visit the Basilica di San Marco and Piazza Ducale, but we were too tired in the late afternoon and hung out at the hotel instead.

Connor didn't exactly love the gondola ride. Even though Brad and I knew the boats wouldn't tip, they bobbed and rolled quite a bit.  Our gondola driver, Nick, insisted that Connor sit on the one side (which leaned more than the other) to balance the long, narrow boat.  As you can see in the pictures, the gondoliers often have to kick off the sides of walls to turn the boat, which jostles the boat a bit.  This being the case, we opted for the "short" 20 minute ride for a cost of €80 around the Ponti di Rialto.  During our tour, we saw a motor boat crash against the wall.  No one was hurt.  A moment later, we heard the sires and saw the "ambulance" boat (yellow and orange boat, pictured below) speed by.  When I asked our gondolier if that boat was responding the crash, he laughed and said, "Oh, no, they would never come out for something like that!"  We passed by the former residence of Marco Polo (which is now a three-star hotel) and enjoyed views of the many canals.  Though you can't see him, Nick brought his little dog along, who hid under the cover of the boat.

Later in the evening, we ventured out through the streets (some "named" streets so narrow Connor could touch both sides) to find another outdoor eatery.  We settled on Conca d'Oro.  Connor had his first official alcoholic drink, a pina colada (stirred, they didn't have frozen).  We basically paid €12 for a scantly alcoholic drink because I asked them to go "very light" on the rum, but Connor thought it was great.  I also orderd cannelloni (a staple during our travels) and asked for red sauce in addition to the beshamel.  The waitress "refused," basically saying it wasn't Italian to do so, and eventually scoffed and brought it on the side after I pressed a bit more ("Mille grazie for the advice, but I'm willing to take my chances and eat it the 'wrong' way!").  We finished the evening "mask shopping" and strolling along the canal until sunset.
 





































 
 
After sleeping in until about 11:00 on day three (for which I yelled at Brad . . . we can laugh about it now), we headed out on a bit of a "foodie" tour, including lunch, gelato at Piazzo San Marco, the Mercato del Pesca (fish market) and infamous store, Prosciutto e Parmigiano, where I chatted with the kind store owner, Marco, and bought vacuum-packed parmigiano, asiago, and prosciutto to take home. 

We strolled through the Campo Santa Maria Formosa (where we met a resting gondolier and tired shopowner's dog), then crossed the [very crowded] Ponte di Rialto.  Artists were busy in the Campo San Giacomo di Rialto.   We missed the fish but found the fruit, where we bought Brad's favorite and declared "fragole!" (strawberries) over and over with our "real" Italian accents.  Like any good tourists, we basically ate our way through the day.

During the day we also visited [more] mask shops, souvenir shops, a magic shop where Connor was bedazzled and bought a "shell game" trick.  After much searching and three visits to the same stall, we found just the mask Connor wanted (which was one of the first he saw on the whole trip . . . of course).  Magic became a "theme" throughout the rest of the trip as well.  Worn out from a day of walking in the heat and sun, we simply opted to grab a bite at the outdoor restaurant next door to the one adjoined to our hotel.
 
 
























































 
 
On our final day, we awoke, ate, and headed to the train station, taking another water taxi ride.  I was able to capture a few more great views of the Piazza Ducale and other views of the canal. 

After a bit of a wait at the train station (the perfect amount of time to hunt down some Kinder Surprise & Kinder Bueno, among other treats), we boarded a high-speed Trenitalia train and enjoyed a beautiful ride through Tuscany, stopping in Florence, then arriving in Rome around 15:00.  (One of the "educational" aspects of this trip was teaching Connor how to use military time, common in Europe.)  All roads, and trains it seems, lead to Rome!
 
 



















 
 
CONTINUE  THE JOURNEY BY CLICKING BELOW
 
VENICE, ITALY
ROME, ITALY
ABOARD THE JEWEL OF THE SEAS
SICILY, ITALY (MT. ETNA & ALACANTRA GORGE)
MYKONOS, GREECE
EPHESUS, TURKEY
SANTORINI, GREECE (FIRA, NEA KAMENI, & THERASIA)
ATHENS, GREECE
NAPLES, ITALY
 

   
All photos are copyrighted by Karen Lippowiths, LLC and protected by U.S. Copyright Law.
View my professional work at karenlippowiths.com

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