When we arrive at the Tronchetto bus parking area of Venice, we get on the vaporetto and get off in the Academia area. Jennifer previously warned us that an historical regatta was happening along the Grand Canal, which means some bridges and portions of the Grand Canal are closed to traffic. We schlepp our bags through the crowds, but when we reach the Academia Bridge, it is completely jammed, and is chaos. At this point we can no longer roll our bags as we squeeze through the crowds.
It takes us about 20 minutes to carefully cross to the other side and regroup before continuing our rather stressful walk to our hotel, Hotel Serenissima, located just four blocks to St. Marks Square. My room is the tiniest hotel room I have ever stayed in, however it is comfortable and quiet, since it faces the inner courtyard instead of the street. We go out for a group dinner at Trattoria alla Madonna, a local trattoria. The food and service is very good, and the dinner included salad, main course, wine, dessert. A trio entertains us while we eat, and they make out like bandits when everyone gives them some cash.
Our guide Jennifer arranged an after dinner gondola ride with music for those of us who wanted to go. It was a terrific experience, and illustrates again what I wouldn’t be able to do as a single traveler, however as a group, this is an activity that is well within reach at a cost of about 40 Euros each.
September 8, 2014 – Monday – Venice
We go on an early morning walk with a local guide. We see Marco Polo family’s square, then go to the Venice Hospital area, where we have a break. The hospital looks like a church from the outside. The walk continues through Venice, and we eventually come to a little shop on a canal which sells Venetian masks. The whole group goes inside to see how the Moroccan owner makes the masks. I’m not interested, so I wander around nearby outside. This stop takes about 45 minutes, which is a waste of time for me, although the rest of the group seem to enjoy it.
Our last stop on the tour is the famous St. Marks Square (Piazza San Marco). Timing is important, since at 11:30AM, the lights illuminating the ceiling inside the church are turned on for a short while. Our entrance fee is included in the tour, however I pay an extra 5 Euros to climb the stairs just inside the entrance to the second floor, where the original horses are displayed along with a lot of other original artifacts that need to be preserved from the elements. It is much quieter up here, so I enjoy myself and get some great photos of the gold-covered ceiling and sanctuary with the additional lighting. The bonus is having access to the balcony above the entrance, which gives a terrific view of St. Marks Square, the Duomo and Grand Canal, and the Campanile and clock towers. St. Marks Square is flooded with water this afternoon, since there is a high tide combined with a Full Moon.
September 9, 2014 – Tuesday – Venice to Florence
We schlepp our bags from our hotel to the Tronchetto bus parking area. It is easy going this morning, since the streets have yet to be congested with cruise ship passengers, and of course the regatta is over. We drive from Venice to Florence today on Italy’s wonderful autostradas.
I don’t think Rick Steves buys into this Italian philosophy “The sweetness of doing nothing” since we have little spare time on this tour! Not that I’m complaining, since we are seeing so many sights and having daily experiences I know I would not find or do if I was traveling on my own.