2005 – March

Making the most of the Easter break we took a few days off work and headed over to Italy, a short 2 hr easyjet flight and we were in Venice, our hotel room overlooking the Grand Canal. We got up early each day and headed off to St Marks square to see one of the sites (before it got too hectic and over run with tourists), the first day we visited the Palazzo Ducale (Dukes home) built in the 9th century which also housed the government and over the bridge of sighs the prison. Many works of art adorned the walls and ceilings, some of the rooms being works of art in themselves. In the afternoon we headed over to the island of Murano, where the majority of glasswork is made (limiting the risk of fire to one island), watching masters at work in the furnaces blowing glass into goblets and stretching glass into animals. The following day back at St Marks we went up the 99m tall Campanile (bell tower) for a spectacular view of Venice, then it was off to the Museo Correr dedicated to the art & history of Venice and the Museo Archeologico, a rather disappointing collection of statue parts, coins & an Egyptian mummy. We also had a look round the Ca’Rezzonico, the museum of the 18th century, located in a 17th to 18th century mansion (owned at one time by the poet Robert Browning). The workmanship in the furniture & decoration has to be admired, upstairs also held an art gallery. From here we walked the back allies to the the Rialto bridge and the main shopping area before heading back to the hotel. On the 3rd day we went back to St Marks to visit the basilica, which has the most amazing mosaics I have ever seen and 4 bronze horses stolen from Constantinople in 1204 which are so life like. In the afternoon we went back to Murano and onto Burano an island famed for it’s lace making and colourful pastel houses. In the evenings we would wander thought the alleyways getting lost or catch a vaporetto (ferry) down the Grand Canal before finding somewhere to eat. On the 5th day we caught a train (prima class (1st)) to Verona where I got us off at the wrong stop and we ended up walking around for 2 hrs with our backpacks – at least there were a few sights to see on the way! We got to the residence just as Richard & Kiki did (they drove from Munich to meet us), after a late lunch we explored the arena built in the 1st century BC, from the top there was awesome views of the city Shakespeare had base his story of Romeo & Juliet, we walked around town the the shopping area (labels everywhere) to the river and to a cathedral. We had an early morning wake up in the form of smoke and the fire alarm ringing, luckily one of the people staying spoke Italian and talked the fire brigade into coming, it happened that the restaurant next door had a fire, which was promptly put out and we were able to return to our beds at 6 am. After a not so bright & early start the four of us headed to Modena, after wandering through a fab market, (wish I could do our shopping there!) we headed off to the Galleria Ferrari, it was cool to be able to get so close to all the Ferraris with out barriers – you could touch every one. Next we were off to a balsamic vinegar vineyard to see how it was traditionally made and of course taste & buy. We drove off to Parma for the night (Ian & I were lucky enough to get a spa bath in our hotel room which we use twice in one night!). The next morning we roamed around the town, Richard & Kiki brought some Parma ham & parmesan cheese, we went to the cathedral, baptistry and museo Archeologico Nazionale. Luchtime had us heading off to Piza to see the cathedral and famous leaning tower, before heading off to an agritourismo apartment we had booked, which lucky for us Kiki said wasn’t good enough so we headed off to find a bed for the night which eventually ended up being a lovely hotel in Greve, 20kms from Florence. On Saturday we drove to San Gimignano, an old walled town on top of a hill with 13 towers and then onto a vineyard, Castello Vicchiomaggio, to have a cellar tour and sample some great Chianti wines. The following day we headed to Florence, unfortunately in was the only rainy day we had and being Easter Sunday the cathedral was closed to visitors, and there were so many visitors there that all the museum queues were hours long. We did manage to see a museum with working models of some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions. Calling it quits early we all headed back to Greve to the wine museum and tasting centre which had a cool system where you brought a card worth 10, 15 or 20 euros then went around to the various stations put in your card, pressed the button for the wine you wanted and it would deduct the value of the wine from your card. Monday signalled that our holiday was coming to an end, Richard & Kiki dropped us off in Verona where Ian & I spent a night before catching the train back to Venice and our flight home.

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