Mid-October on the Central Oregon Coast

The Oregon Coast in October, looking south from the Heceta Lighthouse.

The Oregon Coast in October, looking south from the Heceta Lighthouse.

The beautiful summer months are my preferred time to visit Oregon.  But this October my family celebrated a special occasion, so it was back out to Oregon for an Autumn visit.  We took a gamble on the weather and rented a beach house in Waldport to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday.  October can be very unpredictable as far as the weather is concerned, so we knew we might have cold, rainy weather.  As luck would have it, my mother’s birthday was an unusually nice, warm, sunny, cloudless, windless day at the Oregon beach, pretty much a one in a million day in October.

The view from our rental home on Waldport beach

The view from our rental home on Waldport beach

We had good luck again with vrbo.com.  The house was perfect, gorgeous view, and let our three dogs tag along for the party.

http://www.vrbo.com/279256

rental house

The sunroom of the Waldport beach house we rented through vrbo.com

Everyone enjoyed a walk on the beach

Everyone enjoyed a walk on the beach

Morning walk on the beach

Morning walk on the beach

Waldport is just south of Newport, Oregon and just north of the Heceta Lighthouse, both scenic spots I got a chance to visit.

The Newport, Oregon bridge, with the usual Oregon weather of rain squalls and sun.

The Newport, Oregon bridge, with the usual Oregon weather of rain squalls and sun.

Boats in the Newport, Oregon harbor

Boats in the Newport, Oregon harbor

More fishing boats in Newport, Oregon

More fishing boats in Newport, Oregon

Color sketch of fishing boats

Color sketch of fishing boats

On my mother’s birthday, we drove south to the Heceta Head Lighthouse, built in 1892.  It was restored in 2011, but the lighthouse, the lightkeeper’s house, and the oil house are all original structures.  The Assistant Lightkeeper’s House is now a B & B.  (www.HecetaLighthouse.com)

The trail up to the Heceta Lighthouse

The trail up to the Heceta Lighthouse

trail sign

The Heceta Lighthouse

The Heceta Lighthouse

Nikon Color sketch of the Heceta Lighthouse

Nikon Color sketch of the Heceta Lighthouse

The Heceta Lighthouse taken from a trail behind the structure

The Heceta Lighthouse taken from a trail behind the structure

 

The Assistant Lightkeeper's House, now a B & B

The Assistant Lightkeeper’s House, now a B & B

For the Big Day, we contracted with Chef Becky to come in and cook for us.  (www.chefbecky.com).  Her menu included;  crab cakes with roasted red pepper aioli, hot artichoke and spinach dip, lobster bisque, greens with baby shrimp and dill tarragon dressing and puff pastry medallions, seared scallops with sage browned butter, couscous with pinenuts and petite french green beans with lemon.  It was wonderful, and having someone else do the cooking allowed all of us to visit with guests.

Chef Becky with her crab cakes

Chef Becky with her crab cakes

The day was a success, the weather cooperated, and friends and family all had a good time.

My mom, beautiful at 79 years and 363 days in the photo

My mom, beautiful at 79 years and 363 days in this photo

Me with my mom on her 80th birthday

Me with my mom on her 80th birthday

Friends and family gather to celebrate my mother's birthday

Friends and family gather to celebrate my mother’s birthday

My mother thanks Chef Becky for a wonderful dinner

My mother thanks Chef Becky for a wonderful dinner

cake

 

 

Posted in Family, Oregon | 3 Comments

Lake Como

Color sketch of Varenna

Color sketch of Varenna

With one full day remaining in Italy, I decided to spend it on Lake Como, and I’m glad I did.  Varenna is just a one hour train ride (6.50 Euros)  from Milan, and a good town to start a visit to the central portion of Lake Como.

Varenna in the morning light

Varenna in the morning light

Lake Como, the third largest lake in Italy, is almost like three long lakes that come together in the center.  A cluster of small towns, including Varenna, Bellagio, Cadenabbia, and Menaggio, hug the shoreline at the center.  I arrived at 930 in the morning and enjoyed a cappucino and a dolce (chocolate filled croissant) before walking the lakeside path into the heart of the little town.  It is quite scenic and has a few restaurants and shops along the waterfront.  It is much less well-known than its neighbor Bellagio, but I think just as quaint.

Varenna from the ferry

Varenna from the ferry

Only the garden was open to tourists at Villa Monastero, but it was definitely worth the 5 Euro admission.  At this early hour, much of the garden was in shade, but I was assured I could come back later in the day with the same ticket.

Lakeside garden at Villa Monastero

Lakeside garden at Villa Monastero

View of Lake Como from the gardens at Villa Monastero

View of Lake Como from the gardens at Villa Monastero

vase

I hopped a ferry at 1130 to Bellagio, enjoying a front row seat for 15 minutes on the lake.  Bellagio is larger than Varenna, and it was much more crowded.  It seems to be best known for its expensive shops, which line the waterfront along with restaurants, pedestrian walkways, a few hotels, and a parking lot.

Bellagio waterfront

Bellagio waterfront

Alfa Romeo food truck in Bellagio

Alfa Romeo food truck in Bellagio

I found a wonderful spot for lunch up the hill on a side street and ordered the specialty of the area; lake perch with risotto and asparagus.  I also sampled a caprese salad, and of course some local wine.

Caprese salad

Caprese salad

Risotto with lake perch and asparagus

Risotto with lake perch and asparagus

Of course it is impossible to go to Bellagio without doing a little shopping, so I obliged.

Looking up one of Bellagio's streets

Looking up one of Bellagio’s streets

Leaving Bellagio on the ferry

Leaving Bellagio on the ferry

Another short ferry ride and I was  back in Varenna, which was much more peaceful.  I went back to the gardens at Villa Monastero for some afternoon sun.

The seawall

The seawall

Statue with a view

Statue with a view

Fountain at Villa Monastero

Fountain at Villa Monastero

Fountain detail

Fountain detail

One hour on the train and I was back in Milano.  It was a good day trip, but I would like to return and spend more time in the Lake District.

Nikon color sketch touch up to a garden photo

Nikon color sketch touch up to a garden photo

 

Posted in Italy | 3 Comments

The Last Supper, Ultima Cena

Leonardo da Vinci's Ultima Cena (The Last Supper) painted between 1495 and 1498.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Ultima Cena (The Last Supper) painted between 1495 and 1498.

The one item at the top of my list for Milan was one that I had missed 18 years ago.  It had been closed back then, and this time I wasn’t going to leave Milan without seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s Ultima Cena, The Last Supper, at the Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie.

It is no longer possible to just walk up and get in to see his masterpiece.  About one month in advance I went to the website to get tickets (www.cenacolovinciano.net), and to my horror (and near panic) discovered that they were sold out for our dates in Milan.  But my Fodor’s guidebook said that if you call the box-office in Italy, they save some tickets out for phone in requests.  So that’s what I did, and I got us three slots for 11:30 on Sunday Sept. 28th.  The number to call is (+39) 02 92800360.  The museum is closed on Mondays.

Last Supper with names.

Last Supper with names.

It is a reasonable 8 Euros, and strictly controlled.  This was the one place where no one tried to sneak a photo.  You must pass through two sealed rooms prior to entering the Refectory.  The doors open and close automatically every 15 minutes as the old group is herded out and a new group ushered in.

A Last Supper timeline in one of the waiting rooms

A Last Supper timeline in one of the waiting rooms

The number of visitors is limited to a small group.  There was a nun in the room, and although she didn’t have a ruler, she certainly shushed our group several times as the conversation levels rose in excitement as visitors discussed the fresco with their fellow travelers.

Giovanni Donato Montorfano's Crosifissione, on the opposite wall facing The Last Supper, also painted in1495.

Giovanni Donato Montorfano’s Crosifissione, on the opposite wall facing The Last Supper, also painted in1495.

It was beautiful and well worth the trouble to get there.  We learned that Leonardo was experimenting with a new technique, one that allowed him time to contemplate and paint at a slower rate.  Giovanni used the traditional method of fresco painting, and was finished much quicker with the colors lasting longer.

From History of Italian Renaissance Art, by Frederick Hartt (Fourth Edition 1994):

Leonardo’s Last Supper in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan is often known through prettified versions that conceal its poor condition, which is due to a disastrous technical experiment on Leonardo’s part.  An artist as sensitive as Leonardo to the slightest throb of light in atmosphere was bound to be impatient with the fresco method, which could not allow the time needed to establish his customary shadowy unity to the painting and his perfect luminous finish to the details…Leonardo painted directly on the dry intonaco with an oil tempura whose composition is not yet known.  According to literary accounts, he would sometimes stand on the scaffolding an entire morning without picking up the brush, studying the relationship of tone.  When completed, the painting inspired extravagant praise, but in 1517, while the artist was still alive, it had started to deteriorate, and when Vasari saw it a generation or so later, he found it almost indecipherable.  It was repainted twice in the eighteenth century, it suffered from the brutality of the Napoleonic soldiers and from the monks, who cut a door through it, and it was repainted in the nineteenth century.  In 1943 Allied bombs destroyed much of the rest of the refectory but the painting, protected by sandbags supported on steel tubing, survived.  Extensive conservation efforts after World War II disclosed more of the original under the repaint than anyone had dared to hope, and the picture is currently undergoing a cautious, scientific restoration that has already revealed Leonardo’s delicacy of touch and luminosity of color in the better-preserved areas.

The scientific restoration by Pinin Brambilla Barcilon described above was started in 1977 and took over 20 years.  It would have been ongoing in 1996 when I was last in Milan.

Exterior and courtyard of the Santa Maria dell Grazie

Exterior and courtyard of the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie

We found ourselves in Milan the last Sunday of the month.  It just so happens that a large antique market is held the last Sunday of the month, so we headed to the Navigli district to see it for ourselves.

Last Sunday of the month in Milan antiques market

Last Sunday of the month in Milan antiques market

at the market

It was huge and covered many streets and along the canal.  The canal was dry and there was construction in the area, but the market was good.  I purchased an antique Deruta water pitcher for 25 Euros, and within one hour had dropped it on the pavement.  Oh well.  I also found another Deruta ceramic piece which did make it all the way back to the US.

We had lunch at a stellar local place called Osteria del Gnocco Fritto.  We enjoyed a long, leisurely lunch, starting with a cheese plate and followed by linquine with black truffles.  It was mouthwatering good.  http://www.gnoccofrittomilano.it/en/

Cheese plate appetizer at Osteria del Gnocco Fritto

Cheese plate appetizer at Osteria del Gnocco Fritto

L at lunch

The very tasty spaghetti with black truffles

The very tasty spaghetti with black truffles

Walking back through the antique market, still under way,  we passed a vendor with chandeliers.  I would have loved to take this one back to the states, but with only one day left of the trip I didn’t want to spend it worrying about logistics in shipping.

The chandelier I wish I could have brought back

The 200 Euro chandelier I wish I could have brought back

Posted in Italy | 3 Comments

In the hills above Verona

Claudio shows us on the map where we will go hiking, and the area's wine country

Claudio shows us on the map where we will go hiking, and the area’s wine country

We considered ourselves fortunate to have found the Romy Rocker B & B.  The next morning Claudio took us, and the two other Russian guests, on a personal tour of the nearby mountains.  He has walked these hills and trails all his life with family and his own children.  He said there were no tourists in that area, and he was right.  It was all local people out for a Saturday hike.

Local wine country map

Local wine country map

We also stopped to pick up some locally made cheese for the B & B.  These are lucky cows to live in the mountains in the clean air and eating the fresh grass.

Cheese shop, up in the hills

Cheese shop, up in the hills

Local cheeses

Local cheeses

Local wine

Local wine

Local cow

Local cow

Claudio talked of the history of the area as we climbed higher.  We should have been able to see Lake Garda from up in the hills, but it was too hazy on that day.   We did see lots of walkers with dogs, and a marmot.  One man coming down the trail said he had seen some mountain goats up higher.

Map of the park and the area

Map of the park and the area

Claudio and Augie early in the hke

Claudio and Augie early in the hke

A little higher up the mountain

A little higher up the mountain

Near the top of where we hiked, but not by any means near the top of the mountains

Near the top of where we hiked, but not by any means near the top of the mountains

After the hike, we stopped to have lunch at a small farm.  We had “poor man’s meal”, a wonderful pasta with onions.  The pasta was really good, paired with home made beer and local wine.  Back at the house, Claudio gave us a demonstration of the difference in sound between his two bass instruments, and even played a few tunes on the piano.  One is 250 years old.  It was an unexpected and appreciated treat.

Claudio plays the double bass

Claudio plays the double bass

The Music Room at the Romy Rocker B & B

The Music Room at the Romy Rocker B & B

We would have liked to stay longer, using the Romy Rocker B & B as a base and explore more of the wine country, but we had a train to catch for Milan, and three nights hotel already paid.  Claudio generously gave us a lift back to the train station and we were on our way back to Milan.

Back on the train.  Our last big train ride between cities.  Only local Milan trains from now on

Back on the train. Our last big train ride between cities. Only local Milan trains from now on

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Venice to Verona

The Drunkenness of Noah, plus the Bridge of Sighs in the pink glow of the early morning.

The Drunkenness of Noah, plus the Bridge of Sighs in the pink glow of the early morning.

On our last morning in Venice, I awoke at 630 and hustled one last time down to Piazza San Marco for another crowd free Venetian morning.  I was glad of my decision as the sun rose and tinted the sky a pale pink.  Again, only photographers and very early morning workers were out and about.  It was peaceful and beautiful.  I arrived into the piazza earlier than a few days before, and moments before the lights lining the square were shut off.

Piazza San Marco at first light.

Piazza San Marco at first light.

Sunrise in Venice

Sunrise in Venice

The pink morning light in Venice

The pink morning light in Venice

The classic photo of Venice;  Gondolas at St. Marks

The classic photo of Venice; Gondolas at St. Marks

We departed Venice on a train to Verona, a short one hour ride.  We had one last Grand Canal tour as we boarded the water bus for the trip to the train station.  Once again we had trouble printing our tickets, and came to the conclusion that it may be better to buy tickets ‘day of’ instead of having reservations that require a confirmation code to be punched into a reluctant Italian automated ticket machine.

Old meets new at the Roman Arena in Verona

Old meets new at the Roman Arena in Verona

However, we did make it to Verona and here is where Rick Steves started to earn his credibility back, having lost it over a less than stellar restaurant recommendation.  The pick up time for our B & B wasn’t until 6 pm so we had nearly 6 hours of touring and, unfortunately, all of our luggage.  Rick Steves’ book directed us to the baggage hold area where we paid 6 Euros per bag to hold our luggage for 5 hours.  At 18 Euros (I had one large and two small hand bags which they counted individually) I thought it a steep price, but we had no other options.

A colorful building in Verona, with a marching Mini Cooper parked across the narrow street

A colorful building in Verona, with a matching Mini Cooper parked across the narrow street

A very good risotto in Verona

A very good risotto in Verona

Another Rick Steves tip had us boarding the 1.80 Euro bus to the center of the town near the arena, saving us a long walk.  Once at the arena, the area has many pedestrian only streets.  We found a nice looking restaurant a short walk up one street and had the best meal in days.  Unfortunately, our meals in Venice were less than wonderful.  Normally I research recommended places to eat, but didn’t for this trip.  I have had good food in Venice before, but not this time.  It was mostly over-priced and nothing to write home about.

Another tiny car that matched the building color....what's going on here?

Another tiny car that matched the building color….what’s going on here?

After lunch we followed the walking tour and meandered from the Roman Arena towards the Piazza delle Erbe.  We found Verona, at least the old center, to be quite clean and scenic.  There is evidence all around of the Roman influence, with the arena, city wall and Roman Bridge as a few examples.  We also stopped in to witness the spectacle of the Juliet House.  Here an enterprising individual installed a balcony and claimed it to be Juliet’s.  Her statue is in the courtyard.  It was packed with tourists despite the fact that Romeo and Juliet is a work of fiction and Shakespeare had never been to Verona before writing his play.  However, there was a history of feuding families in the area, so who knows.

The crowd at the House of Juliet and Juliet's balcony with a cast of new characters

The crowd at the House of Juliet and Juliet’s balcony with a cast of new characters

The balcony, which was added in the 1970s

The balcony, which was added in the 1970s

The statue of Juliet

The statue of Juliet

We walked all over the old town center area and also found the best gelato of the ­trip so far at Amorino, all natural gelato (http://www.amorino.com/en/).  We enjoyed the many pedestrian streets, colorful buildings, cleanliness and the good food.

The Roman Bridge (Ponte Pietra) in Verona

The Roman Bridge (Ponte Pietra) in Verona

Augie and Teresa on the Roman Bridge

Augie and Teresa on the Roman Bridge

 

Colorful buildings in Verona

Colorful buildings in Verona

Back at the train station, we waited at the curb as our ride, B & B proprietor Romy Rocker, pulled up to whisk us out of town and into the hills overlooking Verona.  Normally this is not a service they provide, and we were thankful for the lift.  Romy Rocker B & B is about 20 to 30 minutes out of town, up in the hills.  As Romy drove us to her home, she explained that she was the first B & B in the area, started about 25 years ago.  Most guests stay for a few days, arriving by rental car.  We hadn’t really realized how far out of town it was, but were very pleased to spend a night in the quiet countryside surrounded by vineyards and olive trees.  It was a scenic ride to their piece of heaven and our hosts, Romy Rocker and Claudio Bartolamai were gracious and kind.

Romy Rocker and Claudio Bartolamai of the Romy Rocker B&B in the hills above Verona

Romy Rocker and Claudio Bartolamai of the Romy Rocker B&B in the hills above Verona

We enjoyed a local welcome drink and a view of the lights of Verona spread out before us.  Claudio entertained us with tails of his recent stint playing the double bass in Palermo, and other venues, including Carnegie Hall.  We then walked the short distance into the tiny town of Trezzolano for dinner.  The small restaurant was a few minutes walk up the hill and worlds apart from where we had been for the past four days.  We had homemade pasta with mushrooms and tomatoes and the local wine.  It was a truly tasty and satisfying meal for 10 Euros each, and a bargain for the best meal of the trip so far.

A backyard full of olive trees

A backyard full of olive trees

Without the haze and humidity, you would be able to see Verona from this point

Without the haze and humidity, you would be able to see Verona from this point

A photo of an olive tree in the Piazza Duomo in Verona, using color sketch by Nikon

A photo of an olive tree in the Piazza Duomo in Verona, using color sketch by Nikon

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Altre foto di Venezia

The Grand Canal taken from the Rialto Bridge looking north

The Grand Canal taken from the Rialto Bridge looking north

Another day of wandering the city.  We visited the food market near the Rialto, toured the Ca’ d’Oro, got purposely lost in the winding streets, bought a day pass to hop on and off the water bus and finished with a tour of Ca’ Rezzonico.  Another full day.

Rialto open air market

Rialto open air market

After crossing the Rialto Bridge from the San Marco side to the Santa Croce San Polo side, the open air market is just off to the right side along the Grand Canal.  The fruits and vegetables were all fresh, but nothing was as fresh as the fish.  As the fish stall owner poured another bucket of fish onto the ice at his table, the fish were still flopping around.

Seafood for sale at the Rialto open air market

Seafood for sale at the Rialto open air market

Pesche spada, fresh.  Slice off the size of steak you want.

Pesce spada, fresh. Slice off the size of steak you want.

We hopped the water bus from the Rialto Mercato station to the next stop on the opposite side of the canal, Ca’ d’Oro station. In the Cannaregio neighborhood.  Ca’ d’Oro is the oldest surviving palazzo in Venice.  The “Golden House” (the marble traceries and ornaments were embellished with gold in earlier times) is now a museum.

The Grand Canal from a balcony of the Ca' d'Oro, "Golden House"

The Grand Canal from a balcony of the Ca’ d’Oro, “Golden House”

We hopped another water bus headed towards San Marco and disembarked at the Zaccaria station near the Palazzo Ducale.

The Palazzo DUcale and the Campanile as seen from the water bus

The Palazzo Ducale and the Campanile as seen from the water bus

As we walked past the Basilica di San Marco, the tourists were lined up for the entrance on high water planks.  These are stacked all over the city and put into action when the tide is high.  The water was bubbling up into Piazza San Marco.

Tourists wait in line to see the Basilica during high tide

Tourists wait in line to see the Basilica during high tide

We started our map-less wandering and found a good lunch spot.  Right next to the restaurant we also found a mask shop.  Mask shops are all over the city and I had planned to purchase just the right one.  We browsed many shops, not finding what I was looking for.  The masks made in Venice have an authenticity stamp and cost more than the cheap Chinese made masks.  Of course I wanted a mask made in Venice but hadn’t found it yet.  I finally did when we stumbled upon this shop somewhere in the San Marco area.  The mask maker was selling his own masks and painting them right in his shop.  He also had molds filled with hardening paper mache and was glad to show us the process and sell me a very pretty mask that he had made himself.

A mask mold with a drying mask, and a painted finished product

A mask mold with a drying mask, and a painted finished product

The mask maker wearing his painter's bib of many colors

The mask maker wearing his painter’s bib of many colors

Getting lost in Venice is easy to do, but we did it intentionally.  It was Teresa’s desire to walk the streets without reference to the maps just to see what we would find.

Unknown canal during our wandering

Unknown canal during our wandering

We wandered the narrow streets and ended up in the Dorsoduro area.  After enjoying a gelato, we found the Ca’ Rezzonico, a 17th century palace whose main floor is decorated with period funishings and tapestries.  It was the last home of English poet Robert Browning.  The grand ballroom and ceiling frescoes are spectacular.

Ca' Rezzonico grand ballroom

Ca’ Rezzonico grand ballroom

A drawing room in Ca' Rezzonico

A drawing room in Ca’ Rezzonico

In one of the Ca' Rezzonico room's hangs a chandelier 350 years old.

In one of the Ca’ Rezzonico room’s hangs a chandelier 350 years old.

Detail of the 350 year old chandelier

Detail of the 350 year old chandelier

The apartment we rented was right across the canal from the Ca’ Rezzonico, but of course we had to find a way across.  Once more on the water bus, only one stop away from the Accademia Bridge station and a short walk to the apartment.

Nikon color sketch retouch of a Grand Canal photo:

Colorsketch of grand canal

 

 

 

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Things To Do In Venice

 

Me standing in the Molo San Marco with Isola Di San Giorgio in the background

Me standing in the Molo San Marco with Isola Di San Giorgio in the background

PIAZZA SAN MARCO

Visit the Piazza San Marco and the Molo San Marco early in the morning when most tourists are still sleeping and only dedicated photographers are out and about.

Corner of the Doge's Palace at sunrise

Corner of the Doge’s Palace at sunrise

Winged Lion detail on the Camponile's gate

Winged Lion detail on the Camponile’s gate

DSC_5685

Ponte della Paglia, the bridge from which you can photo the Bridge of Sighs

Ponte della Paglia, the bridge from which you can photograph the Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs

The Arcade at the Palazzo Ducale.  The only time to see this area without throngs of tourists is very early in the morning

The Arcade at the Palazzo Ducale. The only time to see this area without throngs of tourists is very early in the morning

One of the beautiful mosaics on the Basilica San Marco's facade.

One of the beautiful mosaics on the Basilica San Marco’s facade.

TOUR THE PALAZZO DUCALE

Some non-flash photography was allowed.  Impressive paintings, Doge’s apartments, the Grand Council Hall, council rooms, Senate hall, rooms of armour, marble fireplaces, the Golden Staircase, and of course the Bridge of Sighs to the prisons.  It is a full agenda.

Apollo and Neptune at the top of the Giants' Staircase.

Apollo and Neptune at the top of the Giants’ Staircase.

Painted ceiling, Trial Chamber of the Council of Ten, Palazzo Ducale

Painted ceiling, Trial Chamber of the Council of Ten, Palazzo Ducale

Juno Bestowing her Gifts on Venice

Juno Bestowing her Gifts on Venice

Mercury and Minerva

Mercury and Minerva

Armor for horses in the armory

Armor for horses in the armory

The Bridge of Sighs from the backside, as seen from a window in the Palazzo Ducale

The Bridge of Sighs from the backside, as seen from a window in the Palazzo Ducale

Looking out through the window in the Bridge of Sighs, towards the Grand Canal and San Marco Canal

Looking out through the window in the Bridge of Sighs, towards the Grand Canal and San Marco Canal

TAKE A GONDOLA RIDE

The gondolas (500 in Venice) seem to run constantly.  We took our gondola ride at dusk.

Augie and Teresa with Gondolier Nicoli.

Augie and Teresa with Gondolier Nicoli.

Me with the Rialto Bridge in the background.

Me with the Rialto Bridge in the background.

L gondola 1

The Chiesa di Santa Maria della Salute

The Chiesa di Santa Maria della Salute

After the gondola ride, we walked back to the apartment, stopping for dinner along the way.  I ordered Sea Bass.  I should not have been surprised to get the fish, head, tail and all, instead of a filet.  This is the local way to serve Sea Bass.  I must admit to being a bit wimpy about it, but did my best with the meal.

Sea Bass Venetian sytle

Sea Bass Venetian sytle

 

 

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Venezia

Early morning at the Ponte di Rialto

Early morning at the Ponte di Rialto

In and around and around and around Venice

If I was tired after hiking the one segment of the Cinque Terre, that was only a warm up for Venice.  We must have walked 10 miles our first day in the city.  I wanted to see the Rialto Bridge early in the morning, and although the crowds were sparse, the banners and scaffolding behind the bridge didn’t make for great photo opportunities.  Oh well, it was nice to see the bridge again.

Detail of a water fountain

Detail of a water fountain

We measured the distance on the map from our apartment to the Rialto Bridge and figured it was about ¾ mile.  We did the round trip three times today, plus much more.

The exterior of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

The exterior of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

One of my must see cultural sites in Venice was the Basilica di Sant Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.  We got started early and entered the church while only just a handful of other tourists were there.  It is impressive architecture, but I was there to see Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin.  I remembered it from 18 years ago and longed to see it again.  We purchased the English audio guide which was helpful with details.  There is a lot to see in the church and we took our time.  I was however, very disturbed to see many people taking photos inside the church and of the Titian masterpiece while standing right in front of the “No Photos” sign in English, Italian and the international red slash across a camera symbol.  I always ask the admissions personnel if non-flash photography is allowed, and did so here.  I was told absolutely no photos of any type were allowed.  Regardless of a dozen signs around the church, we saw many people clicking iPhones and flashing cameras at anything and everything.  I purchased a postcard of the painting instead.

Tiziano Vecellio's 'Assunta', at the Basilica S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice.

Tiziano Vecellio’s ‘Assunta’, at the Basilica S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice.

Buildings reflected in a puddle from the storm the night before.  We saw piles of hail many inches deep that lasted all day

Buildings reflected in a puddle from the storm the night before. We saw piles of hail many inches deep that lasted all day

Somewhere in the Dorsoduro area

Somewhere in the Dorsoduro area

Bridge detail

Bridge detail

From the Campo de Frari we walked through the maze of narrow streets, trying to use our sense of direction instead of maps, crossed the Accademia Bridge into the Dorsoduro neighborhood and out to The Punte della Dogana to see St. Marks from across the Grand Canal.  It was warm and sunny, and a bit breezy.  We circled Dorsoduro, strolled along the Zattere and walked back across the Accademia Bridge.

Palazza Ducale and Campanile taken from Punta della Dogana

Palazza Ducale and Campanile taken from Punta della Dogana

 

That would have been enough, but we headed straight to Piazza San Marco for more walking.  St. Marks was where the crowds were.  It was four people deep taking photos at the Bridge of Sighs.  Too many people for me and we headed back to the relatively quiet part of town where we are staying.

San Giorgio Maggiore taken from in front of the Palazzo Ducale

San Giorgio Maggiore taken from in front of the Palazzo Ducale

Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs)

Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs)

Lion detail from a statue on the Molo riva degli Schiavoni near the Palazzo Ducale

Lion detail from a statue on the Molo riva degli Schiavoni near the Palazzo Ducale

We took a Bellini break before heading out one last time to the Rialto Bridge for sunset light.  It was unspectacular, no colors and more crowds.  We picked up two “take away” pizzas and another bottle of Bellini and called it a night.

The Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge at sunset

The Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge at sunset

Gloves in a shop window.  There are many glove shops in Venice

Gloves in a shop window. There are many glove shops in Venice

A mask in a shop window.  There are many mask shops too, some really gorgeous ones

A mask in a shop window. There are many mask shops too, some really gorgeous ones

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Arrival Into Venice

Looking east along the Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge

Looking east along the Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge

We arrived in Venice to bright blue skies and perfect temperatures.  It has been over 18 years since I was last here in April of 1996.  As we stepped out of the train station  and saw the Grand Canal I remembered why I loved it so much back then.  There is no city as breathtaking as Venice when you first see it.

Our meeting with Victoria to pick up the key to the apartment went without a hitch.  We are staying in another property found on VRBO.  It’s gorgeous,  a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment located near the Accademia Bridge.

Our first order of business was to find the Super Marche and purchase provisions.  It’s hard to walk a steady pace as you pass one photo op after another.

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It was blue skies with no hint of rain as we walked along the Canale della Giudecca towards the grocery store.

Looking west along the Canale della Giudecca as we walked to the Super Marche for groceries

Looking west along the Canale della Giudecca as we walked to the Super Marche for groceries

As we exited the market with bags of food and wine, an ominous dark cloud was rolling over the top of the city.  We didn’t get far before lightning was flashing and the first drops of rain and hail stones began to fall.

The same view looking west as the storm clouds rolled over Venice

The same view looking west as the storm clouds rolled over Venice

As we hurried along Fond Zattere Ponte Lungo with bags of food, the hail stones increased to the size of marbles.  It was necessary to take shelter in the portico of a bank teller machine as the deluge came and darkness fell.

Storm clouds rolling over Venice

Storm clouds rolling over Venice

Teresa captured the lightning strikes

Teresa captured the lightning strikes

Deluge

Deluge

rain + umbrella

On our return from the super marche we stopped in the same spot and took another photo looking east along the Grand Canal as lightning illuminated the clouds

On our return from the super marche we stopped in the same spot and took another photo looking east along the Grand Canal as lightning illuminated the clouds

After the rain slowed to a light drizzle we continued back to the apartment for dinner.  The storm picked up again and was pretty steady all evening.

 

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Thoughts on Camogli and Modes of Transportation

The port of Camogli

The port of Camogli

CAMOGLI

 

We were very happy with the decision to stay in Camogli.  It is a quieter and less crowded town than any of the Cinque Terre villages, smaller and more manageable than Santa Margherita, and much less expensive than Portofino.  It’s convenient to all by train.  The apartment we rented through VRBO.com was exactly as described and a beautiful location.

http://www.vrbo.com/138322

A painted building in Camogli

A painted building in Camogli

The little towns here in Italy are charming due to the beautiful colors on the buildings and the trompe l’oeil detailing.  Without that, they would just look like buildings, but the painting really makes it attractive.

A boat in the Camogli harbor

A boat in the Camogli harbor

Camogli at night

Camogli at night

MODES OF TRANSPORTATION

Previously, I have had good luck with trains and prefer to ride rather than fight traffic in a rental car.  We had a discussion today on whether it is better to travel by car or train, and I usually think the train is better if you are staying somewhere with a station and train service.  Unfortunately, this time we have had bad luck with the trains.

Our first train from Milan to Camogli was 40 minutes late, causing us to miss our connection in Genova and arrive late into Camogli.  Then we had to deal with the rail workers’ strike, which was only mildly inconvenient for us, but I’m sure disrupted many travelers’ plans that Sunday.  Our train from Camogli to Milan was also late, requiring us to literally run to catch the train from Milan to Venice, only barely climbing aboard before it pulled out of the station.  (We were dragging our luggage at the time too).

However, I have had numerous troubles with rental cars including double billings in Sicily, lack of signs in Spain, frustration with returning a car in an unfamiliar city (Barcelona and Florence), parking issues, and in one instance actually having to park outside the city and take a cab into Taormina to our hotel.  (We had traversed the city half a dozen times before giving up and getting a cab.  We could not find the hotel and never would have, as the cab backed down a pedestrian mall to our hotel, something that did not cross our minds).  So I think it is an even split on car versus train.

Our next stop is Venice, where we won’t have to deal with either, only boats.

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