Day 38: Verona to Venice, Italy - Grampies Ride Again! - CycleBlaze

August 28, 2015

Day 38: Verona to Venice, Italy

It's goodbye to Verona. We loved it. Here are my two Romeo and Juliette stickers, and the bag they came in.
Heart 0 Comment 0

We hatched a scheme to get around the lack of fluid ounces delivered when you get a coffee or hot chocolate at a hotel here. As per normal, the hotel man this morning made a lot of grinding and hissing noises and delivered to us the minute single shots in little cups. But we had put coffee powder and cocoa powder in our thermoses, and now we just asked for boiling water in those.

The man went away, and there was a disconcerting amount of hissing to be heard. But he came back with the two containers in good order. That is, until we looked inside. He had helpfully also cleaned out our messy powders. Hang on, we'll get this right before we leave the country. Getting it right, we are sure, will not take the form of accepting happily the teeny tiny drinks. We are too old and too North American for that. Supersize me, we say!

We knew well where the train station was, and we of course had chosen a hotel right between the central square and the station. On the other hand, signs to indicate the direction of the actual station were more or less non-existent, and the sign even right on the building was pretty small. The other side of this coin was that the station was manageable and did not have the huge size and crowds of anything horrific - like London.

We needed separate tickets for ourselves and our bikes, but the grand total cost of the train was €24.20. This cut out for us 150 km, but more importantly it cut a part of our route where we could not guarantee a safe bike way.

It was not totally easy, of course. They began with a set of tall stairs up to the track. No time to unload the bags. I just grabbed the whole kit - bike and gear - and walked up the stairs with it. What an amazing, powerful guy!

That gave us a full two minutes to actually get the bikes on the train. Again - a high lift into the car. Once inside, we were glad about having the toy bikes - because the only allocated space was just one Bike Friday (with wheel turned sideways) long. Maybe there was a real bike car - no time to find out!

We took some seats from which we could watch the bikes. There was a lady opposite, facing us. She had one leg forward in my part of the space, and I expected she would withdraw it when we sat down. In Canada, maybe. I had to shove it with my handlebar bag to get any reaction. Different concepts of personal space. Dodie (tougher than I) also got up and shoved three girls who were leaning on our bikes, off.

The manageably small train station of Verona
Heart 0 Comment 0
Shoving the Fridays into a small space on the train
Heart 0 Comment 0
They clearly are nt thinking of touring bikes (or disabled people!) at the train station.
Heart 0 Comment 0

We kind of snapped to attention when we arrived at a station labelled Venezia - Maestre, since we knew our target camping was in Maestre. Already the aisle was filled with people - too bad, because normally we would have been up near the exit, with our bikes ready to try to be first off. We are not keen on the idea of a train leaving with one of us on and one off!

Again the drill was the same - big lift down from the carriage, long stairs, - old hat! Out from the station we could immediately see that this was not Verona any more. Lots of litter around, and not a marble sidewalk in sight. Still there was a bike path, and in fact there was bike path all the way for us! This was way better than what we had expected of Italy.

Dodie usually objects to using the GPS, especially in a city. But here, the GPS was our only hope. So this is when it decided (despite having lots of satellites) to play silly bugger about where we were. The blue circle of uncertainty whanged in and out, out and in. Grrr. We just chose a direction and went until it came to its senses.

Even though there was a safe bike way from the train station to the camping, we did have to wind our way though a park, adding several km to the journey.

But camping Rialto was worth it. Not only were the staff helpful and multilingual, but we were able to get a cabin, for about 40 euros. It's just a bare cabin, no water and dim lights, but it has the big feature of being lockable. That way we could put our bikes and valuables inside, and not risk them by a tent, or with us in Venice. The staff at the camping warned heavily about pick pockets, and are storing our passports - against any and all risks.

There is a bus that stops right at the camping gate, and that goes directly in to Venice. We started with a one way ticket into town, available at the Camping office, and later got a 20 euro each 24 hour pass on all local transport, including significantly the Vaporetto - motor launch up and down the Grand Canal (and elsewhere).

After a few km of preliminary road, the bus launches onto the causeway that joins Venice to the mainland. It is vaguely possible to ride a bike on this causeway, but there is little reason since you can not take bike into Venice proper.

Along the causeway and at the bus stops at the Venice end the scene is typical ugly urban chaos. But the bus area is on the end of the Grand Canal, and when I walked over there for a peek - Boing! - Disney Land - straight out of the movies domes and palaces and boats.

The litter-y streets of Mestre, near Venice
Heart 0 Comment 0
We went for one of these cabins, so we could easily lock up our stuff at Camping Rialto
Heart 0 Comment 0
This is actually Venice - but the part where buses (and cars) end.
Heart 0 Comment 0
A 15 second walk from the bus reveals a different view of Venice.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Unlike probably 99% of the tourists, we did not jump on the Vaporetto and head down the Grand Canal. This was because we had bought only the 24 hour transport pass, and we did not want to start our 24 hour countdown too soon. So we set off walking. It's not as if you can walk the Grand Canal, because there is no consistent path along it. Rather there is an absolute rabbit's warren of streets, some of which pop out at the Canal, where there may be a spot to board either a water taxi, gondola, or Vaporetto. There are 21 (by my count) Vaporetto wharves for Line 1 - along the Grand Canal.

For something that looks so small on a map, Venice is incredibly dense and twisted. Even of you are not hobbling old Grampies, it can take hours and hours to move around in it. And of course, except for the water transport, moving means walking. No cars, no bikes, no scooters!

Except for that first peek at the Canal, our walking effort through Venice produced a much different impression from what we had expected. There were relatively few tourists. Laundry hanging from windows made it look like people actually lived there - also contrary to what we had heard. We did see some canals, but they contained taxis - admittedly nice looking motor launches - rather than picturesque gondolas.

The sun was really hot as we marched on, periodically consulting the little map we had gotten at the Camping. Strangely, there was no Tourist Information at the bus stop area, and in fact we saw no Tourist Information all day. So no useful free city map from them. We eventually bought a map for 2 euros, but by then we were already used to our Camping map and stuck with it.

The map of Venice - maybe looks deceptively simple. Every tourist not at St Marks appeared lost - us too
Heart 0 Comment 0

Our target was Piazza San Marco, which we knew to be the centre of town from dimly remembered Rick Steves material. About half way there, we sat a wilting Dodie down at the mostly empty outdoor tables of a snack bar - to find some juice and a snack. The waitress approached and we began by asking her to indicate on the map where we were. (Yes, we have a GPS, but don't get me started on why it was not in use!). The lady drew a circle on our map, and then said "This is a restaurant, you can't sit there". So we had our first official loud Italian shouting match, and satisfying stomp off!

This and the next four photos show Venice not
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Two gondoliers ona break.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Theatrical masks are for sale throughout Venice
Heart 0 Comment 0
These were actually ticket sellers.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

As we proceeded on the second half of our walk, the tourists began to thicken. We took this thickening as a good sign, that we were approaching the Square or other good stuff. Soon the thickening of tourists was a flood, and then, a madding crowd. "Wow, this is great, look at all the action", I said. This is a position that would not last too long. All that "action" gets in your way, and drives prices to four times normal level.

The tourists thicken - a lot
Heart 0 Comment 0
Super thick tourists
Heart 0 Comment 0
The key parts of Venice are really jammed with tourists
Heart 0 Comment 0

When we did reach Piazza San Marco, it was truly magnificent. There are about nine super sights there, with the most stunning being the Basilica. We were quite frazzled by this time, though. Dodie had walked about 4 hours, and her knees were fairly kaput. We needed food and we needed to be able to get on a Vaporetto to get back to the bus.

The Basilica
Heart 0 Comment 0
This and the next three shots are from around St Mark's Square
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

There were restaurants around, but each was affecting white coated waiters, live music from a piano/violin/ clarinet ensemble (or similar) and quadruple prices. Like 22 euros for a banana split - what a joke!

There are musicians and white coated waiters at all the restaurants near St Marks. Prices are quadruple. Rick Steves also found a toilet for 1.50 euros!
Heart 0 Comment 0
Tourists look up at the sights of St Marks
Heart 0 Comment 0
Detail of an outside wall of the Basilica
Heart 0 Comment 0
St Marks panarama
Heart 0 Comment 0

Our solution was to shove over a small group of Asian women, who were joining with hundreds of others to clog up any and all steps or other places to sit without paying. (Ready for this - it is illegal to eat food in public seating in Venice!). We got enough space to slot Dodie in, and there she rested.

After a while we formulated the plan of walking back loosely parallel to the Grand Canal, far enough for the prices to fall to just double, and there to eat something. Then we would strike over to the Canal itself and find the Vaporetto.

In the middle of this plan we fell across the Church of San Maurizio, which was housing a museum of 16 th century violins and other stringed instruments. Italy is of course famous for such instruments, though its most famous group of makers was from Cremona, and included Amati, Stradivari, and Guarneri del Gesu. However, Venice too had some super producers, and not to mention the composer Vivaldi. The display seemed to be generally in honour of Vivaldi, and tonight (yes tonight!) thee as to be a Vivaldi recital. We gave it a miss - had to get home and write this!

Heart 0 Comment 0
A preserved or replica 17th century violin workshop
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

The museum also held something that would revolutionize our visit to Venice. It was a kids' guide to the city. Honestly, it contained far too much information for us, but for tomorrow it will give us a fighting chance to make our way around! For now, it completely dissolved any feelings of being totally overwhelmed.

Our greatest guide book
Heart 0 Comment 0
Oh, oh, the book has quizzes that look tough to me!
Heart 0 Comment 0

The up-tick in our spirits continued, as we found a restaurant with semi believable prices, and a cool inside table. Pizza, salad, buffalo cheese, large (large!) American coffee - pleese (turned out to be no more than 3 ounces), and Sacher torte, were all great. 47 euros, eh.

Finally (finally!) we emerged on the Grand Canal. Now it was truly back to Disney land! Gondoliers in striped shirts singing opera, palace after palace with their feet in the water, it was the Venice you expect.

We crowded onto a Vaporetto and began the slow trek along the Canal. The boat goes slow and stops at each of those 21 stops. If you want to go fast, you need to take a "taxi". Just like in a city with regular roads, I guess. Dodie was fairly shaky and had her "cane", so she ejected a young woman from a seat marked for the disabled. We have noted zero politeness of the type need to voluntarily offer a seat, among the Italians.

At the bus stop, we had just missed one, so we were first in line for the next one. A lady, blabbing away in Italian on a cell phone, came along and just took up the first position. We waited for the bus to arrive and then body checked her out of the way. Enough of that bullshit! (Once on the bus, the lady continued yapping on the phone for the remainder of her trip!).

By now it was dark, and after clearing the causeway I went and asked the driver where the stop was for Camping Rialto. No answer, just a vague wave in the forward direction. We ended up getting off two stops too early. Check off two more kilometers of walking on the shaky knees!

Some other topics came up during our walk around Venice. We noticed that every tourist shop was selling theatrical masks. Need to research the background on that.

We saw lots of high end fashion stores, like Gucci. Matching these were African origin guys in the streets selling knock offs. We saw three police officers arrive near one bridge, and all the street sellers grabbed their wares and ran for it, police in pursuit. Half hour later, they were all back.

Handbag knockoff seller - watch out for the police!
Heart 0 Comment 0

Many stores had Venetian glass - called Murano Glass, after Murano Island here. The signs promised this was authentic and not made in China.

Venetian glass
Heart 0 Comment 0
This is Venetian glass too
Heart 0 Comment 0

Check the photos below and their captions for coverage of these, and maybe other topics.

( CAPTIONS AND PHOTOS IN THE RIGHT PLACES COMING SOON - after some sleep)

Along the Grand Canal
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

Today's ride: 12 km (7 miles)
Total: 1,837 km (1,141 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 0
Comment on this entry Comment 0