European tour – Day 7 – Florence

Today we left Vicenza and drove to Florence. It took about 3 hours on the Autostrasse. We found the hotel after maneuvering in some interesting traffic. One lane might be two here, and lanes becomes nonexistent if you are on a scooter. We and then had to maneuver the car into some double parking to get the luggage to the door, and I was off to find parking, about 1KM up the road.

The B&B room was in a traditional Italian city apartment with a large drawing room and about 5 additional rooms. The front balcony overlooked the street and our room had a nice balcony to a quieter section of the city.

We quickly got settled, but I had forgotten to check in with the parking site so I walked back up the hill to get the permit before coming back down to pick Kathy up to take a drive around the Tuscan hills. We stopped by the Michaelangelo viewpoint, which was under construction for the Tour de France. Apparently it kicks off in Florence for the first time Saturday. The views were nevertheless beautiful.

It was hot out so we decided to keep driving around and to wait to walk the city in the evening hours. We took some insanely narrow roads over a hill and through endless Olive groves. I managed to scrape up the rear fender of the rental trying to turn around. I am usually pretty adept, but the European mirrors of this rental got the better of me. Oh well, I purchased the insurance for this reason, and for the fact that steel bumpers are not a thing here. LOL.

We were a bit hungry and decided to look for a place to eat. We did not find anything in the countryside so we headed back to Florence to park the car. We did manage to find a spot a couple hundred meters down the road, so it will be easier to retrieve when we check out, and then headed through the massive city walls into the city of Florence. We found a nice cafe in Piazza Santo Spirito and had a Calzone and Rialto salad (Spinach) and tried to cool off a bit with water and a Spritz.

We wandered through Florence and entered in a few churches to see the local dead people. Each church is the same, but in its own way unique and a day could be spent in each learning why it was built, for whom, and who over the years has painted, carved, or been buried there. Overall, our impression of the city was… congested and disruptive in contrast to the interesting architecture. In contrast to the brick and stucco (with a splash of marble) in Venice, this place has large block construction on the major buildings as well as a variety of medieval, gothic, and early to late renaissance that contrasts from one building to another and is, frankly, interesting.

It was still hot as we walked around in the late afternoon, so we stopped for some more water, a Coke Zero, and a Spritz. I wanted to see the Palazzo Vecchio and the Ufizi gallery area so we walked to that, viewed the copy of David and many others, and then over to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. It was too late for the museums, but the lines and crowds are really not our thing anyway, so this was perfect.

We finished the walking tour and headed back over the bridge at Ponte Vecchio (all jewelry shops that were closing for the day), and back toward the city wall. The crowds were still there, but the cars were minimal as the Tour de France will be riding through this route and all scooters and cars were directed to park elsewhere.

We arrived back at the room around 9PM and watched the sunset over the Florence apartments behind our B&B. We relaxed for a bit and slept well in this quiet space. This morning we woke and had a nice breakfast on the beautiful apartment and terrace (the last few photos).

European tour – Day 6 – Venice and Vicenza

We started our morning with a quick Croissant and coffee and headed over the Rialto and over to the fish market. Very interesting place and has an alluring odor if you are in to that. We crossed back over the Rialto and had a quick Spritz (to use the bathroom) and then did a little shopping on out way to the Jewish Ghetto.

The ghetto was a quiet place compared other places in Venice. The piazza was very open and filled with trees. There were a couple of restaurants, some sculptures, many art studios, and it seems 5 synagogues (for the 5 different languages/peoples that resided there). For those of us in the US, this section of space is equivalent to 1-2 city blocks in my home town, or a couple of football fields. Apparently at one point there were 5000 people living in this ghetto.

We stopped and had a quiet lunch on the main thoroughfare, collected our bags from the B&B, and then caught a train back to Vicenza. Rick and Vally were gracious enough to let us stay another night as well as use their washer to clean up the first week’s of travel clothes. We went out to dinner with them at a great local pizza place and ended up closing it down.

Tomorrow we are off to Florence for a quick tour of the area.

European tour – Day 5 – Venice, Italy

We had a breakfast omelette and coffee overlooking the water before heading off to visit the local church (Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta Detta I Gesuiti). Local is one of the 150+ churches in Venice. The marble carving was beautiful, including marble carved to look like a cascading rug.

We headed over to the Doge Palace to meet our tour group. After a couple of spritz’s we met the tour for a speedy run through the palace. It turns out the palace was like the city hall for Venice and the Doge is a figurehead. It was very interesting to learn how the government was set up as a pseudo representation format. They were very careful about one person or family having too much power. The end of the tour included a tour of the prisons attached to the palace. We stopped and rested with a spritz and then Rich and I ducked back in to get some more pictures that we missed the first time around. The benefit of the tour was the skip the line part. lol. Beautified and interesting place.

Kathy wanted to visit the Peggy Guggenheim’s home and studio do we headed there. It was a very interesting collection of abstract, surrealist, and modernism art and had some Picasso and Dali among others. The gardens were beautiful and peaceful.

We headed to the Rialto bridge area and enjoyed a delicious dinner by the canal. Rich headed back home and Kathy and I found a gondola and took a quiet ride in the nighttime canals. So beautiful!

We love Venice and Italy.

European tour – Day 4 – Venice, Italy

We traveled to Venice today and are spending the next two nights here. The room is a very nice space and very comfortable. It is about a minute walk from the ocean.

It was about a 30 minute walk from the train to the hotel, which took us through some shopping districts. Once we were settled in the room, we headed out for some delicious pizzas for lunch. Then we went back to the room to rest a bit. Yes, we napped.

After the nap, we just wandered around the streets and alleys of Venice, did some shopping, and enjoyed the atmosphere. We went back and changed into some pants and then wandered for another couple of hours until we found a nice restaurant on a pier. We enjoyed some mussels and clams, gnocchi, and lemon chicken dishes over a couple of hours at dinner.

It was around 10:30 when we headed back toward the hotel room. There was a storm brewing with lightning and a light sprinkle. Honestly it was a gorgeous evening for the 25 minute walk back. We took some great nighttime pictures with the iPhones.

European tour – Day 3 – Verona, Italy

We spent yesterday in Verona seeing the sites. Getting there was a bit of fun, though. I managed to get train tickets and then queue up on the wrong track only to watch the train we needed come and go. Easy fix, a spritz and some chips, and an hour later we were on the next train.

Mondays are rest days in Verona, so quite a few on the attractions were closed, but we really could not tell. We wandered through the beautiful streets and shops and just enjoyed a bit of Italy, first with a lunch of mini sandwiches and a Spritz at a quiet cafe.

We did tour a really cool basilica, San Zino. It was two churches in one as the original was removed, a second was built, and then later a third was built on top of that. Here’s the link.

Then we wandered across one of the many bridges, and then crossed back into the old city. We say ancient Roman buildings, ruins, tons of beautiful streets and shops. We stopped again for a Spritz and snack and then toured another church, St Anastasia, Verona’s largest. The art and carvings were exquisite. Here is the link.

We wandered through some open markets and then found the famous Juliette balcony. We didn’t fondle the statue, but enjoyed the crowds in the tight quarters.

We wandered back towards the coliseum and enjoyed some cheese and meats and another Spritz before finding the train back to Vicenza.

European Tour – Day 2 – Padua, Italy

Rich and Vally recommended Padua today. It is the home of the second oldest university in Italy, 1222 AD, and one of the largest city squares in Europe, the Prato della Valle. After parking, we walked through an old building that used to be a slaughter house, now transformed into a nice restaurant, and into the square. There was a local fest going on and we dove right in to get lunch at the tent. They were making fresh pasta with a group of volunteers pressing the dough through manual screw presses. We tried some of that with a vegetable marinara and some fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. Rich went for a plate of the local seafood and fries. All excellent.

We proceeded on to a walking tour of the city and stopped at the Basilica of St. Anthony with its original frescos and beauty. We enjoyed the sights and artifacts including St Anthony’s voice box, tongue, and lower jaw (he was known for his excellent sermons and care for the sick and the poor). The cloisters were so beautiful and quiet.

Vally had another appointment and we continued with Rich for a guided tour of the university of Padua (Vally’s alma mater). Galileo lectured there for 18 years and stood on the podium pictured below. Padua was the original medical university, and included the first medical operation viewing room. An impressive tour.

We finished up in Padua with a spritz and a gelato before going back for a bbq dinner.

European tour – Day 1 – Vicenza, Italy

We arrived in Italy and managed to get ourselves up to Vicenza to visit with our friends Rich and Vally, who are sharing their home for a couple of days. It was great to catch up and then tour their local town. We managed to fend off jet lag and made it to a fantastic local restaurant for dinner. The food was fabulous, including some local salted fish dishes. We saw portions of the old city wall, viewed the Palladian Basilica, walked through the Piazza dei Signori, viewed Torre Bissara, did a driving view tour of Villa La Rotonda (the inspiration for Jefferson and Monticello), a nighttime view at the overlook and the Basilica of St. Mary of Mount Berico. We were tired and slept a good nine hours as we acclimated to the new clocks.