A Travellerspoint blog



rain 15 °C

We are in Venice and we awoke to a very watery world today, leading us to question whether the city is sinking, the tide is rising or the sky is falling. It seems that all three are true and we are all to blame. Venice was built on marshland and, as the city is slowly sinking into the mud, global warming is raising the sea level and dumping more rain. Northern Italy has been drenched for a couple of weeks now, although we've been lucky enough to dodge the worst of it, but the net result is that St. Mark's Square became St.Mark's Lake this morning...

Canny trinket purveyors quickly hung rubber boots alongside their richly adorned Venetian masks and flashy Murano glass...
It will take more than a few pairs of wellies to keep the tourists coming and a gargantuan effort is underway to save the city by barricading off the inlets from the Adriatic, but the perilous state of the Italian economy may yet scupper the multi-billion euro project.

Venice is a pedestrian's paradise, devoid of the noise, smell and danger of the dreaded machinas that plague most cities of the world. Ancient alleys, squares and canalside walkways are as uncluttered by motorised monstrosities as they were in the city's heyday five hundred years ago. As we stroll the quaint laneways, unaccosted by cars, trucks and motorbikes, it is easy for us to imagine ourselves in a quieter, calmer, era, when elegantly dressed Venetians stepped ashore from their gondolas and walked to their palaces on the banks of the Grand Canal...
The palaces are still here, but most are now uppity hotels or havens of the nouveau aristocracy, but there are plenty of side canals where the proletariat live and work...
The gondolas are also here, just for the tourists, although there's not a lot for a gondolier to do on a blustery wet November day...
Venice is still packed with tourists, but the big spenders left months ago and most of the hoteliers and restaurateurs are happy to squeeze what they can out of us latecomers. But hold onto your hats - two cappuccinos and a couple of small pastries still cost $33.00 if you take a seat at one of the high spots on the Grand Canal - location, location, location - just around the corner the same can be had in a cozy cafe for $7.00
Even in the November rain Venice is probably the most beautiful and romantic city in the world and it should be on the top of everybody's bucket list. There is so much to see here - the gold-plated ceiling of St.Marks; the Doge's Palace; dozens of historic houses; and the magnificent paintings of Tintoretto that entirely plaster the inside of the Scuola di San Rocco - no photos allowed.

If you don't love Venice - you don't love life. But come soon; if the Italian economy sinks further it may well take the barrier and Venice under with it.

Posted by Hawkson 11:55 Archived in Italy Comments (3)

Love Letter from Verona

overcast 14 °C

Romeo: "Juliet, Juliet, wherefor art thou Juliet?"
Juliet: "In Verona sweet Romeo, upon the balcony."
Romeo: "But pray tell Juliet. Upon which balcony;
Upon this...
or this..
or this..."
Juliet: "Nay Romeo; on none but mine own balcony."
Romeo: "Then I might find you hidden 'mongst the roses
Upon this verdant balcony..."
Juliet: "Oh! Romeo thou art blinded by the moon.
That is not my balcony. And neither roses are they, nor I."
Romeo: "What's in a name, Juliet. That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
Juliet: "But I have no scent dear Romeo. I am but a myth.
A mere fancy penned to existence by Luigi Da Porta
And ignited to saintliness by Master Shakespeare in 1596."
Romeo: "Then answer me this riddle Juliet. If thou art as thou sayest
A mere will-o-the-wisp, nothing more than a notion,
And a figment of fiction. Why dost the throngs flock to thine house
And paper thine walls with their lovestruck entreaties; Why dost the thousands
write to you of their lovelorn agonies; Why dost the heartsick
bow down at your balcony?"
Juliet: "Because, dear Romeo, romantics always want to believe.
But I have no house - I am fiction. My balcony was added in 1936 by the government to attract tourists.
As for the love letters - volunteer teams of agony aunts answer them on my behalf. "

And so ends the myth of Romeo and Juliet. But this is a love letter - our love letter. We loved Verona. It is bursting with the ambiance of a medieval Italian city...
With a splendid Roman arena...
and ancient castles...
We loved the vistas, the parks and the (generally) friendly people. As for the romantics who arrive here in search of love from all over the world: as Shakespeare wrote,
"If they may seize on the white wonder of Juliet's hand,
And steal immortal blessings from her life,
Who, even in pure and vestal modesty
Still blush, as thinking their own kisses sin."

Posted by Hawkson 11:48 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

The Devil Wears Prada

sunny 17 °C

The Duomo of Milan…
It’s All Saints’ Day so we thought it appropriate to visit Milan’s impressive cathedral for Mass, and we expected to find it packed with pious Italians. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that barely a handful of celebrants had shown up and most of the choristers were having the day off. It’s a religious holiday so where were all the Milanese? At the shops of course. After all, this is Milan. God may dwell in the Duomo, but the Devil wears Prada…
And when it comes to a toss-up between three alleluias, two amens, and these nifty little numbers from Dolce & Gabbana at $3,000 each, we all know where the average Italian man will put his money if he wants to get lucky…
On the other hand the average Canadian, (namely James), is much more likely to have accidentally left his credit card at the hotel. Milan is at the epicenter of the world of fashionistas and there is no shortage of places for them to worship…
All the renowned fashion houses are here, along with many we’ve never heard of, but Milan isn’t all about shopping. It has some splendid architecture and this is the well-preserved 15th century fortress of Castello Sforzesco….
However, this is the disappointingly bland façade of the world famous La Scala opera house…
But, despite it’s many churches and sacred buildings, the true bastion of religion in this bustling Lombardy city is the great crystal-roofed cathedral of the splendid Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II; an opulent shrine dedicated to worshippers of conspicuous consumption that houses the icons of wealth and one-upmanship that make Milan the dream of every shopaholic. Come and enjoy, but make sure you bring your flexible friend if you want to take home this nice little alligator bag for just $2,500…

Posted by Hawkson 09:20 Archived in Italy Comments (5)

Pizza with that?

storm 18 °C

Italy offers an absolute smorgasbord of historical artifacts, architectural wonders and tourist attractions, but we can't leave without mentioning the fabulous food. Seafood tagliatelle anyone?
Pasta of every shape, colour and size can be found everywhere...
The cakes in the Pastecheria's window look as good as they taste...
And the fruit stalls in Rome were a picture...
Best of all, after Turkey, were the wonderful cappuccinos that cost just $1.60 as long as we didn't sit down in the cafe...
If you sit down the bill skyrockets to $3.00. It's a cultural thing, as is the pizza. The pizzas are absolutely fantastic - and cheap - but we didn't think to photograph one... which means that we'll have to go back.
We left Italy a couple of days ago. The rail journey along the Ligurian coast from Portofino to Ventimiglia offered a series of tantalising glimpses of secluded bays and cliff-hugging harbours as the train slipped in and out of a myriad of tunnels before finally bursting into the bright sunlight of the Italian Riviera and the glitzy resorts of San Remo and Imperia. The sea was always blue - impossibly blue - and it changed from cerulean to aquamarine and a hundred other eye-spinning shades as we sped from one bay to the next. And then it was Monte-Carlo, the Maritime Alps and the star-studded French Riviera. These are the playgrounds of the super-rich, where mere millionaires are a dime a dozen, but the heat has gone; the season is long past. The ritzy nightspots and chic beach bars of Cannes and Nice have rolled down the shutters and the glitterati have left their maids to lock up the villas while the captains refit the super-yachts ready for next summer.
We are visiting family for a week or so in Cannes but, knowing how much you would like to see a real Italian pizza, we're headed back to Italy next week. In the meantime a'bientot from a wet and windy Cannes: see you in Milan in a week or so.

Posted by Hawkson 10:41 Archived in Italy Comments (4)

Postcards from Picture Perfect Portofino

sunny 22 °C


We wish you were here in beautiful Portofino on the Ligurian Sea, Italy.

Posted by Hawkson 09:05 Archived in Italy Comments (4)

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