VENICE (AND BEYOND) TRAVELOGUE
Beth and The Jeffs
11-19 January 2012
Wednesday, 11 January 2012: Had an uneventful trip to JFK until I waited for more than an hour to get through security. Fortunately, I had plenty of time and arrived at our departure gate just minutes before The Jeffs. Our trans-Atlantic flight was smooth and sleep-able.
Thursday, 12 January 2012: We arrived in Venice, got our bags, and cash, and waited for the bus into town. Weather was partly sunny and in the 40’s and we were thrilled with our first view of the Grand Canal. We lugged our suitcases up (and down) Constitution Bridge (Ponte della Costituzione) to the train station (Stazione Santa Lucia). The next departure to Trieste was at 12:11pm, which gave us time to grab some lunch and pastries near the station and locate the street for our hotel upon our return to the city. We joined others sitting on the station steps and watched working boats, gondolas, and water taxis course through the canal. Pretty exciting!
Our journey to Trieste covered some beautiful landscape, especially as we neared our destination and hugged the coast. Sparkling Adriatic waters hosted Miramare castle (from which many lost their lives) and boats of various types.
At the Trieste station, it was but a short walk to Piazza Oberdan where our hotel Albergo alla Posta was located. Conveniently located near the tram and on a busy street, the windows were so sound-proof, we could hear nothing. Our rooms were ample, we dropped off our cases, and began our exploration of the city.
We climbed first to the Castle San Giusto, where we met two separate and charming older men who oriented us and shared their stories. The overview over the city, with tile-covered roofs, showed its sprawl from the surrounding hillsides down to the sea. We wandered from here to eventually find the Roman arch built into a surrounding building, notices of “James Joyce slept here,” and interesting door knobs and architecture.
We ate at an Austrian-Hungarian bar where the Jeffs ate of sausage and schnitzels and I tried jota, a soup of saukraut and beans, and gnocci with cheese sauce (the latter being infinitely better than the former). Prosecco wine washed it all down, as we celebrated Jeff S’s birthday.
Friday, 13 January 2012: Breakfast at the hotel was a sumptuous buffet and we ate well. We then hopped on the tram outside our door and rode to Opicina and back. It was a bit cloudy, so the views from the top were limited.
We walked to the local market, which had just closed down and then back to the hotel where a cab picked us up for a day trips to Skocjan Caves (UNESCO World Heritage site) in Slovenia. It was exciting to be in the type locality for karst topography, limestone substrate with large subterranean caves, underground Reka River, and specific plants. Our cave guide spoke excellent English (as did our cab driver) and we spend an hour and a half walking underground before returning to Trieste. There, we walked around the port area, looking unsuccessfully for late lunch, although we did enjoy yummy pastries.
We finally returned to the hotel for a dinner recommendation and were steered to Osteria de Scarpon. There, the owner’s daughter took care of us, making sure we ordered the right thing. The Jeffs had pasta del mar and I had fried fish (sardines, calamari, millet, and a few others I couldn’t recognize). The daughter insisted on digestifs for us (schnapps and amaro)—it was a fine meal and we enjoyed our fellow dinners.
Saturday, 14 January 2012: Today was beautiful and we decided to take the bus to Duino and hike the coast. We had hoped to find a trail up into the forest, but couldn’t and also learned that Jeff M wasn’t feeling well and he returned to the hotel (where fortunately after a brief rest, he was able to enjoy Trieste, visiting the castle and a nearby church and returning just prior to the rest of us). Jeff S and I explored Bocche del
Timavo and S. Ginovanni in Tubo—all shoreline areas with boats and beautiful vistas (and dinosaur bones), which was also the mouth of the Reka River (from the Slovenian cave), called Timavo in Italy, also where Jason was searching for the golden fleece with the Argonauts. We reached Duino around lunch time and stopped at Al Pescatore, where we enjoyed a great spagehetti with mushroom first and hot chocolate.
From there, we headed to the Rilke trail where we
had enticing views of the closed Duino Castle. The trail was well-maintained and lined with intriguing karst rocks. Weather was perfect for this walk; great visibilty, warm sun, no breeze. Jeff S and I reached Sistriana quite proud of ourselves and how nicely everything had flowed, until we had to wait and wait and wait for the return bus to Trieste. We did catch glimpses of marble quarries used by the Romans and still in use today.
Jeff M joined us for dinner at Taverna San Trovaso, one of the oldest restaurants in town. I enjoyed black spaghetti with shrimp, while Jeff M had gilthead and Jeff S had steak covered with smoked salmon and brown gravy (a combination that tasted much better than it sounded).
Sunday, 15 January 2012: After our buffet breakfast, we took the train back to Venice and checked into Hotel Abbazia, a former refectory of the Discalced Carmelite Brothers (complete with pulpit). Hotel staff sent us off to Vini da Gigio for lunch of ravioli, squid spaghetti, and spaghetti with artichokes and sausage. It was cold, so we returned to the hotel for additional layers before heading out at 4:30 to purchase a 24-hr vaparetto (water bus) ticket. We checked out St. Marks and walked around, finding a great place for dinner near Accademie. Ravioli with mushrooms and truffle sauce followed by crème brulee, all anointed with prosecco, yum.
Sadly, when we returned to the hotel and I checked emails, I found that my aunt had passed and her funeral was ongoing as I read. So I sent condolence notes and felt the passing of an era.
Monday, 16 January 2012: Today was a gorgeous day for vaparetto day. We went directly to Burano, with its quaint colorful buildings, gull-feeding residents, feuding cats, and tatting ladies. We proceeded to Murano, where we watched a glass-working exhibit and enjoyed various showrooms. Lunch was an entertaining affair with the robust owner of Busa alla Torre and the food was excellent: linguini and shrimp, lobster, etc. We continued touring on the vaparetto and searched for the perfect place to watch the sunset and explored the ghetto, until dinner. We should have asked the hotel, but we randomly stopped at Vesuvio where we had to worst, most expensive meal with the rudest staff ever. So I spend 38 euros on a piece of three-day old fish and we were glad to leave.
Tuesday, 17 January 2012: Today we took the train to Padova where
we visited St Anthony’s church (and viewed his relics) and the University of Padua (which in 1678 graduated the first woman (Elena Lucrezia Piscopia) in the world, who, unfortunately, died six years later at 38). We ate at the bistro section of Flek with mixed results and then headed to Vicenza, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Palladian architecture was extraordinary and we enjoyed the Olympic Theatre, the world’s oldest theatre, with its trompe d’oeil scenery. We also visited the Museo naturalistico archeologico and Gallerie di Palazzo Leoni Montanari, before grabbing a cup of hot chocolate and returning to Venice. Dinner, suggested by hotel staff, at Al Vecio Pozzo, was extraordinary lasagna and pasta al mar. We enjoyed oogling at a group of locals to see what they were eating. Desserts are made on-site and their chocolate molten cake was excellent, as was the fondue.
Wednesday, 18 January 2012: The Jeffs decided to go to Verona today and I stayed in Venice to experience the ambiance. It was cold, foggy, and biting out and in the morning I walked for 4-5 hours and went window-shopping. I visited Rialto Market and then St Marks where I inadvertently attended Mass. Walked around the Palace and enjoyed the Gardens, then to Fenice Opera, where I perused the materials in the gift shop and finally back to the hotel. After warming up a bit, I return to the Ghetto where I spent some time in the museum book store and around and around until returning to the hotel. I waited until 8pm for the The Jeffs and then headed out for dinner, where they eventually caught up with me. Risotto del Mar for them, spaghetti with clams for me.
Thursday, 19 January 2012: Time to head home, with a bus to the airport and a long trip home (9+ hours). Returning home was a mixed experience; it was certainly a lovely trip!