On Venice 2018

 

After our days in Trieste, we took a train to Venice, actually our departing airport. Because we’ve been to this beautiful city before (but I hadn’t posted about it), our one-night stay would be in Mestre – the mainland side of the city. Besides, the airport is on the mainland and Mestre hotels are much cheaper.

As the train was approaching the train station (Venezia Mestre), I noticed our hotel is directly across the street. Then I learn that a train goes to the islands (Venezia Santa Lucia Station) every 10 minutes for 2 euros. Plus, the airport shuttle is a very short walk from our hotel (Best Western Plus Hotel Bologna). Cheaper, close to rail and the airport bus are all good things!

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With the weather being wonderful, we had to go to Venice to just wander. Part of the fun of this glorious setting is trying to get lost – because you can’t! The historical city is wonderful – after all, Venice is Venice.

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Our trip has ended, and what a trip it was. All the stops in the Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe tour were worthwhile and memorable. Then add-on stops to my birthplace and a touch of Venice was like extra ice cream and toppings on an already magnificent sundae.

 

Picking our favorite stop is not an easy task because the locations were so different. The three major cities were different from each other, then toss in the extremes of a natural wonder of a Plitvice (a Croatian National Park) to the horrors of Auschwitz, and a relaxing seaside locate as Rovinj, it was quite the tour.

Three important references for readers.

  1. I will probably do more posts about this trip with some tidbits. Time will tell.
  2. I didn’t realize that I posted very little about our Italy-Croatia cruise of how knows how many years ago. Maybe I’ll go back in time. Thoughts?
  3. Click here for all the posts about this tour.
  4. Although it’s also in the previous collection, click here for my review of Rick Steves’ Europe tours.

To see more of the island wonderland known as Venice, watch the 2+-minute video below. Thanks for coming along for my journey.

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On Trieste (Italy)

Trieste – TREE est in English, TREE ess te in Italian, Trst (Trist) in Croatian and Slovenian.

I was 11 years old for my last trip to Trieste (1964). Because of the relative closeness of Trieste, Italy to where our Rick Steves ended (Lake Bled, Slovenia), we decided to extend our vacation with a side trip to the city of my birth.

Given its location on the Adriatic Sea’s Gulf of Trieste, Trieste has a storied history. Looking at it on a map should be head-scratching to many because it seems Slovenia would be a more natural fit.

 

Trieste’s beginning is rooted to the Romans in the second century BC.

 

After being ruled by Charlemagne then the Venetians – who built local icon sites San Giusto Castle and Cathedral.

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Trieste became part of the Habsburg Monarchy and eventually the main port for Austria-Hungary (1382-1918). Many of the majestic buildings of today were built during this prosperous time.

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With Italy being on the winning side of WW1 and Austria-Hungary being dismantled, Trieste became part of Italy in 1915 – although numerous Slovenes lived there at the time. Italy also annexed part of Slovenia, then lost it in WW2.

TIto’s Yugoslavia wanted Trieste as WW2 was ending. On 5 March 1946, Winston Churchill referenced Trieste in his famous Iron Curtain speech: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.

Because Trieste was pivotal, the UN established it as an independent free territory (1947) that was protected by American and British forces. Enter my dad, a member of the US Army – where he met my mother who went to Trieste from northern Tuscany to work. They married and I was born there. We a few months after I was born, and then a year later (1954), Trieste became part of Italy.

 

With a population today of just over 200,000, Trieste proudly displays its past. Leading back to its Austria-Hungary days, Trieste is Italy’s City of Coffee. There are hundreds of ways to serve coffee in Trieste – and not a Starbuck’s to be found.

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Being on the sea, Triestines love sailing – and a weeklong, large regatta festival (Barcolana) just started. The flute orchestra was part of the festivities.

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I love the way the city is built on the hillside sloping the sea – and then in the city, Piazza Unità d’Italia opens to the sea. (Note: Europe’s largest square facing the sea)

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Even though I recalled some of the sites but not remember where I was born or baptized, it was fun to return to my birthplace. After all, it is part of me. Plus it was a chance to share it with my wife, who didn’t know what to expect.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my trip to Trieste – a special place for me. I invite you to watch the video (with a fitting song) below and visit a post by a reader here, visit Debra @ Bagni di Lucca and Beyond. Also, here’s a past-post of mine about Trieste.

Next Stop: Venice

Click here for past posts of this tour.

On Doors

Door – Old English duru, dor, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch deur ‘door’ and German Tür ‘door,’ Tor ‘gate’; from an Indo-European root shared by Latin foris ‘gate’ and Greek thura ‘door’

Door – the entrance to a room or building

Door – a hinged, sliding, or revolving barrier at the entrance to a building, room, or vehicle, or in the framework of a cupboard

Door – a reference to the distance from one building in a row to another

Door – A structure that opens, closes, swings, slides, shuts, hides, protects, and symbolizes

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” (Milton Berle, comedian)

The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” (Confucius, philosopher)

I truly believe that everything that we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we’re all teachers – if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and not be afraid to take risks or wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door.” (Marla Gibbs, actor)

Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” (George Washington Carver, scientist)

Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” (Coco Chanel, designer)

Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” (John Barrymore, actor)

Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.” (Emily Dickinson, poet)

Listen; there’s a hell of a good universe next door: let’s go. (e. e. Cummings, poet)

 

No matter if it’s old or new, elegant or simple, metal or wood, ornate or plain – a door is a door while being a wonderful symbol and metaphor. Any favorite doors above or below?

All images taken by me  (a nonphotographer in Italy.

On an Oh-My Meal

For a family gathering near the end of our trip to Italy this past October, my aunt wanted to take the entire family out to dinner. Well, actually a Sunday afternoon meal. Little did we know what to expect.

We drove about 45 minutes. Once we arrived I told my oldest cousin (in gist) that we passed 342 restaurants along the way, but they were closed – so this was the first one we could find that was open.

With the final part of the road being many twist and turns up a mountain, I knew that those who travel this road on this day must be going to the restaurant. In the image of the map, those familiar with Lucca (region of Tuscany) will see it toward the bottom. The restaurant is marked by the location icon.

The town is Fiano di Pescaglia, a small village with a population of less than 1,000 but a history that goes back to 847. On this day, the action centered on Ristorante da Valentino.

Note: I didn’t take any pictures of the meal, so you will have to rely on my descriptions. However, I want you to think about two important questions: How much did the meal cost (per person)? How long were we there?

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When entering the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was the number of people throughout the numerous sections of this casual place. We entered one of the small rooms that had 3 other groups already seated. There was our table – actually several tables arranged end-to-end with 9 settings and a large bottle of red wine located at each end.

Each of us first received a small plate of appetizers: a slice of lunchmeat (Mortadella), fried polenta, 5-6 olives, and cheese.

Later, the server came by with a large bowl of mushroom risotto, and served a comfortable portion to each of us … returning after a reasonable time with a question: Would you like more? It was good, so both my wife and I accepted the offer.

Next, the server returned with a large bowl of tagliatelli in a wild boar sauce. Oh my, that was outstanding … and I can’t believe my wife ate it as she’s typically not accepting of dietary oddities. Surprisingly, I said no to the “Would you like more” question.

Later, the server returned with rolled lasagna that contained a filling of cheese and spinach with a different red sauce – yes, followed with “Would you like more” on which I passed.

Up next from the server with the big bowl was ravioli with a meat filling and a different red sauce that went into the same bowl that I’ve been using since the risotto. Of course, “Would you like more?” would follow later … I couldn’t pass on a second helping of this delight.

Attendants removed the well-used bowl, so the plate was now ready for the arrival of the next course: a platter of meat for each end of the table – small pieces of chicken, ribs, beef, lamb, and rabbit. The meats were especially tasty.

Before finishing the meat, the server made space at each end of the table for a platter of french fries and a platter with fried mushrooms and fried cauliflower.

Once it was obvious we were finished with this course, a small plate of salad appeared – an odd place as we Americans are used to eating salads early to prepare the way for the meal. But in this case, the salad was readying us for dessert!

The server delivered a platter of of variety of desserts for each end of the table. Pies, tarts, and cakes provided a delightful end to the meal.

Before describing the meal, I asked two questions: How long were we there? How much did it cost?

Sometime during this culinary extravaganza, I walked around the restaurant wondering about the number of people being served – and it was 165-190! Regarding the meal, my wife and I both agree that we were not stuffed until the desserts (we must have suddenly ran out of inner digestive space).

Finishing the 22 Euro ($24) meal 4 hours after starting, then we walked further uphill to the church … and the beautiful view of the valley.

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If you ever in this area of northwestern Tuscany near Lucca on a Sunday, I suggest you make a reservation at Ristorante da Valentino, then find your way to Fiano di Pescaglia.

On an Italian Time-lapse

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One of my friends describes Italy as “one long museum.” The country offers so much that it is actually very hard to describe. Then again, being that my heritage is all Italian and with 4 first cousins and an aunt there, I admit being a bit biased. Enjoy with time-lapse of various parts of this beautiful country.

On The Fat One

Because I enjoyed a Rick Steves episode about this city along with an outstanding post by Debra, I wanted to go – but thought it was too far away. Then my cousins suggested going there because it wasn’t that far and easily accessible by train … so we went and had a delightful day – but where did we go?

It’s the seventh most populous city in Italy

With settlements dating back to at least 1000 BC, the city has been vital to the Etruscans, Celts, and Romans. The city used to have many towers, but only a few remain today. Formally a walled city, some of its medieval fortifications still exist.

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Under the watchful eye of native son Pope Gregory XIII (Mr. Gregorian Calendar), the main square and the surrounding area is vibrant. I personally love the narrow streets of the old city.

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Given the age of this city, a variety of architecture exists.

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It’s architecture includes many porticos for shelter when walking- actually 24 miles (38 km) in the city center and 28 miles (45 km) throughout the city. Portico di San Luca is possibly the world’s longest at almost 2.5 miles (4 km) (which we did not see).

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Home to the oldest university in the world (founded in 1088) – so it honors its scholars with statues through the city while proudly accepting “the learned one” (la dotta) as one of its nicknames. Today it is the largest city and capital of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region – and like much of Italy, a wide variety of things to enjoy. Besides, I know to look up.

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Nicknamed the “the fat one” (la grassa) because of its culinary delights – so citizens and visitors eat very well as this region that is famous for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (the undisputed king of cheeses), Prosciutto di Parma, mortadella cold cuts, Balsamic vinegar, and various pastas as tortellini and tagliatelle with a famous ragù.
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Did you figure out the name of this city? Nonetheless, having Tagliatelle Bolognese with a glass of red wine in Bologna, Italy is a culinary treat.

Whether it’s the learned one or the fat one, visiting Bologna was a treat. Between our many walking steps or enjoying the hop-on hop-off tour overview, it was a grand day. Besides, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many attractive people in one place!

Enjoy this 2+ minute travel video of Bologna and the surrounding countryside. For more about Bologna, visit Debra’s blog (Bagni di Lucca and Beyond) for her 10 posts about Bologna.

On Look Up!

Do you know the place? I so-much what to visit the small town on the two, adjacent hilltops in the distance. Oh well … next time.

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If you don’t know, let’s move the camera to the left for some familiar places you may recognize.

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These panoramic views are from Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence, Italy. Everybody loves Florence! Then again, loving Florence is very easy to do because there is so much to enjoy. I’ve visited twice in the past three years, and I noticed something each time. Most people look left and right to make sure they catch the store fronts. Besides a lot of shopping, one doesn’t want to miss gelato!

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But for me, the window shoppers are missing some of the best things to see in Florence because their heads are swiveling on their spine to catch the shopping windows … therefore they are not looking up. So enjoy this view of Florence … the Look Up Tour!

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“Italy will never be a normal country. Because Italy is Italy. If we were a normal country, we wouldn’t have Rome. We wouldn’t have Florence. We wouldn’t have the marvel that is Venice.” (Matteo Renzi, Italian politician)

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“In Florence, classical buildings sit against medieval buildings. It’s that contrast we like.” (Richard Rogers British architect)

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“Florence and art is something that is part of my life and is part of myself.” (Roberto Cavalli
Italian designer)

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Any favorites?