Europe 14 - Day 28


After two nights in the aging hotel at Montecatini we were up early for a departure at 7.30am. Soon we were on the road towards Pisa for a view of the Leaning Tower. From Pisa we headed back east and then across Italy to arrive in Venice at 3.00pm. We boarded motor launches and headed into the canals of Venice, joining onto the Grand Canal and passing under the famous Rialto Bridge before disembarking at St Marks Square. After a short guided tour of the square we headed for the water again and all boarded gondolas for a trip through the narrow canals, accompanied by one of the famous (infamous?) tenors who serenaded our travels. Dinner was in a local restaurant and then as the sun set we headed across the lagoon to the Lido beach for our hotel for the next two nights.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

We were not the only tour group staying at these hotels.
The little train that takes you from the bus park to the Tower.
Aldo our guide told us he had booked a "Choo-Choo" train - and indeed it was. But I think it was a subtlety lost on most people...
From the "Tschu-Tschu" train we ran the gauntlet of the markets, but as it was only 8.56am most stalls were still setting our their wares.
Our first view. Baptistry in the foreground, church behind and then that tower - doesn't look crooked from here.
Early morning and most of the visitors where still doing their Tai-Chi exercises.
Even some of our tour became involved.
But if you get the angle right, they are trying to hold the tower up....
Yep, its crooked all right!
Closer up and the lean is obvious.
For comparison, the Baptistry is upright.
The base of the tower - the uphill side....
The downhill side.
The church of the leaning bell tower.
Inside the Baptistry, looking down.
Looking up.
The central area.
Every 10 minutes or so this man would walk into the centre and sing out a few notes - these would echo around and around the building.
Outside it was time to leave, just as the hordes were arriving.
The shops now had their goods on display - even this guy gets to save the tower.
One of these is our bus.
The hawkers in the bus park - tired out and its only 10.00am.
Hats and scarves - both useful for visitors to this place.


Venice !

From Pisa on the west coast it is a long way across Italy to Venice on the east coast. We arrived there mid-afternoon (3pm), the coach stopping at the main coach park just across the long bridge that joins the islands of Venice to the mainland. From there we went by launch up the Grand Canal, under the Rialto Bridge and alighted at St Marks Square.

Some of our group boarding the next boat.
The long bridge that joins Venice to the mainland.
A train on the bridge.
More of the train system.
A Police cruiser.
More police vessels - makes sense when you only have canals to police.
Footbridge - Ponte della Costituzione.
Buildings along the Grand Canal.
Small bridges and gondolas abound.
The famous Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal.
Gondolas lined up like taxis.
Classy motor launch - Vaporettos they are known as.
Local ferry stop.
An empty section with a garden is rare in Venice.
The architecture is elaborate.
The tower at San Marco comes into view.
And the lineup of gondolas increases.
Just beyond the gondolas is the pier where we get off.
And join the throngs of people walking along the waterfront.
Piazza San Marco - what! Yet another bulding hidden in scaffolding!
The pigeons of San Marco.
The clock at the square - its 3.55pm.
The building down one side of Piazza San Marco .
The side of Plazzo Ducale.
Campanile San Marco.
One of many exclusive jewelers.
What's this? Paul and Shark?.
Well, here's the Paul anyway.
The sharks are everywhere - this is where we boarded the gondolas.

You cannot visit Venice without riding on a gondola

Once we had everybody collected, we were arranged into gondolas for our cruise around the canals. As we were a large group, Aldo arraned for our trip to be accompanied by music, from an accordian and a tenor, who sang several opera arias (in Italian of course).

The gondoliers in white are our lot - the stripey ones are the opposition.
Classic gondlier pose.
Settling in and ready to go.
The accordian player and tenor warming up.
We didn't need these gondolas.
Gondolas against the darkening sky.
Negotiating narrow bridges.
Tenor and accordionist seated for low bridge.
The back canals of Venice show how dilapidated the whole city has become.

Venice in the evening

Back on dry land it was now late in the day and the sky was darkened by rain clouds. We walked as a group along narrow paths and over small bridges to get a view of the Bridge of Sighs. Nearby was a restaurant where we had dinner and then we were back on boats for the trip across the lagoon to our hotel on the famous Lido Beach.

On one of the bridges looking towards the Bridge of Sighs.
Canal scene and the Hotel Columbina.
The nearby shops sold masks.
and pizza.
The seagulls settled for takeaways - but this one looks unimpressed with the red rose in the bin.
The rose probably came from one of the many hawkers who thrust them into your face at every opportunity at this time of night.
Walking back to the waterfront the Doge's Palace is finally free of crowds.
And the long lines of tables that ring the Piazza San Marco are empty.
Even the gondolas are tied up and abandoned for the night.
But the little stall holders hold on to the last.
Down by the boats the last of the sun strikes San Giorgio Maggiore.
As our boat takes us across the lagoon, the sun sets behind Venice.
With the sun gone we follow the channel markers.
We arrive at the Lido and use the jetty of the Hotel Excelsior to alight.
There is a set of steps up to the road, but the gate at the top was locked so we had to walk through the main entrance - the hotel management was not amused.
Then we straggled along the road.
After 250 metres we arrived at the Hotel Petit Palais. A nice hotel for €100 per night, compared to the Excelsior at €550.


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Last updated: 31/10/2014