A Travellerspoint blog

Italy

Padua & Venice, Italy

Umm TLC, air-freshner and fan needed

sunny 37 °C
View Honeymoon World Tour on Nick-n-Charlie's travel map.

Early Saturday morning we were up (in plenty of time!) and walked with one of our new friends to the train/bus station to get our 08:15 mini-bus to Mestre train station (in between Venice and Padua). We said our goodbyes and then just needed to quickly pop to the ATM to get the cash to pay, opps! it did not accept Visa card, so Nick had no choice but to run in 30 degree heat back into town a 10min run and had to try two more cash points before he could find one that accepted Visa. FYI if you have a Visa card in Slovenia not all the cash points accept them. Unfortunately Nick had ran for no reason as by the time he got back three young asian guys were faffing with bags and a wheel chair and then made us wait while they went to McDonalds to get breakfast! So our journey started in a 7 seater mini-bus with the horrible smell of egg McMuffin's (as most of you know I'm travel sick and despise McDonald's!! ), luckily I fell asleep and the air-con helped make it better for Nick in the front.

In Just two hours we were at VE Mestre station getting our 13 minute train to our 4 star hotel in Padova http://www.hotelgranditalia.it, which was located two seconds outside the station and had the most amazing breakfast that only cost €1 more, plus was cheaper than a hostel for one night, so we enjoyed a little bit of luxury for once!

After dumping our bags we headed off to explore Padova. Now it was HOT, and I'm not good with heat so I may have been a little less enthused then normal (even Nick was struggling with 37 degree heat) but it could have been such a beautiful city had it just had a bit of TLC. The buildings were lovely but dirty and the park area's where large with statues covered in bird poo and two churches which were the only real attractions were covered in scaffolding. On the up side the drinks were cheaper then other places and the restaurant our concierge (oh yea, we had a concierge!) was excellent!

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Some of you may be wondering why we were staying in Padua, the answer is because Venice was too expensive to stay in, and it was only a 20 minute train ride away, so we were up early checking out and on the train by 09.00. As soon as we left the Venice train station we were hit by a wall of heat and stench. We has been warned that it would be hot, smelly and crammed with tourists, and it was! We hit the TI which was little more than a Porta-cabin and paid the outrageous price of €2.50 for a map before setting off in the vague direction of the Rialto Bridge. Twenty minutes later after getting very lost in the tiny winding streets (many of which simply dead end either in a building, or worse at a canal with no crossing!) we finally made it. The bridge itself is beautiful, but due to the murky and smelly water and the huge crowds it was difficult to enjoy and getting a half decent photo nearly impossible!

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From the Rialto we weaved our way through more alleyways to reach Piazza San Marco and the very impressive (but again packed!) St Marks Cathedral. The square is surrounded by enormous, opulently carved Renaissance buildings and it is quite a sight to behold. As it was so hot I was wearing a boob-tube and shorts, not really appropriate for a highly Catholic church, however ever prepared I had brought a cardigan and leggings with me - although getting these OVER my shorts and trainers was a challenge and I was melting within seconds! Inside St Mark's was equally spectacular though, dripping in gold (you would expect nothing less from the Catholic Church!), but as it was a Sunday and Mass was taking place we felt a little uncomfortable so made a swift exit.

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From here we followed the Grand Canal as far as we could before re-entering the maze of alleyways to make out way to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection; an exhibit of her personal collection housed in her former home on the banks of the Canal which is somewhere I have always wanted to visit since I discovered my favourite painting (The Empire of Lights by Rene Magritte) is there. The gallery cost €14, so ever budget conscious and knowing that Nick would annoy me by rushing me through the exhibits I went in alone and was just in time for a free lecture all about Peggy Guggenheim's life which I found fascinating as she single handedly helped modern art become a recognised art movement by exhibiting artists no one else would.

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While I was immersing myself in culture, Nick was strolling around around more of Venice and guess what, yep sun-bathing - even in that heat! He even said people were giving him funny looks as he was the only one sitting in the sun when everyone else was desperately seeking shade.

Roughly two hours later we met up again and continued exploring finding some more off the beaten track canals which were much prettier and less crowded. We did not pay the ridiculous price for a Gondola ride (although Nick was tempted!) and even our pencil collection will be missing one from Venice as we could not bring ourselves to pay €9 for a pencil!

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We are both glad we have been to Venice, but are also glad we just did it as a day trip, rather than spending a couple of days there. It was beautiful in parts, grubby in others, heaving with tour groups, baking hot and horrifically over-priced (€1.5 to use a toilet!)

We got back onto a train to Padova (with no air-conditioning!!!) to collect our luggage and jump on our train bound for Milan for the third time. We spent the next day re-visiting some of Milan’s main attractions and 10 years on we finally got to see the Duomo without it being covered in Scaffolding before the heavens opened (something we were later told was a tornado hitting the city!).

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Early the next morning it was off to the airport to catch out flight(s) to Cyprus to see our beloved friends!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Italy Tagged venice padova Comments (0)

LESSON NUMBER 6

No Wifi is not an option!

Rather than getting wrapped up in the charming hustle and bustle of the old town of Como on our first day we stayed disciplined and found the Tourist Information to firstly get a map, and secondly to see if anywhere had wifi we could use. Sadly the first cafe we were told did not have wifi which we did not discover until after we had ordered drinks! We then set off to the other points she had marked, but either they were closed, very expensive or we simply could not find them - then Nick suggested we try going to the public library to see if we were able to log on there. Luckily the woman took pity on us and said we could log on for an hour - even though she should not have done as we were not locals. Some frantic Googling and an hour later we had managed to figure out train connections, and get ourselves one nights accommodation before our hour was up - the hunt was still on!

More wandering around and I found a bar that had free wifi and was a good price - we settled in and got some large beers to treat ourselves and began Googling once more. Roughly 2 hours later and we had managed to get ourselves another 9 nights booked in Switzerland. By this point we were starving so ordered a delicious pizza and salad to share while continuing to use the free wifi!

The next day we went to the main train station (San Giovani) which is the other side of town and by chance both of our phones started going crazy - what was this - more free wifi, with no need to buy expensive food or drinks. Needless to say we paid a couple of trips to the train station during our stay in Como just to us the internet and figure out our plans.

Also handy tip for anyone else - stand outside McDonalds near the Duomo and you can sometime connect there too!

From now on though we will only be booking accommodation with free wifi/internet access as it is just too complicated trying to book transport and places to stay without it these days!

Lesson Learnt!!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Italy Tagged wifi_lake_como Comments (1)

Lake Como, Italy

12 years still going strong

sunny 28 °C
View Honeymoon World Tour on Nick-n-Charlie's travel map.

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We made it to our apartment eventually (see Lesson 5) and were met by the owner Sylivia who showed us around. Nick was a little disappointed at first as he said it was not exactly what he was expecting and that it seemed quite far out of the centre of Como. After a quick freshen up we started to realise we really needed to get something booked as in 5 days time we had no where to stay and panic was starting to set in! So we grabbed the laptop and headed off to find some free wifi as our apartment did not have any (See Lesson Number 6). A 10 minute walk later we were faced with Como’s very impressive Duomo so Nick needn't have worried!.

Friday we headed to the local market and stocked up on groceries (spent €25 which was much more expensive that in Spain - although this was for 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches and 3 dinners, so really should not complain too much!) which really tested my Italian before starting to explore Como properly this time. We took a long stroll along the front of the lake all the way around to Villa Olsa, where we had a quick nap in the sunshine listening to the waves on the lake lapping the shore, before heading back into the old town to mooch around the cobbled streets and soak up the atmosphere (and sunshine for Nick!). We finally got to go inside the impressive and imposing Duomo and were not disappointed by it’s beautiful stained glass windows and painted ceilings.

On Saturday we accidentally slept in until midday (which I guess shows how tired we both were) but were up and about quickly. The previous day I had picked up a leaflet with some suggested hikes in the mountains of the National Park surrounding Como. We knew that back in the UK our friends were taking part in the Race for Life in support of the Breast Cancer Campaign, so thought this was the perfect way to spend the day and support them in our own way.

The climb up the path was incredibly steep and unrelenting for a good hour on overgrown paths and clouds of mosquitos! After much grunting, sweating and looking very red faced (that’s me by the way, not Nick!) we reached the top and were rewarded by a stunning view down over the lake and the town.

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Sunday 23 June 2013 saw our one year wedding anniversary and twelve years of being together. We knew that we wanted to visit Bellagio as it is famous for being beautiful and very romantic, so what better day to go! We had been told about the various ferry but it was around €46 (return) which was too much for our budget, we then wondered if there as a bus which may be cheaper. We enquired at the tourist information and discovered you can, plus it takes the same amount of time and only cost €12 (return) - bargain!!

Bellagio lived up to it’s reputation (no sign of Mr. Clooney though!), and although it was very busy and full of tourists (mostly American) it was lovely to stroll around it’s winding streets and to enjoy views of Lake Como. We treated our selves to some Gelatto which was surprisingly cheaper than we had seen it in Como, and then walked the short distance to Villa Melzi (€6 each) which sits right on the lake and has gorgeous gardens, we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and enjoying the sun - and simply being together.

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Once back in Como and freshly showered and dressed up we treated ourselves again to meal out to celebrate in style. After looking at a few menus trying to decide what we wanted (we even sat down in one and then swiftly scarppered when we changed our minds in favour of the place next door!) we finally settled on really nice, atmospheric restaurant and had delicious food (tricolore gnocchi, salmon raviolli, tagliete di manzo plus drinks for a total of €77 which completely blew our budget, but hey you only get to celebrate your first wedding anniversary once!).

When we left the restaurant there was an amazing thunderstorm taking place with flashes of lightening brigtening up the sky and roaring thunder rolling and echoing of the mountains! Sadly we did not manage to make it all the way back to the apartment without getting a little wet, but once home we enjoyed watching it continue from our balcony and it went on late into the night.

We spent our final day in Italy (for a couple of weeks at least) in...Switzerland! We took the 30 minutes train ride over the border to Lugano for the very expensive price of €71 return, but we both agreed it was worth it! btw if you decide to do this journey remember to take your passports as you'll cross boarder control and they will ask you for your passport, it only occurred to us the night before that we should take it.

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Lugano is stunning - nestled into the mountains curving around the shore of Lago di Lugano. We headed straight to the tourist information as we do everywhere we go and asked about what to do. There are two mountains either side of Lake Lugano that you can get funicular railway's up. So we walked to the first one at the edge of town to find it was 46 Francs (£32) to go up so we decided to walk to the other side of town and when we got to that one it was even more expensive. We therefore decided to enjoy the art museums, as this seemed to be a very arty town (which I did not expect). They had painted an subway with blackboard paint and left out chalk so the public to do arty messages. Unfortunately for me but maybe not for Nick, it was Monday so all the museums we're closed as is the customer with Italy and apparently Ticino. Instead we ate our lunch in the beautiful park, mooched around and even hired a piccolo pedalo which was the cheapest thing we could find to do 8 Francs. Finally we chilled in the sun (well Nick was in the sun, I was in the shade with a book) till our train was due.

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The next morning we said goodbye to Lake Como and walked the 2.2km to the train station with our 4 stone backpacks (which I swear are getting heavier) to catch our trains to Bern.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Italy Tagged bellagio lugano wifi_lake_como Comments (0)

LESSON NUMBER 5

Always have directions to your accommodation

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The owner of our apartment in Lake Como had kindly provided instructions of the best way to get from Malpensa Airport (the Malpensa Express to Saronno, then change for a direct train to Como Nord Borghi) - simple enough...

...however her instructions then said “a simple 5 minute walk to the apartment” but it did not occur to us until after we got to the train station that we had no clue in which direction we needed to head and that we really should have Google Mapped it before.

With both of our mobile phone batteries dying and our GPS not working we were rapidly running out of options so had no choice but to start asking people. With the little Italian I have I asked a young couple for directions and fortunately their English was excellent, but unfortunately had never heard of the street we needed. We then went to the cafe inside the station who luckily were able to point us in the right direction.

What did indeed turn out to be a 5 minute walk later we arrived at the apartment very hot and sweaty, with my trademark red face, but from now on we will always keep our phones charged on days we travel and get maps/directions from the station to our accommodation!

Lesson learnt!!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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