Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Venice to Varenna


We had a pretty relaxing day today, slept in and started our day with lunch in San Barnbara square. The main building here was featured in Indiana Jones. After lunch we walked to San Rocco to see tons of art by Tintoretto decorating the walls and ceilings of 2 large floors. It was pretty cool because they gave us a free audio guide with admission, and had mirrors available so that you can see the art on the ceiling without breaking your neck.

Then we went to the Frari church, which is a Gothic style church, very plain on the outside but beautiful on the inside. It's nice because it's not so over the top inside either. There is a lot of light coming through and the colors inside the church are light as well, making it feel more open than most of the dark churches we've been to. Titian's tomb is in this church.

We took a vaporetto from the main part of Venice over to Murano which is just across the water. Murano is known for it's glass making and the main part of the town is filled with blown glass shops. We checked out the Glass Museum here then walked up the main drag to window shop. We eventually got back on the vaporetto to Venice and went to the Church of St. John and St. Paul. This church was also very nice, much lighter inside without being overly ornate.

We got our gelato before dinner tonight while walking through the streets of Venice. Dinner was at a little restaurant along the grand canal. We were able to make a reservation here earlier in the day. Kev had the seabass and I had a tuna filet with balsamic glaze, very tasty! We took a vaporetto over to St. Mark's square to take some pictures tonight. It was pretty lively there with the dueling orchestras competing for customers. The little cafes charge a lot for you to sit there and have a drink and listen to the music, but it's free to just be standing out in the square listening, which is just as fun although not as comfortable. It was a little chilly tonight so we didn't stay long, caught a vaporetto back towards our hotel and walked part of the way because we weren't able to get on the fast boat.


We got up this morning and said good-bye to Venice, catching a train to Verona. We had hoped to catch an early bus to Sirmione but weren't able to make it in time, so we did our sightseeing in Verona first. Verona is, of course, the home of Romeo and Juliet. The town was very busy today, lots of people out and about. We had lunch just off the main square at a little pizza place then headed off on our self guided tour of the town. We went through the main squares here and stopped by Juliet's house where many couples were taking their turns being photographed on the balcony, or having their pictures taken with the Juliet statue in the courtyard. We saw a couple churches here but didnt have the time to go inside.

We caught a later bus to Sirmione and that is where our troubles of the day began. We got off the bus too early and wound up having to walk quite a long way...we got to the town about an hour after we had planned to... Sirmione is a lakeside town. We saw the Castle here which was pretty cool but very crowded. We climbed to the top to get some great views of the lake, the water is really pretty here. It was difficult to get down from the top because there is only one set of stairs and people just kept coming, I thought we would be stuck there forever!

Next we went to see the ruins that are here, but we only got to see them for about 5 minutes before having to walk back to catch the bus. The bus ended up being about a half hour late, so we could have stayed longer... Oh well...

When we got back to the train station we noticed there was a lot of traffic in the area, streets blocked off, and our train wasn't listed on the board yet, so we got our bags from the checked luggage area and went to McDonalds to get a french fry snack because we knew dinner was a long way off. Thank God we did that because we had no idea what was in store for us next.
Our train was listed to be coming in to platform 6, so we headed there to wait. When we got there, there was a lot of confusion and a train was already there, but the sign said it was one that was supposed to have left almost a half hour before we got there. There were people everywhere talking about something we couldn't understand, and we kept listening for some hint of what was going on. We also noticed that none of the other trains on other platforms were moving and didn't seem to have been moving for awhile. Announcements kept being made overhead about delays but we didnt hear anything about our train coming.

Finally, a very nice Australian guy came over and asked us if we were ok and said he spoke both English and Italian so he would help us. We asked what the problem was with the trains and he told us that apparently someone was hit by a train on this line today and that all the trains had been stopped while everything was being cleared up. Scary!

Eventually the train that was there moved off, and it wasn't even the one that was listed, it was one from even before that. We ended up getting on the next train that came in going to Milan like we were supposed to, still much later than we should have left. Lucky for us we were able to get a seat on the train, because at the next stop TONS of people piled into the train and it was packed full. We were in first class and it's likely that none of those people had first class tickets... Anyway, we finally arrived in Milan after like 4 hours, which was only supposed to take like 1.5 hours.

Unfortunately due to this late arrival, we missed the connecting train we were supposed to take to Varenna, and the last train after that. We had to go to the ticket counter and wait in line for about half an hour talk to someone who sent us to customer care, which was also pretty busy. Eventually we got to talk to someone who put us on a train to Lecco where we had to take a cab to Varenna because there were no other options. We were just glad we didnt have to sleep in the train station all night. Trenitalia is supposed to reimburse us for the cost of the cab ride when we go back down there. We felt really bad about being so late to Varenna, when we got here it was about 12:20am and we are staying at a little B&B here. We called the guy a couple times to let him know what was going on and he was nice enough to stay up to let us in.

What a looooooooooong day today was! We still haven't heard any details about the accident today, maybe we'll hear something tomorrow.

This morning we had a good breakfast at our B&B before heading off to Switzerland. We are staying in Varenna on Lake Como which backs up to Switzerland on one side. We took a ferry to Menaggio and caught a bus from there to Gandria, Switzerland. This town lies on Lake Lugano and we took a long lakeside hike from here to the town of Lugano. It took quite a while to get there and we took a few wrong turns looking for a couple Villas here.

When we arrived in Lugano we jumped on a boat that would eventually take us to Melide, Switzerland. It took almost 2 hours to get there because the boat we got on wasn't taking a direct route (which we didn't know at the time we got on) and was zig-zagging across the lake. Melide is home to Swissminiature, which is a neat little place to visit with about 120 miniature models of different Swiss buildings, towns, airports etc. They also have a huge miniature (a "bigature") of the cathedral in Milan that you could actually go inside! There are running trains around the park and many of the models have moving parts, like ski lifts and cable cars. It was pretty cool to see all these little things moving along.

Next we took a train back to Como in Italy where we walked around for a while before getting on a ferry to Bellagio. We stayed here for almost 2 hours, walked the town (in about 5 min because it's really small) and got some gelato before heading to an internet cafe for a while.

We took a ferry from Bellagio to Varenna back where we are staying. When we were getting our tickets we started talking to these 2 women who were also going to Varenna in hopes of catching a train to Milan. In talking to them we found out one was actually from Simi Valley! We were all very surprised, funny to run into someone from home so far from it! They were really nice and we helped them find their way through Varenna to the train station.

We had dinner tonight on the lake at Nilus Bar. It was near closing time when we got there, but we were able to get our caprese salad and pizzas, and a peach bellini for me! The caprese salad here was really good. Now we are back in our room making preparations for our last day in Italy tomorrow, which we will spend in Milan.

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