Saturday, 1 August 2015 – Day 7 – Venice Area – Assisi – Rome – (Day 53)

Saturday, 1 August 2015 – Day 7 – Venice Area – Assisi – Rome (334 miles/535 Kms)  – Day 53

Today was an early wakeup at 6.00, cases out at 6.45 and on the road at 7.30 after breakfast. We followed the canal and many fields of corn. The countryside was quite flat as we headed south wards across the Po plain.  Lots of agricultural fields – bamboo, sunflowers and we came across a lovely lake.

We had a stop at Pomposa and then headed towards another stop at Porto Giogio and about ten minutes later we were stopped by the police – checking for illegal immigrants!!!

The weather was getting quite hot 32-33.

The drive started to get very hilly and we climbed higher and higher and then thick vegetation and more fields of sunflowers for the oil and fields of tobacco.  Went through several tunnels and each time you emerged, you didn’t know what to expect.

We went through the gentle Umbrian hills to Assisi a town of Umbria region in central Italy, where St. Francis was born in 1181/1182 as Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, but nicknamed Francesco; and started the Order of the Franciscans. Francis of Assisi died on October 3, 1226, at the age of 44, in Assisi, Italy. Today, Francis has a lasting resonance with millions of followers across the globe. He was canonized as a saint just two years after his death, on July 16, 1228, by his former protector, Pope Gregory IX. We visited the world famous Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi which is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor—commonly known as the Franciscan Order. The basilica is one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy. With its accompanying friary, Sacro Convento, the basilica is a distinctive landmark to those approaching Assisi. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

The basilica, which was begun in 1228, is built into the side of a hill and comprises two churches known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church, and a crypt where the remains of the saint are interred. The interior of the Upper Church is an important early example of the Gothic style in Italy. The Upper and Lower Churches are decorated with frescoes by numerous late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools, and include works by Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti and possibly Pietro Cdavallini. The range and quality of the works gives the basilica a unique importance in demonstrating the development of Italian art of this period.

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It was 35 degrees now and stopped for lunch and then headed towards Roma. We left the green fields and fields of sunflowers. The drive was very picturesque – hills all around with villages high up the sides.

We got to our accommodation at NH Carpegna about 5.30.  We freshened up and commenced the excursion Treasures of Rome night and dinner.  We had a local guide,  Enrico who drove us up to the Centre and saw where the Trevi Fountain was but couldn’t throw our coins in as was closed for renovations.

We drove past the  Piazza Venezia. The one landmark dominating Piazza Venezia is Il Vittoriano. It was built between 1885 and 1911 to celebrate the uniting of Italy as a nation, and dedicated to the first King of all Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II. The construction of the immense white marble monument was built on the side of the Capitoline Hill in the early twentieth century.

We stopped at Piazza Navona and saw the Santant’Agnese in Agone a 17th-century Baroque church in Rome, Italy. It faces onto the Piazza Navona, one of the main urban spaces in the historic centre of the city. We saw the Fountain of the Four Rivers in the centre of the piazza, dominating the scene with its powerful presence and figures that seem to come alive from the sound of the rushing streams of water. The four giant nudes that form the statue are the personification of the principal rivers of the continents known at the time: the Nile represents Africa, with its veiled head because the source of the river had yet to be discovered, the Ganges Asia, the Danube Europe and Rio de la Plata, the Americas. I couldn’t resist putting my feet in the water at the fountain.

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We then went onto restaurant for our dinner.  The meal was terrific. Our entertainment was a flautist and guitarist. One of the waiters asked me up to dance and then Britt and I danced. Later in the evening the waiter gave me 5 roses and we pretended we became engaged. Before the evening ended, every lady was given a rose. It was a great group here tonight and it was really a fabulous fun night.

Because Enrico was held up in traffic coming to get us, he took us up to St Peter’s  Square to see Rome by night.

Saint Peter’s Basilica, the world’s largest church, is the centre of Christianity. The imposing structure was built over a span of more than one hundred years by the greatest Italian architects of the era. The church is built on Vatican Hill, across the Tiber river from the historic center of Rome. The location is highly symbolic: this was the site where Saint Peter, the chief apostle, died a martyr and where he was buried in 64 AD. St. Peter is considered the first pope, so it made perfect sense for the papacy to build the principal shrine of the Catholic church here.

We finally got back to the hotel at about 11.15 and Kevin and Susan went into the pool in their clothes. I went back to the room to get into my swimmers and just got into the pool when the security guard came out and wanted us out.  The pool hours were only until 7.00 but we said we couldn’t read the Italian. I honestly didn’t see the guard come up to the pool.  At least I did get myself wet. Enrico came to our rescue and then next thing for fun he lifted me up for the obligatory photo.

Once more, another terrific day even though it was long and hot as it was 33 degrees.

Friday, 31 July, 2015 – Day 6 – Innsbruck Area – Venice Area, Italy – (Day 52)

Friday, 31 July 2015 – Day 6 – Innsbruck Area – Venice Area, Italy (244 miles/390 Kms) – Day 52

We had an early breakfast and left our lovely hotel and we were on the road by 7.30 via the Tyolean Alps over the Brenner Pass.

Brenner Pass

,  Brenner Pass: Europabrücke [Credit: Ralf Pfeifer]mountain pass, one of the lowest (4,511 feet [1,375 m]) and most important through the main chain of the Alps on the Austrian-Italian border. Brenner Pass has been one of the main entrances to Italy in the Eastern Alps in Germany and the Po River valley of Italy. Since the 14th century it has been one of Europe’s great trade routes. A carriage road (built 1772) and a railway (completed 1867) climb steeply from Innsbruck through the Wipp Valley up to the Brenner Pass and then descend through the Isarco and Adige river valleys to Verona. The modern Brenner Highway (completed early 1970s) links Kufstein, Austria, with Modena, Italy; the Wipp Valley is spanned by the Europabrücke (“Bridge of Europe”).

More spectacular scenery – long high bridges, pine forests, valleys down below, very Rocky Mountains and lots of little waterfalls.  We got to Italy at 8.05.  Italy has a population of 61 million. In 5000 BC the Romans were the first to build stone houses.  We heard about two brothers Romulus and Remus who were reared by a she wolf.  Julius Caesar being killed, the Roman Calendar where February was the twelfth month, the alphabet and coins used.  Roads also built out of stone and building experts of bridges and canals.

Names known to come from Italy – Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael, Mussolini.

The mountains changed colour from grey to white – reminded me of the White Cliffs of Dover. These were the Dolomites  – a mountain range located in northeastern Italy. We were in the smaller group called Piccole Dolomiti (Little Dolomites) located between the provinces of Trentino, Verona and Vicenza. In August 2009, the Dolomites were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The scenery here was remarkable. We passed through the village of Modena and is noted for coffee, wines, tiramisu, penna cotta and cheeses and balsamic vinegar.  Many terraced gardens, villages way up high up the sides of the mountains, streams, rivers, tunnels and waterfalls.

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We had a couple of stops near Verona – names mentioned around this area were Romeo and Juliet,   The House of Juliet is a small genuine medieval palace; a balcony was added in the 1930s, inspired by Shakespeare’s drama. The House of Romeo is a medieval complex, greatly transformed in later periods, and relatively little remains from the original building.

There were lots of dams and weirs and the roadside fences very changeable and had glasses in between so you could see the scenery. Around this area there were lots of fruit trees. We had lunch stop and had a professional group photo taken. This is just a few of the group taken on my Ipad.

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We travelled on to the unique floating city of Venice. Names mentioned here were Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, an 18th Century figure who is known for his archetypal reputation as a seducer of women. Vivaldi being the son of a violinist started playing the violin himself early in his life. In 1703 he became priest and in 1716 the director of a conservatory of the church in Venice. Being a famous violinist he gave concerts all over Europe also composing a lot of violin concerts and other string works.  Marco Polo was born between September 15 and 16, 1254, in Venice and was an Italian merchant traveller whose travels are recorded in the Book of the Marvels of the World, also known as The Travels of Marco Polo, c. 1300), a book that introduced Europeans to Central Asia and China.

Venice (Venezia) is a city in northeastern Italy sited on a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. It is located in the marshy Venetian lagoon which stretches along the shoreline, between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. Venice is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artwork. The city in its entirety is listed as a World Heritage Site, along with its lagoon.

We boarded a boat that took us in to the centre. We passed he island of La Guidecca and there were many spectacular buildings and one that stood out was the Redentore church

We visited the world wide known MURANO glassworks and watched the glassblowers show off their ability to produce such beautiful colourful glassware. The showroom was just an array of colour with all the spectacular glassware.

Opened my wallet here and had this lovely set of six glass and decanter sent home. Hope it arrives safely.

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After the wonderful Murano showrooms, we went onto St Mark’s Square and is dominated by the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. The church burned down in 976 during an uprising. It was rebuilt twice, the last time in 1063. At that time the power of the Venetian Republic had risen dramatically, and the new basilica, consecrated in 1094, would come to symbolize the republic’s growing power and wealth. This basilica is the one we see today. It was the doge’s private chapel until 1807, when it became the city’s cathedral.

Considered one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world, the Basilica di San Marco is known for its opulent design and gilded interior mosaics, and nicknamed Chiesa d’Oro, ”

Its design mixes eastern and western building styles in a unique way. The original St. Mark’s Church was situated inside the complex of the Doge’s Palace and was constructed in 828. The basilica has a separate campanile– bell tower – that stands 98.6 meters tall (323 ft) and is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. Originally built in the ninth century, the current version was rebuilt in 1912 after the original tower collapsed in 1902.

The other dominant building around St. Mark’s Square is the Doge’s Palace .  which is a palace built in Venetian Gothic style, and one of the main landmarks of the city of Venice in northern Italy. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice, opening as a museum in 1923. Today, it is one of the 11 museums run by the Fondazione Musei Civil di Venezie. COACH TOUR 2015 (197)

 We then went to board a gondola. The gondola is a traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat well suited to the conditions of the Venetian lagoon. The rowing oar, which is not fastened to the hull, is used in a sculling manner, also acting as the rudder. are also used in special regattas (rowing races) held amongst gondolier.  They  In modern times the iconic boats still have a role in public transport in the city, serving as “traghetti” (ferries) over the Grand Canal. Their primary role today, however, is to carry tourists.

The gondola that takes 6 people is propelled by a person (the gondolier/troubador) who stands facing the bow and rows with a forward stroke, followed by a compensating backward stroke. The oar rests in an elaborately carved wooden rest (“forcola”) shaped to project from the side of the craft so as to allow the slight drag of each return stroke to pull the bow back to its forward course.  There are just over four hundred in active service today, virtually all of them used for hire by tourists.

We passed the Santa Maria della Salute on the Grand Canal and the Palazzo Gussoni Grimani – 16th century palace. We could see the bell tower from the Grand Canal and many other buildings. We glided under the Bridge of Sigh as we went along the narrower canals back to where we boarded the gondola.  While we were on the gondola we were serenaded by the troubadour.



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It was an enjoyable experience gliding along the canals.
 We had some spare time so walked along the Tattere which was built in 1519 and first used as a landing dock for the delivery of timber used to construct ships and buildings, which gave the quay the name Zattere, Italian for raft. The timber gone, the Zattere today is a spacious long waterfront promenade located in the Dorsoduro district.
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We then cruised back to join our coach and left Venice about 6.30 for an hours drive to our accommodation and dinner at the Poppi Hotel.

More drinks and chatting before going to bed quite late.

Was another packed day of such interesting venues. Venice is a fascinating city with all the buildings on the edge of the water.

The Murano Glassworks certainly had a wonderful showroom and yes, I am quite a few dollars out of pocket, but couldn’t resist my purchase.