Venice etc. by Riverboat. October 2014
Helen Rose Outdoor Diary
With some friends I was on a riverboat cruise from Venice to other towns. However, the riverboat could not go out to the Adriatic Sea so we had to visit some towns by bus. I have been in Venice twice before, once in summer during the tourist season and once in the depths of winter inspired by the film, Don’t look Now. This time it was a summer trip as a holiday but with the added bonus of sightseeing. It was the height of the tourist season but we could escape from the crowds in the cities to the peace and calm of the boat. We arrived in Venice and the following morning sailed along the lagoon to Chioggia. We drifted past the outlying islands, many with an interesting history such as a Leper Colony.
From Chioggia, we took a bus to Padua and toured the Basilica of St. Anthony completed in 1310 and famous at the facade on the square for the huge plinth and dynamic equestrian monument of the Condottiero Gattamelata by Donatello. There are also statues within the basilica by Donatello. Unfortunately, we had not arranged to see the Scrovenghi Chapel with the Giottos so I need to return to Padua for this delight.
After lunch on the boat, we travelled to Ferrara in Emilia Romagna where the old Jewish Quarter has been preserved. We strolled around the ghetto quarter, created in 1627 after the Este dynasty fell, and it is still pretty much intact, the remnants of two of the five gates sealing off the area after dark, still attached to the walls. Emilia-Romagna borders Liguria, Lombardy and Tuscany, and it’s a region said to have the best food in Italy. Not surprising when you consider it’s the home of Balsamic vinegar in Modena and Parmigiano-Reggiano in Parma. In the middle of the town stands the outrageous d’Este castle: half palace, half fortress, even down to its surrounding moat.
We cruised on one of the channels of the River Po. Boats are limited on the river so we had the river to ourselves. It was idyllic drifting on the river while enjoying dinner. The following day we visited Verona and walked around the sights including Juliet’s balcony.. The open air opera house was preparing for a performance of Aida but time did not allow us to see the performance as it was back to the boat for dinner stopping on the way for an excellent ice cream.
The last place to visit before Venice was the delightful town of Chioggia which is like a little Venice but with very few tourists. Our berth in Venice was just along from the Doges Palace and near St Marks Square. How wonderful to see over the lagoon to St Giorgio Maggiore from the dining room and to wake up in the morning to such a view from the cabin. In Venice we had a walking tour of the Doges Palace with an entertaining elderly guide who had many witty asides during the tour. This was a refreshing change from the tour guides who convey too much information to the tourists who rarely remember any of it. There had been heavy rain during the time we were in the Doges Palace and we emerged to St Marks Square where the pigeons were enjoying bathing in the puddles.
On the last day we visited the islands of Murano and Burano. Murano is famous for the glass which has been highly prized throughout history. However, we skipped most of the shops and visited the church of San Donato to see the colourful stone mosaic floor including the yoked cocks who are carrying a fox and dates from around 1140. As we had limited time in Venice we decided to catch the vaparetto, the public boat, up the Grand Canal to admire the buildings. The Rialto Bridge was crowded so we stayed on the boat and on the return journey stopped off at Peggy Guggenheim’s Palace on the Grand Canal packed with modern art. This is my favourite building in Venice as it is modern but surrounded by very old buildings in a fabulous setting on the Grand Canal.
We did not spend the entire time sightseeing. Evenings were spent drinking Prosecco and singing and dancing on the boat. Italy is a great place to visit for the sights, the food and the wine. I will certainly be back again!
Coming attractions: The Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies.
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