European Tour – Day 4

17th April

Checked out of the hotel by 8.30 am and travelled to Lugarno near the Arno river in Florence (Firenze) where the bus dropped us off. From there we started to the Piazza Di S Croche square. We have the walking tour to three of the squares. First one to arrive was the Piazza Di S Croche which has the church (private one) which hosts the body of Galileo Galilei and Michelangelo (we need to pay extra to go inside and watch the same). It’s a beautiful square where you have lot of leather shops around. We were taken inside Peruzzi showroom which is one of the famous leather showrooms of Firenze. After that, we were headed with a local tour guide to Piazza Del Duomo. This square has the cathedral which is the biggest one. It was built with the Carra Marbles and its really really huge. Cannot have it in a single shot at all. It was just wow. We did not go inside. But as usual you have quite a lot of work done on Marbles (remember in Marbles…not a easy feat). The dome is the speciality here. This is the dome which inspired Michelangelo to build the one in the Vatican. Its so so huge. It’s a wonderful sight. This city is full of small streets and alleys with so much shops and stuff. You see quite a lot of Leather, Gold and Silver shops. 

We also visited the place of Dante (the famous Italian poet, who wrote ‘The Divine Comedy’) and the church where he got married to his sweetheart. It’s a city where you have both the modern and the old building together in those small alleys. From there we maneuvered our way to Piazza Della Signoria, which is quite a museum by itself. It has the official buildings and also the copy of ‘David’ by Michelangelo displayed there. ‘The David’ is supposed to be the best art of Michelangelo in sculpture. Wish I could see the real one.  There are other sculptures in the square for you to enjoy.  

After that we walked on our own to the Ponte Vechhio which is the oldest bridge on the Arno river. Its not quite attractive because it is the oldest and it still stands. There are quite a lot of other bridges across the river, like Ponte Delle Grazie but this simple old one with lots and lots of Goldsmith shops on them is the main attraction. The other side has the Palazzo De Pitti (or the Pitti Palace), which is again a private property. Once that was done, we walked back to the St Croche Square for our lunch. It was already 11.30 by then. Had a sumptuous lunch and headed back to the bus by 12.15. By 12.30 we were on our way to Venice through the mountains. 

Florence is quite a small yet beautiful city which was once the capital of Italy and they are quite jealous of their heritage. The river Arno gets flooded quite often and so the squares are submerged quite often. Last time they had it was in 1960’s for almost 16 ft.  The hotel Meridana where we stayed is quite comfy and small one, thankfully a little bigger bathroom. It was quite cold in the morning but by 11 am it started getting very hot. The highlight of it all was the Cathedral, because you never know the size of it unless you enter that square because it is covered with so many alleys with buildings you never see the entire building. You only see the dome after some point of time. But the whole building is in a big square and it simply blows you away.

We had just one small coffee break before reaching Venice. We arrived at the hotel Antony Palace (a 4 star one) at around 4.30 pm. It was the biggest hotel so far and we have wifi free here…Yippee!!!! We were to regroup at 5.30 pm for our night out in Venice with Dinner. So we go up freshen up , connect our laptops/phones/iPad’s to wifi , browse some internet and get ready by 5.30 for the Venice trip. The hotel is not in Venice (which is the island) but is in the Venetian main lands. We can go to the Port which actually takes us to the Venezia island through train or bus or car. It takes around 40 mins of drive there. Hotels in Venice are very very costly (there are reasons for that….because everything has to be transported by boats which incurs service charges for every transfer…i.e. transfer from land to port, port to hotel by boat, etc…I even saw the garbage being taken out in the boat taxi’s). So got to Tronchetto, park the bus, get on a boat, drive to Island of Venice near San Marco point. We have too many islands near by like Lido, Murrano, Burrano etc. But Venice is the biggest of them, because small small islands were connected together. 

There is a Grand Canal that passes between that. Its based on the Lagoon of the Adriatic sea. Its not that we have to go via boats to all the places. But from one end of the Grand Canal to the other, it is easier by the taxi’s (i.e. boats working as taxi’s). We land in Venice (my dream place) at around  6.30 pm or so and go to the San Marco (or St Marco’s square). It is a beautiful square dedicated to the Saint Marco who is the saint for the Venetians and the church there has his remains. It was illuminated at night so beautifully.  We went straight ahead to our dinner place, which was in one of the small street alleys (its so confusing…you cross so many bridges here).  The dinner was a four course Italian meal and it ended with Tiramisu (very very tasty…yummy). After our dinner, we left around 8.45 pm or so to the St Marco’s Square and were allowed to explore by ourselves till 9.30 pm. The square hosts a lots of hotels and restaurants which has live music performed by people. There were three such restaurants that we saw. It was amazing to hear them play. 

I had a field day snapping pictures at night of the square. I couldn’t use my tripod because it was getting very cold and I had to make a choice of taking as many pictures of the place or taking one picture of the church with the tripod. So I preferred taking the whole place which was more important to me. It was amazing. It started getting very cold. By around 9.30 pm we regrouped (one family went missing….we found out later that they mistook 9.30 pm for 10 pm, whereas the last boat leaves at 10 pm). We had to wait for them for around 15 mins. It was so beautiful to see the island by night. I couldn’t get enough of it. 

While waiting for the other family I was talking to this person whom I liked a lot (he is a 70 year old guy…his wife, who is 60 years old, stuck a nice friendship with me… I really like that pair) and he mentioned how he wanted to do this for his wife and things like that. I told him about how this place was my dream place and that I am a very happy woman now that I was there. He mentioned that at the end of the day, my happiness is what that should really matter to me and I couldn’t but get tears in my eyes. On our way back in the boat, I couldn’t help but cry, for both sad and happy reasons. Skipping the sad reason for some other time, the happy reason for now is that I got to be in a place where I wanted to be for such a long time and I really loved it. We were visiting the place again the next day too for the Gondola ride and stuff, but nothing beats the night visit. If I could do a happy dance, I would imitate Katherine Heigl (in the movie, I forgot the name, with Gerard Butler) 😀 I was really very happy….. I was in Venice…Wow!!!! Talk about making dreams come true :). We arrived by 10.45 pm to the hotel and were totally wasted. We had to get up early again to be in Venice by 9.30 am.

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