Saturday, April 17:  Certaldo to Venice

We packed up, refueled the car, checked email and prepared to leave Albergo Latini behind. We’d hoped to say good-bye to Chiara and have a photo, but instead I BS’ed with Giovanni while he tried phoning her to wake her up. He even sent the maid over to her house to rouse her. No luck. Eventually I had him help me fax back all of Robert’s FC United Soccer info to the Millers. We settled up the bill, with a fixed price for each of our eight dinners, then took some group photos.

We had a brief and unnecessary backtrack in Castlefiorentino, all the more irritating since we’d driven that road before and the detour took us into town on one road and right back out the same direction we’d come on another. The valley containing Firenze was all the more impressive from the autostrada. Truly a beautiful natural setting. The road tilted upwards and we twisted and turned through hills and mountains, passing through tunnels and occasional sprinkles. Outside Bologna we stopped at an AutoGrill, along with everybody else on the road. It was jam-packed. We ate standing up at a counter -- not very relaxing. After bypassing Bologna, we passed onto a broad agricultural plain, part of the immense Po River Valley. You could understand how the flat fields of the plain, and the upland pasture lands could earn Bologna its culinary reputation. The plain not only encouraged agriculture, the flat straight roads encouraged the Audis and Mercedes. They were moving.

One misstep right outside Venezia had us heading north when we should have been going east, but an off-ramp and on-ramp connected to the same roundabout made the redirection easy. However, the entirety of the rotary traffic had been cowed to a standstill by the entering traffic, contrary to design, and made for nerve-wracking maneuvering in uncertain territory. We crossed the bridge (or causeway), Ponte della Libertie, into Venezia proper and found the San Marcos Parking Garage easily. Let’s hope the hotel’s discount is a generous one! Then on to a vaporetto (water taxi or ferry) for the trip down the Grand Canal to the Rialto bridge.

We disembarked, crossed over the canal on the famous bridge, as I recalled a passage from Shakespeare I’d been assigned to memorize in high school from The Merchant of Venice,

Signor Antonio, many a time and oft, on the Rialto, you have. . .

Through the busy market, rolling our suitcases, then a turn down a narrow street and we found Pensione Guerrato easily. We have four beds in one room, but we should do OK for our three night stay. Rob exhausted from a thousand and one minor decisions, and perhaps nursing an incipient cold, took a nap, while Pat and the boys, released from the confines of the automobile, power-toured half the city and had gelato.

Dinner was at a self-service place right near the Rialto, after nixing a cute place around the corner catering only to adult tastes (sea bass egg brushetta?). Pizza, meat, and fish for half the price of an Il Latini dinner. Uuughhh. Of course an evening stroll revealed places that looked twice as appealing for half the price. The joys of being new in town. Found a good-looking Internet joint right around the corner though.

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Photo 41  Venice Canals
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Photo 42  Venice Canals

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Photo 43  Rialto Bridge, Gondolas
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Photo 44  St. Mark’s Porch
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Photo 45  Venetian Faces

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Photo 46  Gondolas, St. Giorgio’s
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Photo 47  Rialto Bridge
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Photo 48  Rialto Bridge by Night
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Photo 49  Venice Palace
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Photo 50  St. Mark’s Square
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Photo 51  Robert Feeding Pigeons
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Photo 52  David Feeding Pigeons

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Photo 53  Robert on Rialto Bridge
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Photo 54  David on Rialto Bridge