Our Diary News from Italy

As we left Vienna and headed further south the scenery became more familiar; pretty little chalets and villages nestling in the foot hills of the Alps - all "picture postcard" really. Our thoughts were now focused on getting back to the UK and we both felt a little sad as we neared the end of our journey - but we still had some fire left! Just as well as we were heading for Venice, "tourist capital of the world!" Christine had been to Venice a couple of times previously, so she organized our battle plan; book a hotel near St. Mark's Square, deposit our large suitcases at the train station and wade through the throngs with just our backpacks. One night's stay would be sufficient - arrive early, stay overnight and leave late! Venice is all about wandering and ticking the boxes. All the world and his wife were there but our strategy meant that we could have a leisurely stroll to the hotel, taking in the sights on the way. The hotel was tucked away in the corner of a small medieval piazza, and had all the romanticism of Venice - complete with balcony view.

After checking in and dumping the backpacks, more sightseeing. A $50 sundowner in St Mark's Square added to the experience! Yes, Venice was packed but still had magic. We chose piazza dining in the little square next to our hotel. Unfortunately the rain came and we moved inside and ended up sharing a table with Jean from Colorado. One bottle of wine became two; three persons became five as the couple next to us joined in - it was a birthday for one and an anniversary for the others.

The rain continued to fall but we were having fun. Eventually the night came to a close. We gave one of our umbrellas as a birthday present to Jean - she had a long walk to her hotel. We sprinted across the square to our hotel and toasted our fortune with a scotch. It was often not the place, but the people you met that made the occasion.

Breakfast at the hotel was heralded by sunshine. We checked out; six hours sightseeing left so we picked up a tourist ticket for the water buses that ply the canals. Easy! We took lots of photos, hopped on and off the ferry at various points, and finally ended up at the train station. Collected our luggage and picked up a train to Verona.

Verona is a lovely city - and very old! We arrived on a Sunday afternoon. The apartment we were renting had provided detailed directions - the problem was that we couldn't find his starting point. Advice from a friendly local didn't help; after wandering around the little byways, we eventually located the place and knocked on the shabby door - no one at home. We were earlier than expected so sat on the wall of a roman forum and waited. We were joined by a Japanese couple. Eventually the owner arrived and let us all in. The stairs were rickety but the apartment was lovely - modern, spacious and overlooking the square. Thankfully we were staying here for a couple of days and hoped to take in an opera - Verona is famous for its Opera held in the Roman amphitheatre. This was not to be. The day we arrived was "change-over" day; Aida had just finished - the set was still in the town square - and Nabucco by Verdi was due to start later that week. This was typical! So far we had been unable to go to any major event since the Naadam due to bad timing! However, Verona was a lovely city to wander around and is on our list for a revisit someday.

We now had a mad dash to Paris, via Milan then onwards to London. The trip to Milan skirted the Alps and Lake Garda - very picturesque. Yet again our plan for some culture was put on the backburner - La Bohème was playing at the La Scala Opera House. Great! We enquired about tickets and discovered it was opening night - and the only tickets available were €450 each! We weren't that much into Opera - we consoled ourselves with a tour of the Opera House and managed to view one of the sets being tested on stage. We strolled around the city before shopping for a tie for Emily and Jon's wedding at the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall - very chic! And took in an exhibition of Da Vinci's inventions such as helicopters, submarines, etc. constructed to his plans.