Monday, 4 June 2012

Happy Anniversary

Upgraded to KLM business class
For our 40th wedding anniversary in May 2012, we wanted to celebrate in a little more elaborate fashion than just a nice dinner out. We decided in the winter that we'd make Italy our destination and plan to be in Venice on our anniversary.

The Roman Colosseum
Colleen, as always, spent countless hours researching on the internet and made arrangements for accommodation and transportation between cities. We flew into Rome - a good start: KLM upgraded us to business class - and spent 4 nights in an apartment just up an alley from the Piazza Navona. The apartment was spacious and complete in every way. We were picked up at the airport and delivered to the fringe of the pedestrian-only piazza. From here we were able to walk to the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. Our Rome pass got us public transportation and admission to the Colosseum and the Forum. We spent a day at the Vatican and visited the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica and Square. On our last day, we visited the Spanish steps and some of the churches in 'Angels and Demons'.
St. Peter's Square

Pompei Scavi
Then it was off by train to Naples, where we picked up the Circumvesuviana train to Pompei Scavi. A fascinating day was spent in the ruins and the hot sun finished off the burn begun at the Colosseum and Forum.
Amalfi Coast at Positano
Colleen on Capri
Then on to Sorrento, where we were booked into the City Hotel for three nights. Our plans included a half-day trip with a driver down the Amalfi Coast - we had a delightful young man who actually spent over 6 hours with us.He was very personable, knowledgeable and accommodating. We had booked a small craft tour around the Isle of Capri, but they were not running because of high seas. Instead we took the ferry to Capri and boarded a larger tour boat to circumnavigate the island. We were very glad by the time we were done that we were not aboard the originally planned small craft. Capri was interesting and pretty, but didn't really have much to offer but high prices. One night in Sorrento we had a wonderful sea-side meal, with perhaps the best mussels we ever ate.
Florence apartment
Michelangelo's 'David'

Bartolomeo Christophori's first piano
The leaning tower of Pisa
Then it was off to Florence, where we had a wonderful apartment booked for three nights. We did the obligatory Florence list - Michelangelo's 'David', the Uffizi Gallery, the Ponte Vecchio, the market and the Duomo. One highlight we almost missed was the musical instrument museum in the Academia, where they have Christophori's very first piano, invented by him in 1711. We spent one day while in Florence on a day trip to Pisa - you've got to see the leaning tower of Pisa when you're that close; the next day we went to Arezzo, where we viewed the statue honouring Guido Monaco, who invented our modern system of lines and spaces and notes for writing music. We walked pretty much the entire length of the city, looking for the tourist information bureau, so we saw much more than we had planned, including the Duomo and the Piazza Grande as well as Guido's house, adorned with a plaque recognizing his invention of 'do re mi'.

Statue of Guido Monaco
A refreshing view of the tower of Pisa
We had decided that visiting the Cinque Terre by staying in one of the towns would be too difficult from a mobility standpoint, so we stayed in La Spezia and visited the Cinque Terre by train. When we bought our ticket, they warned us to be back in La Spezia by 9 pm of the second day because there was a planned 24-hour rail strike. This got us thinking about how it might affect our travel to Venice, but Trenitalia was able to change our tickets to avoid the areas being struck. So, with a little backtracking to Florence and a few more station changes than planned, we made our way to Venice.

Colourful houses in Burano
Christian, our gondolier
Our hotel, Casa Rezzonico, was very near a vaporetto stop, so it was very convenient. We travelled the whole length of the Grand Canal in both directions, with front seats on each vaporetto. We toured the Doges Palace and St. Mark's Basilica. One day we took the vaporetto to Murano and Burano and viewed the artisans and the most interesting house colours and canals.

Our flight home was from Marco Polo airport in Venice, so we caught the airport vaporetto and made our way to the terminal. Upon changing planes in Amsterdam, we discovered a beautiful Kawai grand piano with a note inviting travellers to try it out. Well ... what else could I do? Then we boarded our flight home to Toronto.
Piano at Schipol Airport
A wonderful trip, masterfully planned and successfully executed. Wonderful sights, food, wine and memories. The bucket list is done - next time we'll check out some of the B-list.

For more pictures, click on the link to the right.

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