Our long awaited trip to Italy represented a number of firsts for my wife Debra and I – first trip to Europe, first time with an organised group, and of course, first time with Trafalgar.
We began our 13 Day Italian Glory trip in Como, and after meeting Sally our Travel Director and fellow travel companions – a mix of of Canadians, Americans, about 10 Aussies, and a couple from New Zealand, we were ready for our first excursion – a bus and boat ride along Lake Como and Bellagio. We passed a road bridge built by the Romans, a house where Verdi composed some of his famous operas, stopped to look at George Clooney’s cluster of villas, and the village of Mezzegra where Mussolini was shot at the end of WW2. Gelati of the day was chocolate and arancia – only 20 or so more flavours to try – hope to get to them all!
On our way to Venice we stopped at Verona – the legendary home of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Verona is a busy city of 250,000 but retains the feel of a more intimate place. We drove past the two sets of city walls from the early Venetian and earlier Roman times, past the Roman Amphitheatre, then into the centre of town, walking down Via Capello. Its here you pass Juliet’s balcony and onto the main town square. Lunch was a traditional Spaghetti Alla Matriciana, with a glass of Velpolicelli Amareno, and a caffe macchiato (my new choice of coffee).
Our first experience in Venice included a classic gondola ride. Armed with a bottle of Prosecco, we cruised for 30 minutes around the canals, followed by dinner in a beautiful restaurant and a night tour by water taxi along the Grand Canal to see the Rialto Bridge and Bridge of Sighs. The next day we had some free time in the morning and Sally directed us to some areas where we could immerse ourselves in the daily life of Venetians. Later, the group visited Murano for a glass blowing demonstration. George is a master glass blower, having worked in the same factory since the age of 13 – he is now in his 70s but still loves his work. It was amazing to watch hot molten being turned into a vase and a rearing horse figurine in 15 minutes – hard to describe but fascinating to watch.
Last stop for the day was the island of Burano (renowned as the Fisherman’s Island) and we were treated to a six course meal of all things “pesce” (seafood) washed down with a glass of Rose and some Amaretto to finish. The houses on this island are very brightly coloured. Legend says it’s so the fishermen returning from sea could find their homes in the fog.
We spent the next morning on a walking tour around the markets and back streets of Venice with a Local Guide. We then continued on to St Mark’s Square. For centuries the waterside entry to the square has been guarded by two towers, which among other things, was the preferred site for public executions. The two main buildings in the square are the Basilica, and Doge’s Palace. Being with Trafalgar was such an advantage as we didn’t have to line up to get in – the lines for the Basilica stretched for about 100 metres! The ceilings are a sight to behold, with over 8,000 square metres of glass ceramic mosaic paintings and incredible three dimensional mosaic marble floors built in the 12th century. After a full morning of walking, we had some free time and found a nearby cafe, naturally for a beer, a glass of wine and the best lasagne I’ve ever had!
Rodney Bates from Melbourne, Australia