Monday, May 2, 2016

Italy, Day 1 & 2: Venice, the beautiful labyrinth

Some or most of you might have known that I traveled to Italy in April. The trip was from 8 - 25 April (including flying time). I was tagging along with my sister and her colleague (they're wedding planners) as they had a conference to attend in Florence and then from 14 - 19 April, it was a Fam Trip with some 20 wedding planners from other parts of the world. Parts of Italy which we visited were Venice, Tuscany - Florence, Siena, Amalfi Coast, Rome.


Most Italians are able to converse in English but I found it helpful to learn some basic Italian so at least you can understand some of the signboards. I also downloaded this Dictionary app by Bravolol which I can search for phrases and words in English and it gets translated to Italian. Works the other way around too. My advise, seriously do not bring some 30kg luggage bag with you if you plan to travel to Italy (especially Venice). Cobblestone roads and stairs man. Travel light, you'll thank me for it.

We flew with Emirates via route Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) - Dubai International Airport (DXB) -Fiumicino Airport (FCO). Total flight was 6 hours 55 mins KUL - DXB; 5 hours 5 mins layover at DXB; 6 hours 5 mins DXB - FCO. It was my first time flying with Emirates and rest assured you are well taken care of. Plus, you can check What's on your flight a day before you fly (which was what I did). Get details like your in-flight menu, entertainment, in-flight services etc. from Emirates' website. Upon check-in at KLIA, we were each given a food voucher which can be used at selected restaurants at Dubai airport. We thought that was really cool.


Dinner here, the Piri-Piri sauce with crackers was good! They also provided light bites of sandwich and banana bread. Everyone is well fed!

We really did not know what to do when we landed in Dubai. Heck we had 5 hours waiting time. It was 10.30pm, we walked around the airport and for me I made a mental note of the things I want to buy on my flight back to KL. That was just about it, not much to do there to fill up the remaining 4 hours there. There was complimentary 60 minutes WiFi access per device at the airport, friends and families in Malaysia are sleeping (time difference), so what are we going to do next? Nothing much, so we took turns to take a nap. 


Breakfast, DBX - FCO. Every meal comes with 2 choice of main course.

As we were about to touch down, I looked outside my window, for some reason, I thought Italy would have more buildings cause I was seeing lots of greens. Well what do I know right? The only time I've "seen" Italy is through movies which usually takes place in Rome.

First glimpse of Italy


After touching down, we collected our luggage, freshen up and headed over to take the train to Rome Termini train station as we had to take the train to Venice. The train ticket from FCO to Rome Termini was bought at the ticketing counter. We took Italo train to Venice which we bought in advanced online for RM60+ per ticket. Tickets are numbered and the price varies according to the category of coach. It is a high speed train, takes about 3 1/2 hours to Venice with limited stops at certain stations only. The cheaper alternative is Trenitalia but that is much slower, it is the equivalent to the KTM in Malaysia. 

So upon arrival at Rome Termini, we were lost. We did not know where to go as there were a few exits. We asked the guards that were around the area where is our platform as the online booking did not state the platform number. He said that the train platform number will only be announced on the train arrival screen 10 minutes before departure. Wow, Ok. We had about an hour to spare. So we just hung around the area. For some reason, it didn't felt like a train station, there was no signboards to direct us, it wasn't bustling with people. Until I had to go to the washroom, I asked the guard where is the toilet and he told me that it is at the "main train station". Then we realized, we were NOT at main station. We had to walk through a departmental store to reach the main station. It is hard to explain in words but it'll make more sense when you are there.


Even had the time to take our first selfie in Rome. Then only we realized, Opps! Not the main station

The train platforms are separated by glass doors and walls. Ok this is where we should have came out from ok, we didn't know. Haha. Doors will only be opened when the train is nearby, which is a good thing so that the platforms are not overly crowded.



In the meantime, you can help yourself to the vending machine. Very interesting stuff you can get from it.

For the next 3 1/2 hours, just sit back an enjoy the ride. Services & facilities available are vending machines, toilets, free WiFi (but only accessible to Italo's website), and complimentary refreshments.

Some of the view you see during the train ride



Cookies were good!


Second serving of refreshments. You're only allowed to have one item though

Sooooo... Someone bought the wrong train ticket. Our ticket disembarks at Venezia Mestre, which is the train station before Venezia Santa Lucia (our actual destination). We had to rush to the ticketing kiosk to buy the tickets to Santa Lucia. We took Trenitalia as that is the only train that goes to Santa Lucia from Mestre. 

We had to move to another platform to take Trenitalia, so we had to go through the underground passageway. OK, so around the train station, you will see some guys standing around and eyeing you (I swear i'm not exaggerating). When we had to carry our luggage down the steps, some 3 guys approached us, offering to carry our luggage for us. They are very persistent but we said no. There were more of them at the bottom of the stairs! We just ignored them and rushed to our platform. One was following us at a distance but I think after he saw me staring at him and realizing that he won't get anything out of this, he gave up. I don't think that they're pickpockets, but these people will offer to carry your luggage and request for payment after that.

While waiting for the train to Venezia Santa Lucia

Just a very short train ride and we have arrived in Venice Santa Lucia! 

 
Exit the station and the journey in Venice begins!


Get tickets for tours, public transportation and maps here

Main transportation in Venice is by water buses, private water taxis and gondolas via the Grand Canal. We bought our one way ticket to Sant' Angelo pier because that's where our accommodation is located. 7.50 one way. One thing I noticed since the first day of our trip, public transportation in Italy is not very tourist friendly. As in, there are no clear signboards of where we can buy tickets, schedules, which pier to go to. It will be faster if you asked a police, staff or a local.

Taxi (Ferry) tickets to Sant' Angelo port


Porter service available at a fee

The ride to Sant' Angelo pier was already like a short tour of a part of Venice itself. We didn't feel like it was necessary to pay 80 for the gondola ride. Here are some pictures taken from the ferry ride.


There is also a casino here

It took about 20 mins to arrive Sant' Angelo pier and it started to rain! It took us a while to navigate to ourselves to the right path to get to our Airbnb - Ca' Morosini I. There were so many bridges and small roads, take a wrong path and you might just end up taking a longer road. After that long journey from home, thankfully we found our hotel just in time before it started drizzling heavily.


Ground floor - Lobby area

1st floor - Reception and dining area

The whole place was very clean, nicely furnished and well kept. Our room had dim lights so it gave a very romantic ambiance to it. Hehe.





Campo San Stefano just outside our hotel

We settled in, took a short rest and headed out. We were famished so we were en route to locate one of the restaurants recommended by Trip Advisor but unfortunately, we were unable to find it at the end of the day, we just bought food to-go and continued exploring Venice. We were pressed for time, so we wanted to take in as much Venice has to offer. We didn't had an itinerary or a plan either, we just decided to go with the flow.

As we were walking we came across a Museo della Musica, a museum that exhibits stringed instruments. It is housed in the Church of St. Maurice. Admission is free for all.



"The Museo della Musica is an exhibit dedicated to one of the artistic espressions that  has contributed to the greatness of Italian culture: the making of stringed instruments." - Arte Musica Venezia"




They say that the beauty of Venice is getting lost in it. Venice is a labyrinth, an enchanting and mesmerizing labyrinth renaissance styled houses and palaces that is waiting to be discovered. You can wonder for hours and get lost in the beauty of it, even though, with a map on your hand. 

Caffe Redentore rolled up pizza, 5

Spolit for choices: Souvenir shops selling handmade masks, Murano glass pieces, costumes, handmade quill pens and so much more!

Then after the turn of a corner, you come across buildings that amazes you

Get distracted by cute gondola drivers (No, they do not sing while ferrying you around)

Endless bridges...


...and the serene grand canal alley

Busy streets with people but soon disappeared close to 8pm

One should not miss the prominent landmark in Venice right? The Piazza San Marco where Basilica San Marco and San Marco Campanile (bell tower) is located. We were amazed at the magnificent structure that form the walls of Piazza San Marco. The structures were hypnotic even, so to speak.

Panoramic view of the Piazza

San Marco's Basilica. It closes at 5pm so we didn't made it in by then

A fee of 8 is required to climb to the top of the bell tower to get a view of the city

After a few photos, we moved on exploring the city. We came across this shop that sold fresh pasta to go. We saw people crowding the shop and eating out of their lunch box outside of the shop. One of the customers outside recommended the pasta, saying that it was really good. So we had to try it of course!

Dal Moro's - Fresh Pasta To Go

The type of sauces they serve

Place your order at the counter and you get to choose the type of pasta you want ! The pastas are all made fresh in their kitchen. Oh and, Dal Moro's kitchen crew are all cuties. Hehe..

They make the effort to take pictures with their customers which are then uploaded on to their Instagram

Bolognese Pasta, 6

The pasta was SO GOOD! It was fresh and none like the packet or restaurant pasta we have in Malaysia. The pasta had a hint of sweetness to it and very generous with their sauce. We ordered one box to share among the three of us. Biggest regret ever. We should have gotten one each because we couldn't make it to their shop the next day as we had to catch our train. Fresh pasta, fresh sauce, must try ok!

Leave a message on their glass window to show your support

Yeah, they are really conscious with cameras

We continued on exploring and found our first gelato shop - La Boutique del Gelato. It was a funny first gelato experience actually. Uhmm, so we went in and the shop owner wasn't all that friendly. We didn't know what flavour we wanted but one of it caught our attention and it was called Panna Montata. We asked what it was and she told us that it's eggs, milk, sugar and some liquor. We thought, "Ooh, sounds interesting, let's get it". After we had our first taste, we realized that it's actually whipped cream! OMG, it was such a hilarious moment. Shame about the service though, the staff was cold and didn't offered any form of recommendation. 

Boutique del Gelato shop front


Panna Montata, 2 per cup

My sister was dissatisfied with it the whipped cream so, she went to get a legit gelato from another shop just a down the road - Gelato da Passeggio

 
Gelato da Passeggio

Hazelnut gelato, 2 if not mistaken

While walking further, we found another gelato shop called Suso Gelatoteca. From the looks of it, it looks like one of the popular gelato joints around the area. They have a wide selection of gelatos but we did not have any as we already had 2 gelatos. I researched about them back in Malaysia, and they are number one on Trip Advisor as the best dessert shop in Venice. 

Ponte di Rialto was closed for construction but it is still accessible to cross over to the other side of the grand canal. We crossed over to take a look around but decided to head back to our hotel as it was getting dark but before that, we stopped by a shop to buy pizza and relaxed at by the grand canal. 

Al Ponte di Rialto where we bought our pizza


We bought a pizza with cheese toppings. 4.50, it was the size of my face

Gondola drivers retire for the day and left their gondolas parked at their stations

We chilled by the Grand Canal and watched as the skies slowly turned dark

Venice is even more romantic cum night time when all you can see by then are yellow lights by the grand canal lit up by restaurants and minimal street lights

There was a grocery shop on the way back so we went to check it out first. Little did we know, when we got it, it was dark. Well that escalated quickly. We were got worries as we don't know the way back. All we got was a physical map and Google map. Even with that, we still got lost. Venice at night can be quite intimidating. There are not many people to be seen on the streets, minimal street lights on some of the small roads. We were wandering around for almost 1 hour but managed to locate our hotel in the end. We told each other, let's not venture too far from the hotel that night so we ended up at Le Cafe, a restaurant located within the Campo San Stefano.

Fried seafood platter, 19

Huge portion enough for the 3 of us. The seafood were fresh but in my opinion, I found that the seafood we had in Positano was even fresher.


Crepe Mascarpone, Arancia, Cannella e Grand Marnier, 10
The dessert above is crepes with orange slices, mascarpone cream, cinnamon and Grand Marnier. If you like desserts infused with alcohol, this will fancy your taste buds.

A bottle of Chiaretto, 25. Cheers our first night in Italy

Rise and shine cause checkout was 10am. Yeap, you read me right. We woke up to find the hotel Airbnb owner preparing coffee for guests and breakfast already nicely placed on the dining tables.

If only breakfast was like this everyday?

Breakfast was a selection of bread, jams with orange juice and coffee or tea

We packed our bags and arranged for check out with the receptionist of the hotel. Note that there one will have to pay for city tax which costs €7.50. We left our luggage at the dining area of the hotel and and went out to explore the neighborhood as we had extra time before our train ride to Florence.

We visited Chiesa di Santo Sefano, a church just outside our hotel. No pictures are allowed inside the church.





We came out from the "maze" just time time when there was a performance going on at the square by a group of uniformed people. These are the things that you can expect to happen in the square.



It was a sunny day in Venice, but unfortunately, we had to leave, to Santa Maria Novella train station. Thankfully, it was just a 2 hours train ride.

Venice is touristy but thankfully when we went in April, it was the low season. I would recommend you spend at least 3 days in Venice, then you will have more time to explore and take in as much as Venice has to offer.

Check them out!

Within Campo Santo Stefano

Tel: +39 041 2413990
Fax: +39 041 2418069
Email: info@camorosini.com

Chiesa San Maurizio, S. Marco 2603
30124 Venezia 

 

Opening Hours: 10am - 7pm (Daily)

Tel: +39 041 2411840
 
Fax: +39 041 2770593
  
E-mail: info@interpretiveneziani.com 

Calle de la Casseleria, 5324, 30122 Venice, Italy

Opening Hours: 12pm - 8.30pm (Daily)

Tel: +39 041 476 2876
Email: alfredos-freshpasta@hotmail.com

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