Venice and Milan

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Our arrival in Venice was most memorable but not quite in the way we thought. While we had some light rain in Florence for couple of minutes, it had not bothered us or impeded our sightseeing in any way. When the train pulled into Venezia Santa Lucia rain was pouring down heavily. We did not have umbrellas or raincoats and ended up having to buy them at the station only to find we had overpayed – a street seller had the same items much cheaper. Walking down the steps and to the right I found the ticket counter for the Vaporetto or Water bus pass. We got a 48 hour water bus pass for 120 Euros for the 4 of us. A water bus pass is really essential since Venice is all on water and that’s the only way to get around. With the pouring rain, it was a hassle walking to the water bus stop and then finding our B&B.

Our B&B was Locanda Ai Santi Apostoli in Cannaregio. The hotel occupies the third floor of an old palazzo (Palace) on the Grand Canal. From the Venezia Santa Lucia train station, we had to take vaporatto line 1 to the Ca’ D’Oro stop and then walk down the narrow alleyway to Strada Nuova, take a right and walk for about 5 minutes to find the entrance to the Palazzo. It opened into a courtyard from where we got the elevator to the 3rd floor. We had a spacious family suite which was actually rooms 1 and 2 with its own private little corridor and 1 bathroom. The beds were very comfortable, the linen of really good quality and the bathroom modern. The breakfast with made to order scrambled eggs and cappuccino was plenty and good. This was a quiet B&B since it was far from the mayhem of St. Marks square and I noticed that other guests were families and older folks which is just the way we like it. The place has a lovely lobby area overlooking the grand canal and was very reasonably priced for Venice.  Since it was night and raining, my husband just bought some takeout pizza from a place nearby for dinner.

Fortunately for us the next day was a beautiful sunshiny day and we got to experience the magic of Venice. This time around we really enjoyed the scenic journey on the Water bus down the Grand Canal and understood why the romantics love Venice. Our first stop was the St.Marks Cathedral and there was a line but because it was still early in the morning it was not too long. Photography and large bags are not allowed inside St.Marks. While we had seen several churches and I thought it could not get any better than what we had seen so far, St. Mark’s in Venice was indeed special, quite unique and beautiful. There was a lot of gold work on the inside and it was different from St.Peter’s in Rome and others, surprising us by its own unique charm and grandeur.

Before it got hot, we opted to take the Water bus to Burano a nearby island known for its colorful buildings. It was a relaxing ride to the island and then after a quick stroll on the island we came back to St.Mark’s square on the vaporetto. Our next stop was the Doge’s Palace which was right next door to St.Marks. The Doge was Venice’s ruler and this is a large Gothic palace with a unique style reflecting Venice’s glory days.

Venice was the one place in Italy where the food was disappointing or maybe we were unlucky in the restaurants we found. I did not find any great sea food even though we were on an island. I had heard that Venice has too many restaurants with mediocre to average food at high prices. The one exception was “La Maison De La Crepe” with sweet and savory crepes which was good and a change from all the pasta we had been having so far. We skipped the most Venetian experience – the Gondola ride – yes we skipped the Gondola. The water bus takes the same routes and none of us really cared to go on the Gondola.

Our older daughter had been sick with a bad cold and mild fever throughout Florence but she kept up with Tylenol Cold, 3 times a day. Later my husband and I were sick too and so pretty soon the one pack of Tylenol we had was over. My husband found a pharmacy in Venice but had a tough time with the language barrier; showing them the Tylenol packet, somehow he got some medicine but I was nervous about trusting it. So next time umbrellas and enough medicine for the whole family are on my packing list. In the same building as our B&B facing the street, there was a great clothing boutique and the girls enjoyed shopping cool outfits there – all items were 10 Euros each so it was a great find.

The next day our train ride to Milan was only at 2.30 pm in the afternoon so we had time in the morning for another ride to St.Mark’s square. Walking on a bridge in Venice, Our daughter unexpectedly ran into a friend from UT Austin. It sure was a wonderful coincidence and totally unplanned so the friends were delighted and we enjoyed meeting another family from Texas.  At the square both our daughters enjoyed playing with the pigeons. I was reminded that my 15 year old is definitely still a child and the 20 year old too in spirit – chasing the pigeons on St.Mark’s square was quite the memorable experience.

Milan was just an overnight stop since the flight to Frankfurt was early morning next day. When we walked out of the train station at Milan, our older daughter mentioned that it looked like any other American city – saw a huge KPMG board too. And it’s true Milan is Italy’s business hub and more European and global and far less Italian. The Milanese complain that Romans are lazy and living on past laurels while Milan works hard to bring Italy its jobs and wealth.

We stayed at the Best Western Atlantic just few minutes’ walk from the Milano Centrale train station. The hotel is modern, comfortable and rooms spacious with helpful staff. We were glad we arrived in daylight hours as there was a large group of unemployed people, perhaps refugees just loitering about outside the train station. But in the hotel vicinity itself the location seemed fine with good restaurants next door and a convenience store opposite.
We had time in the evening to see Milan’s Cathedral from the outside and we strolled inside La Rinascente, a designer department store in Milan. The girls had their last Italian gelato in the Duomo area. Our Italian vacation was fantastic and we are thankful to have been blessed with a safe and memorable visit. Italy is a treasure house of art and beauty and I pray that subsequent generations will be able to experience its incomparable treasures in person as well. We hope our readers will also enjoy the Italian experience as we did.