Ostensione della Sindone di Torino

May 29 Turin  – Exposition of the Shroud of Turin

After a rather restless night (turned out to be a very noisy location), we had breakfast at our
appartamento then walked to the town center.

Our morning started with a viewing of the Shroud of Turin – Sindone.  This was quite a process as there were long lines and many screening stages.  Also, there appeared to be close to 100 volunteers on duty and they were all so enthused about the opportunity.  Along the way, we had several presentations of the history and what to expect.  When we did finally get in to the viewing area, we were practically within an arm’s reach of the shroud, which we both sort of assumed was a copy of projection.  We were soon told it was, in fact, the original in a hermetically sealed case.  The short presentation was in Italian, so we were not able to pick up all the details but both managed to follow the gist and did have English on the pre-visit descriptions. It was much more moving than I expected, perhaps because of the background details we had learned as we were ushered through the arrival.    The historical and religious significance really hits home in that presentation and with the crowds, with many people clearly very emotional.  We were very lucky to have been here during this exposition.

The afternoon included amazing city views from the tower of the Mole Antonelliona, gypsy jazz with lunch, African beats at Piazza Vittoro Vente and a walk along the River Po to take us back to the hotel for dinner at home.

Another wonderful day.  Quite an emotional one. Domani, Milano.

Felice anniversario

May 27 Venice – Lido – Treviso

Today was our anniversary. 15 years!  We thought that was a milestone worth celebrating, which was the initial impetus for this trip  (well, that and the fact that I hoped to catch up to the giro d’Italia).

Having learned our lesson with the train yesterday, we had an earlier start and made the train before the mid-morning break.  Also, we already had our vaparetto pass purchased yesterday so we were able to get right to our plans.

We started with a morning visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa de Frari.  It was spectacular, inexpensive – and crowd free because it is a little off the beaten path.  We spent close to two hours there admiring work like the Monk’s Choir of carved wood scenes, Titian’s Assumpion of the Virgin altar piece, several works by Bellini and incredible, powerful monuments to Titian and to Canova. I was very glad to have read the tip to visit this lesser known site.

In the afternoon, we took the vapretto to the Lido, a 12 km seaside resort along the Adriatic Sea, where we rented bikes for the afternoon.  The heavy, single gear bike – not to mention no helmet – felt a little different than my usual ride gear but roads were wide, flat and paved.  We explored on beautiful quiet streets, enjoyed the unmatched views of Venice, and had lunch overlooking the water. 3 hours for a 12 Euro rental fee. What a bargain.  Much thanks to our friend Roger for recommending this side trip

On our return trip, we hoped to go to Campo San George but the connections at this time of year / day didn’t work for us.  It was a little disappointing but again provided opportunity for an unexpected adventure when we decided to make a stop at the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art.  Along the way, we discovered a number of interesting little shops (no fabric shop yet) and a small gallery of wood sculptures.  Modern Art is not my preferred style but there were some informative displays and the gardens and canal views were lovely.

We finished our day with another tasty dinner in Trevisio, capping it off with more gelato.  It was a very special anniversary and we will be hard pressed to top it next year. Un anniversario molto speciale.

Turino, 50/50 – e tutto quel jazz

May 28 Turino

Today it was off to Turin today on an early train.  We packed our lunch to go, caught the train at the Venice main station and settled in for a brief, scenic ride where we managed to catch little naps, do some journalling / blogging and reading.

We arrived in Turin at about 1:30 but were not able to check-in until later in the day so we stored our bags in ‘left luggage’ and set out for a short explore.  A quick stop at tourist information told us that tomorrow is a national holiday (Italian Independence day, we were told) so there will be big crowds.  Also, it is the opening day of the Turin Jazz Festival AND the Shroud of Turin in on special exposition so that there is viewing of the actual Shroud, not the usual displayed copy.

We headed to the Piazza Camello and Piazza Castello to try and make the necessary pre-booking to see the Shroud tomorrow and, happily, were able to get a reservation in the morning.

We considered going to the Museo Egizo, which is not usually something that would be on my list outside of Egypt but we had been told that the opening concert for the jazz fest would be there and the museum entry would include ticket.  However, we decided the timing was not right and the museum was filled with school kids so we gave it a pass.  Instead, we wandered over to the Palazzo Madama, which had a large poster indicating a special daVinci exhibit ‘il Votto’ of the famous drawing generally considered to be a self-portrait.  Stephen always calls daVinici ‘my guy’ so we couldn’t pass that.  The familiar sketch was certainly a highlight but my favorite part was the wonderful garden hidden in the back, built when the palazzo belonged to the Savoy family.  It was filled with bird song and sweet smells.  After a peaceful sit in the garden, it was time to head back and check-in to our hotel.

That proved a little trickier than expected.  There was no signage on the building but when we asked at a small salon on the same block, turned out that one of the people there had the key for the building and knew about our reservation.  He didn’t speak Italian or English only French with a strong accent.  Eventually, we got everything straightened out (including a trip to pick up cash payment since we couldn’t pay by credit card even though booked through Expedia on card).  It seemed a little hinky but when we got in, it was a marvellous place with a spacious bedroom,  a fully-equipped small kitchen, sitting room with television – and two full bathrooms, along within a 10 minute walk from the train.

For dinner, we found a small elegant restaurant in the same area and were seated under a picture of Pavarotti, who the waiter told us sat there when in Turin. Our waiter, an old gentleman who was very friendly and happy – probably because we were easy marks as they kept bringing stuff we didn’t order to the table.  When we asked if he spoke English, he said 50/50.  It ended up being a more expensive meal than we anticipated – because of charges for things we didn’t want or order – but it was entertaining and a good story.  We decided to put it down to an anniversary splurge and, fortunately, it was all delicious.  An indimenticabile (unforgettable) evening with more than a few laughs. The adventure continues.

Storico di Venezia

What a day!  We started our visit Venice a little later than intended because when we quickly checked the schedule outside the station last night, we missed a gap in the otherwise-frequent regular trains to Venice.  That meant that we unfortunately arrived about 10 minutes after the train before about a 75 minute wait.  Judging by the fidgeting crowds at the station, we were not the only ones.

Eventually the train came and a mere 20 minutes later, we arrived in historic Venice.  It was pouring rain and looked amazing with the almost familiar background and all the umbrellas.  Since there was no sign of rain when we left, we were not prepared but picked up an umbrella at one of the vendors offering that service.

My plan had been we would buy a 2-day pass and head to Piazza San Marco to explore the famous church and other buildings.  Stephen preferred to wander and decide along the way and that is what we decided to do.  We had decided not to pack our Venice book, which would have saved us some time since we decided to walk to the square.  As turned out, a vaparetto was the more direct and recommended route.  This might have been a happy mistake as we found some amazing views and photo opps away from crowds.

I could go on in  great detail but am slow typing on my tablet so will keep it relatively brief.  Highlights of the day:

  • Unexpected beautry around every corner
  • Recorded walking tour (Rick Steves) gave us some interesting facts about the main square – including Bridge of Sighs, where prisoners looked back for their last look at freedom
  • Buying a small watercolour from an artist near the square
  • Dinner at Hard Rock (a travel tradition)
  • Feeding pigeons in the PIazzo (on Stephen’s must do)
  • Sun setting over the Canal Grande on the vaparetto ride back to the train station (TIP: buy a multi-day vaparetto pass for your Venice stay)

Giornata indimenticabile (An unforgettable day)

For a different perspective of our journey, visit Stephen’s special trip blog “Two Weeks On the Moon” at duesettimane.blogspot.ca/

Siamo in Italia

We are in Italy.  In Treviso, to be exact.  I had some trouble getting a consistent signal so will make this quick and plan to add more details later.  We are staying in Treviso rather than right in Venice on advice of a friend from this region.  It is lovely, much cheaper and quieter than Venice, and only a short train journey to the heart of Venice.  Our B&B is in a lovely neighbourhood with lots of gardens.  It is clearly a pet-friendly area.

Our flight was uneventful.  We did have a delay in Zurich – due to a printer issue (?) and arrived an hour late in Venice.  By the time we got to Trevisio, it was late afternoon so we resisted the urge to nap and set off to explore.  Our exploration was not completely random since Stephen has been looking forward to a highly recommended pizza place in the main Piazza.  He even checked out pictures and maps on google ahead of time.

We had a bit of problem finding it but got there with help from a kind older gentleman who did not ‘parla inglese’ but sent us in the right direction and then caught up to us and walked us to the square, surely out of his way.  We arrived at our destination around 7 and thought it was perfect timing for dinner.  We were soon to learn that we were going to have to adjust our eating plans for much later.  We ordered two individual pizzas.  Another adjustment we will have to make as one would have been enough.  Well, should have been.  They were so tasty we did manage to eat all of both.  Good thing we had lots of walking.  Delicious first meal.  And we topped it off with some gelato on the way home.   That means we have already taken a couple of our must do (must eat?) off the list.  Well, maybe not off the list because I definitely want more of both.

That is it for me tonight.   An amazing first day.  buona notte. più domani.

On your mark, get set

We’re ready to go.

Bags are packed according to the pack light and complete guidelines from various online sources.  – Check

Things arranged for cats, house, plants.  Itineraries in the hands of the home team. – Check

Accommodations booked and confirmed and all addresses and confirmations packed. – Check

Phones and credit cards set up for travel in our destinations and stopovers.  – Check

Everything in carry on bags and carefully weighed to meet lowest weight requirements.  – Check

There doesn’t seem to be anything left to check off – except a good night’s sleep but that seems unlikely.  Too wound up for that.  Whoo-hoo.

Ready.  Go.  See you from the road, if all goes according to plan for hook ups.

Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. ~ Ibn Battuta

Travel countdown

Less than a week to go before we leave.  I’m pretty excited.  And close to finishing everything on my list.  I’ve been adding to the list as I thought of things and crossing them off as I happen to get a chance to my items are not really in an particular order.  It has been working for me but you might use a different strategy.

Here are just a few of the details I’ve been completing in recent weeks.

  • Decide the type of trip and a general route plus the number of days in each place.  That is necessary to book your  accommodation.  It also can help identify the best airport.  To help with planning, we spoke to Italian friends and picked up a couple of maps and guide books.  A quick stop at your local or online book seller will give you lots of options. My favourites include DK Eyewitness Travel Guides and the Lonely Planet series.  There are also online resources for any type of traveller or desired experience.
  • Book accommodations. We don’t want to have our trip too structured but decided that we did want to confirm where we are staying. This means thinking about the type of places you want to stay which might be anything from going the hostel route to seeking 5 star luxury – or any combination.   Our preference is for small inns and B&B type settings, preferably with a private bathroom that will allow us easy access to sites and/or public transportation.
  • Make any necessary reservations for sites.  This might mean booking time for some of the common sites.   Our AirBnB host kindly offered to book times for us at the Uffizi and Acadamia in Florence and I used Tickitaly to book a visit to The Last Supper in Milan, which all my research has told me must be done in advance.  Mostly we are planning to explore and wing it but these were on our must-see list so we didn’t want to take chances.
  • Do a practice packing or at the very least, lay out what you think you need to make sure you have everything.  This is especially important if you are planning to go with just a carry-on, as we are (my husband took some convincing on this).  Be sure to check all airline limits if you are doing this.  I originally packed for Air Canada (10 k limit) but luckily check for our connecting airlines, which allow only 8.  We wanted to keep it light because we are staying at several locations and will have to move stuff on the trains.  There are lots of packing guidelines.  I like Rick Steves’ tips.  He includes reminders about documentation and  items that do double duty.  As Rick says, you don’t need to pack for every eventuality – and you never meet someone that says that they wished they had packed more.
  • Make arrangements for things around home.  In our case, that meant finding someone to cat sit and someone to check on the house and grounds. Be sure to leave your itinerary and contact info with anyone keeping an eye on things on the home front so they have a way to reach you if necessary.

That seems like a small list but each part requires some prep and many smaller tasks depending on your unique situation.  Taking the time to consider the details ahead of time leaves you free to go on your adventure with less stress.  It takes some time and research but it is worth it for a smoother trip.  If you are travelling with someone, you might be able to share the load and divide up the tasks.  You might also find that you have different approaches to things but better to have a discussion about any different travel strategies before you go than on the ground at your destination.

Happy travels.  Or should I say Buon viaggio


Imparare l’italiano

Buona sera. Mi chiamo Elisabetta.

We’ve left our trip confirmation a little late to learn too much Italian but we did have lunch with an Italian friend today to have a language lesson.  Through these lunch sessions and online lessons through youtube and other sources, I am collecting some key words and expressions.  Years ago, when I was teaching English as a Second Language, I taught with an American instructor who swore that the only things you needed to know in another language were “Please” “Thank You” “Where is the bathroom” and “I’ll have a beer please” and everything else you could get with English and/or pointing.  Actually, his efforts often turned into quite elaborate charades.  In any case, his synopsis might have been an exaggeration but with the limited time we have, it does make sense to learn a few versatile,  adaptable phrases.  Things like greetings (buona sera or buon giorno), introductions (Mi chiamo  – my name is…  and come stai – how are you), and ways make a request (vorrei … per favore – I would like… please) will go along way to helping us start communicating.  A couple of others that will come in handy for more complex issues are  parla inglese? and Non capisco.

To get us started on the right foot, our friend Roger spent some time with us on pronunciation and encouraged us to try to get comfortable with a basic vocabulary that can be applied in different settings and not to worry about perfect sentences or complex grammatical structure.  He reminded us that the key is to communicate and meet people.  We’re going to work on short conversations and slowly add a few new words or phrases.  So fun.  I wish that there was more time to focus on the language lessons.  Italian is such a musical language.  We’ll do what we can.

I had better get to some more studying. In fact, I think I’ll go watch some of the Giro D’Italia online.  As it happens, the only coverage that I can find is in Italian.  So, if anyone wants to talk to me about bike racing, I might be able to carry on a decent conversation.  I wonder what the chances are of that happening.

Ciao.  A piu tardi.

(see you soon)


Planning an adventure

I’m going to Italy!!!  It is our 15th anniversary so we decided to do something big.  Because our anniversary is in May, I thought that it would be a great chance to catch the Giro d’Italia bike race, which I watch enthusiastically each year despite the difficulty of finding coverage.  Ironically, though that was a big part of the motivation for choosing Italy in the first place, it doesn’t look as though we’ll be able to coordinate any of the race as part of our trip.  We were a little late to make the decision and pull the trigger on the flight and it has been really difficult to find specifics about the best places and strategies for catching the race.  I’m a little disappointed but hard to really be disappointed about a trip to Italy.

We were able to redeem Aeroplan points for booking our flights.  I’ve been working most of the day to research and arrange accommodations.  I am using AirBnB and Expedia (through TD so I can use Visa travel points for some nights bookings).

We’ve decided to fly return to Venice.  We’ll stay our first few nights in Treviso, just outside Venice, at the recommendation of a friend.  From there, Turin – Milan – Siena – Florence – Venice.    At this point, I would probably have skipped Turin & Milan in favour of more time in Tuscany but my husband thinks that we should incorporate some time in the north in case we can still connect with the Giro — which is in the mountains close to Turin while we are in the area.  I’m thinking that with so little time there, I don’t want to be taking too much of our time on a Giro chase but it would be pretty amazing to catch any part of it, even if it is just as the peleton passes at great speeds.

More on the preparation in the coming days.