Monday, June 20, 2011


We are back in Venice, Italy after 4 years. The last time (and 1st time) was for our 50th anniversary celebration. A lot seems different. First of all we miss our traveling buddy of 4 years ago, Carol Freas!! Also I don't remember this many people last time, which was only 2 weeks later, but I hear that June is the time most people head for the beach.

Even the canals were crowded.

We decided to do different things than we had our previous visit to Venice. Our first walk from our hotel to the Academia bridge we pass an art display of American characters, most of which I dare not display on the internet, but this particular statue grabbed my attention.

We crossed the Grand Canal on the Ponte de l'Academia to the area known as Dorsoduro, and to the waterfront on the other side. In particular we had two things in mind, recommended by our representative of VBT who we met briefly the evening before. One being one of the 3 remaining boat works in Venice where Gondolas are still built.

Another was her favorite ice cream spot called "Da Nico" which of course we managed to locate. But also we saw many more beautiful canals, and the waterfront.

Walking to the end of the "island" we saw part of the reason for the large crowds, especially in the St Marks area, which we had left as soon as possible. Standing at the tip. enjoying the view and resting our feet, we were passed by a huge cruise ship (not our way to travel, yet).

As we watched it pass we noted all the people standing on the top deck watching us, or at least enjoying their last view of Venice.

Walking back along the shoreline of the Grand Canal to find the Vaporetta stop to catch a ride to San Giorgio Island, we passed this amazing wood carver's shop where all the furniture and clothes hanging on the walls, umbrella included were carved of wood.

Arriving on Isola di San Giorgio we had a nice light lunch near this light house with many beautiful boats near by.

Our objective was the top of the bell tower of the Cathedral from which we were told was the best view of Venice.

Our information was not wrong. (My photos are many, but here is one.)


Our 2nd full day in Venice was a Tuesday, the day of the fish and vegetable markets, so we decided to experience them.

Leaving our hotel early we found our way to the Rialto Bridge, dodging young men pushing carts to deliver goods to stores and restaurants. We decided employment must be plentiful in Venice with no cars or trucks available to do this job. We got to the bridge in time to see this large boat loaded with water and beer pass beneath it.

The vegetable market was not a disappointment, it was a colorful display of bright and fresh vegetable and fruit.

These melons looked enticing,

As did these beautiful tomatoes, a rival of our wonderful "Jersey tomatoes".

The selection of fish was endless as one might expect in an area completely surrounded by water.

Scallops were on nearly every stand,

And flounder, a favorite of mine back home in New Jersey.

But this large, ugly fish is one I would not like to encounter in the sea, or perhaps on my dinner plate either.

This swordfish was gutted and ready to be cut up as the supply of steaks on the stands diminished.

Leaving the busy markets, we spent quite a bit of time looking for the "Cantina do Mori" which dates back to 1462 and was recommended by Rick Steve as a great place to buy Cicchetterie (light snacks like Spanish Tapas) and fine wine.

There was no place to sit, but the locals kept coming in for a quick snack and drink before going back to work, and of course I had to snap Chuck's picture in front of a few of the very old bottles of wine.

After a day of walking, and a very disappointing and expensive drink at Harry's bar, we had a lovely early (for Venice) dinner at an excellent restaurant, Caravelle back near the St Mark's area.


After a week or more of not being able to get back to my blog, our biking is over, safely, and we are in a wonderful hotel in Verona with internet access. So--here I am again. We left our Venice hotel by Vaporetta, boats being the only means of transportation in that water city, and were met near the airport by a luxurious bus for our 2 plus hour ride to Cortina.

Snapping a few pictures from our bus, I got my first view of the Italian Dolomites.

A part of the Alps, they were beautiful and rugged, but I was reassured by the rating of this trip as "easy" and I hoped that it lived up to its rating.

We passed areas of farmland and vineyards where Italy's reputation for fine wines and fresh vegetables was upheld.

Traveling through the valleys past red roofed villages we traversed roadways suspended high above the rivers on the valley floor.

Arriving at Cortina we checked into our beautiful Hotel Ancora in the heart of the city, and lunch at a local Pizzaria, getting to know some of our fellow bikers. This was the view from our room, could any place be more beautiful??

The next few hours were consumed with VBT's orientation, getting our bikes, which were very new, and taking a short check out ride up a hilly bike path. I was hoping this was not the way our EASY trip would be, as our guide, Elana patches up the first few scrapes.


Our first full day of biking dawned clear and bright as we left our 4 star Hotel Ancora in Cortina, a beautiful town in the heart of the Dolomites. Cortina hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics, many world cup events and was the site of several motion pictures. Much of the '63 classic "Pink Panther" was filmed in Cortina, as was the stunt scene in James Bond's "For Your Eyes Only" with Roger Moore on skies being chased by gunners on spiked-wheeled motorcycles, and several scenes in the film "Cliffhanger".

We rode mainly on bike paths through beautiful green valleys and mountain towns.

We passed near this ski jump which looked intimidating even from a distance.

Occasionally we had to stop to check our maps and refuel.

And of course snap a picture of a distant church nestled in the mountains on the edge of a village.

But for me always, the most compelling thing was the incredible beauty of the mountains.

This made me a slow biker as I stopped frequently to snap a photo. My wonderful husband tolerated this and would stop and wait.

The clouds began to move in as the weather disintegrated and the scree fields on the mountains looked like pink snow.

Our riding paths though followed an old railway path which was started in 1916 during World War I to connect Cortina to Calalzo (our destination) for military purposes. Following a very bad accident in 1960 a bus replaced the train, and today the track is used as a bike path in summer and a cross-country ski trail in winter.

We finally arrived in Calalzo where our guides were creating a picnic "lunch", near a lovely alpine lake.

While they prepared, we had time for a glass of wine in the restaurant by the lake, as did our new friends, 2 couples from Colorado.

In spite of a drizzling rain, lunch was a huge success after which we were bussed back to our hotel - a perfect first day.

That night from our hotel room we were given an extra treat when I put my camera to our window.


Our last morning in Cortina we awaken to a beautiful blue sky, which unfortunately didn't last long. Mountain weather!!

The first option that day was to ride up a 8.7 mile mostly gravel bike path to the top of the pass, or take the bus. I, along with several other women, decided the easy out of taking the bus. It was the right decision for me, as we had barely gotten to the top when the heavens opened.

However while waiting at the hotel for our ride, I snapped a shot of this beautiful old heater in the lobby. which fortunately for us was now only used for decoration.

Thinking that I might get some gorgeous mountain view from the top of the pass, I was disappointed as the weather changed.

The mountains tops were cloaked in clouds.

However we were fortunate to have the van as shelter from the rain and a small cafe for coffee as we awaited the wet bedraggled bikers.

The ride down the other side of the pass, "Passo di Cimabanche", offered new scenery, and a change of the signs which were now in both German and Italian, as German is the first language there.

At the bottom was the Dolomite Nature Park with a view of the "Tre Cime di Lavaredo", the best known mountain group in the Alps.

In the Val Pusteria Valley we cycled along the Rienza River where I saw this man trying his luck.

Arriving at San Candido for lunch we locked our bikes by an old church wall and explored the town by foot. This home certainly showed the Austrian/German influence.

As did this beautiful church.

We enjoyed lunch at a friendly restaurant, and sampled the best Tiramisu I have ever tasted, presented with pride by the owner.

After Lunch, we continued on to Monguelfo where we met the van,

And had our bikes loaded for the ride to our next hotel - an easy day for me.