Go back to Northern Italy, Day 3
We woke up early in Northern Italy excited to be driving to Venice that day. But first, there was one thing I couldn’t leave without doing! We walked back over to I Dolci Di Patrizio Cosi so I could chow down on my new favorite pastry, Millefoglie Pistacchio, and guzzle a much needed cappuccino pick-me-up. Aaah, now I was ready.
Things I am grateful I experienced:
- Walking across Ponte Vecchio
- Mercato Centrale
- Climbing to the top of the Duomo
- Eating at Il Santo Bevitore
- Going the book store, Giunti al Punto
- Happy hour at Note Di Vino
- Eating Pistachio & Hazelnut gelato
- Lighting a candle inside the Duomo
- Visiting Piazza della Signoria
What I Wish I Did:
- Eaten at Nuovo in the Oltrarno
- Had drinks at Fusion Bar
- Boboli Gardens
- Piazzale Michaelangelo
- Bought leather shoes and/or handbag
- Eaten at Boccadama in Santa Croce
- Scheduled a lot more time (& money) for clothes shopping!
Arrivederci Florence! Ciao Venice!
We hopped into our tiny, 4-door Renault Clio and followed the directions to the Northern Italy Autostrada, which is the main highway system in Italy. This would be our first experience on the freeway, but could it really be any worse than driving through the center of Florence? Before entering on the Autostrada there was a toll booth that we had to take a ticket from. Having no idea what to do with it, I set it on the dash in hopes that this mystery would be solved soon. I was surprised that there wasn’t much traffic, which was a good thing because it took us about 30 miles to figure out the Italian freeway driving laws. Everyone drives in the right hand lanes, unless the are passing, then they pull into the left lane to pass and go immediately back into the right lane. Pretty good system, until some speeding car comes up behind you and starts flashing his high beams…you better move over!!! We took the Venice uscita (exit) and was faced with another toll booth. Hmmm…apparently you have to pay to use the freeway…Ok, I get it. (Cost: 15 Euros for the Autostrada from Florence to Venice)
HOTEL MARCO POLO
Hotel Marco Polo is located in the town of Mestre in Northern Italy, just outside of the center of Venice. It offered free parking, Wi-Fi and was only an 8 minute bus ride to Piazzale Roma (the entrance to central Venice). The town of Mestre is nothing special, but I was pleasantly surprised by our accommodations. They were clean, modern and trendy…right up my alley. The free breakfast was, what is turning out to be, the average at the hotels in Italy; cereal, toast, pastries, meats and cheeses. The front desk employee was really sweet and spoke fabulous English. We were starving when we arrive and she recommended two restaurants within walking distance. (Cost: $85.00 per night).
We opted for the local pizza joint, though we soon learned that they didn’t serve pizza for lunch. Huh? When we asked for the menus, we were told that because it was so late (2:00pm) we had to order whatever they had left. Double Huh? I still wasn’t worried because I had heard that you can’t get a bad meal in Northern Italy…I was wrong! We ate a risotto with peas and pasta with meat sauce. I am a risotto lover, that would explain why at my restaurant I have a whole menu section dedicated to this traditional rice dish. I have never had risotto done so poorly, not even when I was first learning how to cook and would make it with white rice instead of Arborio. The pasta wasn’t much better, but at least there was wine! Doesn’t that make it all better? I was so grateful when the bill came and it was only 16 Euro. There aren’t many things I dislike worse than paying a ridiculous amount for a terrible meal.
From the hotel, the bus stop was just across the street and a couple of doors down. We purchased tickets at the hotel, but could have also gotton them at any tabaccheria (tobacco shop). My husband tried to hand the driver the ticket, but he refused it and pointed to a machine in the back. Once again “confused in Italy”, we headed to the so-called mechanical ticket taker and looked at it puzzled because there was no slot to put the ticket into. A seemingly annoyed man informed us that we had to hold the ticket over the center of the machine until it beeped. Who would have known? Even though we had bought bus tickets for every ride, we noticed that many folks were riding without validating theirs and no one ever came around to verify the validation. Though this can be risky, because the fine for an invalidated tickets is about 50 Euros. (Cost per bus ticket: 1,20 Euro)
When the bus let us off at Piazzale Roma I immediately found the ticket booth to buy 2 tickets for the Valporetto #1. This boat hits every station along the canal and is a great way to tour the waterway. Even though is was freezing, we chose seats outside at the front of the boat. This was definitely one of the highlights of my whole Italy vacation. Everywhere you looked was picturesque; featuring old homes, churches and gondolas. Wow! Though we had heard mixed reviews about Venice, it was the one place that I would love to go back to (and contrary to the rumors, it didn’t smell!!). (Cost: 6,50 for 1 one-way ticket)
After a cold, but fabulous ride, we exited the boat at the San Marco stop which was right in front of Harry’s Bar, the place where the bellini was invented. Though a bellini sounded great, at 20 bucks a pop I opted for a Spumante and the hubby had the most expensive cappuccino ever ($12)! The interior was cozy, but we determined it wasn’t cozy enough to justify the price.
We entered into the center of this amazing Norther Italy town surrounded by a shopper’s paradise; Gucci, Missoni & Prada, Oh My! The interior streets were just as amazing as the the ones from the canal. We meandered through the narrow streets in awe and grateful that it wasn’t tourist season so we actually had some room to walk.
OSTERIA AI TOSI
After getting lost in the streets of Venice in Northern Italy, we randomly selected to dine at Osteria Ai Tosi. The place was just about full, but we were sat right away next to the window which made for great people watching. We ordered Gnocchi Formaggi and Pizza con Funghi with a bottle of Chianti (Cost for entire meal: 40 Euros). At this point I’m not sure if I am just not easily impressed or, dare I say it, some Italian food is just not that good. But, the cream sauce on my gnocchi was made with so much flour that I couldn’t finish it and the pizza was just average at best. Ouch!
The one thing I have realized by this point on our Northern Italy itinerary is that you have to ask for “il canto”, the check. Not at one restaurant during our whole trip did the server bring our check without asking. I believe they consider it rude to give you a the bill before you are ready to leave.
On the way to the bus we stopped into a restaurant for dessert and cappuccino, even though drinking cappuccino after 2:00pm is a big faux pas. Italians believe that coffee drinks with milk are for breakfast, not dinner. After we ate every morsel of the tiramisu and nonnas cake, we headed back to the bus to put day 4 to rest.
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