Italy – Day 1 Venice

Venice, Italy

Me in Venice

Venice canal

Beautiful Venice

Venice

We said Auf Wiedersehen to Austria and began our drive to Italy.  We discovered something unusual as we drove around Europe.  You can drive from country to country and cross borders and there is absolutely no mention of it.  When you drive around the US and you go from one state to another, there are signs that say “You are now leaving Arizona” and “Welcome to California!”  But driving from Germany to Austria or from Austria to Italy  – nothing!  I found that really odd.  So as we drove along we all kept wondering if we were in Italy yet but there was no way to find out!  Eventually we figured out that you could tell the difference between Austria and Italy because Italy had toll booths (lots and lots of toll booths) and Austria didn’t.  In Germany and Austria you had to have stickers on your car to prove you paid the fee to be allowed to drive there.  Italy has toll booths.

We drove up to the first toll booth and it gave us a ticket (just like when you enter a parking garage at the airport).  The idea is that you drive along for a certain distance, arrive at the next toll booth, put the ticket into the machine and pay the amount it tells you to pay.  Unfortunately, we don’t speak Italian.  We missed this whole thing.  The machine spit the ticket out and Rick stuck it in the ashtray.  We all promptly forgot about it.  We arrived at the next toll booth and tried to figure out what we were supposed to do.  It was talking to us in Italian and it all just sounded Greek to us.  (actually, it sounded like Italian, but it might as well have been Greek!)  Rick was pushing buttons and we just kept waiting for something to happen. It was just that we were supposed to put the ticket in to find out how much we had to pay.  With all the driving and being in foreign countries that have different systems we were confused.  There was a help button, so finally Rick pushed it.  The toll booth man came over to the car and we tried to explain that we didn’t know what to do.  Of course he spoke Italian, so he didn’t really know what we were saying.  He kept saying “Ticket!”  “Ticket!”  And Rick kept saying “I don’t have a ticket!” (because he forgot we had one).  He kept saying “Porque, porque?!”  It was really frustrating.  The toll booth worker stomped off into a little booth and started waving a ticket around to show us what he meant.  His face was beet red and he was clearly angry!  (I understood why he was angry,  just didn’t know what to do about it!)  Finally, a light dawned and I remembered the ticket!  I reached into the ashtray and pulled it out. Rick stuck it into the machine and our total showed on the screen.  We paid our toll and were on our way!

Our next stop was Venice.  You can’t drive in Venice so we wanted to find a place to stay that was convenient to a bus.  The hotel we stayed at ended up being about 40 minutes from Venice, and if we had it to do over we would have found someplace closer.  The hotel also had nothing much going on around it, so that evening when we arrived we went straight to the bus stop and went to Venice to walk around.  We spent 40 minutes on a bus and arrived in Venice.  We proceeded to get lost – which is very easy to do in Venice!  We were on the ‘ugly’ side (that’s a relative term, there is no ugly in Venice)  and it was really, really hot.  We walked and walked and walked and got more and more lost.  It had been a long day, we had no idea where we were, and now we were just walking aimlessly around Venice.  This was probably the low point of the trip.  To top it all off, we were walking past an alley and saw a humongous rat the size of a cat staring at us.  He promptly turned around and walked off in the opposite direction, but it was creepy seeing it.  We went to a restaurant for dinner and the waitress gave us a table outside where there was a little breeze and we were pretty happy.  She came up to the table with a tray of drinks and said “I want you to try this!  It’s free!”  She said the word “free” at least four times.  The drink was some kind of apple liquer that none of us liked.  I poured mine out into a potted plant so I wouldn’t hurt the waitresses feelings.  A few minutes later the waitress returned and put a dish of olives on the table, which we hadn’t ordered.  Again, she said “Free!”  so we ate the olives.  The meal was good, and when we got the bill the apple liqueur was on there as well as the olives.  We were irritated, and tried to talk to the waitress about it but suddenly she just really couldn’t understand us.  We ended up paying for all of it.

The next morning we returned, ready to hit the high spots of Venice in the daytime when everything was open.  One of the things Lori really wanted to do on the trip was to visit the Murano Glass Factory.  Murano is a little island close to Venice – you have to take a boat to get there. We walked around Venice for just a few minutes and a man approached us.  He asked if we wanted to tour the glass factory.  We said we did and he started explaining that they had a great deal for us.  He was going to give us a ticket that would get us from Venice to Murano then from Murano to Venice for free.  We had already looked into it and the boat ride was going to cost quite a bit, so we were pretty happy to get this deal.  We clarified with him several times and he kept insisting he was some qualified representative of the chamber of commerce or something (I can’t remember what he called himself, but it made me think he was on the up and up) The man took us to the boat dock and we set off for Murano.  We toured the factory and looked around the shops. Lori got the beads she was hoping to get and we were ready to return to Venice.  We asked several people where we were supposed to get the boat back to Venice.  They all looked at the paper the ‘official’ man had given us and shook their heads.  We found out that we had to pay to return to Venice.  In retrospect, it wasn’t that big of a deal,  because we had planned to take the boat both ways anyway.  It was just kind of a bummer to always feel like we were being scammed.  Venice kind of left a bad taste in my mouth because of that.  (There was other examples, too, there we people all over asking for money and trying to sell us stuff….it got old really fast.)  We made the best of it and managed to enjoy our day in Venice but it was good to get out of there, too!

Next stop: Orvieto

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