Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Every Mile a Memory ( Part 8 ) An adventure in Venice

Buon Giorno Venezia !!

Woke up at the crack of dawn to take a Venetian sunrise as we entered Venice through Lido de Venezia. I was not disappointed at all.  Venice is one of the busiest cruise ports in the Mediterranean, with nearly 500 ship departures and 700,000 cruise passengers per year. The city and its cruise-ship piers are located inside the Venetian Lagoon, which is connected to the Adriatic Sea by a narrow entrance called the Porto di Lido. We had 2 shore excursions lined up in Venice. but I would like to share with you an unforgettable experience of Lulu and me when we decided to visit Venice on our own.

Venice is a beautiful city to photograph but it can be extremely frustrating to navigate. The backstreets are where you'll find the best views, hidden canals and sights that define Venice, but locating those spots is a different story. 

San Giorgio Maggiore

According to our cruise director, our cruise ship will be docked overnight at the Terminal Venezia Passeggeri (  or Venice Cruise Terminal ). This terminal handles the largest ships that call in Venice and is located 4 kilometers from Venice. For those people who did not sign up for shore excursions there are many ways of getting to the city of Venice. By the ship's shuttle which costs $ 14.00 ( two ways ), by water taxis called vaporettos ( 60 Euros one way )  which are very expensive or by using their Peoplemover Tram (  2 Euros 2 ways ).  Lulu and I opted to take the People mover Tram. 

The People Mover offers quick ( it is also wheelchair-accessible ) connections between three points on the edge of the city's historic center: These stops are Piazzale Roma, the Marittima Cruise Terminal and Tronchetto. Never fear --- the tram ride lasts three minutes between the Marittima  Cruise Terminal to Piazzale Roma. The Peoplemover is operational during the following hours: Mondays  – Saturdays from 7am – 11pm and Sundays and holidays from 8am – 10pm 

(courtesy of google images )

How to get to Piazza San Marco from your cruise ship :

From the Venice Cruise Terminal, we just followed the sidewalk from the terminal parking lot to the tram stop...  it was a 15 minute walk ( we had to alot time for our getting directions on getting there ).  There were tickets being sold at the machine on the ground level. After buying our ticket, we proceeded to the entry checkpoint and held our ticket under the scanner with the barcode up. When the barrier opened, went up the escalator. There’s an escalator or elevator provided to reach the tram platform, where every eight minutes ( time to arrival is displayed on an overhead LED ) a tram will arrive to bring passengers either to Tronchetto or Piazzale Roma. The trip took 3 MINUTES! I couldn't believe it. It was so efficient!!!

As you reach Piazzale Roma, there are official directional signs-- normally yellow, but sometimes white-- are easy to find if you look up at buildings as you walk down streets. These signs point to such major destinations as SAN MARCO ( the piazza and basilica ), RIALTO ( the bridge and markets ), FERROVIA ( the railroad station ), and  PIAZZALE ROMA ( the transportation hub where you can the People Mover to the Tronchetto parking garage and the Marritima cruise terminal. These are the signs that you must remember when you decide to walk to Piazza San Marco. In addition to official signs, you'll see many homemade signs that shopkeepers and residents have painted or tacked up on buildings to help lost tourists.

While we were getting lost on our way to Piazza San Marco we stumbled on these areas:

The Grand Canal

Santa Maria dei Carmini, also called Santa Maria del Carmelo and commonly known simply as the Carmini.

The Frari Basilica

Scuola Grande di San Rocco -

It's often said that getting lost is half the fun when you're exploring Venice, but there are times when you simply want to find your destination-- Lulu and I left the ship WITHOUT a map of Venice!! The only information we knew was -- " the walk from Piazzale Roma to Piazza San Marco would take an hour -- just look out for the signs ". Being very adventurous, Lulu and I thought they did not understand our question... so we ventured into the numerous bridges and small alleys... most of the time feeling lost in the maze!

Although shopping in Venice is fun, it can also be a challenge due to the crowds and the fact that the city's waterways can be difficult to navigate. You should buy items you want immediately, rather than risk not being able to find the store later on.

The Crafts of Venice

The artisan tradition is still strong in Venice, making it a wonderful place to buy handmade, one-of-a-kind gifts and souvenirs. One thing good about not having a map is that Lulu and I were able to browse shops. Even if you aren’t much a shopper, you will appreciate the quality of the merchandise not to mention the things that are unique to Venice. Here are some items you should buy when you are in Venice:


As the saying goes, " WHEN IN VENICE -- BUY A MASK ! "-- there are many shops in Venice that sells masks. But to find quality masks is hard to do. I remember in one of my trips to Venice -- I stumbled in a mask shop that had good quality masks. I could not remember the name but fortunately while Lulu and I were walking we found it again. The name is Atelier Marega. They have the best and the most expensive papier mache masks being sold. A handmade mask can cost between 35 and 200 euros.

MURANO glassware:

There are more than 1,000 glass shops in the San Marco district alone. It's also not surprising to anyone who has walked the streets of Venice, where every little hole-in-the-wall shop and big, touristy boutique seems to sport a display of delicate and colorful examples of the glassmaker's art.

Quality varies tremendously, and many of the items are actually machine-produced or crafted anywhere from Eastern Europe to Taiwan, but the best rule of thumb is simply to buy it if you like it.  If you're looking for the real thing, or are buying with a collector's eye, you'll have to shell out big bucks to ensure quality. If you decide to buy any of their glassware --- have them mail it to you. They have a lot  of experience packing glass so it doesn't break. Would you really carry the thing around in your bag or luggage??

Venetian glass is a popular souvenir, but Murano glass is in a league by itself. The island of Murano became a major glass-making center in 1291, and is still famous for specialties like millefiori (multicolored glass) and sommerso (sunken glass), made using centuries-old techniques.

After an hour and a half we finally reached Piazza San Marco!!! What a relief !!!

( courtesy of Lulu Kamatoy )

After an hour of just wandering around the Piazza, we had our dinner in a small restaurant that was beside the Cathedral of San Marco.

After dinner, Lulu and I decided to walk back to Piazzale Roma trying to retrace the way we reached Piazza San Marco. The walk back to where to the terminal where we took the People Mover Tram took another hour and a half.....

Some tips when you go to Venice:

1. When we visited Venice last April, we got lost. Of course, that’s part of Venice’s charm. There’s nothing better than being lost in such a beautiful city. Unless, you want to get to places and see sites in a limited amount of time. Try to imagine yourself walking through the confusing medieval streets and adding to your confusion lays the frequent obstacle of a  canal blocking your path. After crossing the fifth bridge you feel that you are just going around in circles. You have to  consider extending that amount of time a bit more than you might have originally thought necessary — allow time on your schedule for getting lost!

2. In general, the cheapest way to get around Venice is, simply, to WALK. But sometimes, your feet just can’t take it anymore. Not to mention that part of the fun of Venice is the way in which it’s just like a normal city… except that instead of streets, there are canals, and instead of buses and trains, there are boats! The problem? These water taxis ( known as vaporettos ) can be pricey. So, I recommend that you do a lot of walking in Venice. The beauty of Venice is in its back streets and piazzas—places that, often times, the boats just can’t get to.

3.  Anywhere in Italy, when you sit down with that coffee at a cafe or bar, the price goes up. If you drink the same coffee, and eat the same cornetto, standing at the counter, the price is lower. ( That’s why you’ll see so many Italians eating at the counter ). At Piazza San Marco, when you take a seat with that cappuccino, and you can expect to pay three or four times more what you would standing.

Some cafes also tack a huge surcharge onto the bill—and, annoyingly, that surcharge isn’t for servizio, it isn’t for pane e coperto… it’s for “ listening to the band ” that they have playing at the tables. To avoid those kinds of surcharges, or the stress of worrying about them, stay away from eating at major tourist sites.

4. When you are shopping in Venice. Haggle...Don't be afraid to bargain, especially if you're buying more than one item.

Venice's appeal and authentic beauty is not so much in its largest sights, but in its labyrinth of alleys, canals and bridges; its multitude of piazzas; and its elegant architecture. You can just spend hours walking around taking pictures or sitting in a piazza watching people go by. Every bridge you cross, and take hundreds of pictures all look somewhat the same, but are all magical in their own way.

You have to experience falling in love with this magical city called Venice at least once in your lifetime!!!!  I know that everyone has seen pictures or movies depicting the beautiful city of Venice, but when you actually go there you see that those pictures could never actually do it justice. It literaly takes your breath away. There is no other place in world like Venice!

Ciao !

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Every Mile a Memory ( Part 7 ) Solin and Trogir

From Ivan Masetrovic Gallery we went to two more locations in Split.

First stop... TROGIR

TROGIR   is a historic town and harbour on the Adriatic coast in Split-Dalmatia County, Croatia and has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. As you enter the old town of Trogir, you will see that Trogir has kept its original early Middle Ages urbanistic shape. Along with town walls, the tower and the entrance gate, the streets give impression on how people would live in the past.  It's like walking around the film set of an old Roman movie.

St. John is the patron of the town. His monument is erected on the North Town Gate, as you enter the old town of  Trogir.

Follow the main street into the town's main square which is dominated by the Cathedral of St Lawrence and its belfry on one side, the Town Hall on the other and the clock tower opposite the cathedral.

The Catherdral of St. Lawrence is considered one of the finest architectural achievements in Croatia. Finished around 1500, it is most known for its Romanesque door carved in the 13th century by Mater Radovan.

The entrance door of St. Lawrence is a beautiful masterpiece. Carved in stone are apostle scenes and the figures of the lions done with some of the most extraordinary detail I have ever seen. 

Inside the Cathedral of St. Lawrence

Just outside the Catherdral of St. Lawrence this little square takes you back in time, with all the different architectural styles all jammed into one space. If you hang around for a while, you will soon be entertained by a some Croatian singers.

 next stop...... 


Solin ( or Salona in Greek ), was an early Roman settlement. Salona was the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. Solin left behind an archaeological legacy that has earned the town the title of  "Croatia's Pompeii".

On the outskirts of Solin are the ruins of Salona which was the original capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia from the time of Julius Caesar until AD 614, when it was levelled by the Slavs and the Avars. Now all that remains of this city are the ruins showing temples, an amphitheatre, the governor's palace, the forum, Christian churches and cemeteries.

The ruins are relatively unvisited which allows you to calmly commune with the spirits of centuries past. 

The most impressive ruin is the 2nd-century amphitheatre which was destroyed by the Venetians in the 17th century. At one time it could accommodate 18,000 spectators.

Here are some tips that would help you travel around Croatia. Let me share them with you:

1. Bartering is acceptable in many places such as markets, jewellery shops etc.

2. You do not need to exchange your Euros to their currency which is KUNA. Most of the places in Croatia  accept Euros more than the US dollars.

3. Most locals will try and help with translation or queries. The younger generation speak English as their 2nd langauge but the older population speak German or  Russion as their 2nd langauge. Never get scared to ask.

My last tip:  Try to learn a few words of the language. You may not become an expert linguist but it always pleases the locals to hear foreigners trying to master their language.

It is always tempting to plan so many things on your holiday, especially somewhere as culturally rich as Croatia, but just pick a few key things you want to see or do and arrange the rest of your trip around it. Want to see Ancient Roman and Greek ruins? Desire to walk Medieval walls? Then travel to the Dalmatian coast. This is a piece of heaven!!!

Follow your dream ---- go and see Croatia !!! You will not be disappointed.  Onward to my favorite  city ...... Venice !!!