Venice is indeed a unique city.  Once we got off the train we immediately found ourselves on the Grand Canal.  We walked 50 metres and bought 7 day ferry tickets and from there on we were away.  A short ferry trip later and in no time we were at our hotel, The Viktoria Palace Hotel on Lido Island.  Lido Island is the outer ‘barrier’ island which helps protect Venice from the open sea.  It is much quieter than Venice itself and we were certainly happy we chose to stay there.

Channelling Great People

Most of the photos in this gallery are general shots of Venice and the canals.  There is a group of photos of and from the Rialto Bridge (photo above) including a nice sunset shot.  Naturally we did the compulsory sunset gondola ride.  The Gondolier pointed out the home of Marco Polo as well as that of famous womaniser, Casanova.   The night pics from the ferry on our way back to Lido will give you an idea of the beauty of Venice.

At a Price

For every positive there are negatives.  Venice is extremely expensive.  This is evident in food prices at the cafes and restaurants.  That aside The Rialto Bridge, Bridge of Sighs, St Mark’s Square (aka Piazza San Marco) and all the other wonderful things make Venice a beautiful city.  Towards the bottom of the gallery is a set of interesting photos.  There’s the hospital and the water ambulance. I have finished the gallery with a set of photos of Shane and I at one of those expensive cafes.

Stop! Thief!

I have started the next set with a shot of me on Mantua Station attempting to call the Italian Police to report our stolen bag.  We took our eye of it for mere seconds to take a selfie and some mongrel grabbed it as he got off the train.  Fortunately Shane had taken our passports out of that bag but we still lost all our medications, a Sony headphones set and other stuff we are still remembering was in the bag.  The cops were no help.  After 6 different police stations we finally got a Carabinieri Officer to take our statement but verbally he gave us no hope of getting our stuff back.

World Heritage, My Heritage

The next few photos are of a small village called Ostiglia.  It is the birthplace of my maternal grandfather ‘Joe’ Capisani and one of my main reasons for this trip.  We were assisted in the search by a great new ‘family member’, Luca Capisani.  I won’t go into details here but almost 20 years ago I contacted the only Capisani I could find in Mantua and that was Luca.  After all this time Luca was more than happy to help and I must say his help and friendship was wonderful. By the end of our stay we were much richer for the experience.  We now have a lasting friendship with a terrific bloke and a solid connection with a place of my heritage.

A Small City That Packs a Huge Punch

Back to the photos.  Besides aiding us to obtain more links to research my grandfather Luca showed Shane and I some of the highlights of Mantua and the Lombardy Region of Italy. Mantua (Mantova in Italian) is the most astounding city with a population of around only 50,000 people.  Mantua has the 2nd largest residential palace in Europe and was referenced in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  It is a UNESCO protected city and the cultural capital of Northern Italy.  Mantua is also the birthplace of Publius Vergilius Maro (Virgil in English) who is credited as Rome’s greatest poet.

Shock and Awe

I remember the shock we got when we strolled out of Via Fratelli Cairoli into Piazza Sordello to be confronted by the Palazzo Ducale.  What a beautiful sight and that was only a beginning.  Little did we know that what we were looking at was just the front of a huge palace complex.  To our left is the bold frontage of Saint Peter’s Cathedral.  This front is just that, a ‘front’.  Over the centuries various regional rulers added to cathedral but they were barred from substantially altering it’s original style so the façade you now see is a ‘heinz’ front of several different styles.

Strolling further down Piazza Sordello we passed a smaller square and into Piazza Erbe where the 11th century Rotunda of Saint Lorenzo still stands.  All through these piazza’s are cafés and stores to keep the most ardent shoppers happy.  How a city boasting such incredible medieval treasures is not better known is beyond my comprehension.  We have to return.  Not just to follow up more on my Grandpa but to see and learn more about Mantua and the whole Lombardy region.

Even More to See

My final words on the region come from a trip that Luca took us on to see some castles and a fantastic area, Simione.  It was not a long drive to Borghetto Mincio  where we had a lovely morning tea by the river.  Moving on our next stop was Castello Scaligera. The latter is on a long peninsula that juts out into the southern end of Lake Garda.  Sirmione and this entire peninsula is a huge tourist area that is packed even in the off season. I could go on for pages about this little known part of the world but I won’t.  You really should take the time to check out all the above links to these magnificent places in Lombardy.

That’s about it for Italy.  The next blog may have a few pics of our train trip to Milan but we really didn’t see much there.  What the next blog will have is our first stop in Paris and Versailles.  So watch for the next post.

Bye for now

Garry & Shane

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