Pisa and its Tower

This one will be short and sweet as I am still high as a kite about a photographic experience I just had in Tarragona, Spain, today (it’s Friday, September 23 as I write this). Besides, our visit to Pisa was not the best day of our trip. Not because the Tower wasn’t leaning, but because it was just kind of a ho-hum experience. After so many days of getting on a “luxury motor coach,” testing our Vox earsets (so we can hear our guide while we walk around), driving to wherever, getting off the bus, having the guide rush away like a madperson, having to go and ask them to slow down, listening to them tell you the history of everything while wearing the headsets, then going from place to place quickly and standing while the guide talks (you would think the guides are paid by the word), it was getting really old.

This was another of Viking’s “included” excursions, so we were on the bus to Pisa at 8:30 am. We are glad we went in the morning (we had a choice of the afternoon as well) because those who went in the afternoon said it was a total zoo with huge crowds. We were able to at least move around the square.

Today’s guide was a speed demon. She went so fast that the people at the back of the line lost track of her leading the group. And worse, there were numerous other groups from bus tours who had parked where our bus did, and we were mixing in with our crowd and we with them. It was horrible. And this was the day the Vox system that we bring from our rooms (headsets so we can hear the guide) decided to fail. We knew it wasn’t our headsets but the guide’s microphone because no one could understand about 80% of what she said—too much static.

So there we were in the square in Pisa, with the Tower and the basilica right in front of us and not able to understand a word the guide said, so we ditched the tour. We just took off on our own, went at our own pace and made our own plans. The guides kind of know you are going to do this because they tell you in advance where to meet to go back to the “luxury motor coach.”

So I shot some pics; it started to rain; we sat by the church and then decided to take refuge at a sidewalk cafe with huge umbrellas and have a cappuccino. It was delightful just to sit and people-watch. After a while, Steve and Jamie joined us, and we started walking back to the “luxury motor coach.” Then we found out that we were just going back to the same place to meet the “luxury motor coach.” If they had told us that, we could have turned the almost mile-long walk into something where Kathleen and Jamie could have rested every so often instead of their version of the Bataan Death March. These guides just do not get it. Usually, I tip our guides quite well. So far on this trip, I have tipped two. Just two. The others have either been rude, in a huge hurry, rambling or worse. Of course, we all tipped Luigi and Alessandro in Cinque Terre, but they weren’t Viking guides.

After the march, it was back on the “luxury motor coach” and back to the ship where I wrote you another blog post and processed my photos, which you can see below. Hope you enjoy them. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

That was our day in Pisa. Pretty boring, to be honest. I could have done the entire thing in an hour instead of the two-and-a-half that Viking thought we needed. But I truly think that’s because the guide was paid by the word. Too bad we couldn’t hear more than twenty percent of them.

I’ve been to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s a tower, and it’s leaning. You look at it, but nothing happens, so then you look for someplace to get a sandwich.  —Danny DeVito

The Best Day of the Entire Trip—Cinque Terre

The day after we took our day off in Rome was absolutely the best day of the whole trip from Amsterdam to Athens to that day. The ship was docked in Livorno, Italy, which is the port for Florence. And about 95% of the passengers on board were headed to either Florence itself or the Tuscan countryside and Pisa to see the Leaning Tower. We, on the other hand, had decided to do our own thing.

As I said about Rome in my last post, you can’t see Rome in one day. I also believe you can’t do justice to Florence in one day. If you really want to see the Uffizi or the Academia, you need half a day in each. That leaves no time for the Duomo, the baptistery, the Ponte Vecchio, or so much more that is Firenze. Besides, we had been there before. So we opted out. But sadly, that was the only place that Viking was offering tours to. So we created our own.

About three months before the cruise, I started looking for someplace else to see in the general area of Livorno that we had not seen. We had never seen the Leaning Tower and the rest of Pisa, but that was a two-hour tour, and we would be in Livorno for two days and would see that on the second day. So where to go? I searched maps and Cruise Critic for ideas, and in doing that, I looked up the coast, and lo and behold—Cinque Terre. We had heard so much about it but had never been there, and we really wanted to see it, but for some reason, Viking does not do any tours in that direction (although it took us the same amount of time to get there as it did to get into Florence). That meant I had to find us a tour. So off I went to Google, and the first tour that popped up was a “Tour to Cinque Terre from the Port of Livorno” by BellaItalia Tours. That sounded like just what we were looking for, so I contacted them.

Like most tours, this had one price—the price of the tour. Actually, there were two possibilities—a tour with a driver who got you there and got you off on your way into the first “land” and then picked you up and took you back to the ship after you finished touring everything. The other option was a driver AND a guide. The driver got you there, but the guide accompanied you throughout the day from village to village telling us all about them on the way. We wanted to do this because we were looking for someone to walk us through the entire thing.

If you got the driver and the guide, the price was just about 800 euros for two people. But if you could find more to join you, the price went down because you were paying for the car, driver and guide no matter what. Up to 8 people could come along. To find someone else to join us (the other four in our party had never been to Florence, so they were going there), I went on Cruise Critic to our roll call (click here if you need Cruise Critic and Roll Calls explained) and found Corky and Larry from Maui who said they would love to join us. This meant our price was basically cut in half. And not only did that make this tour a bargain, but we made two great friends in the process.

As soon as the ship had been cleared by the port authorities, we were off and looking for my name on a placard being held by our guide, the amazing and hilarious Luigi. And he and our driver (Alessandro) were waiting right where they said they would be, we jumped in their Mercedes van, and we were off. What joy it was to ride in a van and not a “luxury motor coach.” It meant that there were two of us to a seat, with plenty of legroom and Luigi giving us non-stop play-by-play as we drove along.

On the way, we got to see some things we hadn’t expected, like the famous marble mountains of Carrara. I suppose if I had thought about it, I would have realized that the Carrara marble that makes up so many buildings in the Mediterannean or our very own tile floors at home comes from a huge mountain of marble. The mountains are magnificent to look at, as you can see in this small gallery. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

A little while after passing through Carrara and some amazing hilltop towns on either side of the AutoStrada (Italian for freeway), we reached La Spezia, a coastal community that is the gateway to Cinque Terre. You climb far above it and that puts you about even with those hilltop towns, so here are some views from the hill above La Spezia and some hilltop towns we had seen between there and Carrara. Don’t forget; they can be viewed as a slide show.

As soon as you have seen La Spezia go by, you go over the hill, and you are looking down at the first of the five “lands” of Cinque Terre (literally translates to “five lands”), Riomaggiore. It’s a beautiful little village built into the side of a very steep hill. Alessandro dropped us off, and we walked down into the town itself. We would next see our illustrious driver at the other end of Cinque Terre. From this point on, our transport was the Cinque Terre ferry. Luigi led us down through the town, pointing things out to us as we went. We all took a much-needed restroom break and then met Luigi to board the ferry to move to the next land.

Luigi was a font of knowledge all about the region. We all learned a lot, especially that we should wait for the fourth village, Vernazza, to get gelato because they had the best, then have lunch at the end of the journey in Monterosso because they had the best food. We liked that—eat dessert first.

The second stop on our visit was to the village of Manarola, which might have been the most picturesque. The photo at the top of this post was taken there. Luigi was more than thrilled to help me find my shots because he said we had something in common. His real vocation in life was a guitarist, and he loved it. He told us it was “his art.” And he said photography was mine. I truly appreciated his interest, and from that point on (he had this conversation with Kathleen on the ferry while I was outside taking photos) he took me to what he thought would make great pictures…and he was right.

The ferry to the next of the five lands (actually four because the ferry does not stop in the middle land of Corniglia as there is no place for it to dock—it is only accessible by train) comes just about every hour, so once we landed in Manarola for instance; we had an hour to take photos and look around before we got back on the next ferry and left for Vernazza.

Vernazza was the village where we heard about the awesome gelato, and again, Luigi proved to be correct. He had advised me that if I truly wanted to try what the locals loved, I would have basil gelato (seen at right). So I did, and it was wonderful. Kathleen had lemon, and when we put the two together…perfection. Vernazza was a great village for photography, so again, I took more shots until the hour went by and we boarded the ferry for Monterosso.

Monterosso was the final village and is the most commercialized of the five. It has bigger hotels, sandy beaches, etc. It also has amazing food, and this was where Luigi said we should get lunch. He was all set to drop us at a restaurant to fend for ourselves when we insisted he join us for lunch—our treat, which he did. He said that like the gelato I had tasted, the people of the five lands believed their basil was better than any other basil in the world and therefore, their pesto sauce was the best anyplace—hands down. So, of course, we had to try it. The traditional pesto pasta is improved in Cinque Terre by the addition of potatoes and green beans to the mix. This came about when they started making pesto at a time when those things were plentiful, and the recipe stuck.

Besides the pesto, there was one more thing I wanted to try while we were having lunch. It is something that Rick Steves had mentioned in his Cinque Terre video—fresh anchovies. Rick said that if you come here and order them fresh, you would be amazed how little they would resemble the anchovies you see on a pizza or a caesar salad and he was right—almost. I ordered (with Luigi’s help) “Tris di acciughe del marinaio” or Lemon, salted and stuff anchovies. The salted looked very much like what we put on pizza but bigger. It tasted like you might think but much less salty. Luigi told me that this is what it should taste like when brined, but it is much saltier when we get it because it has sat for weeks in a can on its way to America.

Then there was the stuffed version, filled with some rice, some veggies and who knows what, but it was delicious. But the winner of the three was anchovies marinated in lemon juice and olive oil. I could eat those every day, all day long. Delicious.

After we finished lunch, we walked around Monterosso for a while longer before we walked up a hill (thankfully much less steep than the one we walked down in Riomaggiore) to the top of the village to be met by our faithful driver Alessandro and transported back to the ship. This was around a nine-hour trip from ship to ship, but I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it.

This brings me to the subject of shore excursions. One of the reasons Viking appealed to us was that they included a free shore excursion in every port. But we are just not sure if that is a selling point anymore. After our day in a van with a guide and being able to move at our own pace, we think if (probably when) sail with Viking Ocean again, we will book our own shore excursions again. We had pretty much always done that in the past until COVID came along, and you couldn’t book a lot of private excursions. Now you can again and we likely will. It is so much more personalized, and you meet incredible guides. We had done three tours on this entire trip with private guides (in Amsterdam with Hans and Athens with George), and those were the best tours. Far better than being put into a “luxury motor coach” with 26 other people and a guide who is just a monotonous voice in your “whisper headset.” This really hit home with us after touring all day with Luigi and Alessandro. Luigi became a part of our group. Just look at the photo at the top of this post. Don’t we look happy? Cinque Terre—what a day. And here are the photos from that day. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…ESPECIALLY THESE!

It took us about 90 minutes to get back to the ship, but after the day we had, the time flew by. I truly hope I did a good job expressing my joy about this day and my gratitude to the amazing Luigi, who took such great care of us. I can’t recommend him more highly. If you decide to go, book with Bella Italia tours and ask for him specifically. You will not be sorry.

I think people in Italy live their lives better than we do. It’s an older country, and they’ve learned to celebrate dinner and lunch, whereas we sort of eat as quickly as we can to get through it. —George Clooney


“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and you can’t see it in a day

That headline was my feeble attempt at humor and to explain why we decided to stay on the ship when Viking Sky arrived in Civitavecchia, the port for the city of Rome. We have been to Rome at least three times before, and as much as we love the city, the idea of leaving the port at 6:45 am, driving the 45 minutes to an hour into Rome and then just driving around looking at the sites from the outside is just not something we wanted to do.

So this post is about pretty much nothing. We did some laundry. Stop! Let’s talk about that—laundry on a ship. Most cruise lines no longer have laundry facilities on board or never did. Our long-time old favorite, Celebrity, never has. If you needed something washed, you either did it yourself in your stateroom sink, or you sent it out to their fairly expensive laundry. On our January Holland America cruise, we were in a Neptune Suite, so we had laundry included. But being newbies here on Viking, we weren’t sure how the whole laundry thing would work out.


It turns out it works wonderfully. On each deck, there is a small “laundrette” with three washers and three dryers stacked on top of each other. There are also two ironing boards for passenger use. If you decide to use the machines, you drop in your load, push a button to add the free soap and softener and then start it up. A timer on the front of the machine tells you how long until it’s done. I set a SIRI timer on my Apple watch for that amount of time and then I come back to change the loads. Only a couple of times when we have tried to use the machines has there been anyone else using them.

It’s all about the timing. If you go in the evenings, I have heard it can be very crowded. But we have done laundry three times. First when we got on board because we had been traveling on land for six days, then in Rome two weeks later because we were running short on some items, and today we are doing a quick load while we are here in Marseilles. All three of those times have been during the day when most of the ship is on shore.

Another great thing we found that kept me away from the ironing boards is that the type of stateroom we are in (a Penthouse Verandah) has free pressing included. So I wash the shirts I have been wearing to dinner and then toss them in a bag, and they come back tomorrow ready to wear, hanging on hangers. I love it.

In case you are wondering, we both pretty much do our own laundry at home, but she does the linens and other household stuff, and I do most of the cooking. Onboard I have to do the laundry because the way the dryers are situated above the washers, she can’t see into them, let alone reach them. This surprised a couple of the women I have run into while washing clothes.

Lots of places to relax

Another thing I want to mention about the ship is that is VERY evident when you are on board in a port but still very true all of the time. This ship has a lot of great places just to sit and relax, to have a conversation, to play cards or games, to do just about anything you want to do. At first, I thought it was that way because they just built in those spaces, but then I realized that there is another HUGE reason all these great spaces exist—the Nos. About a week before we sailed, I wrote a post about all the reasons we were sailing on Viking Ocean for this cruise and not one of the other lines we had used before. You can check it out by clicking here.

In that list, you can see that Viking has:

  1. No children (which means there is no space for a kid’s club).
  2. No art auctions (which means that space is not needed).
  3. No casino (which means an extra room where a casino would go)
  4. No ship’s photographers (which means you can use that space as well).

When you add up all the space that is revenue producing for other cruise lines and take it off the table, no wonder they have such awesome areas all around the ship that are just for passengers to relax. Here are some quick picks of some of my favorite places on the ship. You can go ahead and look at these with your phone…they are just onboard photos of some of my favorite spots.

That just about concludes our Roman day onboard the ship. We probably ate in The World Cafe and watched Downton Abbey. It’s funny that someone on Cruise Critic asked us what the nightlife was like. We can’t tell anyone because that’s not us. We finish a long day touring, have dinner someplace, go back to our room and collapse. Between my getting up at 5:00 am to walk my miles on deck two and the lousy sleep we have been getting, that’s about all we can manage.

Rome was not built in one day.  —John Heywood
You can’t see Rome in one day.  —Jim Bellomo

Messina, Taormina and Mount Etna as well as some ship observations

Before I get to the fun/destination part of this post, here are a few more observations about onboard life.

Yesterday, while we were in Rome, a large part of the ship’s passengers got off and another group got on. As I mentioned earlier, this three-week cruise we are on is actually three one-week cruises stacked one on top of the other. It is actually four one-week cruises (starting in Istanbul). The very large group that got on board in Rome was much louder and party-types than the group that got off. For that reason has become a more raucous ship. Something we did not expect from Viking. Kathleen was awakened a few times that first night by the person above us talking loudly and walking heavily. We would have called down to Guest Services, but we couldn’t tell if the noise was coming from directly above or one of the staterooms on either side of it.

This brings me to going back to the Main Dining Room. Our new friends Corky and Larry said they had an outstanding server, and if we came to dinner with them, we would have amazing service. They were right. They have a waiter (whose name I believe is Joku0) who takes great care of them. Not only that, but we met THE wine steward. We asked him if he was the ONLY wine steward on board, and he said he was not. There was one in Chef’s Table and in Manfreddis, but he told us, “I am the only one in THE Restaurant. Therefore, I am THE wine steward.” But we still did not have that great an experience. The food was “fine” (we still had much better in the World Cafe), but the noise was off the charts. Corky and Larry are not overly quiet people, but I thought I heard about half of what they said. And my friends know that I am not exactly a quiet guy, but Kathleen had to ask me to repeat a couple of things—and she was sitting right next to me. I felt like you needed to shout to be heard, and obviously, so did everyone else. There is no sound deadening when the room is full, and it was slammed.

Back to our previously scheduled port excursion tour, on Thursday morning, we woke up in Messina, Sicily. Or I should say Kathleen did. I woke up REALLY early (even for me) at 4:45, so I could see us sail through the Strait of Messina. The last time I sailed through this strait, we were in a storm so bad that waves were breaking over the top of our 13-deck ship (Celebrity Century). I had never heard that being there to take pictures as you go through was that great, but the cruise director RAVED about it the night before, so I decided to get up and get out there to take some photos. 😴

Yup, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Here is the only photo I took that morning that I would even think about bothering with. Not sure why I am even showing it to you.

See what I mean? I should have stayed in bed. But that’s OK because the day got a lot better as we were booked to head down to Taormina and then up to Mount Etna.

Messina is a pretty nice port to sail into. It doesn’t take long, and there are lots of things to take photos of if you are on the right side of the ship. Since we would be on our excursion to Taormina and Mount Etna for the rest of the day, this was my only chance to get some shots of Messina. Here are those pics. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

Beautiful Taormina

After breakfast, we headed down to get on our “luxury motor coach” to tour Taormina and Mount Etna. The drive was most interesting with a bunch of tunnels to pass through, some very tight curves that our driver did an amazing job of negotiating and just beautiful coastal scenery to see. After about an hour’s drive, we arrived in the beautiful mountainside village of Taormina. It reminded us a lot of our previous trip to the Amalfi Coast. Lots of beautiful villages above cliffs that lead down to the sea. You will see that when you check out the Taormina photos below.

Besides a beautiful Italian village, Taormina is home to a huge Greek theater set on the side of a cliff that dates back to 301 AD. It is still in use today, as you will see from the photos. I am amazed at how many of these open-air theaters built almost 2,000 years ago are still being used. We saw one on the side of the Acropolis that was even older and was hosting a Sting concert the night after we were there.

To learn and see more of our Taormina experience, check out my pics below. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

On to Etna

After about two hours in Taormina, we were back on our “luxury motor coach” to head upwards to Mount Etna. If we had thought the first part of the trip was a windy road, we had seen nothing yet. This was the most amazing piece of “luxury coach” driving we had ever seen. I am still not sure how our driver negotiated some of the turns he did. We finally wound up at the highest point that “luxury coaches” can go. There were a couple of restaurants, a few gift shops and the bottom station of a gondola ride to the top of the volcano.

Etna was not erupting when we were there (thankfully), but she was letting off a lot of steam. And we did see plenty of lava lands and craters. Our first stop at the top was for lunch, where we were served a nice lunch with appetizers, pasta, bread and wine. It was all great, and they offered us much more than we could possibly eat. Especially when you are on a cruise. Some of it suffered from having been prepped way too early in the day, but it was all “fine.” I forgot to mention that the restaurant we ate in had displays showing that it had been rebuilt twice after being burnt down during Etna’s last two eruptions.

After lunch, we had a few minutes to shoot some photos before we were back on the “luxury motor coach,” and we drove about a mile or so away, where there were five smaller craters that opened up in previous eruptions. We had the chance to hike up and take photos. Kathleen stayed on the bus while I did my usual run-around thing, snapping away. Here are the pics I got as we approached Etna and at the top. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

That was our day, and it was a long one. Took the “luxury motor coach” back to the ship, got on and collapsed. Quick dinner in the buffet and off to bed after another couple of Downtons.

I feel like a person living on the brink of a volcano crater.  —Agnes Smedley


Crotone—you love it or hate it

I overheard an interesting discussion about Crotone, Italy. If you are unfamiliar with Crotone, it is located on the sole of the Italian Boot. It’s the red dot on the right.

It is a sleepy little Italian town that really isn’t really anything special until you look at it in a different way. On a bus back from a later excursion (I think it was in Messina), I overheard other passengers talking. One lady said, “That Crotone was the most boring port ever!” But another gentleman piped up with, “To me, it was the BEST port on this cruise. It was the real Italy. A small town. No tourist shops, no crowds (Viking Sky was the only ship there), a town square you could walk to, parks everywhere, winding streets with cars parked at crazy angles and then trying to drive up those NARROW streets.” And I guess I have to agree with him. The town itself took a little climbing to get into, and it had its share of ruins, but mostly, it was just a tiny, real Italian town.

How tiny? Viking didn’t even do any city tours there. The included tour was a walking tour of the village without guides. But all through the city, there were members of the community who would tell you about some feature of their town or their history and send you on to the next person. It was great meeting those locals. They were excited that we were there to hear about Crotone. So, all in all, it was a pretty great day. Viking did provide a free shuttle service that you could take up to the top of the village, but Kathleen wanted to save all her walking for the next day when we would be in Messina and going to see Taormina and Mount Etna, so she told me to go walk to my heart’s content. And that’s what I did.

Here are the photos I took of the seaside village of Crotone, a truly lovely place. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

That was our (kind of my) day in Crotone. We finished up with dinner in the World Cafe at Nanci’s table again and then off to bed. Between Kathleen’s food poisoning and getting worn out from our days touring, we have spent most evenings in our stateroom. Viking has excellent television choices, but since we were onboard Viking, we decided we had to rewatch the entire Downton Abbey series. We just finished season 3 last night (Naples), so I am not sure we will make it. Viking does have shows, and they put them on television, both live and recorded. We watched a few for a couple of minutes (one was a Beatles tribute), and they were pretty bad. If we wanted a show, we would have sailed Royal Caribbean. The Mama Mia we saw on Allure of the Seas in 2019 was Broadway-worthy. On this ship, it’s all about travel.

As I write this, a new group of people are coming on board. This is actually not a three-week cruise but a series of four one-week cruises, one after the other, and we are on three of them. Our new buddies Corky and Larry have been on since Istanbul, so they are starting their fourth week while we start our third. A great deal of the people on board got off today in Rome, so it was very quiet until around noon, when the new folks who are doing a one-week cruise to Barcelona with us got on. We have never carried over like this before, but this day was great. Most of the carry-over people are in Rome, so that we could do laundry, I could take photos of the interior of the ship that I will share in a future post, and we could just rest. We are about to head down to the spa to try out the thalassotherapy pool and the rest of the relaxation stuff down there. Got to go. Next up for you are Messina, Taormina and Mount Etna. Not sure how soon I will get to that as we leave early tomorrow for an entire day in Cinque Terra.

You know more of a road by having traveled it than by all the conjectures and descriptions in the world.  —William Hazlitt

Beautiful Bari and Alberobello, Italy

Since I have some time today while we are docked for Rome, I will try and do a couple of posts covering the next two places on the cruise. So watch for another one later in the day.

The day after our restful time in Sibenik, we arrived in Bari, Italy—a port I was really looking forward to. We both felt great so off we went on a shore excursion labeled “Alberobello, the Trulli Village.” Alberobello is about an hour away by motor coach (a fancy term for bus). The ride was a good one and the walk from where the bus parked to where the village started.

A trullo is a traditional Apulian dry stone hut so more than one is trulli. The village of Alberobello is the home of a whole bunch of trullo/trulli and they are very cool. Our day consisted of a bus ride from Bari to Alberobello, a walk tour of Alberobello followed by a visit to a nearby conference-type place where they fed us appetizers and some wine. Kathleen tried the food but I just wasn’t up to it. The food didn’t look that good and there was plenty of good calories to waste my caloric intake with onboard. After about an hour it was back on the ship and on our way home.

Below are the photos I took that day. Hope you like them. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

I hope you enjoyed your photographic journey to Alberobello. Come back later (or watch your inbox) for Crotone, Italy.

You may have the universe if I may have Italy.  —Giuseppe Verdi

Venice Day 3: Early Morning Photos and Back to the Ship

Our final morning in Venice was due to end fairly early. We needed to find our own way back to the ship. If we had known where we were docking before we left home, I would have arranged transportation before we even left the USA. But since they decided at the last minute to switch from Fusina to Chioggia, I had to scramble. And I scrambled to no avail. I was on my phone trying to book us a van back to the ship for a reasonable price for quite a while. What we finally decided to do was just get a cab and have them drive us around.

Speaking of them driving us back to the ship, we had new friends we met on board who had originally planned a train trip from Venice to Tuscany with a private tour at the other end but the Viking Customer Service people told them that taxis were not allowed to enter the port at Chioggia. So when we got our cab, we were a little worried if we would be let into the port or have to walk quite a distance to get in. More about that later. I am getting ahead of myself.

Let’s go back to the early morning…you know before the sun came up. I was up and heading out with my camera in hand. Yesterday I made my way to Piazza San Marco via the Rialto bridge. Today I wanted to cross the Rialto again, but this time, I wanted to get back to the Accademia bridge, which is at the very beginning of the Grand Canal. When we came to Venice for the first time, way back in 2002, we stayed at the Galleria Hotel right next to that bridge. The bridge is the only wooden bridge across the Grand Canal, so I really wanted a couple of more shots from that area. It also provides a great place to shoot the beautiful Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. So here are the pics from that morning. I hope you like them. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

After breakfast, we grabbed our luggage and hit the good old Vaporetto #1 and headed up the Grand Canal to Piazzale Roma, where we hopped off and headed to the taxi line and found a driver willing to go to Chioggia. We also asked him if he would be able to get into the port. He wasn’t sure but said he would get us as close as possible. That was good enough for us. He also quoted us 150 euros for the ride. Whew! But we had to get back. And unlike our favorite Lyft/Uber rides, this would have a meter running, so we had to sweat that out as well.

He headed out, and we drove for almost an hour. The meter ran up, and when we finally got there, it was 147 Euro. This man knew his pricing. And could he get into the port to drop us off? Let’s just say when we got out of his cab; we were inside the port and less than 10 feet from the terminal. From the time we got out of his cab, we were in our staterooms on the ship in less than seven minutes.

We grabbed a mid-afternoon dunch (dunch = dinner and lunch—or linner—take your choice 😜) and just collapsed in our stateroom for the evening. Those three days in Venice took a lot out of us.

Venice, Day 2: Photographic Perfection, Vaporetto Dejection

After a great night on a great bed (I still find Viking beds pretty hard, but I am getting used to them) at our Venice B&B, I was up for the entire reason for us making the additional travel investment in staying two nights in the city when we had a perfectly fine place to stay back on the ship—my pre-dawn photo walk in a city I love. (Nothing like getting an entire paragraph in one long sentence 😜).

I woke up around 5;45 and checked my Photo Pills app on my phone. If you have never heard of Photo Pills, it is an iPhone (I am betting it is on android as well) app that tells me all I need to know about the light conditions where I am. For instance, as I write this, we are in Crotone, Italy (way down at the underside of the tip of the boot that is Italy) and when I opened Photo Pills this morning, here’s what I see.

First, it tells me the extent of my daylight; then, I get all the important times for photography, from Astronomical twilight to Day time. I know that I will get the best photos (if the weather cooperates—which it did on Day 2 in Venice) between 6:05 and 7:30 or so. So I made sure that I was up and out, camera in hand, no later than 5:30. In Venice, some of your best pictures are of artificial lights (doorways, streetlights, shop windows) before the sun even starts to come up. And to me, early morning are so much better than late night because there are a lot fewer people to get in the way. One or two people in a shot to set a mood is one thing but a whole bunch of people in different bright colors, looking everywhere, is not something I am after in a city like Venice.

My first few photos were in the dark. I did that on purpose. And a lot of Venice photography is vertical. That’s because a lot of Venice is tiny streets that lead to more open squares (called Campos). Those tiny streets make for great vertical photographs. They also make it easy to get lost…very lost. But in Venice, getting lost is the whole point. I just wandered. I could always see a sign nearby that pointed to a place where I recognized. For instance, from where we were staying, I knew that I had to cross a bridge over the Grand Canal someplace to get to Piazza San Marco (where I wanted to go), so I just kept following every sign that said, “Per Rialto” (to the Rialto Bridge). Sometimes I would find myself in an amazing little street that would give me one amazing photo I would love. Other times, those streets were just ways to get to where I wanted to go. If you go to Venice, get lost. That’s what you are supposed to do.

Since I have a LOT of Venice photos from this walk, I think I will break them up into smaller galleries, like this one that has photos from before it was light at all. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…