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Travel Journal: Italy, Day 9

We had to pack our things and leave Lucca today. Bah.

Woke up and headed to the tourist info. station a few blocks down to grab some coffee and figure out where to stay tonight.

SInce we're trying to keep to some kind of budget, we thought we'd try to stay in hostels for the rest of our trip. We got a bunch of phone numbers for hostels and hotels, then headed back to La Citadella to finish packing.

Enrico & Frederica stopped by, and I got to try my Italian skills at, "I'm sorry about the stove." Apparently they have a good sense of humor about it. We did have to give Enrico a €50, but that's the price you pay for being a jackass.

We packed up all our things and went to the Mulino for the last time. We used Doris' phone to start calling around for places to stay. Found a place in Pisa for Wednesday night, then tried to get into the Venice hostel. No luck. So, we ended up with a reservation at a hotel called The President in Mestre, an industrial suburb just outside of Venice. Much less expensive than staying right in Venice (but still nearly a €120!), and just a ten-minute bus ride to Venice - no hassling with the insane parking outside the city.

We were running late at this point, so we decided to reserve rooms in Cinque Terre after we arrived in Mestre. Took off to find the Autostrada - not always an easy task. Italian signage takes some getting used to, and getting to the Autostrada usually involves driving in a GIANT circle for no apparent reason.

Once on the road, we drove about 160 km/hr to Venice, only hitting one traffic delay, due to some bridge construction. Stopped at an Autogrill (the Italian equivalent of an Oasis - like the ones on the way from Minneapolis to Chicago), got some crappy sandwiches, some McVities, and model Smart car (with pull-back action!), and water.

Jeremy and I have invented the Smart car game. It's like Slug Bug, except you poke the person if you see a Smart car. Pinch if you see an Ape - but you only see those on country roads or in town - they're too small for the Autostrada.

Finding our hotel in Mestre was kind of a nightmare, especially without a map, but we finally got it. Jeremy's reaction to the lobby and the room was, "Oh my God," but it wasn't that bad. It was standard cheesy hotel fare - bad art, bad carpet, etc. And it was way overpriced, but everything having to do with tourists usually is. The room was the hotel equivalent of our a €4 ice cream cones in Florence.

We dropped our crap in our room, and went downstairs to buy a bus ticket into Venice (a €1). Walked to the bus stop and rode into Venice around 7pm. We pretty much just followed other people, assuming they knew where they were going. A few meters from the bus stop, and there we were - right in Venezia! It's quite a difference between Venice and the areas just outside it. Mestre, and the entire area just beyond, is ugly and industrial. Lots of apartment and hotel highrise buildings and big cranes and stuff. But once you walk into Venice, it's quiet and lovely. Well, it's quiet and lovely and night - during the day nearly every street is choked with people.

Venice is bigger than I thought, and not as clean as it was in Vegas (ha!). Even at night, there are a fair amount of people around. We followed the quirky-as-usual Italian signage toward Piazza San Marco, wandering along the streets and peeking at everything. Seeing the city in person makes me curious - I need to find some books on the history and architecture of Venice. This whole trip has made me curious about Italy in general - the ancient city-states, the Medici family, it all seems so interesting.

Sat and watched some music in the Piazza, and just wandered around a bit and took it all in. Despite the tourist factor, it is a gorgeous city. We still had no map of the Venice/Mestre area, and we managed to get ourselves very, very lost. Whoever said that the canals prevent you from getting "too lost" was wrong.

By this time, it was about 9:30pm - and in Italy, there is a small window of time in which one is able to easily find dinner. It seems to be from about 7 to about 9:30pm. Add to that the fact that J has to avoid cheese and red meat, and you've got quite a challenge.

We continued wandering around and finally - at around 10 - we found a place that had chicken, which Jeremy had been craving (he's been eating tuna for days). Too bad that when they say chicken around here, they mean a sad little thigh and drummie. After dinner, we managed to find our way back to the Piazzale Roma and caught a bus back to Mestre for a good night's sleep. Viva La Presidente.

Breakfast: Caffe Latte and croissant at the tourist office.

Lunch: Disgusting breaded chicken sandwich at the Autogrill. A few McVities to wash it down.

Dinner: Sambuca and a margherita pizza in Venice.

Posted October 4, 2003 11:18 PM | On This Day: 2005 2002