Day 8: Milan to Verona to Venice

Venice Travel Blog

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Whose in charge of painting these roads anyway?

"It's like Kramer did the lines on the freeway." -- Brian describing the crazy and erratic lanes on the Italian highways. 

Driving in Italy is not for the faint of heart.  The drivers are crazy.  Lights and stop signs are almost in non-existence and you're lucky if they road you are traveling on has lanes.  Nobody seems to understand the concept of yielding so it's pretty much every man for himself.  Today, however, it's the weekend so the traffic is light.  We learn that commercial trucks are forbidden from driving on highways on the weekends so that people can travel between cities more easily (leisure time far outweighs economic needs in this country). 

Our day begins with a city tour of Milan.

The Duomo in Milan.
  We start at the Duomo of Milan which is the fourth largest cathedral in the world (behind St. Peter's, St. Paul's in London and one in Seville, Spain).  This one is amazing and our favorite of the whole trip (and we saw lots of duomos on this trip!).  It was designed in the Gothic style with 550,000 marble blocks.  It is 180.5 meters tall and 3400 statues adorn it.  It can seat 40,000 people comfortably (once the population of the city) and features 144 stained glass windows that tell the complete story of the New Testament.  It was attacked by Napolean when he overtook the city, but still survives today.  Every 30 years it must be cleaned from top to bottom, inside and out, a process that takes...30 years.  So everytime they finish cleaning it, they turn around and start again.
The stained glass windows inside.
 

From here, we leave and visit the Galleria, the central shopping area and main square of Milan.  It is home to a lot of trendy shops (Versace, Armani, etc) and a McDonalds that serves curly fries and cannoli.  Next we visit the famed La Scala Opera House.  It is amazingly beautiful inside and still operates as an opera house today.  Opera is big here.  When Verdi was big, the crowds used to shout "VERDI VERDI" after his shows.  It was not only a cheer for the composer, but also a political statement of the times as the letters make an acronym for Victor Emmanuel Regal De Italia.  Maria Callas was a goddess here.  After she died in 1977, La Scala refused to stage La Traviata (her signature show) for more than 27 years.  They finally agreed to stage it and after the performance the entire audience stayed silent, a sign that they felt the show was a disaster and the singing didn't match Callas's high quality.

That's me inside La Scala Opera House.
 

Our next stop is Verona, a beautiful little city on the banks of the Po.  This is the supposed home of Shakespeare's Juliet and it's the first city that I could actually see myself living in (if I were to live in Italy, which it's highly unlikely I'd ever do).  We walk through the town, admire Juliet's balcony and visit the city's colosseum that is 50 years older than Rome's.  The acoustics in it are so good that when operas are performed, the singers don't use microphones.  When the Rolling Stones played here some years ago, the music was so loud it busted all of the windows in the buildings nearby.  We also have time to split a piece of pizza and of course, more gelato!

Finally, we get back on the road and make way toward Venice.

The heart of Verona, Italy
  Venice is an eastern port city of Italy.  It is actually one of the last cities to join the country when the city-states united as a nation in the 1860s.  It is comprised of 118 islands, 150 natural canals and 400 bridges.  The canals vary in depth, but the Grand Canal is 15 meters wide and the Judeca is the widest and deepest canal.  Centuries ago, Venice was a major world port and traded primarily with the East.  Even today, it's a city that is more closely alligned with the Eastern world than the Western.  The architecture has a Turkish/Middle-Eastern feel and Arabic channels are available on television.  Venetians are proud of their Eastern heritage and many don't even see themselves as Italians (it's popular for Venetians to brag that they've never been to Rome).
Juliet's balcony
 

We stay at a hotel on the Lido (a large island on one side of the Judeca Canal).  Our hotel is home to the Venice Film Festival and is beautiful.  It was built in the 19th century and still features authentic floors, art and chandeliers.  After checking in to the hotel and getting dinner, we travel by boat to St. Mark's Square, the main hub of the city.  Venice is absolutely beautiful and magical at night.  Brian comments that Venice is a lot like the Venetian in Vegas, but better.  There are small cafes that line St. Mark's Square.  Each features a small orchaestra and these musicians duel out songs amongst each other as people sit, listen, drink and dance.  We even get to hear one of the orchestras do a rendition of "Yesterday.

Hmmm...I wonder what they serve here?
"  Later we walk the side streets of the city.  For once we don't have to worry about avoiding cars and it's quiet and peaceful here.  We find a small pub and stop in for a drink.  Inside we can see water lines high up on the walls.  Buildings flood frequently here and the population is dwindling.  It isn't a place I'd like to live, but I'm sure enjoying being a visitor.  It gets late and we boat back to the hotel for some sleep. 

 

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Whose in charge of painting these …
Whose in charge of painting these…
The Duomo in Milan.
The Duomo in Milan.
The stained glass windows inside.
The stained glass windows inside.
Thats me inside La Scala Opera Ho…
That's me inside La Scala Opera H…
The heart of Verona, Italy
The heart of Verona, Italy
Juliets balcony
Juliet's balcony
Hmmm...I wonder what they serve he…
Hmmm...I wonder what they serve h…
Oh yum...its more gelato!
Oh yum...it's more gelato!
The sun sets on Venice.
The sun sets on Venice.
Bri and me.
Bri and me.
Us in front of the Bridge of Sighs.
Us in front of the Bridge of Sighs.
Nighttime at St. Marks.
Nighttime at St. Mark's.
Dueling orchaestras
Dueling orchaestras
A quiet canal
A quiet canal
Me in Venice
Me in Venice
Venice
photo by: asturjimmy