Day 5 (Part 1) London and Italy: First Morning in Venice

Still having some trouble sleeping, but glad we planned on a ‘staging’ stop in London so that we didn’t lose too much Venice time to jet lag! As usual, I wake up very early and eventually fall back asleep. We get down to the breakfast room a little late but well before the 10:30 cutoff.

Breakfast is pretty nice. As we walk towards the tables we see the standard hotel breakfast fare of muffins, cereal, yogurt, milk, and juice spread out along one side of the room. At then end of that table there is also a plate with scrambled eggs and bacon. We’re greeted by a woman who comes out of the small kitchen at the end of the room who seats us and asks us and makes us some tea and cappuccino. While we eat she also brings out some peeled and sliced kiwi to go along with the food. My wife is very happy that juice selection includes apricot juice. The meal rates better than standard hotel breakfast. While the food isn’t quite at bed & breakfast quality, the service is comparable.  

After breakfast my wife points out a pamphlet that they have for the Artviva tours of Venice. I had planned on checking out Rialto and just getting lost in the city, but the Mrs is pretty excited about this tour that she read about at Tripadvisor.  We ask the nice lady at the front desk about it and she calls to see if there is any space left on the tour. We end up signing up for their all-in-one 5 hour packagethat runs from 2:00pm until dinner time. The tour includes a gondola tour, a walking tour, Doge’ s palace, and a boat ride down the grand canal. At 135 € each it wasn’t cheap, but then we were also expecting to spend almost 100 € just for a 30 minute gondola ride so maybe a giant tour wouldn’t be too bad. In the mean time we head towards Rialto to see the market and to find a TIM store.

Accademia Bridge Venice

Our hotel is right around the corner from the Accademia vapporetto stop. The vapporetto are water-buses of Venice running through the grand canal and around the outside of the islands. We ended up buying a 36 hour pass for 23€ each. Single rides are 6.50€ so it only took 4 trips to justify the pass. They run every 5 or 10 minutes and boats travel in both directions. The number 1 boats make all the stops and the number 2 only hits the bigger stops but for some reason we very rarely say any of those. Our trip to Rialto would have worked using the #2 express, but we watched three #1’s go by before we gave up and jumped on the fourth one.

Rialto Bridge Venice

We arrived at Rialto and strolled over the famous bridge. This was the first time that we hit any masses of tourists. The bridge is beautiful and has shops on both sides. I’m not sure what the rents would be on the bridge, but I would assume it’s fairly high given the tourist traffic. As we come off on the north end of the bridge we decide to just keep heading in a straight line to lessen the chance of getting lost, and before we know it we come across a TIM store!

TIM, or Telecom Italia Mobile, was my first choice provider for a SIM card. We walk inside and wait patiently while the only guy working in the tiny store deals with someone in Italian. A few minutes later it’s our turn and I give him a hopeful “parlo inglese?” to which he replies “No”. Uh oh. I tell him that I speak a little Italian (parlo poco italiano) and he says “parlo poco inglese”. I officially speak more Italian than this guy speaks English! Through hand gestures, brochures, and very broken Italian I manage to ask him for a SIM card and to sign me up for a data plan. When I pull our my Treo Pro smart phone he indicates I don’t need the 19€ plan and points to the TIM Smartphone plan for 2€ in the brochure. I’m skeptical because I assumed that there were some limitations on that plan, but as we’ve already stretched the limits of our communications I decide to just take the cheap plan and see how things go. He does warn me not to use the Internet until the plan activates to which I say “capisco” and happily leave with my SIM card. 15 minutes later I pop in the SIM card and power up my phone. No service yet, but 10 minutes after that I get a txt message telling me that I’m up and running!

Rialto Market Venice

We make our way to one of the only must-see locations on my Venice list, Rialto market. It’s too late in the day to catch the seafood market, but I’m still pretty interested to see the rest. We arrive to a plaza on the Grand Canal with 4-6 fruit and veggie stalls. The stalls all seem to carry more or less the same goods for about the same prices. While the colours are bright and the produce smells great, there’s really nothing new or unique here. We find one stall that sells sun dried cherry tomatoes and buy a handful. I end up buying a cold fresh fruit cup to beat some of the mid-day heat and we move on to explore some of the shops around the market. Rialto turns out to be fairly disappointing.

Dried cherry tomatoes at Rialto Market

It’s still early, but we decide to make our way out to the meeting point of our tour. The tour meets near the train station so we figure that getting to know that area will be useful as that’s how we will be travelling to Bologna in a few days. We get to the vaporetto dock at Rialto and jump on the first boat headed towards Ferrovia.

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