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Old 11-09-2010   #46 (permalink)
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I never heard the term "hand trucks" before. I just call them dolly's and carts!
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Old 11-09-2010   #47 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by JoanieBlon View Post
Glad that you like my trip report! I'm just having trouble getting time to work on it...


I think the shopkeepers and cafe owners ~ as well as others who live in Venice ~ have learned to accept the water ~ although I'm SURE it gets them down from time to time...

To see photos of the monumental flooding which took place in 2008, click HERE WHAT A MESS! But ~ life goes on....
Oh, wow......WOW!! That is a lot of water. I like the shots of the guy boarding... It also looked like the women in the shoe shop weren't upset either....hmmm.... I'd be freaking.

You've put a lot of detail into your report. Takes time to get everything in order, etc. We're patient.

I was impressed by your ability to stay calm when you first arrived and were trying to find your way to your hotel.

Very informative report. Thanks again!!
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Old 11-09-2010   #48 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Luv2Dance View Post
Oh, wow......WOW!! That is a lot of water. I like the shots of the guy boarding... It also looked like the women in the shoe shop weren't upset either....hmmm.... I'd be freaking.

You've put a lot of detail into your report. Takes time to get everything in order, etc. We're patient.

I was impressed by your ability to stay calm when you first arrived and were trying to find your way to your hotel.

Very informative report. Thanks again!!
Our hotel was VERY close to the airport bus dock, so it really wasn't bad at all....I also have a European cell phone (based in the UK) so I could call the B&B if we really had trouble finding the place.

I've read that some hotels/B&Bs are so difficult to find, that someone comes to the vaporetto dock to lead the guests back to the hotel.

Like I said earlier, our only concern was wandering around in the dark on the first night trying to find the suggested restaurant and wondering if we might get lost.

In the BIG FLOOD photos ~ I liked the last one ~ the people shopping while wading in the water.

Last edited by JoanieBlon; 11-10-2010 at 05:33 AM..
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Old 11-10-2010   #49 (permalink)
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Joanie, dark is not a problem in Venice. But when the fog comes in it can be VERY spooky...
Andiline...kept thinking about the business with the fog. I grew up in Sacramento CA, and KNOW just how bad fog can get!

I decided to go looking for some examples of thick Winter fog in Venice and found this ~



I'm certain that visiting Venice in the Winter would be a VERY different experience than in the Summer. Not nearly as many tourists, I'd imagine, but not so many sidewalk cafes either...

And how about SNOW in Venice....with all the tiny, twisting alleys and bridges. Now THAT would be different! This video shows Venice in the snow ~ with HIGH WATER as well!

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Old 11-10-2010   #50 (permalink)
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Cool Gondolas!

Mention VENICE and generally what most people think of is GONDOLAS! Venice is FILLED with them ~ 100s and 100s of them cruising in the Grand Canal and the smaller rios.

I had *thought* about taking a gondola ride ~ but ~ those rides are extremely pricey! (With the Exception of ONE type of gondola ride! ) The rates are set by the City of Venice ~

Quote:
Venice has official rates for gondola rides, and the standard cost is €62 for a 50-minute ride. Exceeding that time will merit €31 per 25 minutes. At night, especially after 8pm, prices can reach €77.50 for 50 minutes. A gondola can carry up to six people.

However, these so-called official rates are not usually followed, so you will most probably end up paying €100. This doesn’t even guarantee you the promised 50-minute ride. Price hikes may also occur if you ask the gondolier to perform a song. This happens because gondoliers invest greatly in their gondolas. It costs about €20,000 for a hand-built wooden gondola that can last 20 years. Aside from having to recoup their investment, their means of living is also relatively higher, as living in Venice can be quite costly.

To avoid inconvenience, make sure that you and the gondolier have agreed on a rate before you enjoy your ride. You may end up remembering your gondola ride for the wrong reasons.
Mike and I enjoyed watching other folks taking their gondola rides. We've owned canoes, so the actual feeling on the water is probably about the same...

Here's some photos of the gondolas of Venice.

Covered gondolas tied up in the Grand Canal.



Note the ornate decorations in the interior of this gondola. This was pretty typical of the ones we saw, although some of them had plastic patio chairs for the extra passengers.



Notice the ONE WAY sign on the side of the building...and which way the gondolier is headed... BTW ~ those low doorways are "water" entrances into the buildings.



Some of the rios actually have a virtual "parade" of gondolas ~ one after the other.



Ahhh...Romantically cruising along in a gondola!



Now here is a CHEAP gondola ride! At certain spots crossing the Grand Canal ~ in between the bridges ~ there are special gondola "ferries" called Traghetto (plural - Traghetti) and the one-way fare for these is just €0,50! (about US $0.70) Of course, they're stripped out and not especially "romantic", but if a gondola ride is what you're wanting and at a BARGAIN price, this should fill the bill. Mike and I didn't do a traghetto ride, but I definitely want to try it on our next trip to Venice!

This traghetto goes back and forth between the Pescaria (fish market) and an area adjacent to Ca' D'Oro ~ north of the Rialto Bridge.



This YouTube video show people using a traghetto. Notice that they hand the gondolier their €0,50 and then climb in, walk towards the rear and then turn to face front. These Venetians make the journey standing up.

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Old 11-12-2010   #51 (permalink)
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Yay! Another Joanie trip report! Just discovered this and read page one- excited to pour through the whole report and pics this weekend!
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Old 11-12-2010   #52 (permalink)
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Post Bridges....

There are bridges EVERYWHERE in Venice. They're a necessity so that people can traverse the MANY small rios that criss-cross the city without having to resort to a boat or gondola.

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The city is actually made up of 117 islands with 409 bridges connecting them.




All these bridges ~ some quite small ~ and others quite large ~ such as the famous Ponte Rialto which spans the Grand Canal and has many shops (and STEPS) ~ are very scenic and play a part in the magic that Venice weaves. However, the bridges do create difficulties for folks with luggage or baby strollers. It goes without saying that all these bridges pose huge problems for anyone with mobility issues. I saw a few people with canes in Venice. I did not see ANYONE in a wheelchair or using a walker or crutches. Another issue for people with walking problems is the fact that many of the historic Venetian buildings which house the hotels and B&Bs do not have elevators.

Although Venice is not overly friendly towards disabled visitors, it is possible to enjoy the city if you have mobility issues. You just need to do thorough reseach when planning your trip.

Here's an article on Accessible Venice.

Here are just a few of the beautiful bridges of Venice.

The Rialto Bridge, with its unique "V" shape, is probably one of the most recognizable bridges in the world.



Due to boat and gondola traffic in the tiny rios, the arch of the bridges often has to be quite high to allow water vehicles to pass under them.



Quite often you'll encounter a series of two bridges where two rios converge.



Here's a bridge that leads to a small campo with a sidewalk cafe by the rio.



Many of the bridges have open iron-work sides ~ the ones in these two photos are solid brick.





Typical iron work hand railings on one of the bridges of Venice.



Two bridges side by side ~ one with concrete lace-like sides.



Walking up and down over all these bridges ~ and just generally walking all over Venice ~ helps burn off the calories from all the wonderful food and wine!

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Old 11-12-2010   #53 (permalink)
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Smile Hotel Al Ponte Antico

After our initial stay at the wonderful 3C B&B, I had arranged for ONE special night at the 4* Hotel Al Ponte Antico which is located in an historic palazzo on the Grand Canal just north of the Rialto Bridge. The name of the hotel translates as "the old bridge."

Mike and I checked out the location of the hotel prior to actually heading over there, so we'd know just EXACTLY where we were going. The most efficient way ~ both for ease of travel AND cost ~ was to take a vaporetto from the San Zaccaria stop ~ located very close to 3C B&B ~ up the Grand Canal to the Rialto stop. We did have ONE bridge to go over from that stop ~ but it wasn't too bad. The narrow streets in the area around the Rialto Bridge tend to be quite crowded, so we also had crowds to navigate through with our bags.

Before actually boarding the public vaporetto we checked with a private water taxi owner as to the cost to travel directly to the water entrance door of Al Ponte Antico.




The cost? €50! (about US $68.50) Nope. We purchased a 24 hour pass at the cost of €18 each (about US $24.65) for the vaporettos, which would also allow us to take one the following morning from the Rialto vaporetto stop to the Ferrovia Santa Lucia (train station) stop. We actually also used the pass to do a complete sightseeing round trip on the Grand Canal, so this worked out well for us.

You can read more about vaporettos and other public transportation in Venice Here and Here.

Even though Hotel Al Ponte Antico is VERY fancy and ornate (and EXPENSIVE!), it was located at the end of a TINY, NARROW alley ~ Calle dell'’Aseo ~ that had boxes of fruit stacked in it for a restaurant's use and laundry hanging from the lines of 2nd and 3rd story windows.

Somehow I never took inside pictures of our room and the public areas of the hotel. Here are a few I DID take, though...

Here's a shot of Hotel Al Ponte Antico that I managed to snap as we cruised by on the vaporetto. Our room was on the first floor (actually the 2nd floor) directly behind the balcony ~ the two windows to the right were our room. While this *seemed* ideal ~ it actually wasn't...more on that later!



Another shot of Al Ponte Antico from the Grand Canal ~ with a private water taxi near the water entrance into the hotel.



Hotel Al Ponte Antico as seen from the Rialto Bridge. You can see the burgundy awning over the balcony ~ just past the building with the scafolding.



A closer shot....taken from the bridge.



This is the view of the Grand Canal, taken from the balcony. BEAUTIFUL!!


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Old 11-13-2010   #54 (permalink)
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Post Hotel Al Ponte Antico ~ Review

Hotel Al Ponte Antico is a small 4* luxury hotel situated in an historic palazzo on the Grand Canal, just north of the Rialto Bridge. As shown in the last picture in my previous post, the views from the balcony are probably among the very best any hotel in Venice has to offer!

I booked our one night mid-week early October stay almost exactly 11 months in advance to make certain that they would have availability. I believe the hotel has just 4 rooms/suites. It is consistently rated THE NUMBER ONE hotel in all of Venice on Trip Advisor. It currently has 342 reviews ~ 319 of which are rated excellent. This description of the hotel ~ taken from our email confirmation ~ adequately sums up what you will find and experience there....
Quote:
The Al Ponte Antico Hotel in Venice offers you 4 types of rooms close to Rialto: Classic, Superior, Deluxe and Junior Suite. Decorated in Louis XV style and with valuable tapestries on the walls, all rooms are equipped with a direct telephone line, private safe, satellite TV, radio, mini-bar, air conditioning and free Internet connection.
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The ’Al Ponte Antico Hotel is a small and comfortable residence on the Grand Canal, offering highly personalized service and the renowned hospitality of the Peruch Family and its staff, always ready to satisfy your every need: from booking a splendid tour of the lagoon, to the precious advice that will allow you to enjoy the cuisine of a quality restaurant, to the pleasure of entertaining you by telling about the history of Venice and its people... A small 4-star residence directly on the Grand Canal and just a few steps from the Ponte di Rialto, the Al Ponte Antico Hotel enjoys an incomparable location with a view of the world's most beautiful waterway, where we will reserve you a small and cozy terrace to experience extraordinarily romantic moments. In the main room, embellished by an ancient wooden ceiling finely decorated by hand and the large glass doors on the Grand Canal, we will be glad to serve you a tasty and sumptuous breakfast that includes homemade pastries, delicious marmalade, assorted cold cuts and cheese, vegetables, eggs and crepes, fruit in season and many other delicacies.
I decided on the Superior Room for our one night, early October stay. The rate was €380 per night (about US $520) which included breakfast and all taxes. Mike and I normally do not stay in $500+ per night hotels, although we do make some exceptions when we consider the location and view to be "once in a lifetime" experiences. We had booked a similar type of room in London at the Marriott County Hall ~ with a balcony that looked out over the Thames River at Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

Inasmuch as my 64th birthday was also that week (celebrated in Pompeii) I sort of viewed our stay at Al Ponte Antico as a birthday present to myself.

From the moment we stepped through the front door of the hotel, all the staff addressed us by our first names ~ as if we were old friends on a visit to their home.

The following pictures of Hotel Al Ponte Antico were taken from their website ~

A night view from the Grand Canal.



View at dusk towards the Rialto Bridge from the terrace.



The lovely oranate indoor breakfast area. This seating, as well as the tables on the terrace, were available anytime of day for drinks from the small, well stocked bar. The door to our room is visable on the left at the end of the room by the leaded glass windows.



In the morning, this table was laden with all sorts of breakfast items just like in the description we received.



The bar area has this amazing espresso/cappuchino machine.



These beautiful cozy dining booths would be most appreciated on a chilly winter morning. We took our breakfast out on the terrace, as the weather was PERFECT ~ mild and sunny.



The owner, Matteo, prepares all sorts of eggs to order for his guests.



This was our room ~ which faced out onto the terrace ~ and the Grand Canal. Staying here was rather like being a princess in a fairy tale.



Note that in this photo, robes are shown on the bed, but none were waiting for us when we were escorted to our room. There were two pairs of terry slippers with the hotel's name printed on them, which we didn't use. I would have loved a robe to wear in the morning. I guess I should have called the front desk and asked why they weren't there, but I didn't.



Our room had an ornate, high ceiling with a Murano glass chandelier. The bed, while certainly beautiful to look at, was not NEARLY as comfortable as the one at 3C B&B where we stayed our first 2 nights.



One of the two tapestry covered "comfortable" chairs was MISSING a leg. Mike went to sit down in it and almost toppled to the floor. We reported it right away, but felt that was something staff *should* have noticed while vaccuuming. When touched, it was obvious that there was a problem with it.

Our biggest concern came in the morning when we truly discovered that the only apparent covering over the huge windows facing out onto the terrace were the sheer panels! The heavy tapestry draperies were just narrow, stationary panels that could not be drawn across the windows. Perhaps we *missed* something, but we could find NO WAY of blocking the view through from the terrace ~ which was being set up by staff for breakfast. Eventually guests were out on the terrace too, to claim the tables with the best views for breakfast This upset Mike no end, and because he was upset, I was upset....



There were several other smallish issues I/we had with our room. These weren't huge, but for the amount of money we were paying, it would have been nice to have these things addressed.

There was a rather large "dressing" (?) area between the room and the bathroom which contained an armoire. I say "dressing area" but this was basically just an alcove extension of the room with no door that could be closed between this area and the bedroom area, so you couldn't get away from the lack of privacy window issue there either. That dressing room had just one luggage rack. Two were provided at 3C B&B, which was REALLY nice, considering that most couples travel with at least one large suitcase each. I have a bad back and so HATE to dig through suitcases on the floor. Both Mike and I are extremely conscientious guests and NEVER set our suitcases on beds or upholstered furniture. For a 4* luxury hotel, two luggage racks would have been VERY nice to have.

The bathroom, while quite large, had a rather small shower tucked into one corner ~ think "cheap American motel" kind of shower. Mike had a difficult time taking a shower in there. I would have to say that the bathroom in our room at Hotel Al Ponte Antico could not begin to compare with the one we enjoyed at 3C B&B ~ at a MUCH lower rate per night.

I haven't posted a review of Al Ponte Antico on Trip Advisor yet, but after re-hashing our complaints about our room here, I feel a letter to the owner of the hotel is in order.

The LOCATION!!!! of the hotel is beautiful. The service is top-notch. The public areas are lovely and well maintained.....BUT....I feel that all in all, should (when!) we visit Venice again, we would definitely stay at 3C B&B for €170 per night versus staying at Al Ponte Antico for €380+ a night. The beautiful terrace view of the Grand Canal can be easily had from the numerous sidewalk cafes there ~ and at a MUCH lower price.

When checking out of the Hotel Al Ponte Antico, the person at reception offered to call a private water taxi to their dock to pick us up for our trip up the Grand Canal to the train station. The cost? €50 again ~ even though the trip was QUITE short! You pay EXTRA when the taxi is called for a pick-up.

Here's a private water taxi dropping off passengers in front of the Venice Santa Lucia train station.



We decided to use our vaporetto passes to get to the station ~ even though it meant trudging with our suitcases over a bridge to get to the Rialto stop and then getting PACKED in with the morning commuters!

Here's a couple of tips about riding the vaporetti....the docks receive both northbound AND southbound water buses. Make CERTAIN that the one you get onto is headed in the right direction! We didn't experience this problem, but I KNOW it happens! We DID experience another problem, though! When boarding ~ as a couple or a small group ~ make CERTAIN that you are all right next to one another and that you get on in unison! When Mike and I embarked on our Grand Canal sightseeing trip, I got on...BUT an attendent on the dock decided that the boat was full and wouldn't allow Mike to board. I looked around for him after the boat was out into the water and he was nowhere to be seen!! Literally ~ I was almost in tears! Happily, the NEXT stop up from the Rialto stop ~ the fish market stop ~ was quite close. I hopped off, dashed through the streets, back over the Grand Canal via the Rialto Bridge and went back to our hotel. The receptionist smiled at me when I entered and told me that Mike was waiting for me up in the room. We set out once again ~ this time holding hands as we boarded the vaporetto!

The train station vaporetto dock is to the right of the building. You can see in the photo above that there are LOTS of steps up to the building! NOT GOOD when lugging suitcases around! However ~ if you proceed around to the right side of the building, there's a ramp, which allows you to pull or push your bags along with ease!

Because we had train passes, we needed to go to the ticket windows to have them "activated" for the first time before using them. We just showed our passports and the agent stamped the passes with a date stamp. Ours had to be used within 2 months of the date of activation.

Because we were unfamiliar with the train station and what we would find there, we arrived about 1-1/2 hours before our train was scheduled to depart. This gave us plenty of time to get our passes activated and to check out the layout of the station.

The Venice train station is all on one level. The arriving and departing trains appear to have engines on both ends. This allows them to pull into the dead end of the station, and then depart the same way that they arrived.

About 10 to 15 minutes before a train arrives or departs, large electronic boards display the appropriate tracks.

Mike and I had well over an hour before we could board our train for Florence, so we decided to go find some refreshments while we waited. In the Venice Santa Lucia Station, there's a fairly large "snack bar/cafe'/pizzeria" inside, but because the weather was so pleasant, Mike and I decided to go take a short walk along the Sestiere Cannaregio to check out the tourist shops there and the NUMEROUS sidewalk cafes that were near the train station. We finally decided on one ~ where we enjoyed beer and wine and several small salami sandwiches to tide us over until we got into Florence. Our non-stop express train was scheduled to depart Venice at 11:27am and arrive in Florence at 1:30pm. The train was right on schedule! We got on ~ placed our bags in the spacious racks over our seats ~ and bid arrivederci to enchanting Venice. I HATED to leave ~ but there were more adventures to be had and places to explore....

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Old 11-13-2010   #55 (permalink)
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After going through our photos of Venice ~ I felt a few final parting images would be appropriate before continuing on to Florence. Many of these photos are sort of self explanatory....

This little fruit and vegetable stand was set up in a large campo in the Castello district.



All of the following shots were taken in the market near the Rialto Bridge. All the wonderful produce and seafood made we wish we had an apartment there so we could do some cooking!





Mushrooms were VERY popular all over Italy. In Rome, you would see crates of them stacked outside of restaurants.



I thought the "bouquets" of little red peppers were BEAUTIFUL! And a bargain at €5 for 3 bunches....



The vast array of fish and seafood from the Adriatic, the Venice Lagoon and the little rios was outstanding! Mike and I are HUGE seafood fans.



LOOK at the size of those grapes! Like walnuts!



Here are some assorted scenes of Venice..







Actually, there was an abundance of clock towers scattered through the city.



I loved this little fish light that decorated a outdoor cafe.



These colorful and interesting plastic hanging lights were a bargain at only €10 each. If I could have figured out a way to bring one home, I would have. Actually, in retrospect, I should have shipped one home!



Venice (and Rome as well) had some really interesting door pulls...





In many parts of the city, due to an absence of DIRT, there weren't any trees, but people had lovely flower boxes and vine covered terraces, as well as potted plants and small trees.

In the photo below you can see the lovely vine covered terrace above a shop on the widest street in Venice. The local people typically dressed just like you see them here ~ and in the windows of the shop. LOTS of jeans, plus SHORT shirts and boots ~ AND the ever present scarf wound around the neck....





The silver metal circles of the wall of the building in the photo below are the end of cables running through the building to keep the walls from collapsing outwards. You will see these all over Venice. (I used to see them in New England as well...)



Donald Duck constructed from Legos. All of the signs pointing this way and that sort of reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. To get to Piazza San Marco, do you go right or left??



A beautiful church along the waterfront ~ and private water taxis.



One last goodbye to BEAUTIFUL Venice...the Italian and Venetian flags...



AND one little last tip as well.. if you decide to visit Venice and have a portable GPS ~ bring it along to help guide you through all the little streets and alleyways.

Last edited by JoanieBlon; 11-14-2010 at 08:25 AM..
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Old 11-13-2010   #56 (permalink)
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What a wonderful report on Venice.


I kind of chuckled about the bathroom shower. When looking at room reviews in Italy, I noticed right off the bat that the reviews of the showers were not good. Since Slim and I are not "petite" people I started to be sure of what size the shower was. More than anything, Slim and I love a good hot soak after a long day of touring...I found a wonderful hotel in Rome with a shower and a Bathtub!!! The only other place I found a bathtub was in Roccamena Sicily, but the water there was yellowish and smelled like sulpher...I would have prefered the shower.

I guess you figured out when the reviews said the rooms in Italy are small.. they weren't joking.

I agree...A GPS is a must.
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Old 11-14-2010   #57 (permalink)
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What a wonderful report on Venice.


I kind of chuckled about the bathroom shower. When looking at room reviews in Italy, I noticed right off the bat that the reviews of the showers were not good. Since Slim and I are not "petite" people I started to be sure of what size the shower was. More than anything, Slim and I love a good hot soak after a long day of touring...I found a wonderful hotel in Rome with a shower and a Bathtub!!! The only other place I found a bathtub was in Roccamena Sicily, but the water there was yellowish and smelled like sulpher...I would have prefered the shower.

I guess you figured out when the reviews said the rooms in Italy are small.. they weren't joking.

I agree...A GPS is a must.
Actually, all of the rooms we stayed in while we were in Italy were pretty good sized, but then Mike and I generally don't stay in huge suites when we travel, so we may have different ideas about what is "large." I made CERTAIN that I was able to view some photos of all the rooms I booked so we didn't get ourselves into situations were the room was only as wide as the bed! I've seen some where that was the case...

The bathroom itself at Hotel Al Ponte Antico was quite spacious. Actually there was LOTS of extra room that would have allowed for a larger and nicer shower. I just thought for the price that they're charging per night for the room, the shower should have been larger and more modern ~ not like one of those corner affairs you find at a Motel 6. Additionally, the shower didn't drain well and I was afraid that the bottom "pan" might actually overflow.

Our room in Rome ~ and I'll get to this in detail when I actually start in on our report about Rome ~ was WONDERFUL!!!!! I would not EVER consider staying anywhere else than the place we stayed at ~ Best Pantheon B&B!

I took lots of photos of the room we had there, but can't find them at the moment....so...did a quick search and was able to turn up what I was looking for. You know ~ the Internet still boggles my mind... that I can actually find NUMEROUS photos of a bathroom in a specific room that we stayed at in a tiny, 4 room B&B in Rome!

We had a 2 person Jacuzzi tub and open shower combination in the room we stayed in ~ VERY nice! The bathroom had a slate floor, so if you splashed water around ~ no problem. There WAS a sign requesting that you not turn on the Jacuzzi whirlpool function between 2pm and 4pm (nap time!) and after 10pm at night, as the sound might disturb other guests.

Here are the photos I grabbed from Trip Advisor and another site:








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Old 11-14-2010   #58 (permalink)
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Amazingly delightful, Joanie! I am really loving your report!
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Old 11-14-2010   #59 (permalink)
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Amazingly delightful, Joanie! I am really loving your report!
Glad you like it! I love writing them....it's almost like taking the trip all over again!

I had a thought lately...IF I could manage to do "compact" and "concise" trip reports , I wonder if I'd have any luck selling them as a freelance writer to newspapers ~ like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, etc.? I thought about this, as I JUST read a one page article in the WSJ about the Los Angeles to Seattle train trip on the Coast Starlight train that we'll be taking next August.

IF I could get published every now and then and actually make a bit of money as a freelance writer, perhaps I could write off some of my travel expenses as "work related...."

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Old 11-17-2010   #60 (permalink)
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FLORENCE (Firenze) Italy! This well preserved Rennaissance city has had many famous people call it home...

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Florence is arguably the best preserved Renaissance city in the world and is regarded by many as the art capital of Italy. It has been the birthplace or chosen home of many notable historical figures, such as Dante, Boccaccio, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Niccolò Machiavelli, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Donatello, Galileo Galilei, Catherine de' Medici, Antonio Meucci, Guccio Gucci, Franco Zeffirelli, Salvatore Ferragamo, Roberto Cavalli, and Emilio Pucci. Florence is often known as the "Jewel of the Renaissance".
The popular storybook character, Pinocchio, was created here by Carlo Collodi.

And who can think of Florence without thinking of the very powerful and infamous Medici family who controlled the fate of that city for so long...

Quote:
A turbulent political history included periods of rule by the powerful Medici family, religious and republican revolution. From 1865 to 1870 the city was also the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.
Florence has no less than an amazing 70 Museums displaying all manner of artwork, including Michelangelo's masterpiece, "David," which is now housed in the Accademia Gallery.

Mike and I arrived at the Florence train station, Santa Maria Novella, at about 1:30pm after our pleasant 2 hour trip from Venice.

I had booked our one night stay at Soggiorno Panerai which is in a VERY central location and comes HIGHLY recommended on Trip Advisor. Our double room with a complete breakfast and all taxes was a very reasonable €100 (about US $140.00) per night. In my communications with Albena, who owns/runs the B&B and speaks very good English, I was AMAZED that she did not require a credit card to hold our room, and did not require any sort of a deposit! BTW ~ she, and her husband Walter, accept credit cards, which often isn't the norm for B&Bs in Europe. Also, Albena was able/willing to make reservations for us in advance for any of the museums we might like to visit, so we wouldn't waste valuable time standing in line. We declined this nice offer, as Mike and I aren't too into being herded through museums, gawking at paintings and sculptures with throngs of frequently inconsiderate people. We DID, however, go to the Vatican Museums in Rome....

The information on the Soggiorno Panerai website states that they are located a "5 minute walk" from the Florence train station, but it took Mike and I considerably longer ~ more than 20 minutes ~ as we accidentally took a street that wasn't the most direct route PLUS walking along with luggage in tow isn't the easiest in Florence with its uneven cobblestone streets and sidewalks.



In one respect, it's pretty easy to find Soggiorno Panerai initially ~ and also to find your way back ~ because of its location in a street directly behind the Duomo. This amazing building is visible from all over Florence, and so you always have a reference point.

Because of the difficulties with the sidewalks and streets, and the actual distance from the train station, we probably would have been better off to break down and part with a few Euros for a taxi. It was also VERY warm on the day we arrived, and hauling our suitcases along made Mike very uncomfortable.

We found the B&B with very little difficulty, once we got to Via dei Servi.



Soggiorno Panerai conveniently located between the Duomo and the
Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. These photos ~ taken from Piazza Annuziata ~ show just how close to the Duomo this area is. The B&B was about one block toward the Duomo on the right side of the street (from this perspective).

Note in the first photo, that inspite of what you ALWAYS hear about Italians NOT wearing sneakers and that wearing them will identify you as "American," ~ these two sudents have sneakers on their feet! I'll be showing you MORE later. American "style" (and comfort) is creeping its way into Italy little by little....





When we arrived at the ground floor entrance to Soggiorno Panerai, we were VERY happy to find that the building has a elevator, so we didn't have to manhandle our luggage up the stairs!

Walter and Albena met us at the door of the B&B, which is located on the "Primo Piano" or first floor (our 2nd floor) of the building. I had requested a specific room which faced out to Via dei Servi, which, sadly wasn't available. We were shown to a spacious "triple" room which had a large window looking out into the inner courtyard of the building.





I was somewhat amazed to see banana trees growing in the courtyard...as it gets fairly cold in Florence during the winter, but they grow around New Orleans, and it gets pretty darn cold there at times too.



Taking EVERYTHING into consideration, I would probably opt to stay at Soggiorno Panerai if we ever found the occasion to visit Florence again. The price is REALLY good, Albena and Walter are exceedingly friendly & helpful, Albena speaks very good English, our room was spacious and clean, and the breakfast, brought to our room by Albena, was OUTSTANDING! Espresso, Cappuchino, or hot chocolate, orange juice, fresh fruit, a fritatta, meats and cheeses, cereal and milk, toast and jam, and yogurt. When we checked out, we were also allowed to store our luggage there until it was time for us to head over to the train station.

However ~ there were a few negative issues ~ nothing TERRIBLE. In fact, in light of THE MANY glowing 5* reviews on TripAdvisor, I almost feel like a traitor bringing these things up....

The common hallway was rather cluttered with assorted "this and that," which in my mind sort of gave a negative appearance to the overall feeling of the B&B. There was also an open window into a room that was cluttered with laundry? Our bed/s (two twins pushed together) wasn't overly comfortable ~ plus it squeeked pretty loudly whenever either of us turned over. There were mosquitos in the room. Albena plugged in some sort of little machine as soon as we arrived that was supposed to either drive them away or kill them ~ I'm not sure which. We left the window open all night for the cool evening air (even though the room had AC ~ we chose not to run it) so we had a couple of them buzzing around the room, but it didn't bother us too much. Having our room face into the courtyard was "supposed" to be quieter, according to Albena, BUT we experienced quite a bit of noise from the other residents of the building (possibly students??) talking and laughing VERY loudly, playing music, etc., until fairly late. I suppose if we had shut the window, it would have helped with the noise. The bathroom was "adequate" but had a rather peculiar "electric" toilet that for some reason needed to be plugged in. It operated normally. I wish that I had taken a photo of it. The AC unit in the room had a drain that snaked down the wall into a bottle sitting on the floor that looked like an old antifreeze bottle. Functional ~ but again ~ these things sort of took away from the general "feel" of the place. One thing that might bother quite a few people (didn't present any problems for us) is that Albena smokes up a storm in the hallway. I don't know if smoking is allowed in the 5 rooms ~ there's nothing mentioned on the website about this (edit: Mike just reminded me that there was a "NO SMOKING" sign posted on the wall when we walked in) ~ BUT if you're highly sensitive to cigarette smoke, you might want to take that into consideration when booking a room here, as Albena DOES smoke in the B&B ~ and she smokes quite a bit.

The street where Soggiorno Panerai is located is VERY convenient. There's a self-service laundromat about 3 doors down ~ which I utilized during our brief stay. There are also a number of VERY reasonable bars and eateries on the street and nearby. After strolling around the city, we wandered into one located in Via dei Servi ~ fairly close to the Duomo. This place had a "happy hour" and offered all sorts of tasty snacks out on a table ~ ratatouille, olives, nuts, etc., that you could help yourself to with no charge, if you ordered a drink! I tried the ratatouille and it was REALLY good!! There seemed to be several bars/osterias/trattorias in the same block that had similar deals ~ free snacks if you were drinking.

Last edited by JoanieBlon; 11-17-2010 at 12:52 PM..
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