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  1. #91

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report



    Today was a travel day. Our tour group was leaving the serenity of Tuscany and taking a Eurostar bullet train from Florence to Venice. We grabbed our sack lunches and boarded the tour bus. As we descended from our villa for the last time I thought about how much I had enjoyed our time here so far, and that the trip still wasn’t over.




    Our bus driver Marious got us safely to the train station and we said our goodbyes to him. He had been an excellent driver, and he had given us quite a few laughs along the way.
    Our train arrived within ½ an hour, and we boarded the first-class car anticipating the journey we were about to embark on.




    It was a pleasant and relaxing 2 ½ hour ride to Venice. It was interesting to watch the landscape change as we hurtled towards Venice.



    Marco checks in to see how things are going…

    When we arrived in Venice, there was an excitement in the air as our group walked towards the doors of the train depot. I think all of us were eagerly anticipating seeing the “City of Canals”.


    We walked out of the train depot and Venice unfolded before us.


    Marco and Tina made sure to take pictures of every couple at the train station dock.


    We were then introduced to Davide', Disney’s point man in Venice. He was responsible for making arrangements for our gondolas, tour guide, and hotel water taxi’s.

    Davide' (left) and Marco (right) escort us to the gondolas.

    Davide' guided us to a gondola dock about 150 yards from the train depot, where we had 9 gondolas waiting. Each gondola carried roughly 2 couples.


    He then joined our gondola.


    It was helpful having him on board because he was able to explain why some buildings had mirror facades (to provide an aesthetically satisfying façade while being renovated)


    We continued our gondola tour as we ventured past small canal routes, other gondolas, and slowly-decaying palaces.








    After around 20 minutes, we stopped and our Venice tour guide met us as we disembarked from our gondolas.


    We then walked thru the narrow streets of Venice as she explained the history of Venice.


    We stopped in an elevated courtyard as she explained that it was elevated to protect the water supply back when they drew water from cisterns. Venice now pumps water in from the mainland and all the cisterns are welded shut.


    We passed a sarcophagus that was mounted on a wall in the courtyard, it had been there for over 600 years!




    We continued our walk towards Saint Marks Square as we passed small shops, historic buildings, and monuments.









    At one point we came upon an area where the gondolier’s pick up their fares. It was nightmare of gondolas!




    Our group came into a small square, where our tour guide was beginning to tell us about Marco Polo, when a man who’s features were covered by a cape, began singing in a corner of the square. He then slowly walked towards us as he lowered the hood on his cape. He introduced himself as Marco Polo and told us his story of being born in Venice and traveling to China and his subsequent journey’s.


    He then told us that he brought treasure back from China just for us. One of the members of our group volunteered to open the treasure chest, which revealed…


    Disney pins...

    Well, he did say they were from China!

    After leaving Marco Polo behind, we walked some more…






    ...we soon entered Saint Marks Square.


    We visited the Basilica, and checked out the exterior of the Doges Palace, home to Venice’s Doge, or chief magistrate.









    After 30 minutes of exploring, we said goodbye to our tour guide and loaded into water taxi’s…



    …for a short trip to our hotel. Once again we were traveling thru the watery streets of Venice, taking in the views.




    We arrived at the Hotel Dei Dogi, yet another 5-star hotel!


    Once home to the French and Savoyan embassies, it sits on land that previously had been used for growing crops. Because of that, it is one of the only places in Venice that can boast about it’s extensive gardens.







    Real estate is at a major premium in Venice, and having a garden area like this is quite a feather in your cap apparently.

    Darlene and I were lucky enough to have a bungalow in the back of the hotel, which meant you had to walk thru the gardens to get to our room.





    There was a dock within 40 feet of our room that looked out over the Venice Lagoon towards the Mainland.



    Our room was really nice, especially by European standards.







    After unpacking, we took a nap before meeting our group for dinner at 6:30. Tina had us meet in the lobby at 6pm, so she could take us on a short walk to show where we could go to find some restaurants… but we had made other plans.

    I had talked to some of the other Adventurers during the day, and there was a restaurant down by Saint Marks Square that we wanted to try. It was a canal-side setting that had gotten great reviews in the Rick Steve’s Venice tour book. We had Marco make 7:30 ressies for us since he speaks Italian. There were going to be 6 of us for dinner, so we figured the best way to get there was by water taxi. But water taxi’s are pricey (80 or $110), so we rounded up 4 Junior Adventurers and we divided the cost of the water taxi by 10. Now it was more than palatable (€8, or $11) to take a water taxi!

    Our happy group loaded into the water taxi as dusk settled on Venice.



    The driver took us to the Grand Canal for our trip to Saint Marks.




    Pretty girl...

    Along the way we passed the Rialto Bridge, a Venice landmark.






    Upon arrival at Saint Marks, we disembarked and made arrangements with the Junior Adventurers to meet later that night in Saint Marks Square for a nightcap around 10:30 pm.
    Our group then wound our way thru the narrow alleys and backways to our dining destination. We eventually discovered Trattoria da Giorgio ai Greci (aka "Georges Over-Rated Ristorante"!)

    Sitting on a quite canal, the setting itself was beautiful. Unfortunately, the guidebook recommendation had ruined the restaurant. The first tip-off should have been that no one there was Italian, including the wait staff! The waitress we had was curt, at best, and required us to order all of our meal at once. This was in stark contrast to other Italian dining establishments we had visited in Italy.

    As I previously stated in one of my earlier trip reports, food in Italy is something to be savored and celebrated without time constraints! When you get a table for dinner, it’s yours for the evening. There is no “table turning” in Italy. But this restaurant was different. They wanted everything ordered in the beginning so they could get your food out as quickly as possible, and subsequently move you out of the restaurant faster.

    It looks good, but was only so-so...


    I swear... the wine and the company was the only thing that had me smiling!

    We got the message soon enough, and were happy to oblige the ungrateful waitress. Our food was less than memorable, and when we were done it was decided that we should cut our losses and find dessert somewhere else.

    The six of us walked back to Saint Marks Square and met up with one of the Junior Adventurer couple’s and headed for Harry’s Bar, another Venice landmark.


    We walked into Harry’s and asked for a table for 8 and we were escorted up to the 2nd floor. Almost everyone ordered Bellini’s which Harry’s is famous for. It didn’t take very long for us to realize that we had fallen into one of Venice’s biggest tourist traps. Our drinks were outrageously priced, and again, the wait staff was rude. They had a “No Photographs” rule, which is understandable if there are other diners nearby, but we had a room to ourselves.

    We were allowed one picture, which unfortunately was taken with someone else’s camera. Unanimously, we decided that Harry’s Bar in Venice was also over-rated and not nearly as friendly as the one in Rome, so we beat a hasty retreat.

    We then meandered back to Saint Marks Square to take in some music while enjoying gelatos. The soothing tunes soon washed away our bad dining experiences and we were once again savoring the sights and sounds of Venice at night.

    Chilling out listening to Sting's "Englishman in New York"

    After a short time, it was decided that we should get ourselves a water taxi back to the hotel, before everyone tried to leave Saint Marks at the same time.


    Within minutes we were quietly gliding thru Venices waterways back to our hotel for some much-needed rest.

    Tomorrow: We visit a Venice mask-making shop, and create our own masks. Then we explore Venice on our own and have a farewell dinner at the hotel.

    FINISH THE JOURNEY!! CLICK HERE!!
    Last edited by Circarama; 11-06-2008 at 10:15 PM.
    Charlie
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  2. #92

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    WOW. What a trip.

    Someone looks very happy:

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  3. #93

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    Bravo, once again.

  4. #94

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    The masks!! I spent hours picking one out when I was there. It is a beautiful city, is it still stinky??

    Will trade husband for Disneyland and DCA Pins!

  5. #95

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by BFJen View Post
    The masks!! I spent hours picking one out when I was there. It is a beautiful city, is it still stinky??
    No...I don't remember any smelly areas...except for the fish market and even that smelled fresh. Maybe because it was cooler weather.
    Tigerlily
    aka Mrs. Circarama


  6. #96

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    Did you know that my name in Italian is Davide? Cool stuff, huh? But I just wish you would have given me time to put on my clothes before taking a picture of me!

    Quote Originally Posted by Circarama View Post
    Anyway I digress...

    Sorry about your experiences in Venice. I know from my relatives who have been to various places in Italy, Venice was not one of their favorites. I remember one of them saying they saw a dead rat floating in the canal when they were on their romantic gondola ride. Ugh!

  7. #97

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    This report just keeps getting better and better. By the way Tigerlily I love this shot of the motorcycle guy, too bad someone's head is behind his.


  8. #98

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    They may have fixed the canal system - it used to be part of the sewer system as well. Not the best smelling.

    I am loving every minute of your report though!! Thank you guys for sharing it all!

    Will trade husband for Disneyland and DCA Pins!

  9. #99

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report



    Thursday morning was the beginning of our last full day in Italy. We had breakfast and gathered with our fellow Adventurers at 9am in anticipation of the days events. Marco and Tina led us on a walk thru the narrow streets of Venice as we wound our way towards the Grand Canal. As we walked, I snapped away at anything and everything that caught my eye.








    We eventually came to the Grand Canal, but there was no bridge. Hmmm… now what.

    As luck would have it, there was a traghetto station right in front of us. Traghetto are a gondola-type boat that is used to transport people cheaply across the Grand Canal. It usually costs €.50, and folks who are crossing usually stand while doing so. Of course, all of us flat-landers were holding on to each other lest we fall in one-by-one, but we made it across.


    Once across, we were at the morning vegetable, and fish markets. They are right next to each other which makes it easy to do your shopping.












    I didn’t see any supermarkets in Venice… only the fish and vegetable marketplace, some small stores, and specialty shops, like the butcher…


    the bakery…






    … and the spice shop.


    We even caught this guy running beef from a delivery barge to the butcher shop a few blocks away!


    Eventually we came upon Tragi Comica an amazing shop where they make, paint, decorate and sell Venetian masks.











    Minnie's popular 'round the world!

    They also have mask-painting workshops... that's why we were here.

    After hearing the history of the Venetian mask…


    … we were led out of the store and around a corner into a narrow alley, with an open door at the end of it. Next to the door was a table with around 50 different masks, all plain white in color. We then chose a mask that we liked, and were led upstairs to a room with tables and chairs.


    We were then introduced to Erica and Walter. They would be helping us to personalize our masks. Erica mixed whatever paint colors we wanted, and then she provided pointers on how to paint the masks. She was great! We then were left to our own devices as we let the creative juices flow.




    Once we had them painted the way we wanted…




    …we then took them to Walter who helped us out by adding things like beads, jewels, feathers, or foil trim to our masks. He was also very adept at adding small details that made the masks POP!




    I have to be honest here folks. When I heard we were gonna do this mask-making, I seriously considered blowing off the whole thing and seeing another museum, or going shopping. I’m so glad that I didn’t. This was one of the most enjoyable things that we did on this trip! It was an absolute blast to just let go, imagine and create! I can’t thank Disney enough for including this in the tour, and I can’t give the fine folks at Tragi Comica enough praise! They were very patient and very kind. Disney has picked a wonderful "edu-tainment" partner in Tragi Comica!

    After leaving Tragi Comica I put the camera away, and we decided to get some lunch. We found a nice little corner café that had pre-made pannini in the window. We ordered, they grilled ’em, and we had an awesome lunch. Just another day in Venice… watching the crowds walk by.

    We decided at lunch that we had some shopping to get done before leaving Italy, and this was really our last chance. So off we went in search of scarves, glass rings, gloves and other trinkets for the kids back home. While Darlene shopped…


    …I hung around outside and took some interesting pictures and video.







    Click to view video.

    I even caught a Venice ambulance on the way to a call.

    Click to view video.

    By mid-afternoon, we were getting pretty tired… time for espresso!!


    After our espresso‘s, we slowly worked our way back to the hotel, and laid down for awhile before getting ready for our farewell dinner. Dinner was to be in a large tent they had set up outside the lobby of the hotel, but we met some of our fellow Adventurers in the bar for a cocktail before dinner.

    Around 6:30, Tina and Marco called us all into the main lobby. Once we were assembled, a masked gentleman named Pantalone came in and explained that his character is commonly referenced in the Italian comedic arts. He then went on to tell a few jokes which the group loved.


    Then he asked for a volunteer… I was in the back taking pictures, but he looked at me and I knew I was a goner. He came thru the crowd and escorted me to the front, where he had a good laugh at my red face.


    He then proceeded to say that he had a cure for me, and he pulled out the worlds biggest syringe.


    Of course, I had to then “take the shot”, which, naturally, got a big laugh!


    Pantalone then excused himself and we were asked to go outside to see our finished masks.








    We were all really impressed with the final products, and it was cool to see how everyone had decorated their masks.






    We then sat down and dinner began. I was just settling into my second glass of wine , when I was asked to give a toast to Marco and Tina. Luckily I pulled it off, even though I was beginning to feel the wine!

    For dinner, we had quite a feast which began with a raw veal appetizer, followed by a delectable pasta, a salad, and either a seafood plate, or a beef plate. Dessert was one last chance to eat tiramisu in Italy, and we didn't miss the opportunity.

    After our meal, we were surprised by another performer who came in and asked us to move into the salon for a special performance.


    The trio of ladies in period costume who had been playing music for our dinner party had moved into the salon and we were introduced to some dancers who were going to display a traditional “Il Minuetto” dance.

    Click to view video.

    After that, we were invited up to do the “bowing” portion of the dance. We then received a certificate in the fundamentals of “Il Minuetto”

    Click to view video. (Sorry about the camera being turned sideways!)

    Our celebration then ended and some of us went back to the bar for a nightcap before calling it a night.



    The next morning was a whirlwind. We packed, got our bags to the door by 7:45 and were eating breakfast by 8:15. Tina and Marco then called us to leave at 8:45. We went outside and saw our transportation to the airport.






    We loaded in along with Tina and some of our fellow Adventurers and we cruised out of Venice’s waterways into the open lagoon for a speedy trip to the airport.






    Once we were at the airport, we said goodbye to some of our fellow Adventurers, and chatted with the ones that were on our flight. Couple by couple, we continued our goodbyes as we touched down in various cities on our journey halfway back around the globe.

    We had just enjoyed an amazing vacation, and even after we got home 21 hours (and nine time zones) later, we were still recalling all of the wonderful events we had been a party to in Italy. I want to personally thank the “Adventures By Disney” staff and the entire “Viva Italia” team for an awesome vacation. It truly had been the trip of a lifetime… one that Darlene and I will fondly remember forever!!
    THE END!
    Last edited by Circarama; 11-06-2008 at 10:25 PM.
    Charlie
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  10. #100

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    What an absolutely fantastically, spectacular TR. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you so much for sharing it with us! What a wonderful trip you two had.


    And Darlene, your mask came out gorgeous!



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  11. #101

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    Bravo! Bravo!

    I think you need to go on awesome vacations more often so that we can read, what I'd say are, the best Trip Reports in Mice Chat.

    Fantastic, Charlie and Darlene. Thank you so much for sharing.

    To live would be an awfully big adventure.

  12. #102

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    This report was wonderful Charlie and Darlene and I appreciate you taking the time and effort to post all of the great pictures with commentary. I am very sad now that it has ended.

  13. #103

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Missviolet View Post
    I think you need to go on awesome vacations more often so that we can read, what I'd say are, the best Trip Reports in Mice Chat.
    Let's hope someone from "Adventures By Disney" reads your post and follows up with me... I'd love to be there "Trip Reporter"!

    Quote Originally Posted by Pratt55
    This report was wonderful Charlie and Darlene and I appreciate you taking the time and effort to post all of the great pictures with commentary. I am very sad now that it has ended.
    Thanks for the props Lisa! I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. Sorry you're so sad about it ending though... sounds like someone needs a trip to Cabella's for a little "happy time"!
    Charlie
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  14. #104

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    Those masks turned out amazing! What a neat adventure you all had!!!! Thanks for helping the rest of us experience it!

    Will trade husband for Disneyland and DCA Pins!

  15. #105

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    BRAVO!!! Charlie thank you and Darlene for sharing such an amazing trip! You've a real talent for bringing the reader in. Only things missing for me are the jetlag and the loot. LOL

    Best TR of the year!!
    Just countin' the days til the next visit!

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