We decided to visit Venice for our anniversary this year. Alex had been before, but I had never been. We spent almost 2 weeks in Italy, about 5 days in Venice and then 5 more days traveling around the Veneto region outside of Venice.
Our first five days were spent in Venice. We stayed in a wonderful hotel near the Accademia and bridge of the same name. We did all of the normal tourist things and took in all of the sites. We also visited the island of Murano to see the works of glass.
Our next five days were spent driving around the Veneto. We visited Padua first and the Basilica Sant' Antonio, also known as Il Santo. There are a lot of serious folks who make pilgrimages to see and spend time at the basilica, and the church has an absolutely incredible collection of Sant'Antonio's relics, from his fingertips to his larynx. Most of the shops near here sell religious items and relics instead of your more typical souvenirs.
Our next stop was Vicenza to see the architecture of Palladio. There are many different styles of palazzi and a beautiful basilica that were built and designed by him. The most stunning thing here is the Teatro Olimpico, Europe's oldest surviving indoor theatre, dating from 1585. The theatre is built largely of wood and painted to look like marble. It probably looks almost as good today as it did when it opened!
The Lake Garda area is very beautiful. I think Alex described it as the equivalent of Lake Tahoe with Sonoma Valley on the shore. The area has many wineries and is very charming. We went to Sirmione first, the spit of land sticking out into the southern part of the lake. The main attraction is the Rocca Scaligeri castle. The town is very pretty, with cobblestoned streets and small shops.
One thing the Lake Garda region and the Veneto are known for is wine. We were looking for a particular type of wine called Amarone. It is a very special type of wine made with an unusual process. They partially dry the grapes before they are pressed to concentrate the flavor. We were lucky to find several bottles in Sirmione and at our next stop, Bardolino.
Bardolino is a cute town right on the lake. We had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the lake, had a bottle of Amarone and enjoyed a beautiful sunny afternoon. After lunch, we went looking in some shops for some more wine to take home and found some in a small grocery. The lady didn't speak much English, but said her husband runs the wine shop across the way and he would be back any minute. It was definitely worth the wait. Boy, did he know the wines of the region. He also had several types of wine we hadn't seen anywhere else, and for reasonable prices. We bought several more bottles to take home. I think we brought 7 bottles plus a magnum of Amarone home from the trip (California prohibits international shipments to a home). Made the suitcases and carryons much heavier!
Off to Verona next. We weren't able to visit the Roman Arena because Elton John was doing the sound check for a concert that evening. We were able to hear him warming up (and see him a bit through an arch), but weren't able to stay since we were heading home the next day. We wandered through town and visited museums, castles, and churches, and did make a quick detour to see Casa di Giulietta, Juliet's house and the famous balcony.
We headed home the next morning after enjoying another great trip.