Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bologna, Venice

Boys in front of Ferrari Museum
On our way up to Northern Italy from Umbria we took a pit stop for 1 day into Bologna.    The reason being twofold and a bit frivolous.  The first was to visit the Ferrari factory, and the second was to find a really good Lasagna Bolognese.    The Ferrari factory is a little bit out of Bologna in a rural town called Maranello.  I learned that Enzo Ferrari, the founder, was from this area (Modena specifically) and built his company here where every Ferrari is made from the street cars to the F1 race cars.    We visited the museum and got a good look at their history of cars.   My favorite part was seeing the one off cars that they experimented with and sometimes sold to special clients such as Eric Clapton.   When we left the museum there were several different companies nearby offering tourists the opportunity to drive a Ferrari for a hefty price.   I wasn’t planning on doing this but after hearing someone fire up a Ferarri 458 Italia, I folded and paid for a 10 minute test drive.  I figured I wasn’t going to have many opportunities to drive a $250,000 car with almost 600 horsepower.    I’m a bit of a car nut, so although expensive, the drive was worth it.  It was very quick and the exhaust sound was awesome.  There is a switch which bypasses the mufflers and makes sure the only thing you hear is the engine which on this car was fantastic.  

A Formula 1 concept from 2009
Danielle in front of a 2006 Formula 1 car
Some of the older Ferraris
I really liked this Sypder that wasn't mass produced
Eden said she liked this one
Taking a joy ride in a 458 Italia

On the way to our hotel in Bologna, we stopped by the Lamborghini Factory which was only about 30 minutes from the Ferrari Factory.   Pagani Supercars also has their factory nearby.  I guess this area is sort of the Detroit of Italy but specializing in fast, expensive cars.  

Joel in front of the Lamborghini Factory
Huracan in front of the Lamborghini Factory

We were able to check the second item off our Bologna to-do list when we found Restaurant Cosmo by our hotel and had a very good lasagna which by my judgment was the best we had in Italy.  We also had a dessert like Tiramisu but they called it Beerimisu because I guess it had beer in it. Nonetheless, it was good too.

We drove about an hour and a half the next morning to Venice.   We parked the car at the campground we stayed at for the next two nights.   We didn’t actually camp per se, but Caroline took a page out of her Dad’s playbook finding this campground.  (She would frequently stay at campgrounds when travelling in Europe with her Dad).    We had a hard time finding an apartment or hotel in Venice at a reasonable price.  Some of the hotels on the island were going for 400 euros per night per room and we need two rooms.  So the campground was a great alternative as they had “bungalows” available in addition to the more traditional RV and tent spaces.   The bungalow was in a small trailer and had a small bedroom and a bathroom.  It kind of reminded me of a cruise ship cabin.   The bedroom had 2 single beds down on the floor and then one single bed up high like a bunk bed.  We got 2 of these bungalows and they were only 44 euros per night per bungalow so it turned out to be a much more frugal option than the hotels.   It worked out great and was only 2 bus stops away from Venice proper.

Caroline had been to Venice before, but this was my first time.  I knew that there were no cars and just canals, but after walking around for a while it really sunk in how unique this city is.   Amsterdam had a lot of canals but without cars Venice has a totally different feel.  There are many walkways that are just wide enough for one person to get through and they wind around in every direction.   You could take days exploring and finding new hidden plazas.  We had the boys read the novel “The Thief Lord” before we arrived because the story takes place in Venice and it was neat for them to see many of the landmarks discussed in the book.    We visited St Mark’s square and cathedral in addition to Doge’s palace and the Bridge of Sighs.   The bridge connects Doge’s palace to the prison.  It got its name because this was the last view of Venice someone convicted in Doge’s palace would see as they were escorted into the prison.

St. Mark's Cathedral
St. Mark's square
The Bridge of Sighs in the background

The gondola rides in Venice are famous and surely splendid but since they were about 80 euros for a ride we decided to try an alternative.  A traghetto is a gondola that ferries you across the Grand Canal, since there are only a couple of places that you can cross on foot (the Rialto bridge being the most famous).   The traghetto only costs 2 euros for tourists (and is significantly less for locals) and is effectively the same gondola boat but just not as fancy.  After we got in, the gondolier got us about half way across the grand canal and then we heard the sirens of an ambulance.  In the distance we saw an ambulance boat blazing down the canal with its lights flashing.   The gondolier was in a bit of a panic to try and get us out of the way.  Luckily, the ambulance turned into a canal before it reached us.  

A gondola heading down the canal

There are a lot of masks that are crafted in Venice and we got Joel, Danielle, and Eden one.  Eden really got into having the mask on and started belting out a song she made up on the fly while walking down a street.   I was able to capture a video of the end of it.    The performance had quite a few onlookers.  Maybe she has a future in theatre.  

Masks from Venice
Typical Venice street
Danielle on a bridge in Venice
One of the many winged lions in Venice
This tower was leaning about as much as the one in Pisa

The next day we went to the island of Murano.   We took a vaparetto which is a set of public transportation boats that have many routes in and around Venice.  Murano is the home to many glass shops.  We saw one craftsman at his trade in front of the furnace create a horse and a tiger out of glass.  I was amazed how realistic they looked from a few delicate actions on the glowing hot piece of glass.  This is one trade that I don’t see machine automation taking over anytime soon.   Each piece is really a unique work of art.    We saw another man making some pendant light shades by blowing down the tube into the glass.  All of the stores had a plethora of glass items that included just about anything you could think of.   The styles and finishes were very diverse.    There were many things I would have liked but I didn’t think it was wise to try and get some glass pieces home in one piece and shipping would have been too expensive.  We took the vaparetto back to Venice and rode it up the Grand Canal to get in some more sightseeing.  We ended our time in Venice with, you guessed it, another gelato.

Glass sculpture in Murano
Over Murano's grand canal
A craftsman pulls a piece out glass out of the furnace

Our time in Italy is now over, but I thought I would share something a bit different from what we may see in the US.  Below is the nutrition label from a bag of potato chips we bought in Italy.  In addition to all of the numeric data, they add the picture to the right which suggests that kids should eat these in moderation.   That is all fine and good advice but then they add a drawing of a large child on a teeter totter that is apparently heavier than 2 smaller kids on the other side.  I guess they figure they can use it as motivation to eat healthier.  

Nutrition label on bag of potato chips
 Next stop; Austria.

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