Day 4 of our Italian road trip took us from Chioggia to Ravenna, Rimini and Grottamare, which is where we stopped for the night. Get a cup of coffee and get comfortable, there are 71 photos for you to enjoy here.
I mentioned this place back in April, in my two-part article about Venice, but I wanted to tell you about it in more detail. It’s called Al Ponte di Rialto Self Service. It’s an unassuming name for an unassuming edifice, but don’t let its looks fool you. It’s some of the best pizza in Venice, Italy, and for us, some of the best pizza we’ve had in Italy. The prices are modest, which means you can eat yourself full without breaking your budget, then head out for a day of sightseeing.
On a related note, want to know what to avoid in Venice? Avoid pricy restaurants, particularly the one next to this cathedral, with a view over the laguna to one of the neighboring islands.
I’d tell you its name, but I forgot to write it down, and it’s also possible I’m blocking it. My wife and I got a mild case of food poisoning after eating a pizza there. Sure, we felt like kings sitting on a table overlooking the laguna, on a sunny and breezy late-winter day, but our stomachs told us otherwise afterward. And when you’re unfortunate enough to get food poisoning as you’re crossing the laguna on a boat, it can get mighty rough.
This was the pizza that made us sick.
So, keep this in mind while in Venice: avoid pricy restaurants with incredible views, and go for the unassuming places with clean kitchens and delicious food, like the Al Ponte di Rialto Self Service.
If you’re visiting the Duomo, in Florence, Italy, don’t miss Sergiobar, a little place next to the Campanile. It’s the perfect place to get a perfect hot chocolate, which is the perfect treat to warm you up after an early morning climb into the bell tower.
Sure, the place is a little touristy, but the proof is in the pudding, so to speak… Here’s a map of the place.
Want to see some photos from Florence?
As you can see on the map, the city of Venice isn’t made up of a single island, but multiple ones. This will prove interesting later on in the post, when you’ll see photos from the Campanile of the Piazza di San Marco (the Bell Tower). For now, let’s see what there is to see in the Piazza. As with the previous post, you can see the photos in the slideshow embedded below, or you can scroll down to see each photo and read my accompanying thoughts.
This post contains 50 photos, so get ready to spend about 15-20 minutes here. You can see a slideshow below, or you can scroll down to see each photo alongside my thoughts.
First, we needed to find a place to stay for the night. We kept driving and driving, through Modena and on to Ferrara, but no decent hotel or pension presented itself to us. We veered off the highway, hoping to find a nice, quiet pension in the countryside, but we couldn’t see anything. It was getting darker, and we were getting desperate. We were tired after a long day of walking and driving, and we wanted to rest.
Glad to see Berlusconi won’t have his way when it comes to the brazen immunity he granted himself a couple of years ago. Italy’s Constitutional Court threw out his immunity law as unconstitutional. This means he will now be subject to two ongoing trials and a probe into an alleged prostitution ring.
What can I say, Mr. Berlusconi… at some point all the stuff you’ve been doing has got to come back and bite you in the rear.
Our Italian road trip took us from Pisa to Florence, where we arrived on the evening of February 18th, just as dusk set in. We navigated the Florence streets at night with some difficulty, but arrived at our lodging in due time, where we rested for the day ahead.
Here’s us descending the hills of Tuscany into Florence, on the main highway that connects it to Pisa.
See this video on Vimeo
A funny thing happened that evening. We’d been following our somewhat convoluted route through the city, when we reached a bridge we needed to cross but couldn’t. It’d been blocked — barricaded — by the city, for reasons unknown, since no work was being done on the road. We stopped to call for directions. On the other side of the barricades, a line of angry Italians was forming. Apparently the barricades had only been put up that day, and they weren’t happy about it.
One of them, a young, strong fellow in his 20s, had been building up some steam underneath his collar. With no thought of turning around and finding another route, he got out of his car and started to break the plastic ties that held the barricades together, bare-handed. These were thick ties — the same kind used to handcuff people when they’re arrested — yet he snapped them with relative ease. After breaking a few, he figured it was tedious, so he got a sharp hunting knife from his car and sliced through the rest of the ties, then threw the barricades aside and drove right through.
I’d gotten out of my car to have a better look at what he was doing, and stood there amazed. Seriously, it takes guts to have complete disregard for the authorities of a city. On the one hand, what he did was wrong, but on the other hand, he helped us and the many other drivers stuck there. We knew of no other route to get where we were going, and we’d have been lost if he hadn’t cleared the way. and after a short while, reached the place where we were staying — Villa Aurora — a picturesque antique villa perched on one of the Tuscan hills that surrounded the city.
The villa and its surroundings were so beautiful that in spite of my fatigue and the cold weather, I had to make time for a few nighttime photos, after which I slept like a log till early morning.
We got up with the dawn and after a hearty breakfast, drove into the city to visit. We parked in the subterranean lot behind the railway station, near the church of Santa Maria Novella, then walked through the city for several hours.
We visited the Duomo while it was still early morning and the tourists weren’t around, then had the best hot chocolate ever at a place called SergioBar, right in the Piazza del Duomo.
I highly recommend climbing to the top of either the Campanile or the Duomo, in the morning or in the late afternoon, when the sun casts long shadows on the city. The climb is long and exhausting, but you’ll be treated to some fantastic views of Florence.
After that, we made our way to the Palazzo Vecchio and the Ponte Vecchio.
We crossed the old bridge then climbed up to the Palazzo Pitti with its hilltop gardens and amazing views of Florence and the surrounding areas, then came back down and slowly made our way back across the Arno to the railway station and our car. Venice was next on our list, but we had to drive a good while till we got there and find a hotel to sleep for the night.
After making our way out of the city, we took the highway toward Venice, then exited somewhere near Modena and made our way toward Ferrara on country roads. It was near Modena that we saw the Lamborghini factory — actually, passed right by it — but it didn’t occur to us till after the fact. That was unfortunate, it would have been nice to take a tour.
We found a small, cozy and very clean hotel on the outskirts of Ferrara and slept there for the night.
All the photos you see here and more can be found at larger sizes in the Firenze album in my photo catalog.