16 April 2017 – Farewell Sardinia, hello Venezia!!! [Italy]
Our Sardinian riding adventure was coming to an end and we had to bid farewell to this wonderful island and its delicious food. We still had a few more days in Italy though, and we were Venice bound. We hadn’t been to Venice before and it seems to be one of those places people rave about or despise……. we really didn’t know which camp we were going to be in!
After 6 days in Sardinia and 5 days of riding we were all tired and somewhat looking forward to a day of sitting around. Travel or transit days usually aren’t the most fun, but spending most of the day sitting on our butts before a wander around Venice in the afternoon was seeming somewhat appealing for our tired bodies!
Our flight from Cagliari to Rome left at 11:20am but it was quite a long transfer to the Cagliari airport from our current location in Oristano, over 100km. We were originally going to catch the train (which conveniently went right to the airport) but on a Sunday, one train got in 9 minutes before the gate closed for our flight and the only other train option meant leaving at 6.30am. After so many days riding and late night dinners this seemed like a very poor idea!
Instead we organised for a car transfer with the bike tour company, a bit luxurious and more expensive than the train, but much less stressful! After we hadn’t gotten to bed until almost 11pm the night before, we all slept in until 8am and have a relaxed breakfast before Mauro picked us up at 9am.
It happened to be Easter Sunday so our breakfast at Hotel Regina D’Arborea was full of chocolate Easter eggs, more sweet pastries and donuts. All very yummy yet again, but we were starting to crave eggs of the non-chocolate variety! We did enjoy our very impressive breakfast spread and again managed to escape the beautiful breakfast room without the kids breaking anything.
All full of sugar and coffee, Mauro had arrived to collect us, and the bikes, and it was off in the van along with our bike gear for the hour and almost 100km to Cagliari. One hundred kilometres in the car is certainly much quicker than riding!
Cagliari airport is quite small so we pretty much were deposited at our check-in counter and there weren’t a lot of other people around. We bid farewell to Mauro, who had done an excellent job of organising us (and our bikes) for our week in Sardinia.
Off to check-in for our 2 flights and there was a momentary panic when first the Alitalia check-in agent couldn’t find our booking……… and then again when it appeared we only had bag allowance for the first leg to Rome and not the second to Venice. This was curious since we’d booked it as one flight! At this point we were very glad we hadn’t gone with the train option that gave us only 9 minutes to check-in. It did eventually get sorted out and we had enough time for a quick coffee and some souvenir shopping. The airport was pretty deserted so we weren’t fighting off any crowds.
The kids were already rather over-tired and both our flights were under an hour so it didn’t bode well for a long afternoon of travelling.
Our A321 flight from Cagliari to Rome was very empty, and we had pretty much the entire middle section of the plane to ourselves. We could have had 5 or 6 seats each (why does this not happen on the long haul flights?). It wasn’t a long enough flight for the kids to get much sleep, so Astrid did some school work and Soren was generally asking questions incessantly and not even looking like sleeping.
The flight was indeed quiet and rather painless, and 45 minutes later we were in Rome and back on the annoying transfer bus for a long drive to the terminal.
Once in Rome we managed to locate our gate for the next flight and were in desperate need of food so had one of our least value meals of the trip at a restaurant in the departure terminal. It was quite acceptable panini, pizza and salad but not as good as we had been used to in the bigger towns, and not cheap, but airport food never is!
Pretty soon the kids were beyond exhausted and needed to sleep but we still had to board our next flight to Venice. It was back on the transfer bus again and another long drive to the other end of the airport, pretty much where we’d been a couple of hours earlier.
This time we were up the back of the plane and again it was not a full flight and we seemed to be surrounded by aircrew being transferred to Venice for their next flights. It was rather odd sitting in the middle of a bunch of pilots and hosties who were trying their best to be passengers.
Astrid was asleep before take-off and Soren just after, we weren’t shocked given the level of tiredness.
A slight delay in taking off meant we didn’t get in to Venice until the scheduled arrival time (rather than the usual 20-30 minutes early on all our other Alitalia flights) since it seems Alitalia like to add some padding into their arrival times and then pat themselves on the back for being early.
As we were approaching Venice for landing we saw all the water taxis continually streaming from the airport out to the islands. Yep, this place was something quite different!
Luggage collected, we bought our tickets for the public water bus, which are a fraction of the cost of the private water taxis. The airport is being renovated and the water taxis and water buses leave from the new section, which was currently a long walk that requires multiple trips inside and outside. The new section was indeed pretty and the kids loved seeing all the boats lined up ready to take people out to the islands.
We were found our ‘blue-line waterbus’ and were informed we had a half hour wait until the next one and then were immediately told to get on the one that was about to depart. We didn’t need to be told twice, on we hopped, glad to avoid more sitting around after a long day of sitting around.
It had started to rain but it was still a pleasant and scenic ride away from the airport. The kids thoroughly enjoyed getting to our accommodation via a boat rather than the usual train or bus!
We were off our water-bus at about 5pm and it was now raining quite a lot. We had a half kilometre walk to our apartment. We had booked an Airbnb apartment for our 2 nights in Venice and our host had sent us a map and directions and warned us that google maps do not generally work well in Venice.
Half a kilometre is on the short side for a walk with luggage, but when contending with sleety rain, cobble stones, and seemingly endless bridges with stairs either side it was more challenging than usual. We did need both the map and a phone but did eventually find the apartment tucked down an alley near one of the many canals.
With the rain the bags had gotten a little wet and our feet had gotten quite soaked but at least it wasn’t overly cold. This was our first (but not last) taste of how unpleasant Venice can be in the rain!
Our Airbnb apartment, like pretty much everywhere in Venice, was tiny. Given the price of all accommodation in Venice we were actually quite pleased with the amount of space we had, despite the fact that we couldn’t really walk around the furniture. The kids were rapt to have yet another bunk bed and an apartment with a water door directly onto a canal.
We had figured that when in Venice, being on a canal was an experience worth having. Luckily the water door was able to be locked securely. Of course as soon as you walk outside there are canals everywhere and no steps or railings……so Venice is a little hair-raising with young kids. We had managed to not end up in with kids in the water anywhere in the Netherlands, and were hoping to keep Venice similarly incident free.
Venice is comprised of 118 small islands situated in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay that lies between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. The islands are separated by canals and linked by bridges. The lagoon and a part of the historic city are listed as a World Heritage Site.
Approximately 55,000 people live in the historic centre of Venice. The land area is tiny so there are mazes of canals and tiny apartments everywhere. We thought Amsterdam was easy to get lost in, Venice is worse!
It had stopped raining so we were able to have a relatively pleasant wander around the area near our apartment. On a stormy afternoon, Venice was indeed pretty. The old buildings, interesting architecture and canals made for an interesting city to wander around. We were staying away from San Marco square so it was not quite as touristy in our immediate area, but all of Venice is rather touristy. There are tourists and souvenir shops everywhere you turn.
It is a little surreal wandering around Venice. The canals are indeed quite dirty, but nowhere near as smelly as we’d been led to believe. Everything is both pretty and a little bit old and crumbly, but there was definitely quite a lot of charm to the city. The kids were immediately fascinated by the boats and gondolas everywhere, and some gondola spotting was on the agenda.
Gondolas are highly regulated in Venice. They must be black and the gondoliers are licensed (there are around 425 licences available). To be a gondolier you must pass a theory and practical exam to gain a licence, the contents of which is apparently secret. They also must wear a uniform.
Astrid and Soren took great pleasure in picking out the different coloured uniforms as well as checking out the individual accessories such as cushions, blankets and flowers that presonalised each gondola. We were thinking of treating the kids and having gondola ride, but were going to wait until the weather was a little nicer and we’d had some sleep!
We were in need of some supplies but were having trouble finding an open supermarket being Easter Sunday. We eventually found an open deli to pick up a few basics and decided that we’d eat out tonight, at one of the approximately 500 restaurants within metres of our apartment.
We didn’t want anything too posh for dinner and unlike Sardinia, we found plenty of places open early. We settled on a restaurant about 80 metres from our apartment that seemed popular and not overly expensive.
Our first meal in Venice was an olive oil, chilli and garlic spaghetti; a prosciutto and mozzarella pizza; and, a fried seafood plate. Along with some wine for the adults of course!
We happened to be sitting near a table with another Aussie (us Aussies always detect each other, something about our appalling accents) but she was also from Canberra! Even in a tiny restaurant in Venice you can find someone who lives a couple of kilometres from you.
Dinner was acceptable but not as good as most of our amazing Sardinian meals. With full tummies we headed back out into the now raining (again) Venice, and even managed to find our apartment in the dark!
It was still well after 8:30pm by the time we got the kids to bed but we were looking forward to a relaxed day of exploring Venice and the outer islands the next day. No early starts and no need to jump on a bike!
Daily statistics for Sunday 16 April 2017 in Oristano, Sardinia and Venice, Italy – the morning in Oristano started at a pleasant 14 degrees, before our afternoon in Venice ranged between 12 and 22 degrees with light rain.
The total walking for the day was 8.5km, not a bad effort considering most of the day was sitting on our butts in cars, airports, planes and boats!
Up next – a beautiful day exploring Venice and the outer islands of Murano and Burano in the sunshine.