I had a chance to go to Venice years ago whilst travelling alone, but in a silly romantic gesture I decided I wouldnt go there unless it was with a lover. Now that I’m spliced with Karina, I could put it on our itenary. But I get ahead of myself.
After Bologne, we headed west through the rice and corn fields to the venerable town of Ravenna. After a bit of catherdral browsing and a beer outside the tomb of Dante Aligheri, we headed to the port about 10km out of town. This turned out to be a very long coastal drag of one club after another that seemed to go on forever, and was packed with Italians in a party mood. We parked up and wandered these beachside bars, with different styles of music coming out of each one. We had a flourescent cocktail in one and a dance in the other, then ambled up the street market to the docks where we finished the night with a beer next to the bobbing boats. On return to the van to sleep we’d aquired a parking ticket, our first, that I had no intention of paying.
As we drove north to Venice, we encountered a traffic jam of trucks that looked like it wasnt going anywhere in a hurry. So with our trusty GPS we navigated an inland route through farming country, stopping for some fresh watermelon that hit the spot. Arriving close to Venice, we veered of the highway and parked on the mainland in a longstay carpark nexty to ferry terminal.
The ferry chugged across the venetian lagoon, and with the city rising out of the waters as we approached, it looked as if we were travelling through a Titian painting. The scene had a beautiful stillness about it, not broken by the gulls crying from the sunken wooden stacks.
On arrival, we headed out into the maze of alleys canals and bridges. The quarter between the terminal and St Marco’s square was geared towards seperating the tourists from their money, though the costume masks some sold were little masterpieces. After listenening to the bells and chasing down pidgeons in the crowded square, we set off with the intention of getting lost and succeed quite effectively. By the time we’d orientated ourselves again we’d managed to turn up at the naval arsenal at the eastern fringe of the city. Wending our way back proved a challenge but by sunset we’d covered a whole lot of that strange, beautiful and unlikely city. As our boat pulled away, the clouds castling above the city became bathed in the red light of dusk, and already the memory of that day in my mind has taken on the surreal quality of a dream. (I’d like to make clear that I was not on hallucinagenics at the time)
After Venice we had a choice of heading straight north through the Dolomites to Austria, or around the coast to the east and up through Slovenia. I would have like to see the mountains, but you can’t see everything and it would have been a challenge on the van, so we arced around following the line of the coast to Trieste. Trieste, has a bit of Slovenia, a bit of Austria, and a fair slab of italy in it’s make up. After a hearty and nutritious lunch of various fried meats, we opted for a campground a few kms east of town in Muggia 50m from the Slovenian border. A relaxing couple of days followed, of riding the bikes, exploring the area including the Slovenia side, and tucking into some tasty fresh fish in a restaurant owned by a fishing co-op. Our last night in italy we sat in the little harour and witnessed a a spectacular sunset lightning storm off to the south, that threatened but never quite reached us. Driving out of Triest and over the mountains to slovenia the following day, our GPS led us one of the steepest streets we’d been up, complicated by having cobblestones, being only one lane wide, and having a fair amount of traffic trying to negotiate it. It was so steep my handbrake didn’t even hold the van, and i had to reverse several times. Finally getting to the top, I saw am articulated lorry shaping to go down it, only stopping himself from getting into a whole lot of trouble by my finger wagging. I wonder if he had the same model GPS.