This was an early start and long journey but definitely worth it. An excellent guide explained the history of Venice, how and why it is expensive, and the best way to get the most out of a one day visit. We have only briefly visited once before so promised ourselves a trip on a gondola. Our guide offered to arrange things for us all if we wanted – a gondola trip at €22 for half an hour, a boat trip around the islands at €16 for an hour. He also offered to book lunch at a little restaurant off the main square at €15 each for two courses plus wine. It sounded good to our little Cosmos group so we all went for the three options.
It was a perfect option as it saved wasting time standing in queues and trying to find somewhere decent to eat. The guide pointed out the basics first
- If you sit for food or drink, you will pay
- If you stand for coffee or a drink it is much cheaper
- If you want to sit down, visit a church which is free.
But, we did buy an ice cream in St Mark’s Square at €2.20 for one scoop so not bad really. It was over 30ᵒ so exceptionally hot on the day we were there, even on the boat trips, but is crowded, lots of steps and narrow streets and few places to sit.
It was fantastic, of course, with stunning architecture, art works and beautiful Italian glass sculptures worth breaking into the credit card for, especially as they will ship them home for you. No, I didn’t this time but I have the details of a very nice chap to contact when the time is right! We decided a 3-4 day break would be a good way to really enjoy Venice.
We had a great introduction to the history of Verona with excellent tour guide Ambrish. He explained about the architecture, why the Arena (amphitheatre) was built, and the development of street lighting, aqueducts and take-away food in Roman times. He was interesting and very knowledgeable then repeated it all again in German – brilliant.
It is a lively, bustling city and on Friday 26th June there was a motorbike convention with hundreds of them arriving in town square with horns blazing and flags flying – spectacular. We joined the guided tour for an hour from 1.20pm (included in our package). This is worth joining as the guide explained the finer details you might not notice plus took us to see the balcony of Romeo & Juliet (supposedly).
So busy there, in the little courtyard, where you can either have a photograph with Juliet on the balcony or just sign your name on the graffiti wall.
Drinks/food were not actually as expensive in the main square as we thought they might be, but it is cheaper in side streets away from the centre. There are some decent public toilets in Palazzo della Ragione courtyard, clean and well cared for with an attendant for 70 cents. This visit was perfect preparation for our trip to the Arena the next day, and it was exciting to see the scenery just sitting around outside during the day before the performance (see photographs).
Aida in Verona
Our hotel manager was brilliant. I actually read the tourist guide when we arrived – ok, I don’t always read it properly – and guess what? Aida was on in Verona on our free Saturday. It was €308 for two of us, including the coach pick-up around the corner from the hotel, and it was all booked for us over the phone at reception. I could not believe our luck that this all coincided with the trip.
For the week of our stay, it had been hot and sunny. Saturday? Dark clouds gathered as we arrived in Bra Piazza around 6.45pm, as did the official sellers of plastic raincoats at €5 each. Very ominous. As we entered the Arena, the rain started. Our sturdy British stoicism came to the fore as we sat, huddled, while thunder, lightning and torrential rain targeted the audience.
After half an hour, it was so bad they crammed us into the lower corridor as water poured down steps and dripped off our less-than-adequate raincoats. There is no cover over the Arena so if the performance cannot start due to bad weather, they have to refund your money but only if delayed by two hours. If they start then stop due to rain, there is no refund. With an audience of up to 10,000 you can see this might be a worry.
After lots of mopping up, the performance finally started at 10.20pm, only one interval instead of three and lightning still flashing in the far distance. It was spectacular, a superb performance with incredible number of performers on stage and an impressive set that takes up a quarter of the Arena. By the time it started, many were already soaked to the skin, my dress dripping wet and very damp knickers (the joke of the week for the rest of the Cosmos group!) for the journey back, arriving at 3.30am.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. And the addition of the storm before just made it an even more memorable evening.
If you want a relaxing holiday in the Italian sun watching others exert themselves, then this tour is probably a bit ‘busy’. If you actually want to fit in as much as possible, and enjoy some different experiences in this beautiful part of Italy, then I can wholeheartedly recommend it.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Cosmos Tours and Cruises.