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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Leaving The Lakes District heading to Venice & Florence.



Day 10 - Lake Garda to Castlebrando

Stresa, Lake Garda, Sirmione, Castelbrando

Sunday, 8 May 2011
Today we bid farewell to Stresa and Lake Maggiore and drive east to Lake Garda. This is the largest of the Italian Lakes and is the meeting point of three Italian regions. The circumference of the lake is 100kms and it is surrounded by lemon and citrus groves.
We had time for leisure and lunch walking around the village of Sirmione which is on a spit of land which protrudes into the lake, (click on the map to see). We enjoyed a lovely light wrap for lunch and then a ginormous gellati afterwards, (but I did ask for small)!
Later we were taken to the foothills of the Dolomites and to CastelBrando which is magnificent. Access to the 2000 year old castle, an old Roman fortress turned noble's palace, is by funicular. We also enjoyed a guided tour of the castle which included a torture room.
Our room was fantastic, a corner room with views on both sides to the inner courtyard. Dinner was lovely also. Unfortunately we were only here for two nights.

Fortress walls of the village of Sirmione.
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This footbridge is the only access, other than by
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The port of Sirmione.
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Sirmione Pier.
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Jason and I on the beach side of Sirmione.
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My "small" gellati!
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My friend Sylvia!
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Jason and Paul (Sylvia's husband).
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The funicular up to the castle.
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Our room.
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View from our room.
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Jason and our with views from castle, very high up
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View down into the valley from castle.
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CastelBrando!
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One of the dining rooms.
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The armour room!
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A good looking chap!
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Jason and his mate!
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A meeting room displaying all the shield designs w
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Our local guide explaining the torture room.
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An outdoor area of the castle.
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A courtyard of the castle.
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Views from the castle.
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Our group and Aldo, our tour guide (in red shirt,
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Entrance to the castle.
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Looking down from the top of funicular.
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Main entrance to the funicular and. Astle!
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Day 11 - Venice

Castelbrando, Venice, Castelbrando

Monday, 9 May 2011
After a leisurely start and yummy breakfast we descended to the Po Valley and visited Venice. At Tronchetto we boarded a boat which took us to St Marc's Square and then we met our local guide for a walking tour. The tour was fantastic! We learned how about the people of Venice, how they live and the history. We taken on back alley ways, over little humped back bridges and to small courtyards. Venice is truly beautiful and I can see why it is dreamed romantic. (Maybe not just before the rubbish is collected though and the wee wee smell is bad, but it was like in all the busy places unfortunately.)
Venice actually consists of 117 bodies of land connected by more than 400 bridges over its 150 canals. The Grand Canal is like main street, cutting through the center of the city.
After our tour we were free to meander through the myriad of water lined streets. We had pizza with Sylvia and Paul and I did some shopping. I bought our daughters' their Venetian masks and some more jewelry.
Later we returned to our castle for dinner.

Approaching Venice.
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Looking to St Marc's Square.
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Tourist market stalls (in all the tourist areas)
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St Marc's Square, Venice
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Gondola Parking Lot.
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Our local tour guide (white jacket).
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Detail of exterior decoration on Bascillica of St
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Beautiful coloured mosaics.
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Clock tower in St Marc's Square.
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In Bascillica of St Marc, all this is mosaic and r
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St Marc's Cathedral.
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In St Marc's Square, the yellow and white banners
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Another part of St Marc's Square.
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Gondolas in the canals.
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Venice!
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Typical Venice!
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View from a footbridge.
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Love the shutters and flower boxes!
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Note the faces on the building and the Juliette ba
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Beautiful!
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What can I say, I love plants
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More beautiful.
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Tourists on gondolas.
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Where else do you hang your washing?
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Me with our group.
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I love the balustrade and arches.
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Jason and I, Grand Canal in background.
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Looking down the Grand Canal!
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Jason and I at the Grand Canal.
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The Rialto bridge over the Grand Canal.
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The Rialto area, the main shopping area.
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Italian Spices.
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Venetian Masks!
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The Grand Canal, highway of Venice!
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Unique sights!
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Jason and Paul with their small pizzas in Venice!
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Sylvia and I back at CastelBrando.
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Day 12 - To the spa town of Montecatini !

Castelbrando, Montecatini Terme

Tuesday, 10 May 2011
We bid farewell to our castle and travel south tonTuscany. We arrived in the charming spa town of Montecatini Terme and we got to stay here for 5 nights. This was a really charming small town and it was nice to walk around and go shopping. We decided not to go to one of the spas only because we had plenty of other things to see and do. This town is really close to many major sights.
As a highlight we had a "Chianti dinner" at Villa Pasquini which is set among green hills of the Valdinievole. Unfortunately this night was extremely noisy because there were other groups there and they played really loud karaoke music.

Our stop for lunch
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View on way to Montecatini Terme
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Italian Pottery sales!
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Spa house in Montecatini Terme
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Old carousel in town.
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Jason and I at dinner.
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Sylvia and Paul.
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Day 13 - Florence

Montecatini Terme, Florence, Montecatini Terme

Wednesday, 11 May 2011
Today was dedicated to nearby Florence to which we caught the train which was only 20 minutes. We had a tour of the city and visited the Duomo and saw the magnificent statues in the Piazza della Signoria. The tour also included a visit to the famous Ufizzi Gallery which has the greatest collections of Italian Florentine and Renaissance art. Unfortunately this part seemed to go on forever and after a while all the paintings, mainly portraits, all seemed the same. We had the afternoon free and we had an excellent lunch on Aldo's recommendation but we found Florence to be quite dirty and generally not so nice. Maybe we weren't there long enough to do it justice!

Santa Maria Novella church situated just across fr
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Florence
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Heading into the heart of Florence.
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Looking towards the Cathedral.
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Part of the Santa Maria cathedral.
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In Piazza del Duomo.
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Santa Maria del Fiore.
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Bapistery doors in Bronze (1330-1336)
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Another Bapistery door! (http://www.mega.it/eng/eg
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The detail is incredible!
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Santa Maria del Fiore.
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Our group touring through Florence.
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One way to attract attention to your store!
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Interesting turret shaped building.
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Unusual sign, not quite sure what it means.
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Narrow lane way of Florence
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A typical fruit store.
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More statues!
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Statue of David.
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Statue of Hercules and Cacus in the Piazza Della S
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A couple of strange statues!
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Love the police uniforms!
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