In Sept 2010 four girls from the Club (Anita Fanic, Marlene Mendez, Susan Rachlin and Dianne Rose) joined a 10 day trip to Tuscany and Venice led by Marty Maligieri. With only 12 people on the tour, we rented a 14th century villa in the countryside to use as a base while we took day trips in a luxurious Mercedes Benz 15 passenger bus to see the sights of Tuscany. The villa, owned and operated by two sisters, was nestled above vineyards and olive groves with gorgeous views on all sides plus an excellent restaurant at the top of the driveway. "Top" is a literal description as the walk up for dinner was quite steep, and the walk back down in the dark was quite adventurous, particularly the evening that a thunderstorm rolled in just as we were heading back to our rooms.
Our first day of touring was spent in Siena, where the bus dropped us off at an old fortification with high walls, gorgeous fountains, and a busy open air market at its base. After winding our way through the vendors we finally found the main square, and made our way up and down the very steep streets to the historic duomo. The characteristic white and black stonework of Siena and the wide main piazza presented many photo ops but eventually we were herded back to the bus.
We had another stop at Monteriggioni with the remains of the defensive wall that you could walk on (for a mere 3Euro each) before we headed back to the Villa and dinner. The next day was a "free day" which we spent in San Casciano, a nearby town which Marty kept saying was "modern" yet his friend Gloria lives in a medieval home formerly owned by the Medici family. We wandered through the town, seeing the church, orchards, the public library, open air theatre, and enjoyed a snack in Gloria's back yard. That evening we were treated to a show of several short programs from the local camera club.
The next day we went to Florence where there was just not enough time to take full advantage of all the photo opportunities. First we stopped at Piazzale Michelangelo with its stunning views over the city plus access to San Miniato al Monte. Then we drove down into Florence and left the bus alongside the Arno River. We walked along the river to the Ponte Vecchio and then to the famous square with the copy of David, then to the Duomo. With an hour free here, we separated and wandered around, did some shopping but mostly took pictures of the stunning architecture and the golden doors of the Bapistry. Here we separated as some stayed behind in Florence to attend Yom Kippur services that evening while the rest of us returned to the Villla, visiting a monastery on the way. We took a tour of the church and grounds, and since the tour was in Italian our attention wandered, our shutter fingers were itching, and the priest got very loudly annoyed at our lack of attention to his talk.
The rest of our stay in Tuscany consisted of visits to some wonderful old towns....Castellina in Chianti with its interesting covered passageway against the town’s outer defensive wall, Badia and Radda in Chianti, and San Gimignano with its many towers. This last town we visited in the rain, which gave the opportunity for interesting shots of people with umbrellas in the crowded narrow streets. At the Villa Marlene conducted a service to mark the end of Yom Kippur.
On Monday it was on to Venice. After a lovely bus ride through the Tuscan countryside we reached the train terminal outside of Venice and loaded our luggage onto one of the Vapparetto for the 30 min ride across the waters to Venice. We landed near St Marks Square and immediately were faced with the prospect of dragging our luggage up and over a canal bridge. At the top of the bridge we were met with two porters who offered to take our bags for $3Euro apiece to our hotel. We asked if this was the only canal we had to cross; our local tour guide said it was, so we decided that we did not need the porters. We got to the bottom of the bridge, walked a few feet, and saw another canal right in front of us....so we all piled our big bags onto the porter's hand trucks. The porters took off toward our hotel with us hot on their heels, but we soon lost them in the crowds on St Marks' Square. We passed a few anxious minutes while we tried to locate our hotel, our bags, and the rest of our group, but soon we were all reunited, found our baggage and our rooms, and then went down for our first experience of shooting in Venice. Since we were only a few blocks from the water, we headed back for twilight shots of the gondolas and the crowds on St Mark's. From our base right in Venice, we did a lot of touring alone and in small groups, but everyone went together to the Rialto Bridge and to the colorful island of Burano. The sites of Venice are many, and three days was too short of a visit but we did our best to see as much as we could. Some places we visited were the Ghetto, the Grand Canal, the glass-making island of Murano and the cemetery island. We even had the chance to see Venice in the very early morning, as the flight back to Philadelphia left at 8AM so we had to leave our hotel at 4AM to get to the airport in time. Our early flight rewarded us with a bird's eye view of Venice bathed in golden early morning light, as we said Arrivederci to an experience which remains golden in our memories. ~ Dianne Rose
photos by Dianne Rose
photos by Marlene Mendez
photos by Susan Rachlin
Photos by Anita Fanic
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