Author Topic: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR  (Read 7602 times)

Offline AharonInIsrael

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AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« on: May 05, 2015, 02:05:26 PM »
Pre-trip
All who are interested in just the trip itself are welcome to skip to below :)
I celebrated my 30th birthday a bit before Dan (back in October), and my wife wanted to surprise me with a trip to celebrate, but realized that I’d probably enjoy planning it more than she would, and so we started looking.

We wanted someplace that we’d have to take only one flight each way (no connections) and that would be less than 5 hours away, since we were going to be going with our three year old daughter and going for less than a week. With a bit of help from the DDF community we decided that we’d be doing Italy, while focusing on Venice. The only airline to fly direct TLV-VCE is El Al, but they only have two flights a week (on Sundays and Thursdays, though they occasionally have Tuesday flights as well, which would make our trip either too short or too long, but after looking at the fare rules on the ticket using ITA, I realized an open-jaw was possible, so we decided to book the outbound on El Al’s TLV-FCO route, which gave us more flexibility as they fly that every day.

At first we thought to do a road trip, with a couple days in Florence/Tuscany and a couple days in Venice, but realized that would be too ambitious and we wouldn’t be doing enough in either place, so in the end we decided to just go directly to Venice the morning after we flew in. Luckily, a groupon (Groupon.it) became available for a 25 euro ticket on their Rome-Venice route, so we bought three of them (officially, I think kids up to 12 don’t need a ticket, but then they’re not guaranteed a seat either). Groupon’s system was a little messed up and the three tickets we booked were not together. Calls and emails to both Italo and Groupon (whose Italy phone number doesn’t actually seem to work) yielded no results. We were told to just get to the station early and ask the attendants for help. My mental plan was to find someone, point to our tickets (with the different carriage numbers), wave my hands frantically around us shouting “Famiglia! Famiglia!” and looking confused.

As a side note, calling up Italian companies was kind of fun. I tried to pick up a few Italian words from them, and it kept seeming like when they picked up the phone they were saying “Tonto!” I thought that must be how you say “Hello!” on the phone and started doing it too. I then checked a few days later and found that “Tonto!” actually means “Fool!”, so…might explain my requests for help didn’t exactly work :) (they were actually saying “Pronto!”, which is apparently a phone-specific greeting.

Departure- Tuesday(all pics were taken on fairly low-quality cameras; hopefully next trip we’ll learn more and get a higher quality one)

We got to the airport on Tuesday a bit under two hours before the flight, and I have NEVER seen Ben Gurion that empty. There were practically no lines! It seems like mid-afternoon is one of the more dead times there.

We got on the plane (after a short stop at the Dan Lounge) and we were off. We had come extremely prepared to entertain our daughter- we had bought a ton of cheap games, puzzles and coloring books from Max Stock and other similar stores, and had a fully charged DVD player, tablet and laptop.
Didn’t pay attention to the seat map, and didn’t realize that our row didn’t have a window. Whoops!

No-window seat
A bit claustrophobic, but made a mental note to always check seatguru after that.

We landed fine, and after 15 minutes of taxiing we were there. The arrivals terminal at Rome was surprisingly kid-friendly. They had a mini-gymboree there as well as a child sized restroom, complete with toilet and sink (you know it’s an awesome TR when there are bathroom pics).

Kid-friendly bathroom

I promise we’re normal

When we’d originally ordered a cab through the hotel, we’d asked if he could make a stop on the way so we could pick up some food (at BaGhetto Milky), but despite our repeated attempts at explaining, he didn’t take us there but tried dropping us off at a non-kosher takeout place close to our hotel. That’s what you get for not speaking Italian, I guess.
We arrived at our hotel (Holiday Inn San Giovanni) late at night and collapsed in our beds for a somewhat good sleep before catching the train in the morning. Some of us were more cranky than others (I really wanted some BaGhetto pizza! :) ). The hotel was booked with 20k IHG points, and was perfectly fine as a place to catch a few hours of sleep before the next day. This was actually our third stay at a Holiday Inn Express in a European capital in the last ten months (Madrid, Helsinki and Rome), and all three were under similar circumstances: an overnight before catching a flight/train in the morning.

Wednesday

The hotel staff was kind enough to give my daughter a coloring book and colored pencils when we checked in the night before, but unfortunately that also meant I received an involuntary early wakeup at 6:45 with the words “Abba, I want to color!” After prayers and a quick breakfast of “homemade” pre-mixed oatmeal we took another cab to Tiburtina station to catch the train to Venice. We’d originally thought to walk to the subway, but the rain convinced us to take a cab. The ride to the station was the only bit of Rome we actually saw, and we were a bit surprised with all of the non-artistic graffiti. I mean, if you’re gonna color on your city, you might as well make it look nice. A low-light of the graffiti was the two swastikas we saw in different places.

The station itself was very modern, and it was not at all a big deal to go to the Italo office and ask them to have us seated all together. My dreams of yelling in Italian and gesturing exaggeratedly would have to be realized at a different time.The platforms downstairs were a bit more grungy, but not at all a big deal.


Depature Platform, Tiburtina

A very nice attendant helped us get our bags on the train, and in exchange for a “Grazie” I got a “BiVakasha!” How did he know? :)

The train itself was very nice and comfortable. Definitely nicer than a connecting flight in Y. We wouldn’t have needed to purchase an extra ticket for my daughter, but the extra 25 euro gave me enough peace of mind knowing that she was guaranteed her own seat.



It took us only three and a half hours to get to Venice (the train usually was between 220-240 km/h), and the WiFi on board worked fairly nicely; it shut down whenever we went through tunnels (fairly often) and even though it was overcast and rainy, still had pretty nice views of the Tuscan country-side.



For the next trip!

After arriving in Venice, we figured out where we needed to go and tried to run as quickly as possible to our apartment, as the rain was coming down quite heavily. We immediately regretted our decision to not bring an umbrella with us, as well as my forgetting to pack my hat. A semi-quick 10 minute run/walk later (it seemed longer because it was raining and our daughter had 2.5 meltdowns on the way due to being overtired and getting soaked), and we were at our destination! We had booked an apartment via AirBnb using a $50 off $200 code (Total cost: $688 for 4 nights).

Because we were travelling with our daughter we knew we wouldn’t be running around all day and night, but would be spending a couple of hours in the middle of the day in the evening inside. We realized it would be nicer for us to be in an apartment than a hotel, and we’d feel less cooped up. It was a great place! The owners didn’t mind that we’d gotten there an hour before the official check-in, and the place was quite roomy for Venice and at a good price. I would definitely recommend it to others- it’s called Domus Venetiae, though there is another one spelled similarly and is on the same “street” as Gam Gam- just 4 minutes further west, and a two minute walk to the Guglie Vaporetto station.
Living Room
Kitchen
View from Living Room

View from other window
Extra bed they made up for our daughter
Our daughter referred to this as the “Finger Chair”

Shower, complete with radio

Massage chair- highly recommended for all those walking around Venice all day with a baby carrier!
While reviewing the TR, I realize that I didn’t take a pic of the main bed- it was nice and comfy, and there are pics on the AirBnb site linked above.


We were all tired and wet and it was still raining pretty incessantly outside, so we ended up spending the rest of the day in the apartment. Later in the day I walked around to check out the area, figure out where things were and get a few necessities at the local supermarket. Dinner was noodles we’d brought from home and cheese purchased at the bakery. The bakery there is not owned by a Jew (and is opened on Shabbat), but many (not all!) of the closed packages there are kosher (some have a printed hashgacha on them, others do not) and the rabbi of the community certifies that all of the baked goods are kosher/pat yisrael (though I think I remember reading that Chabad doesn’t rely on it). Just as an aside, the rabbi arrived in Venice from Rome last summer, and it seems like he’s trying to revitalize the community and raise certain standards in it. He proudly told me that this was the first year since the 1950s they were going to be making matzah in the community (he had supervised the grain harvest in the summer).

Mincha/Maariv were in the Chabad yeshiva: the yeshiva was on bein hazmanin, but a few bochrim had come in to help out for pre-Pesach and Pesach itself. They told me the rav was planning on having three sedarim there: Italian, English and Hebrew!

Thursday

Woke up bright and early to make it to the 7 AM minyan in the community shul at the Levantino shul (it took place in the Luzzato Beit Midrash, not in the main room). The rabbi said that since he’d come, he had pushed that they open up the shul every day, even if they’re not sure they’ll get a minyan. B”H the two days I was there we had a minyan, though someone told me that on Wednesday they hadn’t had one. They daven there Nusach Livorno (more or less), but it was similar enough to Edot HaMizrach that I could follow.

After davening, I went up to look at the main room. Really impressive shul (but less impressive phone camera).


Levantino Shul

Ceiling

Doors to Aron Kodesh

Bima

The community members there also had a tea/coffee shmooze session after davening and made me and the other guests feel very welcome.

It was still raining, so I finally broke and bought a very touristy hat: bright blue with “Venezia” written on it. Gotta blend in with the other tourists, after all. After a quick breakfast, we went (via vaporetto) to San Marco to check out the Doge’s Palace and make it to the 9:55 English Secret Itinerary Tour. Unfortunately, we were told that the tour was already booked up for at least a week, so we ended up just getting the regular museum admission and walking around.

It was interesting to see the stark contrast between the majesty of the official government rooms and the “darker” rooms (prison cells) they needed to maintain order/their version of what society should be like. I remember when I was younger I used to think that armory rooms were really cool. but for some reason this time kept thinking about what all those weapons were intended to do. It was a bit hard to read all of the signs in the rooms, but I still got a general picture of the place: either reading about Venice before or getting one of the audio guides would have made it more significant of an experience.

Courtyard of Doge’s Palace
Very welcoming

After walking outside we noticed that although there were long lines to San Marco’s Basilica, there were none for the Camponile tower (not that our choice was made based on that, but it did feel good not having to wait on line), so up we went to get a view of Venice. I don’t remember the cost now, but it was cash only, and we took an elevator all the way to the top. We left our stroller down at the bottom (the elevator attendants told us to, and they kept an eye on it).

It was still cloudy, so the view probably wasn’t as great as on a sunny day, but it was still very nice.




There’s even a phone on top so you can call your family back on home and say “Hey! I’m at the top of the Camponile!”

Camponile Phone

Reminds me a bit of this show (warning: turn down your volume a bit):




Also a big bell with a just-as-big sign saying “Do not ring the bell!”

Big Bell!

After successfully resisting my inner five year old yelling “Ring the bell! Ring the bell!” we went back down, walked around the square for a bit and got back on the 1 Line vaporetto, which goes up the Grand Canal. We got a nice view of the main parts of the city.


Gritti Palace, an SPG property
Rialto Bridge
Gondoliers and their passengers, undeterred by the rain
Local police

We arrived back at the train station for the walk back to our apartment. It was raining a bit less and we were all a bit less cranky than the previous day, so no melt-downs were had. Due to the rain, something we’d scheduled for our afternoon outing was cancelled (rescheduled for Friday), so after nap-time we headed out and walked around to the shops for a bit. After the customary souvenir collecting, we went to Gam Gam for dinner. The food was pretty good: shnitzel for our daughter, and we had fried artichokes with techina, french fries, pasta with salmon and pasta with meat sauce.

Friday

After davening we headed out to take a vaperreto to Murano. We wanted to do a bit of walking around, check out the glass shops and hopefully see some glass blowing. I was a little worried, because from the reports here and elsewhere it seemed that the factories either don’t want you to see them working, or they do but then pester you and do a “hard sell” in their showroom.

We walked around a few shops and were amazed at the creations these artists could make (sorry no pics, but almost every store had a sign asking people to not take pictures. So you’ll all just have to come up with your own crazily creative glass sculpture designs!). Someone then directed us to a factory that offered free demonstrations:
Free glass-blowing demo, with no hard sell!
To get there, get off at the first Vaporetto stop in Murano (Colonna), walk down the main canal there (Fondamenta Daniele Manin), and turn right onto a street that’s a bit wider than others (I can’t believe I didn’t write down which one at the time- sorry!)

The maestro there was working in the furnace, just talking to a friend of his and making another animal sculpture every five minutes. After being a little bit cranky for our first hour and a half in Murano (“Come to Murano, where your child can kick and flail in a stroller while surrounded by glass creations costing thousands of euros!”) she stood fascinated as the maestro made a horse, swan, seal and cat. She wanted to stay and watch for longer, but we knew that nap time was coming up. There was a bowl where it looked like you could give a tip to the maestro, so we dropped in a couple coins for the maestro’s great demonstration and were on our way. (Total side point, but the title “maestro” is really awesome.)

Some Murano pics:


 
We took the vaporetto back to our apartment, and after a bit of rest time went out for the only thing that we actually scheduled before coming to Venice: a rowing lesson with Row Venice. I read about them in the Lonely Planet book. It’s a company that was started by a woman who emigrated from Australia a number of years ago, and offers lessons to people in a classic boat that isn’t much in use anymore called the battere. The gondola itself is a bit more complicated to row, and not a good idea to start in. We paid 80 euro for a 90 minute lesson for the two of us (children under five are free), but you can have more people than that per boat (for different prices; check out their website).

It was really great! We had two guides with us, and they were very patient and good at explaining how to row. After a bit of rowing in side canals, we made it out to the Grand Canal and rowed until we got to the Rialto Bridge before turning around. They said that usually the Grand Canal wasn’t as empty and they would have spent more time in the side canals, but I guess the rest of Venice was just getting ready for Shabbat :)

In the battere there are two rowing positions: front and back. We got to row inside the boat while moving, and standing on the back while we were tied up. To make it even greater experience, the sun even came out for the first time on our trip! We also basically had a private tour guide on the boat trip, as only one of the rowing instructors needed to row, while the other sat with us and answered any questions we had about the city and the things we were passing.

Battere with Fez
Back position on battere

Getting back to the marina (which is located about a ten-fifteen minute area from the ghetto area), the newly-clear visibility granted us a peak at the Dolomites.

Mountains

Black and white, why not?

We ran back to the apartment to get ready for Shabbat, remembering on the way to pick up some candles, grape juice and a bit of pizza from Gam Gam Goodies.

Shabbat
At night we went to the community Sefardi shul. As mentioned before, during the week the community ravens in the Levantino shul, on Shabbat in the Sefardi one (and I think in the Italian one on chagim). There are two more shuls there, and they have a tour of them that we didn’t go on. The minyan was very nice- about 40-50 men with a mix of community members and travellers (women were on the other side of the main floor, and there was a balcony above but I don’t think it was open). In addition to the community minyan and the Chabad minyan, there was also a group of teenagers visiting from Milan as part of a Bnei Akiva group, and the shliach arranged a Carlebach minyan in the community center.

For Lecha Dodi the used a very catchy and special niggun I’d never heard before, and after hearing them use it again for Yigdal and the next day for part of Kaddish, I asked one of the people there. He said it’s a special Venice tune, and while I couldn’t find the exact tune on the Internet, this one is pretty close (click on the Lekha Dodi (Turin) tune on the bottom)

For dinner we went to the dinner that Chabad graciously puts together for anyone who needs a Shabbat meal at Gam Gam. Thanks to Mech’s friend (and Mech!) and the fact that we had a kid we were able to get the last table inside. They set up another table outside, and everyone was served in one shift. It seemed like there were probably around 50-60 people all told at the meal. Thanks Chabad!

We were sitting next to a family that actually lives in the town down the road from us, and the wife works in the same field I do. Small world (that’s part of what I enjoy about travelling and running into fellow Jews- you can be halfway across the world, never have met someone before and probably never seem them again, but you also went to school with their second cousin. Also thanks to Mech’s friend, I got to share a dvar torah with the assembled. Dinner ended pretty late and we walked back to our apartment and fell asleep.


Shacharit the next morning started at the community shul at 9 (I think it was 10 at Chabad), and we made a small kiddush at home before another nice meal at Gam Gam (12:30).

After lunch we walked around the neighborhood for a bit enjoying the first completely sunny day of the trip before heading back for a pre-mincha nap. After Shabbat we packed up and ordered one last meal from Gam Gam (would’ve gotten pizza, but the dairy store didn’t open up on Motzei Shabbat) and went to sleep.

B”H as I was leaving mincha someone told me that Italy was switching to daylight savings time that night, so we realized we needed to wake up an hour earlier! We caught the first Alilaguna ferry to the airport at 6:18 (just a two minute walk from the apartment) and enjoyed the pre-dawn ride. 


From the airport

After checking our bags we enjoyed some quiet time in the lounge for davening and relaxing before the flight (thanks Chase Ink card!). Just as a data point, they didn’t check ID or ticket, just swiped the cards.
Our pre-flight chilling zone
We then headed back to Israel (with an actual window this time), where my mother was landing two hours after us, and then back to real life and Pesach preparation!

As this is my first TR, I now have a much greater appreciation for the work that goes into it, so thanks everyone who has ever written a TR and made our forum experience richer for it! Your work is appreciated!
Also, constructive criticism is appreciated :)

Offline jj1000

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Re: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2015, 02:14:52 PM »
Awesome job! Nice pics and good report!

Thanks for taking the time!
See my 5 step program to your left <--

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Offline Marco Polo

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Re: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2015, 02:23:36 PM »
Great TR!
Quaerite et Invenietis.

Offline AharonInIsrael

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Re: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2015, 02:56:09 PM »
Awesome job! Nice pics and good report!

Thanks for taking the time!
Great TR!
Thanks!

Offline yakrot

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Re: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2015, 03:37:49 PM »
Great report

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2015, 03:41:06 PM »
Great TR! I like the amount of detail you went into and the proportion of text to pictures. Wouldn't believe it was your first time writing a TR, but glad you see how it's not so easy ;)

Looks like staying near Chabad was an awesome choice! The apt and views look great! It's really too bad there are no points hotels in that area.

Offline Mech

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Re: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2015, 03:50:19 PM »
Awesome TR! Glad you had a great time! Thanks for the shout out

Offline AharonInIsrael

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Re: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2015, 02:02:14 AM »
Great report
Thanks!
Awesome TR! Glad you had a great time! Thanks for the shout out
Thanks for your help!
Great TR! I like the amount of detail you went into and the proportion of text to pictures. Wouldn't believe it was your first time writing a TR, but glad you see how it's not so easy ;)

Looks like staying near Chabad was an awesome choice! The apt and views look great! It's really too bad there are no points hotels in that area.
I'm glad you enjoyed, and thanks!
It is too bad about the points, but I'm glad I have them for the next destination at least :) At the time there was also a MR-AirBnb bonus (not sure if it's still around) so we theoretically could have done that.

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Re: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2015, 02:39:25 AM »
Fantastic TR!! That apartment looks really nice! Looks like someone beat @yehuda to the venice part :D

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Re: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2015, 07:41:26 AM »
Thanks for the great TR. I like that "finger chair"

Offline AharonInIsrael

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Re: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2015, 08:20:09 AM »
Fantastic TR!! That apartment looks really nice! Looks like someone beat @yehuda to the venice part :D
Thanks for the great TR. I like that "finger chair"
Thanks and you're welcome. Yeah, we were very comfortable there. Added bonus: my wife picked the place out, so we were all involved in the trip planning.

Offline shimino1

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Re: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2015, 08:14:29 AM »
Very nice TR. Thank you.
I love the sarcastic humor  :)

Quote
My mental plan was to find someone, point to our tickets (with the different carriage numbers), wave my hands frantically around us shouting “Famiglia! Famiglia!” and looking confused.
ALOL

Offline AharonInIsrael

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Re: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2015, 03:05:03 PM »
Very nice TR. Thank you.
I love the sarcastic humor  :)
ALOL
Thanks :)

Offline mgarfin

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Re: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2015, 11:13:00 AM »
Nice !

If only a TR would have a like button you would see how useful something like this is for a long time after its written.

Offline Luvtotravel

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Re: AharonInIsrael's Venice TR
« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2015, 01:39:59 PM »
Beautiful and inspiring how you enjoyed it all despite the meltdowns and weather.
Don't wait for the perfect moment; take the moment and make it perfect.