Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Almost to Dulles

The alarm rings and we get ready and try to find the breakfast in EuroHotel.

Jump in Hotel Van to drive us back to airport. Wait in Traffic. 

Hot airport, interminable lines. Can't remember how many times we showed our passport and went through a multitude of Security Checks.

11 hour flight but we had empty seats next to us. I watched 4 movies including one about the Colisseum in Rome and THE YOUNG AND PRODIGIOUS T. S. SPIVET - a very odd movie but the little boy reminded me of Carol when he packed his suitcase with all kinds of things he might need - including a metal tape measure just like the one in Carol's pocket that set off the Security Alarm!

And we are waiting for Jim at Dulles.

Bike and Barge so worth the trip.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Laundromat in Favaro

We did a load of laundry in Rome, next to our favorite restaurant. It is Sunday and we arrive home on Tuesday and both Carol and I are desperate to wash clothes. Carol washed clothes in our cabin on the barge and barely got them dry by the end of the week. The humidity is so high! We were invited to hang them on the deck of the barge to dry ..... for all of Italy to see. Of course we saw all of Italy's laundry so I don't know why I care . . . But I could not hang my underwear, like flags, from the railing of the barge.

We asked the woman at our hotel where to do laundry. Walk into town (Tessera), take Bus 45 to the Commercial Center of the next town (Favaro), and find the Lavatrici.


This morning we eat breakfast with Robin and Bjarne and walk them to their airport bus stop. They are on their way home to Sisters, Oregon. They moved to Sisters from Anchorage a week before we moved to Leesburg, Va.

On the way to the bus to Favaro I decide to approach the desk of the Best Western Hotel and plead for the privilege of using a washing machine. Nice try but no success. A nice man at the desk tells us to walk to the church in Tessera and turn down the narrow street next to the church to the Laundromat. We realize it may not be open on Sunday but we can easily walk back tomorrow. Of course, Italians have off most of Monday too. . . , 

We follow those directions and find no laundromat in Tessera. A resident tells us how to go to the Commercial Center in Favaro. We wait about 45 minutes for Bus 45. We get off the bus in Favaro but do not see much open on Sunday and do not see a laundromat. I ask a woman walking by. She motions to follow her and she leads us to the laundromat. Everything is in Italian and the coin changer does not work. Carol has baggies of detergent. We load 2 washers and enter every possible combination of coin in the slots with no results. A nice man tries to help but he mainly shakes his head 'no' at our coins. He speaks to another man who disappears and reappears with silver tokens. No one speaks English. We trade lots of money for silver tokens. Three silver tokens start the washing machine. Three silver tokens start the dryer.

And we wait while the dryer is going.

My Advice if you want to be an Independent Traveler


A Fitting Last Day in Italy

On Saturday we paid 15 Euros (about $20) to visit the Doge Palace in Venice. When I bought my ticket and when I left the Palace I asked "How many days is this ticket valid?" Both times the answer was "Three months". Wow, what a deal! And Carol and I will be in Venice until Monday night so I will study up, return, and rent the Audio-guide. Awesome.

Yesterday we did our laundry in the morning and in the afternoon my body screamed, "It is Sunday and I won't miss another nap." Carol walked to dinner alone and I slept the day and night away but fit in reading two things:1) History of Doge Palace in preparation for today's visit with the Audio-guide.  2) THOUSAND DAYS IN VENICE by Marlena de Blasi which has so much more meaning after we sailed the Grand Canal.

So we get up early, eat breakfast (including homemade warm croissants), pack up and check out (storing our suitcases under the stairs while we go back to Venice). We bought the 7 day transportation passes for 60 Euros - so we use them today to take the bus back over the bridge to Venice and to catch the boat to the Doge Palace. Rain is in the forecast but it is beautiful and cool.

One hour and fifteen minutes later we get off the boat at San Marco and notice the long line for the Palace. But we have tickets and walk through the entrance for 'ticket holders'. The ticket lady scans our tickets and shakes her head "No". I protest, "These tickets are for 3 months!" She answers "No".  No more English words. We walk back outside and Carol remembers that we went in a different way on Saturday. We weave through the crowds, past the lines for St. Mark's Basillica, but there is no other entrance.

We return to the entrance for 'ticket holders', ready to demand an explanation that we can understand.
A man scans our tickets this time. He shakes his head, "No". "Isn't this ticket good for 3 months?" "Of course. Good for 3 months. But one time only." Even though I spent hours reading about the Doge Palace and almost 2 hours getting here, I don't want to pay another $20 to enter and $20 more for the Audio-guide. We are disappointed. . . But decide to walk the Grand Canal on a beautiful day. Well, you can't walk the Grand Canal but you can weave in and out of the very narrow streets until you find the Ferry on the Grand Canal that will take you back to the bus.

We are now at Marco Polo Airport 4 hours before our plane to Istanbul. This is the airport that had a strike the day we were to fly to Italy! Turkish Airlines doesn't even open it's desk for another hour so we sit on a cement bench by the highway. Carol is discovering the treasures inside her iPod. It makes cricket sounds, frog sounds, and loon calls. What else do you do when you are 4 hours early for your plane to Istanbul?

Once again the alarms go off for Carol when she goes through Security. I make it through every time but Carol gets caught every time. This time it was a metal tape measure in her pocket. Don't ask why 
she is carrying a metal tape measure in her pocket.


We have waited now our 4 hours. Guess what? No Turkish Airline People are at our gate. It is lightning outside. The sign says our plane is now 2 hours late. An alarm goes off and everyone is quiet. The woman makes an urgent announcement . . . in Italian. 

    Partenza: 19:20
    Del 22/09/2014
    Arrivo: 22:40
    Del 22/09/2014

A woman with Turkish Airlines arrives and everyone mobs her.

We are suppose to report to the Turkey Tourism Desk when we get to Istanbul so they can get us to our Hotel. Will anyone be at the Turkey Tourism Desk after midnight? Will we have to spend the night in the airport?


Just boarded our plane at Marco Polo Airport and we are leaving 4 hours later than our scheduled departure time.  And remember, we arrived 4 hours before our departure time. First we learned the plane could not land because of the thunderstorm. Evidently it circled above Venice for 2 hours. So many people had connections to make in Istanbul and were frantic about the delay. Then we heard the plane had landed but they could not refuel it when it was raining. Expect delay of 2 more hours.Since these are the same airport workers that went on strike two weeks ago, I wonder if they just didn't want to work in the rain.
Stay tuned.

We are finally In our hotel room in Istanbul at 4:15 am and we must be ready for the airport shuttle pick up at 10 am for our 1:30 flight to Dulles.  I feel somewhat like a prisoner of war as stern Turkish Airlines officials keep barking one word commands to Carol, me, and forty-five other compliant prisoners.
"Boarding Pass."
"No. Boarding Pass only."
"Passport now"
"Room 208"

A large bus fills quickly with the 'prisoners' and luggage. No one says a word, just obeys orders. The bus drives quite a way to the EuroHotel. The man at the hotel desk is overwhelmed,barks more orders to us, and takes our Passports to keep overnight.

Rooms are nice.  Carol turns on the air conditioner because it is as hot and humid as Italy.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Good Byes and Murano and George Clooney

Venice, Italy
Saturday 9:00 PM
Mostly Cloudy
°F | °C
Precipitation: 60%
Humidity: 88%
Wind: 4 mph

Wake up to sprinkles and clouds. George CLOONEY is suppose to marry Amal in Venice in a few days and we wonder if the large sailboat with a crew of 8, next to our barge, is waiting for him.

"What else do we know? THR and Corriere della Sera say the three-day-long wedding festivities will culminate in a ceremony at Ca'Farsetti, a 14th-century palace on the Grand Canal. Guests are rumored to be staying at the Hotel Aman, Venice's new seven-star luxury hotel (where rooms are in the thousands per night). Just for kicks, you can tour the hotel here.
And the bride? She'll likely be wearing Oscar de la Renta. Although Amal was spottedexiting Alexander McQueen's studio recently, too. Decisions!"

Murano is known for glass-making.

We are on the boat returning from the island of Murano to the Ave Maria (barge) docked at Certosa to pick up our luggage. Then back on the boat to the bus station in Venice. Then to Agriturismo Ca' Danieli, our hotel near the airport. Easier said than done, especially when we drag our luggage from dock to boat to dock to bus station, up the stairs in the bus and finally off the bus and down the road to Agriturismo Ca' Danieli.

In Murano we walk along the canals looking at the wonderful shops, from kiche to art. We visit an ancient church Church of Santa Maria e San Donato and a service is in progress. We watch as they pass the peace, all men in business suits and very well dressed women! They must be executives who work on the island because no tourist wears a suit and tie. The tile floor dates from 1141.

We tour the Glass Museum.

We are now in the hotel on the mainland near the airport, next to Hertz and across the street from a large parking lot for people getting on a cruise ship or going to Venice by bus.

Quick nap. Walk to a nice restaurant about a mile away. Robin and Bjarne fly home tomorrow. So very very nice to travel with them.


Murano is composed of seven islands, linked by bridges, separated by eight channels.


Murano was initially settled by the Romans then, from the sixth century, by people from Altinum and Oderzo. At first, the island prospered as a fishing port and through its production of salt. It was also a centre for trade through the port it controlled on Sant'Erasmo. From the eleventh century, it began to decline as islanders moved to Dorsoduro. It had a Grand Council, like that of Venice, but from the thirteenth century, Murano was ultimately governed by a podestà from Venice. Unlike the other islands in the Lagoon, Murano minted its own coins.
Early in the second millennium hermits of the Camaldolese Order occupied one of the islands, seeking a place of solitude for their way of life. There they founded the Monastery of St. Michael (). This monastery became a great center of learning and printing. The famous cartographer, Fra Mauro, whose maps were crucial to the European exploration of the world, was a monk of this community. The monastery was suppressed in 1810 by French forces under Napoleon, in the course of their conquest of the Italian peninsula, and the monks were expelled in 1814. The grounds then became Venice's major cemetery.
In 1291, all the glassmakers in Venice were forced to move to Murano due to the risk of fires. In the following century, exports began, and the island became famous, initially for glass beads and mirrors. Aventurine glass was invented on the island, and for a while Murano was the main producer of glass in Europe. The island later became known for chandeliers. Although decline set in during the eighteenth century, glassmaking is still the island's main industry.
In the fifteenth century, the island became popular as a resort for Venetians, and palaces were built, but this later declined. The countryside of the island was known for its orchards and vegetable gardens until the nineteenth century, when more housing was built.
Attractions on the island include the    (known for its twelfth-century Byzantine mosaic pavement and said to house the bones of the dragon slain by Saint Donatus), the church of San Pietro Martire with the chapel of the Ballarin family built in 1506 and artworks by Giovanni Bellini, and the Palazzo da Mula. Glass-related attractions include the many glassworks, some Mediaeval and most open to the public, and the Murano Glass Museum, housed in the large Palazzo Giustinian.

Venice - a Feast for the Senses

Day 7: Venice
Free day at disposal. In the morning a local guide will let you discover the capital of the ancient “Serenissima Republic of Venice”, which held sway over much of the Mediterranean (and beyond) for centuries. After that you have a lot of time to soak up its timeless beauty or explore its islands. 

Today is our day in Venice. We are docked on the island of Certosa and take a boat to Venice at 10:15 am. We meet our Tour Guide for Venice at the 2 Columns by the Palace of Doges at 11 am. He is a resident of Venice with a VERY strong Italian accent. I am sure he is thorough as he leads us though narrow streets and along the canals, but Carol and I cannot understand most of his English. It is hard work and tiring listening to someone like that. At the end of the tour we use our boat ticket to ride the Grand Canal to the train station and bus station. (Robin takes the day off) Then eat our packed lunches at a reasonable cafe in the low rent district where we must buy something to use their bathroom. We take the boat back to the 2 columns where we started. We get in line to see the Basillica Di San Marco  but they want our backpacks so Bjarne goes in and we wait. Then Bjarme suggests the Palace of the Doges. Wait in line again and get our tickets. Wish we had a guide but will return and purchase the audio-guide. The tickets last 3 months! As spectacular as anything we see in Rome.

Confusion catching boat to CERTOSA but I enjoy being a Follower. 
Fabulous dinner of pork cheeks, peas, lasagna, and Tiramasu. Then a song to the staff written by Ellen. Bjarne presents the tips I collected in the decorated "trash" envelope. Kirby presents great drawing she made of Captain Bert.

Off the Ave Maria tomorrow. Eager to read about all I saw today.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Colored Houses & Beach Cabanas

Day 6: Chioggia – Venice
A visit to the fish market at dawn is an absolute "must".  Pedaling along the lagoon, you reach Pellestrina: from here, riding on the cycle path you reach the ferry landing stage. A short ferry-boat ride takes you to Lido island, along the “Murazzi”, with a stop in Malamocco. After the final short ride you reach the boat which takes you to the marina in Venice. 

We finish our 30k ride tonight on Lido Island. The bikes are loaded on the barge for the last time and we are told to take showers and get ready for dinner before appetizers on the top viewing deck. Usually we have appetizers and beverages immediately after the ride and then get ready for dinner. I might be the only one who doesn't change clothes for dinner. I simply don't have enough clothes with me. 

I arrive on the top deck as the barge is approaching Venice. Cool, clear, and a light breeze. The sun is setting and shining on Venice.

The morning begins with a walk to the fish market of Chioggia. Every imaginable edible thing from the sea is for sale. Then we walk through the street fair on the Main Street and Carol finds an ATM machine. We walk back to the barge to sail to Pallestrina. We leave the 2 sisters behind because they get lost. A water taxi delivers them to our barge eventually. We get our bikes on Pallestrino and ride along a sea wall  to one of the "campos" with a church. It is pretty quiet and residential with colorful houses and lots of fishing boats and fishing houses off the shore. We have some water and explore. I meet 3 older women who are sitting together talking and do not speak English. Bon Giorno, I say. They see my bike helmet which I forgot to take off and I know they would like to be friendly. I say I am from Washington, DC. They look puzzled. I say America and they understand. Then I say Virginia and they look puzzled. So I say Obama and they all shake their heads, Yes. Of course, I am only saying we live near each other!
They want to talk more but I say I don t speak Italian. I ask them where they were born and one woman understands. She was born in Chioggia but the others were born on Pellestrina. I extend my hand and they do the same. A warm handshake. But I have to go because  it is time to get back on the bikes. The Italians have been very open and warm.
Take Ferry with our bikes to Lido, an upscale sophisticated island with fancy homes and lots of beach cabanas. Molly's chain breaks and we stop for quite a while as Martina tries to fix it with a compromised tool in her pack. Bjarne is a big help and it finally connects. We ride to a Gelatto stand and then to the barge.

The Po Meets the Adriatic

Day 4: Zelo-Ferrara-Adria 
After breakfast you will start cycling towards Ferrara. You will visit this historic town and discover its little touched centre, still surrounded by the original city walls. Town will let you discover its historical centre, still surrounded by the old city walls. From Ferrara a short bus transfer will bring you to Adria, an ancient Greek port, famous for trading amber coming from the Baltic. 

It is only Wednesday and we are already to the Adriatic Sea. The rest of our trip is biking the Islands around Venice.

The barge is rocking at the moment although we are docked near the fish market of Choggia, a really cool town that seems to be a place Italians come to visit.

I honestly can't remember where we biked today but I know it was near Salt Water and was over 50 k. The vegetation, houses, and odors said we were near the ocean. Lunch at an Italian Restaurant that looked like a popular place for wedding receptions. We sat outside near a creek with real geese, fake statues, unpleasant odors, but a very nice bathroom. We ate our delicious lunch that we pack each morning after breakfast. So this morning we put last night's roast beef on freshly baked Italian rolls, then added fresh pears or kiwi or apples to our lunch bag. At the Italian Restaurant many buy coffee, beer, soft drinks, or juice and that allows us to sit at their tables and use the restrooms. 

We then rode across some scary highways and around traffic circles (round-abouts) with buses, trucks, Italian drivers, and the 34 of us. We came to a beach town with an absolutely beautiful beach on the Adriatic Sea. We sat at tables under the awning of a refreshment stand. Then a few of us tested  the waters. Perfect! I took a nap on my Frogg Toogs in the sun. 

We then rode back to the main highway and to Chioggia. Fisherman live here and so does the oldest tower clock in the world. We climbed the 7 floors of St. Andrews tower to see the clock and hear the bells ring. Fabulous view.

Day 5: Adria-Porto Viro-Chioggia 
The boat will bring you to Porto Viro. You will be suspended between water and land, as you pedal between the Po delta and the mouth of the River Adige. You follow the Po-Brondolo water-way, which links the river to the Venetian lagoon. You will stay overnight in Chioggia, known as “little Venice”. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ostiglia & Bergantino

Day 3: Mantova-Governolo-Zelo
The boat takes you to Governolo, where there is the biggest basin of Italy, built in order to control the Mincio River. You start the ride following the River Po, up to the village of Ostiglia, with the ruins of a medieval fortress. Subsequently you will visit the “Carousel and folk show museum” in Bergantino and enjoy a tasting session at a cheese factory. You will finally reach Zelo, a small and cosy village on “Canal Bianco”. 

Captain Vern just told everyone to remove their laundry from the uppermost level because they must collapse the canopy to go under the bridge at Ferrara. If our laundry is still up their we might find it hanging from the roof of the city bridge.

Today was another Dream Day. The Ave Maria begins moving while we eat breakfast. After breakfast it docks and we get our bikes off and through a path in the woods to the road. Robin and Bjarne and Dennis and Mandy travel ahead. I soak my camelback by accident so use their pannier which works well. Need a visor for the sun in my eyes. Ride through a very small town (Libiola) whose church was hurt in the earthquake and they are doing construction. Stop in Ostiglia  for coffee break and notice all shops are closed. Martina explains that Italians don t work on Monday mornings. Lunch in Bergantino and we sit apart  from the group outside the bar to eat our sandwich rolls packed on the barge. Public bathroom requires a large key in bar and is a squatter hole with flush.

Visit Museum of Amusement Rides. 50% of all amusement rides in the world are made in Bergantino, including most of the rides at Coney Island. All Disney rides are from this part of Italy too.

After about 7 km more we stop at a cheese factory and see how real _____is made. Then we have samples with small glass of wine and Carol gives me her small glass, but we still have 10 miles to ride.

Happy to see the Ave Maria and Robin and Bjarne. Barbeque for dinner served buffet style. Terribly good. Chocolate Mousse for dessert.

47 km (29 m) today and last part was unpaved.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ferrara and Biking on the City Wall

Day 4: Zelo-Ferrara-Adria 
After breakfast you will start cycling towards Ferrara. This Town will let you discover its historical centre, still surrounded by the old city walls. From Ferrara a short bus transfer will bring you to Adria, an ancient Greek port, famous for trading amber coming from the Baltic 

Today is wonderful. Our bikes are on the top of the hill in Zelo when we are ready to begin at 8:30.

Breakfast is early, at 7:30, just today. More weaving in and out of city streets today and that keeps us on our toes. I fall over and the bike falls on top of me on going up a steep overpass. The bottleneck at the top of the hill is  the problem but I am fine, not even a scratch. Lovely bike trail along a canal with complete shade.

I wear my 5$ hat under my helmet for a sun visor and that helps. Lunch about 1:30 in Ferarra on the green across from the Castle in front of a food stand, but center city. 

After lunch we ride on top of the ancient wall with our bikes. Bjarne has the map and leads but more crazy busy city street riding. A few close calls. Meet at train station at 4:30 pm and a bus arrives with trailer to carry us to the barge. About an hour ride and I hardly keep my eyes open. Snacks, then dinner, then explanation of tomorrow and need for special Boat/Bus tickets in Venice.

Get an email from Vickie and she is ready to sign Mommie up for her own room in the nursing wing and let the apartment go. Lots to do to empty the apartment.

Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta
Ferrara, which grew up around a ford over the River Po, became an intellectual and artistic centre that attracted the greatest minds of the Italian Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries. Here, Piero della Francesca, Jacopo Bellini and Andrea Mantegna decorated the palaces of the House of Este. The humanist concept of the 'ideal city' came to life here in the neighbourhoods built from 1492 onwards by Biagio Rossetti according to the new principles of perspective. The completion of this project marked the birth of modern town planning and influenced its subsequent development.
Long Description
Ferrara is an outstanding planned Renaissance city which has retained its urban fabric virtually intact. The developments in town planning expressed in Ferrara were to have a profound influence on the development of urban design throughout the succeeding centuries. The brilliant Este court attracted a constellation of artists, poets and philosophers during the two seminal centuries of the Renaissance. The Po Delta is an outstanding planned cultural landscape which retains its original form to a remarkable extent.
Among the great Italian cities Ferrara is the only to have an original plan that is not derived from a Roman layout. It did not develop from a central area but rather on a linear axis, along the banks of the Po River, with longitudinal streets and many cross streets around which the medieval city was organized. The most significant characteristic of Ferrara's urban history rests on the fact that it developed from the 14th century onwards and, for the first time in Europe, on the basis of planning regulations that are in use nowadays in all modern towns. This type of development is known as addizione ; the third phase was implemented in 1492, making Ferrara the only planned Renaissance town to have been completed.
The street network and the enclosing walls are closely linked with the palaces, the churches, and the gardens. Throughout the 16th century the city was planned with the aim of making it a future 'capital'. Its evolution came to an end after the 17th century under papal administration, and the city did not undergo any extensions for almost three centuries. The city plan (1492) provided for doubling its area, an expansion limited to the south of the castle. This extension was completed by a new and very up-to-date defensive system made up of elements belonging to the various extensions carried out over several centuries (ramparts, keeps, semicircular towers, bastions, barbicans, etc.). These alterations completely changed the appearance of the city: new streets were created on a grid and buildings in a new style were built.
The most important monument surviving from the medieval period is the San Giorgio Cathedral dating back to the 12th century. The facade is a work of the master builder and sculptor Niccolo who, influenced by Benedetto Antelami, worked in the first half of the 12th century; the construction of the bell tower began in 1451 to a design attributed to Leon Battista Alberti. Standing in front of the cathedral, the 13th-century Palazzo Comunale was the first residence of the Este family and was joined in the late 15th century to the Castello di San Michele or Castello Estense. This massive, four-towered fortress was built in 1385 by the court architect Bartolomeo da Novara after a violent popular revolt. Works were carried out until 1570 with the creation of a noble residence with large halls to receive the court and embellished by frescoes and marble balconies and logge.
The Palazzo Schifanoia, built in 1385, was first remodelled in 1465-67 for Borso d'Este by the architect Piero Benvenuti degli Ordini assisted by the young Biagio Rossetti, who was responsible alone for the work in 1493. The palace has a long brick facade with a marble portal bearing the arms of the Commandery, the work of Ercole de' Roberti. It is, however, the decoration of the halls, and in particular of the Hall of the Months, which best illustrate the humanist culture of Ferrara.
The intersection of the streets coming from the castle (Corso Ercole I) and the main axis of Ercole 1a addizione (Corso Rossetti, Corso Porta Mare) linking two of the city gates is one of the most important elements in the 1492 city plan. This focal point, which links the modern and Renaissance city with the medieval, is underlined by four palaces: Palazzo Prosperi-Sacrati, Palazzo Bevilacqua, Palazzo Turchi-Di Bagno and Palazzo dei Diamanti. The construction of the Palazzo dei Diamanti began in 1492 for Sigismondo d'Este, but was not completed until 1565. The regular rustication over the entire height of the facades gives it a special appearance.

Historical Description
At one time the lands Of Ferrara were crossed by the unstable water network of the Po and its meanders. The bed of the river that traversed the city moved several kilometres away in the 12th century, leaving behind no more than a modest stream, which disappeared In its turn in the 17th century.
Ferrara grew up along the banks of the Po on the Roman road leading to Padua round a ford. When threatened by the Huns, the Bishop of Voghenza moved his episcopal see to the right bank of the river and, to ensure his protection the exarchs of Ravenna built a fort on the opposite bank in the 8th century. A river port grew up on both banks round the fort and the bishop's establishment.
The Pope granted jurisdiction over the city to Tebaldo de Canossa in the 10th century and built the Castel Tebaldo on the left bank, to the west of the Byzantine fort. It spread between these two poles, along a street parallel to the river (the present-day Via delle Volte and via Ripagrande). At the beginning of the 12th century the city was in full growth and the commercial axis moved to the north, along a new highway (present-day Via Garibaldi and Via Mazzini), an ancient defensive line, to which new suburbs became attached.
This bipolar system of development was abandoned in the 12th century in favour of a single centre of which the cathedral was the pivot. The centre of communal power (Palazzo Communale, the Tower of the Lions which preceded the castle, and the quarter inhabited by the ruling class) collected around this monument, which was linked to the river by a network of perpendicular streets. Guglielmo II degli Adelardi organized the defences to the north of the town, an earthen bank protected by a ditch and eighteen towers, whilst to the south the river continued to provide natural protection. The city went on developing along both banks of the river until the House of Este came to power.
This family first came to prominence in the communal government of Ferrara at the end of the 12th century, but another century was to elapse before it became the arbiter of the city's fate. The pope appointed the family to rule the City in 1332, first as a marquisate and then as a duchy, a title retained until 1598. The Este family gave Ferrara a place among the states, both large and small, in Italy. 
Niccolo II d'Este succeeded in consolidating the institutions of the domain, making it into a true principality. He gave special attention to matters relating to planning and in 1386 undertook the first of a series of extensions to the city (addizioni), all following the same lines. He enlarged the city by pushing the walls further away to the north. The open area created in this way became a quarter through the construction of a longitudinal axis street with streets opening out of it at right-angles and so linking with the existing street pattern. Niccolo invited his loyal supporters to move into this Quarter, which became centre of the city's elite.
During the difficult period for the Italian states at the beginning of the 15th century Niccolo III d'Este (1393-1441) followed a skillful policy. He received the popes John XXII and Martin v and hosted the Ecumenical Council of 1438. The arrival at the court of the Veronese humanist Guarino Guarini conferred prestige upon Ferrara. He was made responsible for the education of the young Leonello, destined to succeed Niccolo III as Duke (1441-50>. The new impetus that he gave to the university, founded in 1391, attracted many men Of letters and scientists, who gave form to the Renaissance culture of Ferrara.
Borso d'Este (1450-71), Leonello's younger brother, modernized the administrative structure of the state; he was made Duke of Modena and Reggio, and followed in Leonello's footsteps in cultural matters. He repeated Niccolo II's experiment by creating the second addizione on the same lines (1450>, reserving this Quarter in the south-east of the city for merchants.
The long alliance between Ferrara and the Venetian Republic was brought to an end by Ercole I (1433- 1505), who moved closer to France. His wife, Eleanora of Aragon, and their daughters Isabella and Beatrice played an important part in the political life of the Duchy and its relations with Naples and the neighbouring Duchies of Mantua and Milan. In 1492 he began the largest and most famous addizione in Ferrara as protection against venice. The work was carried out by the architect Biagio Rossetti, assisted by Pellegrino Prisciani. Working with Alessandro Biondo he extended the defensive walls on the north of the city, whose area was doubled. In this enormous new area he applied the plan that had already been tried in the earlier addizioni. However, Biagio Rossetti used perspective in defining urban space. The main street, which linked the castle with the villas and parks to the north continued to be a private road for the princely family, along which faithful supporters built their palazzi.
Conflict with Venice continued under Alfonso I (1476-1534), along with a dispute with Pope Julius II, who wanted to govern the Papal States directly. Relations with the Papacy became more complicated under Alfonso II, whose mother, Renee of France, protected persecuted Calvinists. In 1557 he began to introduce the principle of bastions into the city's fortifications. On his death in 1597 the Este family left Ferrara for Modena, and pope Clement VIII took back possession of the City, which became a distant province of the Papal States. The economic situation of the city deteriorated, with the walls being attacked by flooding from time to time and the countryside becoming impoverished. Nevertheless, a pentagonal fortress was built in 1608 to the south-east of the city (it was demolished after 1869).
Attempts to relaunch the economy Of Ferrara in the 18th century by creating a canal to link up with the PO and a new port did not have the effects anticipated. In 1796 the city was occupied by the French, who made it part of the Cisalpine Republic. Ferrara was occupied again by the French in the 19th century, and then by the Austrians. When it became part ofthe Kingdom of Italy in 1859 major reclamation works began on the marshlands, the city's gates were enlarged, and new infrastructure was added (railway, hospitals, etc). Damage during World War II was limited.
In the 15th-16th centuries the Este court was one of the main centres for the development and practical application of the new humanism in Italy. From the end of the reign of Niccolo III (1393-1441) it became an artistic centre where the greatest artists of the day were invited to decorate the palazzi and villa (delizie) of the Este family, both in the city itself and in the neighborhood - artists SUCh as Piero della Francesca (1499), Jacopo Bellini (1441), Mantegna (1449), and Roger van der Weyden (who brought the Flemish technique in 1449). Cosme Tura (1430-95), whose style was developed by Francesco del Cossa and Ercole de' Roberti, founded the Ferrara school of painting.
Ferrara also played host to great humanists such as Pietro Bombo (1470-1547), who dedicated Gli Asolani to Lucrezia Borgia, wife of Alfonso I, and poets such as 80iardo (1441-94), Ariosto (1474-1533), and Tasso (1544-95), the creators of a new form of Italian poetry, the epic and the commedia dell'arte. The poetic dreams of Ariosto were given material form in the development of the concept of the Italian Renaissance garden. The Barco, the hunting reserve Of the Este family to the north of the town, which was divided into several sectors according to function (zoological garden, giardino dei semplici or herb garden, ancestor of the botanical garden), was a model for the Villa d'Este at Tivoli and the Villa Taranto on Lake Maggiore.
The university, founded in 1391, was the scene of important scientific developments. Copernicus (1473) and Paracelsus (1493-1541) were among the famous scientists who studied or taught there.

    Sunday, September 14, 2014

    Mantua & Marmirolo

    Day 2: Mantova round tour 
    An entire day dedicated to the discovery of this wonderful city and its sourroundings dominated by the family of Gonzaga. In the late afternoon a local guide will lead you through the most known highlights of the town. 

    A dream day. Not a cloud in the sky. Deep blue skies and very pleasant. Carol's alarm goes off as usual at 7 and we are at breakfast at 8 and on our touring bikes by 9. We ride in a single file behind Martina  and stop for water breaks, a coffee and bathroom break, and a lunch break. We ride 32 km today around the lakes, along a canal, through fields of corn and past hog farms. We have a Charley and Corners to keep all of the 34 of us on the right bike path. We have Coffee in Marmirolo and arrive as church service is ending. The barge stays docked in Mantua and at 4 pm Martina takes us into the old town of Mantua to meet a guide who walks us through the Rotunda from Roman times (turned into a church  in 1050).

    We enter the beautiful church and the choir is practicing and a high school band is marching down the street playing Y.M.C.A. for a special town festival. I really like this small city and believe it has as much beauty as we've seen anywhere with the Ducal Palace. ......

    Odors today of sweet smelling shrubbery, foul smelling fish, and pig manure. Arrive at the barge about 6 and wait on the top deck for dinner. Have fun talking with the Australians.
    Eat across from Mandy and Dennis from Lake Barcroft, Va who have fun asking Carol about Alaska.

    The ideal way to approach Mantua – Mantova in Italian – is down the River Mincio from Lake Garda. Failing that, stand on the bridge near Porta San Giorgio from where the city's sultry Arabian Nights' skyline of domes and towers seems to hover above the water. It's ridiculously romantic.
    Wrapped in water, where the Mincio broadens into three lakes, Mantua is an overlooked Renaissance gem; a mini-Florence, rich with art, intrigue and infidelities. Where Florence had the Medicis, Mantua had the Gonzagas. Shrewd businessmen who married well, the dynasty ruled the city for more than 300 years, from the 14th century, commissioning the finest Renaissance craftsmen they could afford.
    Take the Basilica di Sant'Andrea. Dismissing the original medieval church as too lowly to house its great treasure – holy relics of Christ's blood – Lodovico ll Gonzaga hired the Florentine architect Alberti to design one of the highlights of the early Renaissance. With its lofty barrel-vaulted nave and triumphal-arch façade, the church crowds tiny Piazza Mantegna. To glimpse its glorious dome, I had to stand in the adjacent Piazza Erbe.
    The city's heart – a series of interlinked cobbled piazzas, lined with arcades – seems too small for the Gonzaga flamboyance. Ha! Wait until you see their main residence, the Palazzo Ducale. A mini-city of 500-odd rooms and a dozen courtyards, it contained some 3,000 works of art at its height, before overspending and a Habsburg invasion curtailed the Gonzaga's power. Today, its extravagantly decorated rooms are largely empty; highlights include Andrea Mantegna's glorious frescoes, a roof-level rose garden and 16th-century Flemish tapestries from Raphael cartoons (copies of those in the Vatican).
    Wilting from such excess, I almost dismissed the nearby Duomo. A mistake. Behind its frothy façade lies an elegant interior by the Raphael student Giulio Romano, another rising star spotted by the 
    Equally well-hidden, behind a neoclassical façade, is the Teatro Bibiena, a jewel-box of velvet armchairs and tiers of boxes each with frescoes. It's like stepping into a toy theatre.
    The next morning, I took a bus to the sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie, whose interior is lined with bizarre votives: wax or wooden figures in threadbare clothes, footballs, crash helmets, plus a crocodile suspended from the ceiling.
    Back in Mantua, I discovered more eye-popping artistry at Palazzo Te. Painted by Giulio Romano for Federico Gonzaga's mistress, the frescoes are fleshy and fulsome: in the Camera di Amore e Psiche, seduction oozes from every wall, while in the Camera dei Giganti, it's all colossal lightning bolts, boulders and columns.
    To cool my whirling senses, I took a walk along the lakeside paths. The countryside here is so flat, the waters stretched to the horizon. I passed courting couples, handsome men walking handsome dogs, a jogger oozing an intoxicating aftershave. Phew! This is a city on sensory overdrive.
    The first concert at the Teatro Bibiena was given by a 13-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    In the Middle Ages the territory of Marmirolo was owned by the Canossa family, and since 1055 it became part of Mantua.
    Then it became ownership of the Gonzaga family who already owned lands and palaces there. In the village of Ronchi, in the summer of 1328, a conspiracy against the Bonacolsi family was organized to hand Mantua to the Gonzagas. In 1435 Gianfrancesco Gonzaga had a big palace built which was renovated and enlarged many times, with the precious contributions of Mantegna, Leombruno and Giulio Romano. It soon fell into disgrace, so that it was destroyed in the late 18th century.

    The small palace of Bosco Fontana - built according to the will of Vincenzo I Gonzaga in the late 16th century - witnessed the splendor of that time. Bosco, today State Nature Reserve, is one of the last parts of the plain forest which once covered the whole Po Valley. In the square of the village, near the liberty-moor-style city hall, there is the Tower from the 15th century that belonged to the walls of the old castle: it is situated in the square of the village, where the original one collapsed in the 18th century.
    The SS. Filippo and Giacomo church, a work by the architect Soratini, dates back to 1748, and it houses precious paintings by the artist from Verona Frà Semplice.

    In the surroundings there are many natural views created by the river Mincio. The northernmost part is the municipality of Pozzolo, included in the Park's territory, on the left bank of the river Mincio, a picturesque village whose history is written on the water between the river Mincio and the Scaricatore canal. The parish church dedicated to the nativity of Mary dates back to 1768: among the furnitures there are paintings from the 16th century and a group of marble statues representing the Madonna with the Infant Jesus from the 14th century. 

    Province: Mantova
    Official Website www.comune.marmirolo.mn.it
    The castle of Marmirolo
    Pozzolo, S. Isidoro Oratorio

    Map data ©2014 Google
    10 km