Lake Garda, Venice, Rome, Pienza
September 2014


This is an abridged description of a trip to Italy in September 2014. The intention is to give a firsthand personal experience of how Joy and I did get to and through the country by car from Berlin to Lake Garda, Venice, Rome and a small part of Tuscany. Despite the fact that I did not book anything in advance, it still was a very good trip with no problems getting any accommodation.

On the way from Berlin to Italy we had an overnight stopover in Maurach at the Achen Lake (Achensee) in Austria. We stayed in and paid 65.00 Euro for the double room including a very good breakfast.

This report may not be as exotic as the other trips to more far away destinations. And it is only a very small part of Italy. And as far as Germans are concerned, it may not be all new to them, since Italy is their most traveled to country. But maybe someday the Chinese will out run even the Europeans, since I have already seen a lot of them in Venice and Rome.

Since this is not only a travel report but also a personal memory album, so don't complain that Joy is often standing or sitting in the way while taking the photos.

Also don't complain about the photos not adjusted correctly on the right side if you use Mozilla Firefox. I propose to use the Explorer of Microsoft instead.

Lake Garda

After a stopover in Innsbruck in Austria we arrived at the Lake Garda in the late afternoon. Where to stay overnight? In the first town of Torbole we were looking for the "i" for information. We found it just at the end of town in the southern direction along the east coast of the lake. The lady of the tourist information office was very kind and she printed a list of hotels with available rooms. We chose the
Hotel Morelli
Via della Lova 10
38069 Nago-Torbole
Tel.:+39 0464 505009
The room with breakfast buffet did cost 82.00 Euro per night. After walking along the shore in the direction to Riva and then back in the evening sun we found the nice Ristorante La Sciabola on main street where we had dinner with pepper steak, pizza, wine and a German wheat beer and paid 33.80 Euro. This included 2.00 Euro cover charge called Coperto and is common in most Italian restaurants (some even charge you double). Now take a look at the following photos.

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

Not Riva but Torbole at the Lake Garda
Relaxing Shopping?
Enjoying the landscape and doing some sightseeing
Next morning after breakfast we left Torbole and drove south along the eastern coast of Lake Garda passing through Malcésine and many other touristy towns until we reached Peschiera, a beautiful town at the southern tip of Lake Garda where we stopped for lunch before we continued to the medieval town of Sirmione with its impressive castle. If you want to know more about these places then look up any guidebook or the internet.
A castle at the shore of Lake Garda and a church along the way down south
Sculptures at a front of a church View to the opposite shore
And then we reached the town of Peschiera
At the south end of Lake Garda with a nice ambiance and lot of tourists
And many swans swimming around the old city walls
Next stop over was in Sirmione with its famous Castello Scaligero
with many towers and draw bridges
Surrounded by a moat and a town with shops and restaurants
With an old well in the middle and nice houses around
Then further along the moat you get to the beach behind this well
Still Sirmione, not Venice yet Now we are in Venice, as you can see


Next destination after Lake Garda was Venice. I was advised by a friend not to look for an accommodation in Venice but in the opposite town of Mestre on the mainland. It's cheaper and most hotels there have a car park, which are hard to find in Venice.

After getting off the Autostrada I was trying to get to the city center of Mestre while looking for the circle sign. But all of a sudden we were on the road bridge to Venice with no possibility for a u-turn. What the heck. We arrived at the Venice bus station and I tried to ask around for the tourist information office, but it was closed. What a nice welcome in the most visited place in Italy. So we drove back to Mestre. This time it was easy to follow the circle signs for the city center. We also saw signs of several hotels, which I checked out. One of them was the
Hotel delle Rose
Via Millosevich 46
30173 Mestre, Venezia
Tel.:+39 0415317711
The room with breakfast buffet did cost 75.00 Euro per night. We could also park the car on the hotel premises without charge. The staff was very kind and gave us all kinds of advice. One good recommendation was the
Trattoria Ristorante "Alla Laguna"
Viale S. Marco 134
30173 Mestre, Venezia
which offered very good sea food dishes for around 13.00 Euro. The house wine was very cheap too: 5.00 Euro for half a liter. To walk there was easy: Just around the corner from the Via Millosevich to the Viale S. Marco. Also close to the Trattoria Ristorante was the bus stop for the ride to Venice in 15 minutes. You can buy the daily ticket at the Tabaccheria beside the Trattoria Ristorante. It cost 20.00 Euro and includes all public transport in Mestre and Venice, whether bus or boats along the canals. Ok, let's go and join our tour to and almost around Venice. Again: I only mention some names. All the other information you can look up in any guidebook or the internet.
Boat stop at the railway station This is one of the public boats
Hotel along the Canal Grande Houses along the Canal Grande
Churches at the Canal Grande
The Canal Grande with a church tower Passing by the Casino di Venezia
This building must have cost a fortune The owner of this one must be wealthy
The better houses with the Italian flag seem to belong to government institutions
I wonder who is living here or are these office buildings?
This office building looks deserted This building is nicely renovated
What's Venice without the Gondolieros What's Venice without the Realto Bridge
This is one of the main tourist spots with many restaurants on either side
An Ambulance boat cruising the Canal Grande because this is an accident prone water way
Let's continue on the Canal Grande with so many bellissimo casa grande
I would like to stay in a house like these with a landing stage for my own boat
Many buildings are similar But I haven't seen two the same
Some buildings are very colorful Some buildings are very artful
A gondola taxi stand? No. Only for tourists to pay 80€ per hour
I rather watch the scenery from the public transport boat
Ecco Santa Maria della Salute Alla salute a santa madonna
Standing in front of the Palazzo Ducale Part of the front of the Palazzo Ducale
Too many tourists on the Piazzetta also too many going over the Ponte dello Paglia
Again, with madonna in front The Ponte dei Sospiri (the Sigh Bridge) in the background
At the Piazza San Marco: The Basilica di San Marco At the Piazzetta: The front of the Biblioteca Marciana
The Biblioteca Marciana with the Campanile (tower) The Torre dell'Oroligo (the clock gate) in the back
Close up of the Torre dell'Oroligo at the Piazza San Marco Souvenir shop window in a small street behind
One of the small side streets One of the little bridges
One of the narrow canals One of the dark gaps
We almost did get lost, but then we hit the Rialto Bridge Close up look of the Ponte di Rialto over the Canal Grande
Looking down to the Canal Grande with many restaurants on the side walks
It was lunch time and we sat down in the Ristorante "Omnibus" and ordered a Salad Niçoise and a pasta with a beer and a soft drink for 36.00 Euro. Here all prices are overpriced, i.e. around fifty percent more than elsewhere. Tourist prices. Take it or leave it.
Looking at Donna Grande and down to the Canal Grande Having lunch in a restaurant at the Canal Grande
After lunch we had enough of walking and boarded again the boat to do the circle all around the island of Venice in order to get more impressions of the southern and eastern part. Though, we did get only to half of the eastern part, because our boat turned back after the Island of Moreno. According to the "major waterborne route map" the line 4.1 we took was supposed to go all around Venice counter-clockwise. But halfway the same boat changed the number to 4.2 for the clockwise direction. Thus we went the same half way back. What the heck.
Now we are cruising along the coast south of San Marco on the way all around the island (we thought)
But not with one of these yachts We even couldn't afford the Gondolas
Another nice bridge just before we reach the garden, where the Biennale takes place
Another boat maybe coming from the Lido island, we should have visited
Instead we visit now a cemetery on the Isola di S.Michele
This is the church on Isola di S.Michele Next: The main island of Murano with light tower on the right
Murano is famous for its artful glass production For export but also for sale locally
An old house on Murano of an old wealthy family A rather new house on Murano of a newly rich family
A rather decayed house on Murano A nice house on Murano of a flower lover
An old church New appartment houses
Good bye Murano with its light tower We passed a nice yacht on the way back
We passed by another ship: The Michel-angelo Instead of going around the island: Back to San Marco
That was Venice. One full day sight-seeing was enough for us. There would have been much more to see, especially inside of the many churches and museums, but we were more outdoor enthusiasts. We could have continued by car from Mestre to some beaches farther east or south along the Adria, but we were not here for the griglia tedesca, though we could have encountered many interesting places but Joy wanted the best next: Rome.


So I drove all the way from Mestre in one go to Rome. It was not easy to find the city center of Rome. At first I saw two circle signs but for two different directions. Ok, there is a saying that all roads lead to Rome. But only in the old days. By following one circle sign I didn't encounter another one. So I had to use my Garmin navigator. But where to go? I didn't have a guidebook of Rome. The only thing I knew was the Termini, which I typed as the destination. By getting now closer to the inner city I also saw the "i" sign for the tourist information office. But before I did get there I also saw several signs of "hotel" names at one house front in one of the side streets.

I stopped in front of it and went through the gate and up the stairs to the reception of the first "hotel". Unfortunately there were no rooms available. But the receptionist was so kind to call up the other "hotel" on the next floor. It was the
Salandra Roma Suite
Via Antonio Salandra 6
00187 Roma
Tel.:+39 06 42014090
which had a room available and we took it. The rate was 85.00 Euro per night including breakfast. The receptionist lady was very kind and she spoke fluent English. She told us a lot about what to do and what to see and where and what to eat best. She even came down with me to the street to show me where to park for free unlimited. It was in another side street around the corner. I was lucky to find one empty space, which just became available when a delivery truck left (a car park just beside would have cost 24.00 Euro per day). If the Salandra should be fully booked then there is still another "hotel" on another floor again, which is the There were actually many "hotels" in one house to choose from.

Since we did arrive in the late afternoon there was no time for any real sight-seeing. There was also no need to look around for a restaurant. The
Ristorante da Giovanni
Via Antonio Salandra 1
00187 Roma
which was recommended by our receptionist lady, was just opposite. It was pretty good and very convenient so that we ate dinner there every evening. Only the rice Joy ordered with the fish and steaks was not to her liking. This actually was not part of any Italian dish anyway. But Joy cannot live without rice. I was mostly content with pasta. For the meals including dessert, half a liter beer and wine and two espressos we paid around 45.00 Euro.

Next day: Sight-seeing day. We were furnished with a map of Rome were all interesting places had been marked, including how to get there, by our receptionist lady. Also, at what Tabaccheria we could buy the daily public transport ticket for 6.00 Euro. Joy wanted to visit the Pope first, so we took the Metro to the Ottaviano station and walked from there the short distance along the Via Ottaviano to the outer walls of the Vatican and then along the wall to the St. Peter's Square. Take a look at following selfexplanatory photos.
Standing in front of the Vatican Behind the gate: The St. Peter's Square
The Basilica of St. Peter in the middle Empty seats in the front. No Pope on the balcony
The colonnade on the left The colonnade on the right
A queue of tourists all around tries to get into the Basilica But we rather admire the outside artful sculptures
Behind the collonade Who's imprisoned here?
Souvenir stalls all around Some priests walk around
Leaving behind the St. Peter's square and the Ponte Vittorio Emanuel II
Leaving behind the Castel Sant' Angelo and then walking over the Ponte Sant' Angelo
Coming from the Castel Sant' Angelo it started to rain and we had no umbrella. Some peddler tried to sell us a cheap looking one for 10.00 Euro. We declined and rather went into a restaurant for lunch. I ordered only one pizza and one soft drink to share with an extra plate. But the waiter told me that sharing is not allowed. I had to order something else in addition. "Why is that? I can order anything anywhere in the world to share, but not in Rome?" I asked him. He was not impressed so I said that I will not share "Just bring it for my wife". When the order came I just cut the pizza and we both ate by hand. The pizza was so big that we didn't finish it and left two slices for the waiter (to share). So be aware of this if you should visit this
Ristorante Giovanni Cassandra
Via Banco S. Spirito 58
By the way, the bill was 12.00 Euro. We were so much fed up (in a double sense) that we needed to relax. We took a bus to Termini and walked from there to our "hotel".

After a nap we walked along the Via Barberini to the Piazza Barberini with the Fontana del Tritone and after that along the Via Tritone to reach the Fontana di Trevi. But what a disappointment: It was a construction site but with a lot of tourists around despite.
The famous Fontana del Tritone Not a shop in the famous Via Veneto but the Via Tritone
Throwing a coin into the fountain means that you'll come back to Rome That's definitely not true: It was a wrong throw into a substitute fountain
What a pity: The fountain is all scaffolded Better to leave it and watch life in the street
When we reached the Spanish Steps we saw another construction site at the base in front of the steps: The Fontana della Barcaccia in the middle of the Piazza di Spagna. Ok, that's all for the day. We took the Metro from the Spagna station back to the Piazza della Repubblica and walked back to our "hotel". And then we had dinner at Giovanni again.
Once in a life time you must sit on the Spanish Steps
Far down you can see the Fontana della Barcaccia also under construction Far up you can see the church of Trinita del Monti also with a scaffold
Next day is my day. Full of ancient history. I want to feel like being in Rome around 2000 years ago. The best place to start was the Colosseum. We rode the Metro from the Termini station to the Colosseo station. The impressive building popped up just after getting out of the underground station.
Finally: The Colosseum
The Colosseum is one of the most famous monuments in the world. The work began 72 AD by Vespasian and was inaugurated by Tito in the year 80 AD. It's actually an amphitheatre, the world's largest one. It's 50 meters high and divided into three levels, each having 80 arches. The interior had a capacity of 50,000 people. There is much more to tell. Not only just about the Colosseum but also about the adjacent leftovers of the ancient Rome with its many arches, temples and palaces. Look up any history or guide books or the internet, if you want to know more. Now you may follow me by looking at the following photos.
It's fantastic what's still left after almost 2000 years It's impressive what the Romans built
Even more impressive inside: Looking to the west Looking to the east
Imagine moving back in time and be one of the Romans
Imagine moving back in time and be one of the gladiators
Imagine being a Roman woman married to a Roman guy
Definitely not with a cigarette smoker but maybe one with a cell phone already
Look at the arches and how it was built
Look through the arches and admire the sight
The Arch of Constantine The Temple of Venus and Roma
The Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine My companion and the Arch of Constantine
Again: My companion and the Arch of Constantine This time: The Arch of Titus
The ceiling of the Arch of Titus Side relief of the Arch of Titus
Remnants of the Basilica of Maxentius View to the north-western part of the Roman Forum
The Basilica di Santa Francesca Romana The Temple of Antonius and Faustina
The basilika Santi Cosma e Damiano Remnants of the Temple of Castor and Pollux
Remnants of the Temple of Saturn The Arch of Septimius Severus at the right
Part of the arch of the Arch of Septimius Severus Part of a relief of the Arch of Septimius Severus
At the end of the very old Rome almost 2000 years ago we jump to the Rome of the middle ages around 500 years ago, i.e. to the Piazza del Campidoglio with its palaces around, which was designed by Michelangelo.
The Capitoline Museum at the Piazza del Campi-doglio with Sculptures in front of the museum
A small figure in front of the huge sculpture The piazza was designed by Michel-angelo
Left: Sculpture of a man with a horse, of course Right: Sculpture of a man with a horse, of course
And from the middle ages we jump now to the modern age also adjacent just around the corner from the Piazza del Campidoglio to the Piazza Venezia with its "National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II". He unified Italy and became its king in the 19th century. The monument is also called the Altare della Patria or Altar of the Fatherland in English, also to celebrate the unity of Italy. It also contains the grave of the Unknown Soldier who died in World War I. Take a look at the following photos. The last ones of our trip to Rome.
At right: The Basilica of St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven Left around the corner: National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II
Reliefs with the Statue of Italy in the middle The statue of Victor Emanuel II on the top
Left part with Quadriga on top (not from the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin) Right part with another Quadriga on top
Sculpture on the left Sculpture on the right
Another sculptures in front of the monument
It was not easy to leave Rome, in a double sense. I was sad not to have stayed longer to see more but also to get out of Rome. At first I was too proud to use the navigator. But I didn't see any signs for the autostrada. I tried to drive all the way to the east but all of a sudden I landed at the Termini, that meant I drove in circles. Then I switched on the navigator and typed "Siena", which led us to the Autostrada correctly and then farther on to the Tuscany.


Our first stop for lunch was at Montepulciano, also famous for its wine. I knew it from previous trips: Once by bike through Tuscany in 1996 and another time by car on the way to the Amalfitana in 1997. I liked it so much and wanted to introduce it to Joy as our first typical Tuscan town on a hill, like so many other towns around here. But for Joy it really did get too much around and around the winding roads that she became dizzy. Though eating lunch in a restaurant was still ok. It was the
Trattoria Diva & Maceo Gestione Emmedi SRL
Via di Gracciano nel Corso 90/92
53045 Montepulciano
where we had a wine and a beer, a pasta and a steak, an espresso and a cake, all for 38.50 Euro. After a short sight-seeing walk in the town we drove down to Pienza, our planned first overnight stop.
And now we are in Monte-pulciano our first stop in the Tuscany
Where to buy the famous wine? First let's walk around town
Walking through narrow streets Looking into narrow backyards
Looking at an old church Looking into an old church
An old restaurant An old clock tower
Good bye, Monte-pulciano Hitting the winding roads through the Tuscany
We arrived in the late afternoon in Pienza. The tourist information office was just at the gate of the walled-in medieval town. The lady was very kind and she telephoned around for available rooms. Most hotels were full but the
Albergo Rutiliano
Via della Madonnina 18
53026 Pienza
had a room for 90.00 Euro including breakfast. It also had a nice swimming pool where I did a dip to cool down after a hot day. After that we walked to the gate of the town about 500 meters. Inside there were many small cute alleys with the main alley in the middle with some souvenir shops still open. After we looked around town we entered the
La Buca delle Fate
C. so Il Rossellino 38/A
53026 Pienza
This restaurant belongs to our hotel and we were thus promised a discount of 12% if we eat there. What we did. Or better what I did. Joy had ordered Patata Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce for 8.00 Euro but couldn't eat it because it tasted terribly (I tried it too). Maybe the sauce was spoiled with a non edible mushroom or fungus, because Joy almost spoiled the table cloth by vomiting on it. I was lucky with my antipasti with ham, salami and cheese and with bread for 8.50 Euro. No cook could have spoiled it.
There are many tourists in La Buca delle Fate Joy is still smiling before the pasta arrived and to meet her fate

Next morning Joy still felt sick. She even couldn't eat any breakfast. Maybe the pasta of the previous night and the winding roads of the previous day may have played together. She also felt homesick to Germany and wanted to get back to Berlin right away. And that's what we did. It was already late morning when we made that decision. So I drove back all the way from Pienza to Berlin same day where we arrived at around midnight.

If we would have known not to tour the Tuscany for another week we would have flown. The travel cost would have been even cheaper. As a matter of fact, a package offered by Airberlin from Berlin to Rome with a three nights stay at the Holiday Inn was offered for 430.00 Euro for two persons (for certain dates, though). We already paid 255.00 Euro for our cheap "hotel" for three nights in Rome. The difference of 175.00 Euro is much less than what I paid for gasoline and tolls, not to count the extra overnight stays in between. As a matter of fact I paid for the whole trip 392.00 Euro for gasoline and 130.00 Euro for tolls, which comes up to 522.00 Euro just for transport, not counting oil and depreciation of the car.

Ok, we made Lake Garda and Venice on the way, but we could have afforded a similar extra package to Venice with flights and hotel for 374.00 Euro for two persons again, even for three nights. So, if you just plan a city visit then consider a package. However, if you plan a round trip for a couple of weeks or a month then traveling by car is the better and more flexible option. Ok, we planned that but cut it short because of the reasons mentioned above. By the way, I drove 3290km alltogether.

This was the end of our trip to Italy. As it was said before and will be said again: There could have been seen and done a lot more. Also I could have written more. If you want to know more all about the places we have visited, then just look up any of the many guidebooks or the internet.

Created October 2014

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