Early last summer I made reservations to take my two grandsons and my daughter (their aunt) to the Christmas markets. Arranged to take them out of school, and planned nine nights on the ground for a taste of some of my favorites: Rothenburg, Mittenwald, Salzburg, and Munich. Ticketed to FRA on the night before Thanksgiving and flying home from Munich. Knew from the get go that everything could go kaput again this year, and all my hotels were refundable, most down to 24 hours ahead of arrival.
When the Munich markets cancelled I started scrutinizing the German news. In Munich we mostly wanted to do the BMW factory tour and see the Ice Box surfers, and I thought if we wanted another market we could take the ICE train to Nuremburg for the day. But when the Bavarian markets cancelled and Salzburg went into lockdown, I set a new record for planning a trip to Europe — about six hours. Cancelled all the hotels, and gemut.com graciously refunded every dollar of my prepaid car rental. Now we’re going to Venice and Rome!
Buying four new RT airfares to Italy at the last minute was prohibitive, so took the next best option, to keep our original tickets and buy connecting flights on Lufthansa to get us from FRA to Venice and from FCO back to Munich. (I started with an ambitious, unrealistic idea to get to Venice by train via the Bernina Express, but clearly too much travel and not enough days.) I didn’t underestimate that getting to Venice would be one long, harrowing travel day, but both boys (12 and 14) were thrilled about going to Italy.
I always planned taking a water taxi to our apartment, because I wanted a special first memory for them. It was gloomy and wet in Venice when we landed, and we couldn’t sit in the back of an open boat as I had envisioned, but I was so brain dead it was great not to have to negotiate busses and vaporettos, and we got a scenic ride down the Grand Canal, sitting in a warm dry space, even if we were looking out rain-splattered windows. The Venice airport was almost empty, the ticket machine for the vaporetto passes worked, booking a water taxi on arrival was easy, and we were dropped at the door of our apartment.
My favorite area of Venice is the Dorsoduro, and on VRBO I found a pretty 2 BR, 2 bath, first floor apartment, overlooking a canal. It’s not too noisy, and it’s so close to an artigianale bakery, Grom gelato, a grocery store, and Volo takeout pizza - all places we love. We arrived late afternoon with just enough steam left for a grocery run and giant floppy pizza slices from Volo, which both boys pronounced the best ever. Crashed early.
I love off season travel to avoid crowds and cross my fingers for decent weather. Our first full day started out foggy, but in the beautiful way that is Venice. When I’m traveling with friends we’re usually up and out early to see as much as we can. Kids need a gentler awakening and more food. My guys liked getting cappuccini and cornetti from the bar. We activated our 72 hour vaporetto passes about 10AM, leaving us time to get to the train station by 10:30 three days later. Made it to St.Mark’s for the illumination, and looked out on a practically empty Piazza from the upper balcony of the Basilica,
Our next stop was San Giorgio’s on Giudecca for the awesome view from the bell tower. Easy to ascend by elevator, and we were the only ones on top. Took the boat to the Zaterre stop to explore new territory on the way back to our apartment. A lunch stop for paninis, gelato from Grom and an afternoon break before our dinner reservation at Taverna San Trovaso. My older grandson told me Venice was the most beautiful place he had ever seen, and his brother said it was the best Italian food ever, so we’re off to a good start.