Day 09, 20 April 2016 – Venice to Assisi

Dinner last night was at our leisure so Russ and I wandered along the footpath and went into a restaurant which looked like it was frequented by the locals. This is generally a good sign, but not this time.

It was supposed to have free wi fi but we were unable to find any signal at all. Russ ordered Spaghetti Bolognaise and I order crumbed pork cutlets. The meals arrived together and Russ’ meal looked fine, if a little dry on the sauce side. Mine was the smallest, flattest, dried piece of veal I have ever tasted. It was sitting on a square of paper (almost cardboard) and I joked with Russ that it was there to stop the meal from flying off the plate while you were sawing away trying to cut it. And, to add insult to injury, it cost 9 Euro.

We wandered back to the hotel and repacked our suitcases to put out in the corridor as requested, and then uploaded more photos and the blog.

We set the alarm for 6:30, and when we woke up we could hear people talking outside so panicked, thinking that we had got the time wrong. It was all good. They had wanted to put their overnight bags in the coach before Marco left (without us) at 6:50am.

For the second day in a row I had pikelets for breakfast. There was only a horrible attempt at providing muesli in both Florence and Venice, which reminded me quite forcibly of the cereal in Turkey when we were there. The cereal selection here was sadly lacking – rice pops, cocoa pops and cornflakes. Russ missed the pikelets on both days as they were more my eye level than his. He had the usual scrambled eggs, bacon and little sausages and a croissant for breakfast.

We were all assembled on time and marched to the dock to board the private boat that would take us, one more time, through the Grand Canal and to the Port facility where we re-joined Marco and the coach.

As the days’ progress I keep remembering things that happened which I have not mentioned previously. One such episode occurred in Florence when we were spending free time (and money) in the square. We were approached by a group of four girls (very busy giggling) who explained to us that the school was doing a project whereby they needed to approach obvious tourists as representatives of Marco Polo and see if they could provide assistance with anything. The teachers were observing from the square in case any of them got into trouble along the way.

As we had just finished our orientation tour around the place Russ asked them pointed questions to see if they could provide the answers, and helped them to understand how best to explain things to other tourists. We were later approached by another group of students (more giggling) and the same scenario took place. Once they were finished the two groups met up to compare noted with even more giggling taking place.

The other thing I forgot to mention deals with Michelangelo and the painting of the roof of the Sistine Chapel. The life expectancy of a man in this time was mid-forties. Michelangelo was 62 when he started work on the roof mural. He spent three years lying on his back on girders to reach the roof area. He died in his eighties. What an incredible man.

And let’s not forget the bed bug bites I got in Florence – two of them on my face. One of the other ladies got two on her face when we were at Venice.

While travelling on the coach Giuseppe spoke to us about the remaining Optional Extras available, and what to expect on the overnight ferry ride from Naples in Italy to Palermo in Sicily.

We stopped for our first rest break at 9:45am before continuing on our journey. At lunch time Marco pulled over at a service station area. Russ and I still had supplies of bread and fruit from the previous day so, while I went into the place to get cold drinks, Russ found a lovely little picnic area filled with wildflowers where we could sit and eat our meal.

The day was sunny, with a cooling breeze, and it was a very pleasant interlude before re-boarding the coach and continuing our journey.

We arrived in Assisi at 2:30pm. I tell you, the pace of this tour is frenetic. I believe the next one in Spain will be slightly slower, thank heavens.

While in lower Assisi we visited a church dedicated to St Clare of the Poor and it was lovely. It had a smaller church inside it where St Francis actually died. As per usual, no photos were allowed, but I snuck in a few.

All the churches we have seen so far are beginning to roll into one. It appears that apart from Rome and Pompeii most of the tourist industry is based on churches and their most beautiful architecture and fit outs. I am not sure how many of the population (other than those who chose orders) are religious. I think the process of scraping a living has caught up with them.

All the churches we visit are subject to inspection by the Guardia to try and combat terrorist activity. Russ was refused entrance here due to him carrying his pocket knife. I think he continues to carry it as it is so convenient for cutting fruit as we go along.

Another of the ladies was refused entrance as she had a sleeveless t-shirt on, as shoulders must be covered (and knees if you are a woman. Sunglasses must be removed, although they will allow you to wear them on top of your head, and hats also. I ended up letting her wear my jacket so she didn’t miss out. They are very strict on this sort of thing, and the “silenzio” routine.

Sylvia was our local guide and she did a great job. When we got up to the higher level of Assisi we were able to join the stream of tourists on their way to see the basilica of St Francis. There is a huge monastery beside it where three different kinds of Franciscans live. These men look after the churches. Assisi is called the City of Peace.

When we had finished the guided part of the program we had some free time to explore Assis and to buy souvenirs, of course. As most of them are religious I was not the least bit tempted.

We finally arrived at our hotel which is on the upper level of Assisi but a bit of distance from the town proper. However, it has recently been refurbished so is quite modern by comparison to some we have stayed at. It didn’t beat the space we had in Venice, but I didn’t get any bed bug bites either. The hotel is situated on the top of a ridge and the views of the valley on all sides are awesome.

The staff at the hotel were very friendly, although the waiters in the restaurant could have been more cheerful. The hotel had a magnificent garden, which we had a view of outside the bedroom window. We also got time the next morning to wander the pathways after breakfast for some photos. The wind was too cold the previous evening to go to the rooftop, but we made it the next morning.

Our dinner tonight was included in the tour (probably as it is too far to go back to the city proper for food unless you get a taxi both ways). The meal was quite good although, as can be expected, I left the leafy green things on my plate. We had penne pasta for entrée, veal and roasted baby potatoes for the main course, and a lovely cheesecake for dessert.

We got back to our room about 9:10pm and Russ crashed. Whole days without a decent break are starting to catch up with all of us, and those who continue to take the optional extras at night time (mostly food and wine) get even more tired. Before we got into bed this evening we had to pack our little bag of goodies separately so we could carry them onto the ferry when we cross from Naples to Palermo in Sicily tomorrow night.