Basilica of St. Francis, Lower Courtyard

Italy by Bus

Day 7

Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - Furlo, Ravenna, Venice by Night


Assisi — Venice Today on through sun-drenched landscapes to Ravenna with its ancient mosaics and Byzantine architecture. Here we visit the Church of Saint Apollinaris in Classe before seeing the ancient Romanesque Basilica of Pomposa. We continue to the floating city of Venice for two nights. (BB D)

Optional Excursions

Venice by Night A scintillating introduction to this magical city! First we cruise along the Grand Canal by private water taxis admiring the elegant Palazzos, illuminated by magnificent chandeliers. We see the Rialto Bridge and then reach the 'most beautiful outdoor drawing room in the world' — St. Mark's Square. Here we will have time to wonder at the impressive architecture before enjoying an included drink at one of the chic 'al fresco' cafes whilst listening to the music of its own orchestra! We return to our coach on the mainland by private motor launch.

On to Venice

Schedule Change

As mentioned previously, the included tour of Assisi will take place this morning, rather than during the hottest part of the day yesterday.

Tour of Assisi

We boarded the bus at 07:40AM, which took us to the "top" of the town of Assisi, so no one had to walk all the way up the hill. Here we met our guide for Assisi, whose name I think was Guiseppe. From there, we walked downhill all the way, through the town as the guide pointed out various things along the way.

At the top, there used to be a small amphitheater. A portion of it has been turned into a house, and the rest of the wall is now a wall around the garden.

These are two of the churches that the guide pointed out as we made our way down through Assisi.

Church in Assisi
Church in Assisi

The church in this photo, on a short street just off of the main piazza, is where Francesco was baptized as a boy.


As we went, we passed a few cafes and shops with various goodies in the windows. In one of the windows, Karen spotted some licorice. There were large sticks of licorice, some of it with a filling -- coconut, strawberry and lemon. Karen and my Aunt go to the movies together often, and usually take some licorice with them as a snack. So Karen wanted to get some to bring back for her. I didn't get any pictures of these, but here is a photo of some licorice we found at an Autogrill. These are similar, but are small chunks. This package cost 2600 lire, as you can see from the sticker on the top. This was the equivelant of about $1.15 US.

Then we came to the main piazza of Assisi, the Piazza del Comune.

The Piazza del Comune in Assisi You can see the columns of the Roman Temple of Minerva, which has been converted to a church.

We were given 15 minutes of free time, so we walked back to the cafe with the licorice and bought a few sticks.

And then we walked on down to the Basilica of Saint Francis.

The Piazza del Comune in Assisi

The main facade of the basilica. You can see the walkway on the left that leads down to the lower courtyard.

We toured the upper basilica which was the first Gothic church in Italy. Then we went down to the lower level and saw the tomb of St. Francis, who is the patron saint of Europe. I do not remember why, but his body was hidden for hundreds of years.
There is a large space between the floors of the two levels of the basilica, large enough to walk in. During World War II, 300 Jews were hidden there from the Nazis by the townspeople until papers could be forged for them.

Countryside around Assisi

This is a view of the countryside as we walked from the town, down to where the bus was parked. In the distance, in about the middle of the frame, you can see the church Santa Maria d'Angeli that we toured yesterday.

A quick stop for the smiley rooms, and we were on the bus and on our way at 10:00AM.

The roundabout way to Ravenna, on the way to Venice

As we began our journey to Ravenna, Marco explained that most tour directors would take the "boring" drive up through the valley to Ravenna, especially if they had been delayed in leaving Assisi due to touring it this morning. In looking at the map he gave us, I believe that he was talking about route E45, which is the main route from Perugia to Ravenna. Instead, we would be experiencing the "day of the medieval villages"; more travel "al la Marco".

Lunch in Furlo

So, we started up the E45, but soon turned off to the right near Umbertide, took a left before Gubbio and made our way to route 3, which was the main Roman road to the Adriatic Sea. This route brought us into Marco's home province of Marche (the Marches), and not too far from his boyhood town of Ancona.

As we went, we passed the hill towns of Terita de Burina, Amelia, San Gemini, Ponteluco and Trevi among others. (I may not have spelled all of them correctly.)

As we drove, Marco told us about Mussolini, and how he would spend time in a town called Furlo with his mistress during the war. At 11:30AM, we reached the town of Furlo, and stopped at Bar Furlo for lunch.

Karen in front of Bar Furlo Karen in front of Bar Furlo

River in Furlo This photo was taken across the street from Bar Furlo

This was part of a building which included a restaurant and a small hotel, with a sign that said Ristorante Furlo Albergo. In here we looked at a room filled with artifacts and memorabilia of Mussolini and his mistress.

Then we had lunch, consisting of a piadine (a sandwich made from a bread similar to pita bread, with tomato, proscuito, mozzarella cheese) and a glass of Verdicchio wine. Marco poured the wine while the waitresses, who he called his sisters, served the sandwiches. Marco really seemed to be enjoying himself during this stop, which made it more enjoyable for most of us. This lunch cost us 7000 lire per person, or a little under $3.50 each.

Here are some of Randy and Lynda's comments: One remembrance about Furlo is the two that Marco said was a volcano in recounting how volatile her personality could be. We enjoyed stopping there and picked up some of the truffles they were famous for harvesting from the forest.

Ancient Roman and Etruscan Tunnels

At 12:20PM, we were back on the bus, but only for a short trip to an ancient Roman tunnel. Here, we got off the bus, the bus drove through the tunnel, and then we walked through it. Off to the right of the Roman tunnel, you can see an even older Etruscan tunnel.

Ancient Roman Tunnel on the Road from Furlo to the Adriatic Coast Ancient Roman Tunnel on the Road from Furlo to the Adriatic Coast

Ancient Tunnels on the Road from Furlo to the Adriatic Coast Ancient Roman tunnel and even older Etruscan tunnel

Ancient Etruscan Tunnel on the Road from Furlo to the Adriatic Coast Ancient Etruscan tunnel

Then it was back on the bus for the two-hour drive to Ravenna.

Basilica Sant'Apollinare in Classe

We continued west on route 3, and then turned north and followed route 16 along the Adriatic coast. As we drove toward Ravenna, we went by San Marino, a tiny country entirely within Italy. Our destination for this segment of the drive was the Basilica Sant'Apollinare in Classe, outside of the town of Ravenna.

Basilica Sant'Apollinare in Classe, near Ravenna This is the Basilica Sant'Apollinare in Classe, which is just outside of Ravenna.

The campanile (bell tower behind the statue of Ceasar) in the photo above is in the Romanesque style, which you can tell because the number of windows increases as you go up.

Basilica Sant'Apollinare in Classe, near Ravenna

This photo shows some of the Byzantine inspired mosaics for which this basilica, and Ravenna, is famous.
The figure in the middle of the photo, with his hands up and sheep on both sides of him, is Saint Apollinaris, the patron saint of Ravenna.

Then it was back on the bus for the one hour drive to Venice.


What should have been a one hour drive turned into a two hour drive when we were delayed by construction on the road from Ravenna to Venice. During this time, Marco was concerned because we still had the Venice by Night optional excursion this evening, and we had reservations for drinks in St. Mark's Square.

During the drive, Marco told us that we would have to come up with a name for him in Venice. Since his name was Marco, and everything in Venice was named after San Marco (Saint Mark), he would need a new name to use there. At each hotel, the Trafalgar tour guides post the day's schedules on the bulletin boards, and put their names at the bottom so you know which one to follow. Marco's use of another name would also serve to confuse the other tour guides, and make them think that there was a new tour guide there. So we came up with the name Silvio, and Marco signed Silvio to the bottom of the schedule he posted at the Ramada hotel in Mestre.

We finally got to the Ramada hotel in Mestre, just across the causeway from Venice about an hour late. I heard some people complain that we should be staying at a hotel in Venice, and not at a U.S. hotel chain, etc. Later, after we had checked in, I heard people saying that this was the best hotel that they had ever stayed at in Europe. So I guess it evened out.

There was another Trafalgar bus that had just gotten to the hotel before us. (We should have been there an hour earlier.) Even though Marco had called ahead, there were no porters to be found. Marco happened to find Lloyd, a member of our group, and together they delivered the bags to our rooms. Lloyd was later rewarded by receiving a bottle of wine bought with the money that would have been used by Marco to tip the porters.

We traveled about 420 kilometers again today.

Dinner tonight was pasta, baked chicken, rosemary potatoes, green beans, followed by apple cake (like a tart) and coffee.

Venice by Night

After dinner, the bus took us across the causeway to Venice, but that was as far as it could go. Our Venice by Night optional excursion began with a ride down the Grand Canal in water taxis. Among the sights were the Rialto Bridge and the Rialto Hotel.

The Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice The Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal

Canal in Venice
The Hotel Rialto along the Grand Canal in Venice The Hotel Rialto along the Grand Canal

Building along the Grand Canal in Venice
Karen and me on the water taxi on the Grand Canal in Venice Karen and me on the water taxi on the Grand Canal

These next two photos from Randy show the Piazzetta San Marco, which is the area between Piazza San Marco and the Grand Canal.

Randy's photo of the Piazzetta San Marco, looking toward the Basilica San Marco in Venice

Randy's photo of the Piazzetta San Marco, looking toward the Basilica San Marco in Venice

Randy's photo of the Piazzetta San Marco, looking toward the Grand Canal in Venice

Randy's photo of the Piazzetta San Marco, looking toward the Grand Canal in Venice

The picture on the left shows the view with the canal behind you, looking in toward St. Mark's Basilica. You can see the basilica in the distance to the right. The picture on the right is looking back from St. Mark's Square toward the canal, where you can see the columns. One is topped by a statue of the original patron saint of Venice. The other is topped by a statue of a winged lion, the symbol of St. Mark, who became the patron saint of Venice after his body was smuggled here. You can see the winged lion in many cities in Italy. This indicates places that were at one time under the rule of Venice.

Executions were once performed between these columns, and it is now considered bad luck to walk between them. Marco (Silvio) did not tell us that until after we had gone past them, and about 40% of the group went through them. Fortunately, Karen and I followed Silvio around them.

Randy's photo of the Basilica San Marco in Venice This is Randy's photo of St. Mark's Basilica. For some reason, I never took any photos of St. Mark's.

From here we walked to the Piazza San Marco and went to the Gran Caffe Ristorante Quadri. We had up front tables in the piazza in front of the band.

The band playing in front of the restaurant Quadri in Piazza San Marco in Venice The band playing in front of the restaurant Quadri in Piazza San Marco in Venice

This is Karen's photo of the band at the restaurant Quadri. This picture was taken from her seat, in the square, just outside the restaurant, and shows just how close we were sitting.

There was a band at our restaurant, the Quadri, and another band at a nearby restaurant. They would take turns, with one of them playing three-four songs, and then the other one taking over and playing a few songs. There were some people sitting at tables toward the middle of the square, and they would move from one area to another to be closer to where each band was playing.

Our trip back from St. Mark's Square was not in water taxis. These are very expensive, and the tour only includes the one ride in them. So the trip back was in a "private launch".

Walking from St. Mark's Square to the landing for the launch brought us by the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri). This was the route used to take prisoners from the Doge's Palace (on the left,) where they were judged and sentenced, to the prison right behind it.

The Bridge of Sighs in Venice The Bridge of Sighs

We boarded the launch at 10:45PM and were back at the hotel by 11:30PM.


Marilyn and Beth

Commentary from Marilyn and her daughter Beth about their Best of Italy tour, September 7-20, 2001, reproduced here with their permission.

Day 7, Thursday, 13 September, 2001 - Assisi to Venice

After breakfast it was a short walk down the hill to the bus and off we were on our way to Venice. We had a short morning break before our lunch stop in the town of Ravenna, you could order off the menu or have the Lasagna and salad for a set price of around 17,000 lira. We also visited the Church of Saint Apollinaris in Classe. We arrived in Venice around 3.
Instead of going to the hotel we went right to the canal and those who wanted to were dropped off to explore on their own or take the optional Gondola ride [$26 pp]. You have to take a Gondola ride!!!!! either as an optional or by yourself. Our group was together with 4-6 persons in each one, with a singer and music in the 3rd gondola. We went down the side canals is was so corny but wonderful.
After we were done our bus took us to our hotel for the next 2 nights, the Ramada, which is near the causeway to go into Venice [about 15 mins away]. The hotel is a typical chain hotel, if it wasn't for the bidet in the bathroom we could have been in Kansas.
We had an included early dinner at the hotel that night and then those of us on the Venice by night optional headed back on the bus around 7:30 to the city. This optional included the water taxi [which is just a private covered boat for our group alone] and the drink in St. Marks square $37 pp.
You have to go into Venice at night it is a whole different world. The violinists were playing wonderful music and the square was lit up so beautifully, it was like a dream. If you don't take the optional just make sure you get to the square somehow at night don't miss it. It was not crowded at all. We got back to the hotel around 11.

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Contents © Copyright 2001 Author: Lee Briggs except where noted. All rights reserved.