We arrived in Venice on a rather gray Christmas day. However, with all the splendour of Venice, even gray clouds and rain can dampen only your umbrella and little else.
The iconic gondolas still prowl the Grand Canal and all canals in between, capturing tourists for extravagant, but ( I imagine) romantic cruises through the city.
Large and small, or rather Grand and not so grand, the canals split the city into numerous islands, some of which are indeed sinking ever slowly. They also notice the effects of global sea rise as well, with St. Mark's Square flooding at high tide, during a neap tide, in the winter.
We never did figure out how the residents got into these boats tied up in this manner. Perhaps they crawl out of the window?
It is hard to imagine something so commonplace as milk delivery in Venice, but yet...
After a couple days in Venice, we hopped an evening train to Verona to see what the Romans left us.
The arena was built in AD 30. It now holds operas, rock concerts (Paul McCartney last year) and figure skating.
While Verona has some of the best preserved Roman ruins, including the Ponta Pietro or Stone Bridge, it also holds some quite spectaculr churches from the Middle Ages. Visitors to this Dominican church are greeted by a hunchback graciously holding a fountain of water.
After a full day and two nights in Verona, we jumped another train for Bologna, which we used as a base of operations for visits to Ferrara and Ravenna.
Ferrara was the capital of the Duchy of Ferrara-Modena and as such, hosts a large castle in the middle of the city, protected by moats and with a dungeon conveniently located in the basement.
Ferrara also had a wonderful street market full of local specialties including Zampone, a pig trotter stuffed with herbs, spices and meat.
Truffles are also quite common in this region. We bought some cheese with truffles to eat with our pork sausage and truffles.
After several wonderful days in the capital of Italian food, we went south to Assisi, yet another spectacular hillside town preserved from the mifddle ages. The home of St. Francis of Assisi, the town still boasts Francis' childhood home and the church in which he was entombed in 1226.
The town itself is worth the visit even for the most agnostic and irreverent. We found the best food in Italy, although that claim usually goes to Bologna. Having been to both, one immediately after the other, we vote for Assisi.
Assisi is on a hill dominated by a castle, built in the 13-15 centuries.