Holiday Mercury: Tracking Down Italy's Brightest Treasures; Sunday Mercury Reader Maria Redfearn of Solihull Took Up Our Challenge to Turn Travel Writer with Her Description of a Holiday in Italy

Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England), February 20, 2000 | Go to article overview

Holiday Mercury: Tracking Down Italy's Brightest Treasures; Sunday Mercury Reader Maria Redfearn of Solihull Took Up Our Challenge to Turn Travel Writer with Her Description of a Holiday in Italy


I MISSED family holidays. The kids had not quite flown the nest but they were at the stage when a week with friends seemed infinitely more exciting than another holiday with mum and dad.

So when my daughter suggested 'going somewhere' I was thrilled.

We chose Italy, simply because I had been learning Italian at night school and wanted to practise.

It had to be cheap. Helen had just graduated from Bristol University and had not yet started her first job so I would have to pay, but I was excited at the prospect of a girls-only adventure and what would probably be my one and only opportunity to sample back-packing.

We arranged a cheap flight to Milan and booked hotels in Venice, Rome and Florence. As requested, none of the hotels was more than a five-minute walk from the railway station - very important as we would be travelling by train, which is cheap and efficient in Italy.

Our arrival in Venice was enchanting. Nothing had prepared me for the magical experience of stepping from the everyday surroundings of the railway station into a romantic watery world. We had just 36 hours to savour the magic.

A warm welcome awaited us at the Hotel Hesperia. The patron seemed genuinely delighted at my feeble attempts to communicate in his native tongue. The room was basic but the sparkling bathroom was a wonderful sight to two dusty and bedraggled females who had been travelling since 2am.

Arriving at dusk on the third Sunday in July, we discovered this was the day of a festival celebrating the end of the Great Plague in the 16th century.

The highlight was to be fireworks at midnight on the Guidecca Canal. We managed a couple of hours' sleep before setting off to find St Mark's Square.

We could well believe that the magnificent old square was one of the most visited places in Italy. I felt more and more excited as the fireworks crackled overhead.

Next day it was already 20 degrees at 8am. Happily, it is almost impossible to get lost in the maze of narrow streets. Sooner or later you reach a bridge or a cul-de-sac and eventually find yourself at Rialto Bridge or St Mark's Square.

Queuing for the Basilica there, I hoped my shorts were long enough to satisfy the guard posted with a measuring stick at the door. The dazzling gold garnish on the outside of the building gave no clues to the awe-inspiring display inside.

In the afternoon we tracked down the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, the former home of a wealthy American woman who spent her life collecting some of the best examples of 20th-century art. The elegant palazzo overlooks the Grand Canal and is well worth visiting for the delightful shady garden full of surprising sculptures. …

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