July 25: Venice -- Board Barge

The day starts with a breakfast of chocolate croissants followed by a more healthy choice of yogurt, cheese, sausage, hard boiled eggs, and rolls. There is absolutely no reason to fill up before the best part, so eat dessert first! A warm cup of cappuccino and a chocolate croissant is the perfect start to any day.

By 9:30 am the line is already starting to form outside the Basilica of San Marco snaking from the main entrance down the side, across the front of the Doge Palazzo and around the corner. At this time of day that side of San Marco Piazza is in the shade so waiting in line is not an agony but rather an joy in anticipation to the beautiful experience awaiting. Within a half an hour one enters through the main doors to be greeted by a magnificent and overwhelming sight. The walls, ceiling, floors, all are covered with huge mosaics, wood carvings, sculptures, from as early as the 11th century. Gold chalices and candle sticks grace the alters; confessionals are delicately carved with figurines. Each concave of the church is a quiet sanctuary emoting peace and serenity. It is very hard not to fall into a quiet meditative state as one slowly strolls around the premises.

A small room off the side of the sanctuary houses some of the oldest and finest treasures saved throughout the centuries. A chalice from the 4th century sits proudly next to one from the 10th. A plate from the 12 century occupies a place next to one from the 7th. Each piece is more magnificent than its neighbor. During the reign of Napoleon many of the churches were looted resulting in a tremendous loss of precious art. Fortunately the Basilica was only minimally damaged as Napoleon very early on decided to gave the building and its contents to the Vatican thus preserving its treasures.

The Basilica is dedicated to Saint Mark (San Marco). After his death in Constantinople his body was smuggled out by Christian merchants out of fear that the Muslims would destroy it as they were doing with all the Christian churches and artifacts in that area. Legend has it that the two merchants placed his remains in a basket and covered it with pork knowing that the Muslims believed that pork was dirty and would not touch it. They brought the remains back to Venice and the church placed his bones in the incense vase hanging over the main alter. They have remained there to this day. The Basilica was then dedicated to San Marco and became a destination for Christian pilgrims.

As the sun begins to rise overhead with thought of lunchtime begins to dominate the senses. A couple of friends from earlier trips are just completing their barge/bike tour and agree to meet for lunch and give a short briefing of what is to come. A pleasant surprise occurs within the twists and turns of the alleyways of the city as the two groups seek a common spot to meet each other -- they cross the same intersection at the same time completely unexpected! Off to lunch with Kimberly , the American guide, in tow to at a small restaurant recommended by the Italian guide, Rosita. The restaurant, Fantasia, is operated by an organization that works with mentally handicapped individuals. All money raised goes to the education and training for each of the students. The food is excellent and the ambiance equals it.

Continuing on the tour of the city, the Gugginheim rises to the top of the list. A quick ride on the water bus and a short walk through the small alley ways and there stands the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. At one point in time it was the home of Ms.. Guggenheim, but now houses some famous and beautiful paintings. Dali, Picasso, Kardinsky, Calder, both Charles and Jackson Pollack, are but a few. Masterpieces sitting side by side grace each room of the home.

As the afternoon winds to an end it is time to travel by water ferry to the island of Certosa and board the "home away from home": Vita Pugna, a residential barge that will serve as the hotel for the next week. Small in size but large in character. The staterooms are below deck using every inch of space available. While not large (resemble something close to a closet), they do serve their purpose. The bunks are soft and comfortable, the bathroom en suite, the decor is basic but functional. The main deck includes an air conditioned dining room serving 5 star meals each day, as well as an open deck to catch the breezes of the water. as well as serve as the 'bike garage".

The group is twenty strong. Women from all over the US and one from Canada and one from Australia. Some have much experience with bike touring, other have little to none. It makes no difference in that this trip is not a race but rather a leisurely pedal down the pathways along the PO river and its tributaries.


Betsey in San Marco Square

Gondola Traffic Jam

Lauren , Lauri (from 1st Barge Group) Betsey, Sue (from the 2nd Barge Group)

Betsey On the Way to the Guggenheim


Betsey in the Peggy Guggenheim Garden

Betsey on the Water Taxi to Certosa Island and the Barge!

THE Barge!

The Bedroom!

The Group


The Venice Tour Guide -- note flag so we don't lose her!


Cruising the Canal

Kimberly (guide) and Betsey

Door Bells


Leaning Tower in Venice

Our Guides! Kimberly and Rosita

The Group!!!