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Italy, Malta and the magnificent Dalmatian Coast

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Italy, Malta and Dalmatien Coast on Celebrity Constellation - October 2016

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In need of vacation...

Our long-awaited vacation started a bit stressfully. For the route to the airport, which ususally takes us about an hour, we had already planned 2.5 hours. However, we hadn’t quite reached the highway, when they announced a full closure. All possible diversions were quickly blocked, too. So via hidden routes and village streets, we finally reached the airport some 20 minutes before our boarding time. We left our car at the parking garage nearest the entrance and sprinted to the check-in desk. The lady at the desk took our papers and said, “Well, you’d better hurry” –taking all her time checking in our luggage and issuing our boarding passes.

When we finally rushed to security, we were in for the next surprise. Usually, there are hardly any lines at Stuttgart airport, but this time people were queuing all the way back to the entrance. Thanks to some friendly passengers who let us through, we finally arrived at our gate 1 minute before boarding. By now, we were really in desperate need of a vacation...

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The flight to Venice didn’t even take an hour – less than our journey to the airport. It felt like we had barely been in the air and recovered from the excitement, when Bella Venezia already appeared underneath our windows.

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As stressful as our way out had been, our arrival in Venice was very relaxed. We didn’t have to wait long for our luggage and left the airport after a very short time. Not even 20 meters behind the exit we already saw an ATVO Express Bus to Venice, for which we had bought online tickets at EUR 13.00 per person (www.atvo.it).

Shortly after we had taken our seats in the bus, it already left dead on time. In 20 relaxed minutes, it took us directly to Piazzale Roma. This square next to the station is a central point and terminus for the non-maritime transport in Venice. This is where the road ends and the world of bridges, alleys and canals begins.

We crossed the big glass bridge connecting the Piazza and the train station, passed the many stops of the waterbuses and took the second large bridge in front of the station, leading right into the heart of Venice. On this bridge, which spans the Grand Canal, you can no longer escape the charm of Venice.

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From here, it was only a 5-minute walk through narrow alleys and across small bridges to our hotel “Ca´ Nigra”. I had come across this hotel incidentally the year before, when I had spent a day by myself roaming the streets of Venice with my camera. I liked it the minute I saw it and immediately decided to book it for our night in Venice before our cruise. Although Birgit hadn’t seen it, I was sure that she’d like it, too, and she trusted my judgment and enthusiasm.

Behind a bend we stood in front of an inconspicuous entrance in a wall, and I said, „Here we are!“.
 

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As we passed through the entrance, we entered the garden of a small oasis in the middle of the lagoon city. It was wonderfully quiet, and the path underneath the planted arches immediately exuded a certain snugness.

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Inside the building, we immediately liked how they had maintained the elegance of an old, classic palazzo and complemented it harmoniously with modern elements and amenities to meet the standards of a contemporary, upscale hotel.

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The gentleman at reception was very friendly and already gave us the key to our room (10.00 am). The room confirmed what we should see throughout the hotel. Despite modern influences, they had preserved the old Venetian charm of the premises.

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The classically designed rooms were fitted with glass walls, which separated the bedroom from a state-of-the-art bathroom in a minimalistic and luxurious design.

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Before we set off on our tour through Venice, we looked at the rest of the hotel. Behind the breakfast room we found a beautiful rose garden with a pergola right on the Grand Canal.

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And then we set off to explore the city of small alleys and canals, following the signs to Rialto.

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At the large Piazza „Campo San Polo“ we passed a few restaurants, whose guests were relishing very tasty looking dishes. We could feel a little hunger coming up ourselves, so we took a break in one of the cute restaurants and enjoyed a local delicacy.

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Well-fed, we moved on and soon reached the Rialto Bridge, one of the most famous buildings in Venice dating back to the 16th century.

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From here we continued our way to St. Mark’s Square. Again, there was much to see. The bell tower, the clock tower, the Doge’s Palace and, of course, St. Mark’s Square itself.

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We went to the side of the square that opened to the Canal and were already looking forward to sailing past it the next day and admiring the view from the other side.

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As always, Ponte della Paglia was filled with crowds of tourists enjoying the view of the Bridge of Sighs. These days, you almost have to fight your way through a jungle of selfie sticks to cross it.

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Hotel Danieli, one of the most famous hotels in Venice, is located just behind the bridge. In the entrance hall of this former home of a Doge’s family, one can still get an idea of the grandeur and luxury with which the heads of the Venetain Republic in the 14th century surrounded themselves.

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In the autumnal afternoon sun we leisurely strolled through the maze of small streets towards the opera house Teatro La Fenice. We didn’t go inside, but for a fee you can visit its splendid concert hall.

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A little further along the way, at the end of the large Campo Santo Stefano, we found Chiesa San Vidal, whose interior reminded us rather of an old temple than a typical church.

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At the entrance of the church they sold tickets for a Vivaldi concert to take place that evenning, but we only took a small leaflet and left.

Via the Ponte dell’ Accademia we crossed the Grand Canal again and delighted in the view of the buildings with their unique architecture glistening in the golden afternoon sun.

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To return to our hotel in the neighborhood of Santa Croce, we crossed the eastern and less touristy part of Venice. Back in our room, we decided to go to the Vivaldi concert after all, as it would surely be a beautiful end of this nice day in Venice. So we used the free WiFi at the hotel and booked two tickets.

After an afternoon nap it was time to head back to the church. We took the route through the less touristy part again, as it was simply faster. 20 minutes later we were already at Campo Santo Stefano. We still had time to spare, so we sat down in one of the street cafés, had a drink and watched the world go by.

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Before the concert, the church quickly filled with many visitors from various countries. I was sure that many of them would go on a cruise the following day, too.

The concert was wonderful. The acoustic in the building dating back to 1084 was excellent, and Vivaldi’s music was a beautiful end of a great day and set the mood for our upcoming trip.

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Crossing Venice by night through alleyways much less crowded than during the day was yet a completely different experience. Where crowds of tourists had pushed through the narrow streets during the day, we now had the squares and streets almost to ourselves. The canals, clogged with boats and gondolas by day, now simply reflected the many lights of the restaurants and street lamps. Apart from the sound of our steps between the house walls and the peaceful lapping of the water by the canal, there was hardly anything else to be heard.

The city seemed to be asleep, resting to face the rush of new visitors the next day.

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Back at the hotel, we did the same and went straight to bed.

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