Subject: Siena and Italy experiences
Good evening Don and Linda:

This past summer we traveled to Italy primarily to attend the opening of the Venice Biennial 49th International Exhibition,and secondly to explore a selected area of Tuscany and finally get a taste of Rome prior to returning home. You might call this trip a tasting menu of Italy since we had limited time and did not want to stay in one location for more than a week.

We really worked hard booking a hotel reservation in Venice. I believe we sent over one hundred faxes to secure a hotel reservation that would cover a week's stay. We did not use a travel agent. Even three months prior to our arrival in June we could not get one hotel to cover an entire week's stay. We had to split our reservations between two hotels. I am led to believe that people may book up hotels in Venice at least a year prior to the Venice Biennial. Could this be? Is there something I am not doing right? Getting the room you want in Venice requires planning I now believe. Here's looking at 2003.

We knew that it was June 4th 2001 if we had arrived at the Hotel Canada in Venice. When we did in the pouring rain it was like a maze to find its location. However, it is a great bargin of a hotel. Our window faced a private section of the canal and it was quiet and comfortable. It had a shower,which meant that there was a drain in the bathroom with a shower head. Once you turned on the shower head a small flood filled the entire floor until it gently drained itself out. A complete welcome to Venice and its small canals. We then moved to the Hotel American for the remainder of our time in Venice. This was more expensive but it offered us the ability to explore the Dorsoduro area. This is an area we will return to.It combines the ability to view both sides of the Canal, and to retreat to the quiet streets, sunsets and outdoor cafes without the noise or tourist traffic. The only unusual and uncomfortable glick in our travel plans were that in flying Alitalia airlines ($700 RT per person returning from Rome to NY) involved transferring from Rome to a smaller plane that flew into Venice. At first I was amused at the Venice airport because as you deplaned and entered the baggage area of Alitalia airlines there was a very large sign that read : Lost Baggage Counter. It took up nearly half of the entire baggage area. It was amusing until we were told (eight other passengers as well) that our baggage had not arrived with us. Don't worry it will arrive on the 9:00 plane...

It was not until 2:30 AM the next morning that we had to wait to get our baggage as it was delivered to us at the Hotel Canada by Alatalia. In other words, we arrived at 8:00 AM in Venice, and waited till noon before we said lets get to the hotel in Venice, and it was a rainy day as well. My Rockwell shoes became water clogged and a new musical squeak would follow us for the entire trip. Rockwell shoe company replaced the shoes at no cost when we arrived home and sent them the damaged shoes.

Let me state however, after getting our baggage the sun came out the next day and stayed out until we left at the end of the weeks filled with this summer Venetian celebration. Venice is still has the most magical affect on the senses. Where can you find another city without cars or trucks? Any vaporetto or the luxury of a motor boat ride; the view of the gondoliers singing; the sunset over the grand canal; the scent of the flowers as you enter the Giardini; the lights over the lido at night; the quiet Renaissance streets of the Dorsoduro and the night time party arrivals at Peggy Guggenheim's museum at the private pier on the Grand Canal celebrating some exhibition with people from all over Europe-artists,dancers,film makers, everone with a developed character striving for self fulfillment even it was greater in their minds. These were some of the special moments we found in Venice for one week in June at the Biennial. We left Venice for Florence. Now after visiting Florence we drove to Siena.

We had originally booked our hotel room at the Hotel Santa Caterina (http://www.sienanet.it/hsc) but apparently there was some mix up in dates and we arrived one day early. Now this hotel is on the road to the Porta Romana,which is one of the gates into Siena. Since we had this mix up we were told there was a hotel down the road (via Piccolomini) about two traffic lights south of the Porta Romana. Unfortunately we have kept no record of the name of the hotel. I regret not being able to give you this information. I say this since we drove immediately to this new place for onenight, and everything looked fine, until we were shown the room and while it faced the countryside, there were no windows. Ug. Pitch black without the 40 watt light bulbs turned on.

Here is where the telephone rental came in handy. We dialed the Hotel Duomo, from our car, and with luck they had a room for one night. Lucky we stopped some students who directed us to the Porta San Marco. which was the direct entrance to get to the hotel.(http://www.hotelduomo.it) Great hotel, everyone was very helpful, and since I wanted a big window that would open up they went out of their way to see we were satisfied.

We did discover that you could park your car in a very large public parking space but first you must find the Porta San Marco gate. You then walk to the hotel. You can actually drive directly to the hotel,and drop off your baggage as we did with the guidance of a very lovely student who needed a lift. Then we drove back to this parking lot. The next day we drove to the Hotel Santa Caterina. (We booked this hotel four months a head of our arrival with one mistake of a day.).

The Hotel Santa Caterina was excellent. They actually had a private parking space for six cars. They had a wonderful garden where breakfast was served that actually made one feel as if you were in a private villa in the hillside out in the country.We stayed there and with our car explored the hill towns of Tuscany. I could go on with great detail, but so many other Travelziners have posted their experiences of the hilltowns I believe that I will become repetitious.

Our trip to Rome requires another day to write about. In any case, we had made some mistakes we have now learned from about traveling and I look forward to continue learning from our fellow travel ziners again. Thank you Don and Linda for asking me to write to you about this trip. I only hope it was not overly wordy or too long.

My best regards.

Larry from New York