The back door to Venice

After a peaceful night in the hills near Padova, but with VERY early rooster alarm clock we had a delicious breakfast on the terrace.


Our bnb host had a brochure about a nearby villa and gardens designed by Luigi Bernini, the scandalous younger brother of the more famous Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

In the next life… we want to live here! Little brother Bernini puts together a nice facade!

Called Villa Barbarigo was built as a retreat from the plague by the Barbarigo family and was originally accessible by canal from Venice. It is in a tiny village and almost unknown even in Italy, but thanks to google maps we eventually came across this marvelous gate, and knew we had made a good detour.

Arrival point – by canal from Venice

The gardens included a labyrinth maze and an island of rabbits plus beautify pond and sculptures water features and black swans and white – (separated so they didn’t get grey swans!)

Love a black swan!

On a weekday we were the only ones in the maze but a nice young Italian man in the tower in the middle to help out, did give instructions if you held both your hands up. Dritto – straight ahead, Destra right. Then we climbed to tower to view the labyrinth in its green beauty.

View from the Tower, where the young man keeps an eye on you!
Cecilia is pleased…. we made it out with a little help!

This detour put us behind programme on our already fully itinerary and so we then drove to Chioggia which is Venice without the people. We parked and caught the ferry to Palestrina, a long thin island almost touching the Lido which is a short boat trip from Venice itself. The ferry cost 5€ a ticket I may have been the only non-Italian tourist on the boat.

Leaving Chioggia on the ferry in the Venetian Lagoon

Arriving a few minutes later in Palestrina we decide to lunch before cycling the 20 km to the end of the island and back.

Lunch consists of pasta and baccalá – a salt fish paste and some sort of local sparkling low-alcohol wine that is cheap and comes in a  carafe.  The older woman owner/waitress warms to us after Cecilia clearly knows what is good food and she is even planning a trip to NZ (or not, based upon the 26 hour travelling time).

It’s tough to get a day off! Lunch in Palestrina

After lunch with wine and in 33degrees plus and not a cloud in the sky we rent our bicycles and head off eventually reaching the ferry at the top where even the local bus gets on and makes the very short hop across to the Lido. We are cycling along the Venetian lagoon which is beautiful blue and sparkly.

We had the yellow bikes!
Rare selfie!
That how close we were, even the local bus went on the ferry to the Lido

We catch the boat back to Chioggia and are amazed at the laid back passegiata time with no tourists but our day is not over and we drive to an amazing castle and Abbazia de Pomposa before stopping at spectacular Comacchio a picture postcard miniature town on a river with Venetian bridges and restaurants lining the banks.

Chioggia… looks like Venice


And finally late at night we drive to our resting place for the night; the Bolognesi family beach house in Lido degli Estensi for well-earned sleep. In terms of beach houses this is about as far away from our Whangamata beach house as you can imagine.  It is on the 4th floor, above a pedestrian street which is a permanent party and which has queues for the breakfast café and ice cream shops. In the morning we make the short walk to the ‘organised’ beach which has umbrellas, deck chairs and changing sheds and cafes along the entire length.  We have a swim in the Adriatic, quite warm and no waves but refreshing and 90% of the beach chairs are vacant in this early part of the year. The local digital clock and temperature says that it is 33 degrees at 11.40am – and this is early summer.


We head out to Ferrara but the weather is getting hotter and hotter especially in a town full of stone. Our later stops include a small town of Zibello where we have dinner of Parma ham and other local dishes and then after a very long day of driving and sightseeing we arrive back in Monza after 11pm. Italian motorways are terrifying for the kiwi driver, with one lanes of trucks fast driving, short-following distances and no indicating and passing some accidents we were very tired and pleased to be home… but not for long as Ms Pacifica is up early for the trip to Bergamo and a lunchtime flight with Ryanair to Madrid.


It’s goodbye to Cecilia – still friends after all these years, and her boys have grown up since I as last in Monza 15 years ago. She reminded me that one year I had bought the boys All Black shirts in different sizes and they were very pleased with them and literally wore them until they disintegrated. Italy has been short but full of great architecture, friends and food and scenery.


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