After a painfully early morning start from Launceston the journey to our hotel, Da Bepi, in Lido di Jesolo via Gatwick and Bologna went smoothly and the eagerly anticipated summer Choir tour to Venice was finally underway. Lido di Jesolo is a resort on the Adriatic coast fringing Venice’s lagoon, a boat ride away from Venice, with 14 km of safe sandy beaches. Our family-run hotel was not only close to the beach but also to the town centre and the shops – vital, as out first essential task was to find lunch. Rheinhard, our tour guide, had stayed there before and with his fluent Italian ensured that we were comfortable and well looked after. Breakfasts were buffet style with the usual continental cornflakes, fruit and bread and in the evenings a three course meal starting with pasta (why does it always taste so much better in Italy?). Lunch time eating was more adventurous and involved ingenuity as it involved local foraging armed with the ration of Euros from the ‘bank’.
Next morning we had time to relax on the beach before travelling to Marostica in the foothills of the Italian Alps for an evening concert. There was time to explore the medieval town famed for its gatehouse and walls which encompass a centre square floored by a human sized chess board and to sample the ice cream. Despite the threat of a shower the evening was calm. The open-air concert was set in a small courtyard, Scalinata dei Carmini, where the acoustics were quite stunning. The hour long concert included items from the whole choir and from individuals which were warmly applauded by the audience that steadily grew in numbers during the concert. The hospitality of our hosts after the concert was appreciated by all.
Wednesday was Venice day. An early breakfast and an equally early coach journey took us to our boat at Punta Sabbioni for a tour of the waterways of the Venetian lagoon. It was incongruous to be followed up a narrow channel by a towering ocean-going cruise liner heading for the docks. Arriving at Pizzale Roma (Bus station!) we transferred to four small water taxis for a fantastic trip down the Grand Canal. Arriving at St Mark’s Square, we were led by our expert guides, Mr & Mrs Mann, to the Rialto Bridge where, in our normal groups, we partook in the enjoyable ancient art of wandering and shopping in the busy, but safe, streets of central Venice. All too quickly it was back to the boat for the trip across the lagoon to our hotel. Our concert in the evening was just a few blocks away from the hotel in a central square in Lido di Jesolo. Unusually it rained. Luckily the choir were set up in a bandstand which provided shelter and despite the torrential downpour the concert was enjoyed by a large number of locals and tourists, all sporting umbrellas and the group of parents camped out in the nearest café. Lily Robinson’s song containing the words ‘Don’t leave me out in the pouring rain’ took on a very real significance. ‘I don’t think I have enjoyed a concert so much,’ was the general consensus of opinion.
Thursday was Aqualandia day. Aqualandia is reputed to be the largest water park in Europe and it certainly lived up to its reputation. There was something for everyone. Those who wanted to climbed the towers, to whizz down the long, steep and curvy water slides, whilst others, and I include most of the staff in this group, enjoyed the gentle (and the not so gentle) waves in the very large swimming area. Ice creams were mandatory as was the sun screen!
Friday was again a Venice day. After yet another early breakfast it was off to our chartered boat for a tour of the islands of Murano and Burano in the lagoon. Burano is an extremely quaint fishing village characterised by its lace making and brightly painted houses. It was a delight to wander along the streets in the warm Mediterranean sunshine. Murano is famous for its glass making and we were able to see a demonstration of the glassblower’s intricate art in one of the factories. During the afternoon we were again let loose in Venice to shop and wander at will before meeting up for the highlight of out trip. We had the privilege of being able to participate in the Evening Mass at the magnificent Basilica San Marco. The choir performed to perfection with their unaccompanied choral singing during the service befitting the occasion and the setting. This was a wonderful moment for all those who were there. The magic continued afterwards as we travelled back across the lagoon, to Punta Sabbioni, with the sun setting in red and gold over Venice.
An early start on Saturday saw us retrace our footsteps to Launceston. Thanks to Rheinhard, our Tour Manager and Rayburn tours we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Venice. Yet again Mrs Mann, aided and abetted by her team, had planned a Choir trip that everyone, pupils, staff and parents thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated. Thank you!
Dr Alan Doe