...as they say in the movies
03.19.2008 12 °C
The Grand Canal, Venice, with Rialto Bridge in the background
We drove from Tuscany to Venice today, through wildly fluctuating temperatures, to arrive in the suburb of Favoro Veneto in 20 degree sunshine with nary a wrong turn. Good directions from these people! Venice, unlike Rome with its spacious greenbelt, seems to have a belt of ugliness around it. Factories and highways. Trucks. Drivers with a pathological need to merge poorly. It was the most harrowing of the European driving I've done. But, it should balance out because nobody can drive inside Venice proper.
Our flat is in a "plex" of some sort...duplex, triplex, quadplex. Bright colours, a weird layout, but really cute. So is the town. It's seems "new," but maybe that's just in comparison to medieval Castiglion Fiorentino. To get into the heart of Venice, we just take one bus for about 20 minutes. We'll try it tomorrow.
Yup, one bus. Worked well, although it's crowded. When we got out at the bus depot, we saw a bridge from there into "the" Venice. It was like stepping into a magical kingdom. Venice really is different from all the over places we've been. The striped poles, the canals, the decaying lower parts of the palazzos, it's like a run-down seaside amusement park. Tourist visitors far outnumber residents, which heightens that impression.
We walked the more or less main drag of sidewalks and bridges, over the Rialto bridge, to San Marco square. Benches were put out that become sidewalks in case of flood. We admired the clock tower, with its two figures striking, its digital readout, its 24-hour readout, etc. We admired the Campanile from a seat in the square. Jenn and I fed the pigeons, and since nobody else was feeding them, we got a lot of pigeon attention!
Rob with feathered friends
Detail of the 24-hour clock
We looked at San Marco basilica from the outside, with its Byzantine onion domes. San Marco square may be my favourite piazza in all of Italy. Then we took a tour of the Doge's Palace.
It was the "secret itineraries" tour, which meant no lining up, and getting to see way more than the regular tour. It was guided, which Anica doesn't usually like, but we don't overdose on those, so she was okay. The theme of the tour was how great and progressive Venice was in the past (first to abolish slavery, to eliminate torture, to deny nepotism, a republic longer than most, etc.). There's a lot of truth in it, relative to the time, although it was always elitist. We saw the spartan offices of the council of ten, working behind the scenes, and saw how the Doge was practically a prisoner in exchange for his title.
Speaking of prisoners, the Doge's Palace also housed the prison, and we saw where its most famous inmate, Casanova, had his cell at first, then another, which he broke out of. The whole "behind the scenes" secret tour was great, better than the grandeur of the big staterooms we saw on our own. Towards the end of the general tour, we got to walk across the Bridge of Sighs, and peek out through the stone-latticed window.
After our typical quiet Sunday, it was back into the lagoon today. Instead of walking, we bought a transit pass for the day, which includes the Vaporettos (motorized ferry boats). In the morning we took the #2 vaporetto, which goes around the outside of Venice, in the big water, past towering cruise ships, and low, tiny boats unloading everything from vegetables to Xerox machines (actual examples). We got off at San Marco square and toured the basilica first, with its beautiful marble floors and gold-backed mosaic ceilings. The story of how the gospel-writer's bones ended up in Venice is a marvellous one. Then we went up the Camanile, the 60 metre bell-tower, for the best views over Venice.
View of San Marco Square from the Bell-Tower
Also from Bell-Tower, view of the Basilica
At lunch, we gave up scrimping and purposely sought out a "menu touristique" place. Jenn and I had a lunch that was almost too much food and Anica had a huge pizza of her own. Venice certainly is expensive, but at least today we were full for 17 Euros instead of still hungry after paying 12 Euros.
We made use of our Vaporetto day pass to get to the Peggy Guggenheim museum. She had quite the life! We saw her grave, and that of many of her dogs, out in the sculpture garden, and then went though each room of her former residence, looking at her modern art collection. It sure was a change from the art we've been seeing lately, which has all been religious, and medieval-to-renaissance in period. It was interesting to hear Anica's comments on this. Some of it she just laughed at!
Another Grand Canal View
For the record, we took another stroll around Venice today and saw a couple of sights. We saw Tintoretto's masterpiece work in the Scuola, where they give you mirrors so you can admire the ceiling without hurting your neck. Except it made Anica dizzy! They're canvas, not fresco, so it's an unbelievably huge undertaking - several times more space than the Sistine Chapel. I also loved the wood carvings, various allegorical figures, that were done about 100 years later by another artist.
The other sight was the Friar's church, pardon the anglicized name. It had a fascinating collection of tombs, including Titian, whose altarpiece adorns this church. Canova's tomb is a pyramid shape, with a mysteriously inviting half-open door. Darn those tomb raiders!
The rest of our rambles featured Anica wearing her new Venetian mask, the kind with the stick that you use to hold it up to your face. We took pictures of her all over Venice sporting it. Since it was Venice, nobody was too startled.
We can't reveal who this is, sorry!
Our driving day-trip for this locale: Padua. We were there to see Giotto's famous frescoes in the Scrovegni chapel. But it's also just a really nice town, and it was a really nice, sunny day. The grounds all around the chapel are parkland now, since the Scrovegni family palace is long-gone. There was even a big playground with some pretty cool stuff to do. Anica and I also played on the barely detectable ruins of the Roman amphitheatre (does that count as another one in her total? That might make 14...)
The chapel, with its 14th century Giotto frescoes, is indeed beautiful. But what makes it a must-see attraction is the job they've done with it. Only 25 people can enter at a time, only with advance tickets, and you settle in with a movie about the family, artist, and chapel. During this time, the group's humidity level is measured. No joke! Then you enter the actual chapel via an airlock. Simple, right? You have 15 minutes to ooh and aah, and then a tone sounds and out you go. That's fine, though, because the attached museum has a multimedia centre that lets you dissect and view the chapel and learn more about Giotto and Padua. It's an exceptional experience on beautiful grounds.
The modest exterior of the Scrovegni Chapel
The experience of parking in Padua is worth noting. They've come up with such an unusual way of paying for the parking lot that the town drunks gather by the pay machines, hoping to instruct you, and thus earn a tip. We figured out that a camera took our license plate on the way in, and that we didn't pay then (since one woman kept saying "dopo" over and over - i.e. "after"). It seemed really complicated, especially since it really didn't cost that much to park there (a Euro an hour).
We spent a luminous day in Murano. This is an island, also part of Venice, that has been known for centuries for its glass-blowing. To my eyes, and perhaps it was just the sunny skies, it was even prettier than Venice itself. Murano has wide canals, and almost every sidewalk runs along a canal. From its shores, you can see a huge swath of snowcapped mountains in the distance.
You're hard-pressed in Murano to find a store that is NOT devoted to glass. We looked in many, and also went to the Glass Museum, which Anica was very interested in seeing. Especially when she realized that some of the glass pieces there date to the 1st century AD. They've survived where huge marble buildings have crumbled! It is amazing.
Huge Murano glass sculpture in public square
We did the trip by Vaporetto again. The first boat was through Venice's main, Grand Canal, and we sat at the very back, outside. Then we had two other long Vaporetto rides getting to Murano and back, including a tour through the whole island on the way back. Joy-riding around in the Vaporettos is a wonderful experience, especially with a window or outside seat on a beautiful, clear day like today.
"Venice: also known as Venizia"
Today we went to Benizia. We took bus #19 to Venice instead of take bus number 4 through Mestre (pronounced Mess-tra), back out and there: Venezian bus terminal. It started and went like this: we got up early so we could go to Venice early, to skip the crowds, BUT we did not do the line-up at the Doges Palace because we went on the secret itenires tour! SO, what was the point of getting up early? We walked over a bridge and boom! never-ending canals, Murano glass stores, bridges...all resembling Venice. IN S.Marks square we found out the benches we were sitting on were sidewalks for then it floods, let Dad and Mum (not me) feed the pigeons, find our really, how beautiful the Basilica was, saw people up at the Campanile and gaze at the bridge of sighs. "Sigh." On are secret itineraries tour we saw: Casanova's prison where he asked "I want my bed, I want food..." torture section, armours, offices...GREAT TOUR! Went over the bridge of sighs, luckily, had lunch, went home, had dinner, (want to guess) G.N.!
San Marco Basilica
"Venice canals and a fallen-out tooth"
Today we went again to Venizia. When we got to the bus terminal we got on a Vapporetto to go to S.Marks Square which was beautiful and had a basilica built for a saint. The Vapporetto was brilliant - we got front seats "outside" overlooking the water. Man, did he (St. Mark) have an interesting life! Count how many people have been dragged around the streets till they die?! We went inside the basilica where the shiny golden mosaics made it beautiful and where S.Marks stone coffin lay. We went out (theres the Muslim guys who ring the bell every hour, and they're fake. Under the world's first digital clock!) Went up the Campanile on the elevator and went "wheee!," Peggy Guggenheim! Mysterious, some un-named art! Oooo-aaah. My favourite was the boy who looked like his penis was electrified! ha-ha! We took the Vapporetto back, went home, had dinner, had a blood-mass coloured chocolate spitted out of my mouth as my tooth came out, G.N.!
Does this explain the "electrified" comment? Sculpture at the Peggy Guggenheim
Today we went on a 40 minute drive to Padua. We went on the SR11 to it. The SR11 took us through Mira, a town we might of stayed in it hadne't been for Simonetta and Bruno. When we got to Padua we got lost (again) looking for the place that we wanted. A church. Actully not just a regular church! A church that somebody built to save his father's soul. Beatifull! Also, images of Mary's father! And the mothers in the slaughter of the innocents were really crying! Vices and virtues (bad=vices and good=virtues) were displayed opesite each other! e.g. angryness was on one side...happyness/kindess was on the other wall! Then me and Mummy did some "is-the-baby-looking-alright" comparing of Jesus in different pictures and went to the multi-media room. Had lunch, went home, had dinner, G.N.!
Today we went to Murano. We took a 45 minute boat ride to Murano - actully the boat ride was 80 minutes. With a lighthouse greeting us at our stop, we went to the Murano glass museum where we saw stuff from 1st century BC to 18th century AD. Amazing sparkiling glass! Wow! Sighs! Went home, had dinner, G.N.!