Written on a plane from Venice to London:
Well, this is the last day of our honeymoon, and we’ll be spending twenty four hours traveling. Ugh. We’re currently on the first of three planes we’ll ride today.
Since I have some time on my hands, I’ll detail our Venice, or Venezia, activities.
Upon arriving in Venice on Tuesday, we checked into Hotel Marin and went to dinner at a local Osteria (family run restaurant). We then made our way to St. Marks Square (Ponto Marco), where we were treated to deuling orchestras.
It was an incredibly romantic setting, with the lights on the square and beautiful music. It really felt like a dream.
After watching the orchestra, we started back to the hotel.
Our guide book had said that one of the charms of Venice was how easy it is to get lost there. Because the city is on an ancient grid, it’s more like a maze.
It took us an hour and a half to get back to our hotel that first night.
On Wednesday, we slept late and then walked back to St. Mark’s Square where we toured the Doge’s Palace. A Doge was like a president of the country. The best part of the tour was the prison. To get to the prison, we went over the Bridge of Sighs, which is the bridge that prisoners had to cross — their last glimpse of freedom.
I’ve never seen a prison so old, made of stone walls with two inch thick bars over the windows. You could also see where they used to shackle the prisoners in the cells.
We wanted to make a 3:00 tour of Venice, so at 2:15, we decided we needed to leave Doge’s Palace. We seemed to be trapped in the prison, as it took us a good 20 minutes to get out.
The 3:00 tour took us to a really old spiral staircase made of marble and then on a gondola ride. Unfortunately, it was raining during our gondola ride and all 5 passengers in the boat had their umbrellas up, impeding the view some. We were rather entertained when one of the gondaliers stopped rowing to answer his cell phone. It was the perfect example of Italy meshing the old with the new.
Our tour then took us to the church of the Friars, where we paid hommage to the painting by Bellini. The church’s interior was a mish mash of collections of art, including Renaissance paintings, wood sculpture and marble sculptures. There were marble caskets of Doges mounted high on the wall.
After the tour, we returned to the hotel for a nap, and then ventured out for dinner. We chose a restaurant from our guide book and decided to find it.
It is nearly impossible to find a specific restaurant in Venice, as we soon learned.
After over an hour of looking and passing numerous other restaurants with tempting menus, I was starved. In fact, at that point we determined that getting lost in Venice is down-right annoying when you have a specific goal in mind.
We finally settled on a different restaurant at about 9:00. After dinner, we once again got lost trying to find the hotel.
On Thursday, we once again slept late, and after breakfast at the hotel, we decided to take the water bus to St. Mark’s Square. On the way to the bus stop, I stopped to take a picture of JB in front of the Hotel Bellini, and realized that the camera (which was accidentally dropped the day before) was broken. We lost the entire roll of film, which put a damper on our morning. We then purchased a disposable camera for $18 Euros, and went on a mission to take all 37 pictures on the roll.
We spent most of Thursday shopping for souvenirs, since we hadn’t bought many up to that point.
I bought a glass christmas ornament of a gondalier Santa. JB and I picked out an oil painting of a canal together, and we bought a few small Venetian masks. I also bought some hand made black glass bead necklaces.
We toured St. Marks Bascilla (a really big church) that morning. The floors of the church are rolling due to the building settling over time. All of the floors and ceilings were decorated with mosaics.
We ate a quick lunch of calzones, pizza and gelato. After lunch, we walked to the canal that was featured in the oil painting that we purchased.
It was in a very untouristy and local feeling area of town. We settled down on a park bench in a town square and watched a day care group of toddlers play.
That night, we took the water bus back to that square where we ate at a true local Venetian Osteria. We had shrimp risotto in pumpkin sauce, I had beef with vegetable sauce and JB had grilled fish. The fish was an intact, unskinned fish, complete with head, tail, and teeth. I got pretty grossed out when I tried to open the fish’s mouth and the lower jaw broke off.
Italian Fear Factor, second episode!
We topped off dinner with some Pinot Grigio and then tiramasu. We then went back to St. Mark’s square for one more enchanted evening of deuling orchestras.
I forgot to mention my biggest souvenir — an orange sweater! Orange is all the rage in Italy, along with scarves. Up until this point in our trip, I had felt a bit scruffy in my jeans, tennis shoes and sweatshirt. That night for dinner, I donned my new orange sweater and white scarf and my loafers. I felt like a true Euro and the waitress at dinner even asked if I spoke Italian without assuming we were American (a first!).
The loafers later turned out to be a mistake. We had planned to take the water bus back to the hotel, but the next bus didn’[t leave for 20 minutes, plus it would be a 45 minute ride. We decided to hoof it.
I must credit JB’s ‘master navigational skills’ (coined by the man himself), as he got us back to the hotel in a record thirty minutes with only one wrong turn.
But man, did my feet hurt afterwards! JB took a picture of me cursing my loafers upon our return to the hotel.
My memory of yesterday seems a bit scattered. I forgot to mention that from dinner, we hopped on a water bus heading for St. Mark’s Square. We later discovered that we had boarded the wrong bus. Instead of taking two stops to get to our destination, it took nine, as we went all the way around Venice.
This turned out to be a lovely mistake. We had seats at the front of the boat, providing an excellent view as we cruised the Grand Canal all the way around Venice. The moon was a half moon with a yellow color as it poked through the clouds.
- Italians charge for everything, including going to the restroom, water with your meal, beaches and hiking.
- Evidently in Venice, tourists don’t need to use the restrooms after 8:00 p.m. That is when they close their public restrooms. We got scolded in Italian last night when we went to a bar to use the restroom. We ignored the scolding, saying ‘grazie’ as we hurried out.
- Italians cannot handle cold weather. They wear parkas, scarves, and gloves in 60 degree weather.
- We saw about 1/2 day of sunshine during our 10 days in Italy. It rained every day except for one, and was overcast pretty much the entire time. So much for my beach vacation!
- Nothing in Italy is as easy as it seems. Nothing. Even using a telephone can be challenging.
After we returned to our hotel after dinner, I saw a sign in the lobby stating there would be a strike on public transportation on Friday, our date of departure.
The all knowing JB said, ‘That doesn’t apply to us, now hurry!’ The man had to pee.
Well, the following morning, as we were checking out, the hotel desk attendant informed us the strike may effect both the airport and city busses that we needed.
We went to the bus station, and asked the attendant there if either of the busses we needed were running.
‘We don’t know, because there is a stike. It may show up or it may not.’
Typical Italian style, I tell you.
So instead of chancing the busses (which would have cost one Euro each), we decided to get a taxi (a cost of 50 Euro total — ouch).
We saw where the taxi pick up was, and got in line. Two taxis pulled up and took the people ahead of us.
And then we waited. There wasn’t another taxi in sight for at least 15 minutes. We started to sweat a bit, as the taxi was our last option to get to the airport.
Meanwhile, there were buses driving all around us. None of them said Aeroporto (as we needed), and many said they were out of service, but they were driving around with people on them.
Italians even have their own way of going on strike. I mean really — if you’re going on strike, why the heck are you out there driving the busses around?! You’re either on strike or you’re not, right?!
Anyway, a cab pulled up and we shared it with an Italian business man. When we got to the airport, the business man paid the full fare for us and refused to take any money from us. Now that was a nice note on which to leave Italia!