Trip Start Mar 14, 2012
26Trip End Jun 15, 2012
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On the morning of Sunday 22 April, we finished packing our bags ready to go to Venice. We walked to the ferry and got the ferry to Varenna in the hopes that the trains were still running, even though there was a strike for the regional trains. We walked up to the train station with a middle-aged American couple who had been on the ferry with us from Bellagio. When we got to the train station, everything looked closed up and there were people waiting on the street side as opposed to the platform side. They said that they had been told by their hotel to try to get the 7.37am train to Milan because the trains after 9am wouldn't be running, but the 7.37 train hadn't come. One of the women said that another woman had been sold a ticket for the 7.37 train and straight after she bought the ticket she was told by the cashier that there was a strike! Rude!!! Our train was supposed to arrive at 8.37, but we decided not to wait around to see if it came, because we had to be in Milan for the 10.35 train to Venice. Some of the other people waiting organised with their hotel to get transfers to Milan, and the American couple got a ride with one of them. There was also a van that people were taking, including some Southern women, but there was no room for us and one of the women stayed behind because they worked at a university and were waiting on two students to arrive back from Bellagio.
We walked back down to the ferry and Dan called our Lake Como host to see what he suggested, because we could get a ferry back to Bellagio and a cab to Como and then a bus to Milan, or the ferry to Lecco or Como and then a bus to Milan, or a cab from Varenna to Milan that would cost about 140 euros! Dan was talking to some locals to see what they suggested. The Southern woman from the train station came down to the ferry terminal to wait for her students, and Dan asked her what her plans were. She said that they were going to get a transfer to Milan. Dan asked if we could tag along, but she said that she had promised another young couple at the train station that they could get a ride if the train didn't come. But she said that she was told that the transfer to the airport was going to be in a van, so we might fit in. The young couple came down from the train station because the train hadn't come. The transfer arrived, and it was a van, and there was room for all of us! :D But we had to wait until after 9am for the students to come over from Bellagio. We all jumped in the van (except for the Southern woman) and waited for the ferry. The Southern woman had said that if the students weren't on the ferry, we were leaving without them, because they had already missed one of the ferries and she knew that we were on a tight schedule. She was very sweet. She reminded me of Blythe Danner, especially in 'The Prince of Tides' :P As the ferry was approaching, we could see the Southern woman waving to her students and then looking excitedly at the van to indicate that the students were there and we can leave to try to get to Milan on time :P The Southern woman and the students got in the van, and she introduced herself as Pat and her students were Claire and Caroline, and the young American couple were Patrick and Tyler. Tyler reminded me of Mandy Moore because she spoke like her (though with more of a Texan accent) and had a bit of a lisp like her, and at one point she said, "That's so funny", which is a line Mandy Moore says a lot in a particular 'Scrubs' episode :P It was about 9.10am by the time we left to go to Milan, and the van driver had said it may take 1.5 hours to get there. It began to rain as we were leaving Varenna. We were all chatting together, and it turned out that one of the students had a mutual acquaintance with Tyler because they were both from Houston! We finally got into Milan, but drove along a straight road with a billion traffic lights, so we were stopping and starting all the time. We got to the station with 10 minutes to spare and ran to the train. We made it! :D
The train ride to Venice was about three hours and I did some blogging and reading and Dan did some photos. I knew that Venice had lots of canals and was made up of lots of islands, but I didn't realise that the big mass of islands that make up Venice sit in the middle of a lagoon! We crossed a big bridge over the lagoon to get to the island, which seemed similar to the Houghton Highway bridge over to Redcliffe. We got off the train and onto a water taxi on the canal to our stop at Arsenale. Our host Guy met us there and it was raining quite heavily. He had a small umbrella for himself, and bought two small umbrellas for us from a street vendor (street vendors selling umbrellas have been in a lot of the places we have visited). He walked us to the apartment, which was right by a canal (the water was lapping at the outside wall of the building, out the lounge room windows!). The building used to be a monastery, and there were old beams along the ceilings :) Guy walked us to his friend's restaurant called 'Jonny's', and we had lunch there - a whole pizza each! :P Afterwards, we walked past seafood restaurants and thought they would be nice for dinner the next night. They were across a canal from a church bell tower that I'm sure was leaning, so we named it the leaning bell tower and used it as a landmark over the next few days :P
We walked to Piazza San Marco and found Florian's, which is a famous and very old cafe (established 1720!!!) on the Piazza, and it always has a little instrumental quintet playing music outside :) (see http://www.caffeflorian.com/). When I was walking towards Florian's, I had the Elvis song 'It's Now or Never' stuck in my head because in the movie 'Only You', that song is playing when they first arrive in Venice. Well, the Italian version anyway, which is called 'O Sole Mio'. And when I got close to the quintet, I realised that they were playing that very song!!! What are the chances? :P We walked across the piazza and down a little street and saw a place to get gondolas from behind the Piazza. We walked past lots of Venice Carnivale mask stores, and Murano glass stores (Murano is a small island just north of the main part of Venice in the lagoon, that specialises in glass blowing and ornaments). I don't know how all these stores survive because they all sell the same things! We walked to the Rialto Bridge, which is sort of like Ponte Vecchio in Florence in that it is a bridge with shops on it, but it is a very different style of bridge! (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponte_vecchio and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rialto_Bridge). We walked over the Rialto and past some markets, and wound our way to another bridge near the train station. We just walked in the general direction of the bridge to get there, and so long as the Grande Canal was on our right then we were OK :P We walked near the Jewish Ghetto, and walked along quite a main drag going east and eventually found our way back to our apartment to have dinner. It is so easy to get lost in Venice!
Ultimate cultural experience of the day: getting lost in the maze-like streets of Venice! :P
On the morning of Monday 23 April, we walked to the gondola place behind the Piazza that we had found the previous afternoon. We wanted to go on a gondola ride while it was early and not raining. It was an overcast morning. It was also our six-month wedding anniversary, so it was the perfect day to go on a gondola ride :) We hopped in a gondola and began our cruise :) It was very relaxing. We asked the gondolier if he would sing 'O Sole Mio' (the Italian version of the tune 'It's Now or Never') but he said he only sings in the shower and he was doing us a favour by not singing :P We went along back canals, and then came out onto the Grande Canal, which has some beautiful old buildings! Our gondolier explained the history behind some of them :) We wound our way along some back canals back to the spot behind the Piazza. We walked into the Piazza and went to Florian's to have a special anniversary morning tea :) We sat outside so that we could people-watch and hear the quintet. We ordered a hot chocolate with whipped cream, coffee and hot milk, and scones with jam and cream. The quintet were playing, and Dan requested 'O Sole Mio' for me and said to them that we just got married, and they played it for me :D It was very special :) And when they were finished, they peeked around the side of their marquee to see me, and it was very sweet :) We had our drinks and scones, and they were beautiful and toasted, which I have never seen before. We sat for a while people-watching and enjoying the music.
We decided to go to see the Peggy Guggenheim collection to see some paintings by Chagall, Picasso and Pollock. We walked to the gallery and had a look around, but the art was mostly abstract and looked like it belonged in the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, which is a gallery that Dan and I don't really like :P There was Jean Arp's 'Overturned blue shoe with two heels under a black vault' (see http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/show-full/piece/?search=overturned%20blue%20shoe&page=1&f=quicksearch&cr=1),
Georges Vantongerloo's 'Construction of volumetric interrelationships derived from the inscribed square and the square circumscribed by a circle' (except there was no circle to be seen, see http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/show-full/piece/?search=Georges%20Vantongerloo&page=1&f=People&cr=1), and Roberto Sebastian Matta's 'The un-nominator renominated' (see http://www.guggenheim-venice.it/inglese/collections/artisti/dettagli/opere_dett.php?id_art=110&id_opera=219&page=). Two pieces that I did like were by Joseph Cornell - 'Setting for a fairytale' (see http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/show-full/piece/?search=Setting%20for%20a%20Fairy%20Tale&page=&f=Title&object=76.2553.125) and 'Pharmacy' (see http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=5147472).
After the gallery, we had some lunch and walked to the other side of town to go to the Ventian Ghetto. We found the Ghetto museum and looked around the museum a little while we waited for the tour to start. The tour was a synagogue tour, and we saw the German (Ashkenazi) one in the museum building (like how the Roman synagogues were all in one building together). The German synagogue had fake painted marble on the walls because they were banned by the authorities from using real marble. The fake painted marble is a special Venetian technique and is now worth more than real marble! We saw the Spanish synagogue (also in the museum building), which had a bimah (altar) at the end of the room as opposed to the middle, and it had a little dome and it stuck out at the side of the building, up on the third floor! We walked outside and to the Greek and Turkish synagogue, which is still in use in the winter. It has real marble because they were the wealthy Jews because they were bankers and usurers (as opposed to the Germans who were in the second-hand clothing business) and they bribed the government to let them use real marble! :P
After the tour, we walked from the Ghetto back to our area of the city, and it began to rain. We got some supplies from a supermarket. We went out to dinner at a nice seafood restaurant (one of the ones we'd seen the previous day, near the leaning bell tower) - a nice way to finish our special anniversary day :)
Ultimate cultural experience of the day: going on a gondola ride and having morning tea at Florian's :)
On the morning of Tuesday 24 April, it was raining. We got ready to go to the eastern end of Venice, which we hadn't visited. We walked down to Arsenale, and when we got to the southern end of Venice where the street opens up onto the esplanade along the open water of the lagoon, the wind was very strong and it made the rain seem heavier. We got to near the gardens that we wanted to stroll in, but it was raining too heavily and we were getting too wet, so we took cover under an archway. We decided to head back home and get our rain pants, because our pants were saturated on the front from the rain. We came across a main street and Dan checked at a pharmacy to see if they had protein bars. They didn't, but they said that a butcher on the same main street sold protein products. We went to the butcher and Dan got some protein bars, and the butcher said that his store is the only place in Venice to get those sort of protein bars that aren't just meal replacement bars, so it was lucky we found it because we needed more protein bars for snacks. We left the main street in the direction we thought was the way back to the apartment, but somehow we ended up going east rather than west! It is so easy to get lost in Venice!!! We backtracked and eventually found our way back to the southern end of Venice by the water, but we were going in the direction of the rain this time, and the back of our pants got wet. We eventually got back to the apartment, and my legs were like ice! We stayed in for a little bit after that because I didn't feel like venturing out again in the rain, and it ended up fining up! We had lunch in.
We went out and found a place to get a coffee and hot chocolate. On our way there, we went through Piazza San Marco, and it was flooded! We had been told about the occasional high waters. It was crazy! We went out for dinner and got a nice pizza and risotto - nice Italian food for our last dinner in Italy! (until next time, that is :P). We found our way to the theatre to see a combined orchestra and opera where they performed certain songs from different operas, like 'Rigoletto' and 'The Marriage of Figaro' and 'La Traviatta'. A few of the songs were very recognisable :) The orchestra and performers were dressed in 18th Century costumes, which was fun :) It was a very enjoyable evening :)
Ultimate cultural experience of the day: going to the opera in Italy!
- Made up of over 100 little islands, Venice is one of the most unique cities in the world.
- St Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) is an attraction in itself. Enjoy a coffee while listening to an orchestra play beautiful music at Florian's! Take your time though, on ordering you will incur a 6EUR charge per person for the entertainment!
- We had a romantic gondola ride through some of the beautiful Venetian canals. Beat the canal traffic and go before 9am or after 5pm.
- Visit the Jewish Ghetto for a tour of 500-year-old synagogues.
- Have a map and don't have a map. Directions in Venice are extremely complicated. Learn enough Italian to ask for directions when you need to get somewhere specific.