After breakfast I went and got my bags to leave in the main building for a few hours so I could wander around before my train. Walked across the first big bridge with the huge basilica shrouded in fog again. Then off to Ponte Rialto to pick up one last thing in the shops. Standing on the Rialto I looked out over the Grande Canal and it was wierd. Watching the gondolas start up for the day, the water taxis ferrying tourists and people in suits to work up and down the canal, the boats transporting goods and packages and loading and unloading on the docks, the business owners opening shops on the bridge, and men pushing trolleys with crates of drinks on them for restaurants and such up and down the stairs and alleys. Just stopping on the bridge to watch this it just dawns on you that though this is a major tourist attraction, it is still a working city. The things that tourists and travelers find so enchanting and intriguing are simply every day activities for the Venetiens. The back door to the post office opens on to the canal, the police drive boats, they even have traffic lights in the canals. It made me wonder today how many of these people would actually know how to drive an automobile. A task as simple as that for us doesn't seem like such a big deal until you experience something as different as Venice. It was the same in the campo outside my hostel. Being awoken each morning by the fresh fruit vendors, people having their morning coffees on the way to work, the big fish stand with fresh everythings, the floating produce market, the construction workers. Venice may stand still for us, but to the locals, it is just another day. After staring out into the canal, I wandered down to St. Mark's Square for one last look. It wasn't very busy again, but the whole front of the basilica was roped off for some reason. I went over to ask some policemen?, and they told me it was some sort of military demo or something to that effect in Italian. So as I had about an hour, I decided just to hang around in the square and people watch
. Now St. Mark's is definetely the place to people watch. There are a couple of little stands with guys selling bird feed for €1 and you can never fail to find someone feeding the pigeons whenever you get there. Today was particularly amusing. There must be a good 500-1000 permanent pigeon residents in the square. All you have to do is hold out your hand, empty or otherwise and you've got pigeons all over you. Add some bird seed to that hand and you've got a feeding frenzy a little more crazy than the morning sparrows. People with pigeons sitting on their heads, shoulders, five in each hand, and then another few dozen trying to find a place to land. A little girl today had a pigeon on her head for about a half hour while feeding the pigeons, little children walking around looking like walking perches, one lady in particular had a bag of bird seed in her hand and pigeons all over her with her friend who was taking pictures of her. Well the friend started just laughing uncontrollably and you could hear her sweet laugh from 30 feet away. She kept wiping tears from her eyes at the sight of her friend being mauled by pigeons, one of which decided to stay on her shoulder long after the seeds were gone. Then there were the ones who shriek in surprise when a pigeon lands on them, or who reluctantly hold out their hand full of seed until the pigeons swoop down, at which point the seeds going flying into the air and the person recoils with their hands flung over the head in protection. SO FUNNY!! I never fed them, but just watching the fun and laughs that the people around me were having was entertainment enough
. Pigeon/People interaction will never get old for me.
A little after 11:00, the square in front of the basilica filled with military and army people dressed in a half dozen different costumes. Navy, army, carabinieri, and a few other I don't remember. They all lined up facing the basilica and beside the huge tower to the right. Then just after 11:30, music began to blast from a huge speaker, seding pigeons flying for cover. It could have been the Italian anthem, but I only ever hear that never so I don't know what it was. A bunch of men came into the square carrying flags and coats of arms, and then a group of men in trenchcoats and women in fancy suits and dresses came onto a stage, men in funny formal costumes holding flags or guns (other side of where I was, so too far away to see), press men taking photos, more triumphant music, a man yelling out positions for the uniformed men to take. Attention, relax, etc. Then flags were raised onto the three poles outside the basilica, more music, the men with flags left the square, and someone called the president of the republic made a little march into the square too. Could have been the President or Prime Minister of Italy. Who knows, but it was interesting and entertaining until I had to leave before it was finished to go back to my hotel and get my bags. It's always intersting just stumbling across something unique and local like that. Just wish I knew what it was?
Back down the alleys that I've become quite accustomed and familiar with, past canals full of gondolas and gondoliers looking for passengers, past glass shops, fancy clothing stores, dogs barking at each other in squares (of which there are many, many of both, but I mean dogs barking at each other), across many bridges, past the floating market boat, the last bridge, and then back into my square
. I've become quite good at navigating the little street on my part of the island. Couple more days and I would have been completely lost again I'm sure though. Grabbed my bags and was off to the train station. Took a few different but not necessarily wrong turns and made good time and a good guess of where I actually came out of the alley to. Right next to the final bridge to the train station. Oh I don't want to leave I kept saying over and over in my head. But it was time to go. Hopped my train, this time with a seat, and it was off to Florence. As the train was leaving Venice, sure enough I saw out my window the place I had walked to and gotten lost the first day. Just short of the road leading to the mainland. Good thing I stopped walking. Farther and farther from the island as the water turned to land, and cars and buses started to reappear. The first station we went through has a McDonalds out my window and I must say I have never been so annoyed to see one of those again except when I saw it and Burger King in Venice. There are just some places you don't want to see that crap. But I'd rather have them infest the place here than in Venice. And as easy as that, Venice was gone, and the water dissappeared. So sad, but reason enough to go back one day. I loved Venice and it was amazing to experience it even for only 3 nights. I will never ever forget it.
Now on to Florence, where I have no idea what to expect other than it has some really famous museums
. It's been a while since I've been to a museum, so I am going to have to change gears for this city. Just after the train passed through Bologna, the scenery cahnged into these amazingly green, tree-covered mountains with little houses and villages in them. The sun setting low in the valleys illuminating a hilltop village as our train zoomed by. Still in the mountains, the train pulled into a town called Prado, nestled right in the middle of it all. Then to my surprise, Florence was just a few minutes away. Pulling into the station it didn't look like much, but train stations don't usually inspire. A few minutes walk to my hostel, and the girl working was amazing. Whipped out a map, circled everything I should see including museums, churches, and piazzas. Then she pointed out supermarkets, laundry places, best views, bus routes, and the best gelato place in the city. Showed me to my room and in all of about 3 minutes closed the door as I crashed on my bed. Train rides make me tired. My room was super clean, 4 beds, with a shower in the room. I had heard great things about this place and the girl running it and so far it's all be true. I then whipped open the doors to the outside and the view was amazing. 3rd floor room from which you could see the green mountains in the distance speckeled with the twinkling lights of houses and villages, a quite little alley full of cats, huge evergreen trees, and falling leaves. It was almost completely silent, and reminded me of the serene, fresh feeling you get when you're standing somewhere in the Rockies taking in a view. Only when I craned my nech to the right I could see the top of a dome, of which there aren't a lot in the Rockies, but you get the idea. It made me so excited to be here, and I was sure, and still am sure that Florence is going to be great.
Yet another long day so I am off to bed. Still much to see and do for my last 4 nights in Italy. Can't believe I'll be back in Scotland so soon and that it's almost been 8 weeks. Ah! So Ciao from Florence! TTYS
Last few hours in Venice before my train at 1:30. So I got up at 8 and went for my breakfast. It was before 8:30, so the girl was still cleaning the inside so I had to sit out in the campo. It was another chilly morning with fog so I was wearing my sweater and scarf. Sitting there drinking my cappuchino, a little sparrow flew over and sat on the top of the chair opposite me. It was so cute, so I threw it a little piece of my pastry. Before long, I counted at least 20 sparrows all sitting on the chair around me. I felt like that old lady with lots of cats, only with sparrows. They must have been really hungry because as I held out some bread in my hand, a few of them almost ate it. They never got closer than a few inches though. I threw a handful of crumbs onto the ground and it was like a feeding frenzy of fericious sparrows. An old man who had entered the cafe was standing at the door beside me watching. He said something in Italian, but who knows what.