|9-11-05 Day 6
The next morning we were still traveling along on the train to Venice. The old Arab man was getting off at a stop before Venice and before the Italian couple. He seemed kind of nervous. It seemed kind of scary for this old man to be traveling by himself in a foreign country and speaking a language that probably very few people spoke. He seemed kind of nervous. He seemed to be trying to ask us if the stop where he was getting off was the right place but we certainly had no idea. Shortly after he left, the Italian couple got off at another stop.
Our passports were returned to us before we reached Venice and I was relieved to have them.
|After arriving in Venice, our hotel was not hard to find. Sylvan had looked up directions to everything before leaving home and had put each day’s information we would need on 3×5 cards. Each day he would put one or two cards in his shirt pocket and those would have all information we needed regarding directions and what we wanted to see. We followed the directions to the Ponte delle Guglie (a bridge) and then continued up Campo San Leonardo where they have fruit stands on some days…
|… and we looked for Calle dell ‘Olo which was marked by a black gate…
|…and then you walk down a very narrow little passageway to find the gate for the pensione itself, Foresteria di Palazzo Ducale. We rang the bell and an Italian man that spoke no English responded.
|He led us to a very sweet young women who spoke a tiny bit of English. We knew we had arrived much earlier than we had planned and was not sure if we could actually go to our room yet but just wanted to see if we could leave our bags until time that we could check in. In her broken English, she assured us that we could check in right then and she led us to our room on the second floor. This building must have been at the very least a couple of hundred years old. The heavy wooden door to our room opened with a skeleton key. A skeleton key is not very reassuring security but we felt trusting and we always kept our passports, airline tickets, etc. in money belts on our bodies when were out of our rooms anyway.
|The room was extremely small. It had the standard two twin beds but even they seemed smaller than usual. We were disappointed to find there was no air conditioning but we were too tired to do anything about it, and would only be in Venice for a couple of nights, and all we could think about was resting. The room was warm but not intolerable.
There was a t.v. in the room but I never could get it to work… but we’re in Venice- who has time to watch t.v?
|The bathroom was the smallest I had ever seen. You had to really maneuver around the sink to get through the door. You also had to step up about eight inches into the bathroom. The shower was so small it was impossible not to get water all over the bathroom floor when you took a shower.If you look at the picture on the right, you will see a small square “tank” in the upper left portion of the shower. This was the hot water tank which held about two gallons of hot water. I would get in and use enough water to get wet and then turn it off and soap up and then turn it back on to rinse off.
This was the only unacceptable room on our entire trip. We were paying about $100.00/night which included breakfast. That is not enough for Venice. I would recommend budgeting at least $150.00/ night here at the very least or as much as you can. We did notice that cruise ships dock in Venice. After our experiences here, I think a cruise would be a great way to visit since you would not have to worry about the room or food or packing and unpacking.
|But Venice is worth all the inconveniences of the tiny room and the expensive mediocre food. It is worth it because it is absolutely exquisite. It is truly one of the most beautiful places you will ever see. Every turn of your head is rewarded with another incredible site. If you had to sleep on the street and go without food altogether, it would be worth it just to see Venice. Great authors like Shakespeare have written about it but no words can really articulate the beauty here.
|We started out walking to Piazza San Marco and we followed the signs that are posted but then we saw a sign that would point to the Rialto Bridge and so we would start going in that direction which was not in the same direction and then we would see a sign that pointed to Piazza San Marco and change direction. This is really not the best way to get to a destination. We kept changing directions and walking along little passages along the canals or between the buildings. I am not sure you could really call them “roads” since they are so narrow. There are no cars in Venice. You get around on boats. The gondoliers were expensive and unnecessary for us. They were quite picturesque to look at though. We either walked where we wanted to go or took the vaperetto which is a water bus.
|Mere photographs don’t do Venice justice. You have to see the light playing on the water, reflecting off the pastel colored buildings. That just can not be captured in a still photograph… maybe not on film at all.
|We finally arrived at Piazza San Marco. There are zillions of pigeons there and there are little stands where you can buy bird seed to feed them. A lot of the tourists seemed to enjoy having the pigeons feeding out of their hands and on their shoulders but we kind of think of pigeons as rodents with wings. You are discouraged from feeding them in San Francisco. I guess it has been drilled into me that these birds are not very clean.
|After finding Piazza San Marco, we looked for the vaperetto and took it back to the Ponte Guglie stop in Cannaregio district where we were staying. This used to be the “Jewish ghetto.” We had done our research and were looking for a restaurant called “Breck” that was supposed to be affordable. Food was very expensive in Venice. We would pay about $45.00 for our lunch of what appeared to be about two dollars worth of pasta, two small salads, a little bread each, a fruit torte each for dessert and a couple sodas.Again, if you want good food, come to San Francisco. I can make better spaghetti than any I had in all of Italy. I discussed this with my sister Darlene after getting home and maybe, what we think of as “mediocre” food, is really more healthful? I put a lot of meat and vegetables in my spaghetti and besides being more flavorful, it probably also has more fat and calories and so possibly less healthful? Maybe one of the reasons the Italians looked so much thinner and healthier than Americans is because they DON’T put all the extra stuff in their food or serve the quantities we are used to- besides obviously doing a LOT more walking than we do and spending less time in front of a t.v.?
Rarely did any of the pasta I had have any meat in it. We probably should have looked more for the “tourist” menu’s at the restaurants to save money. Those usually would be inclusive of salad, pasta and a meat dish. I can easily say though that I think just about any pizza joint in San Francisco makes better pizza than any you will get in Italy- again just because I am used to more ingredients and bigger quantities of those ingredients than what we had on pizza in Italy.. (when I traveled in Mexico, I often felt that we have better Mexican food in the Bay Area than any “authentic” Mexican food I had in Mexico).
I imagine that part of the reason food is so expensive here is that it is labor intensive to make deliveries? You see little barges of goods on the canals and then those goods must be offloaded onto hand trucks and rolled through the little passageways and over lots of bridges.
|The Grand Canal…
|I kept saying to Milton, “Can you imagine little Milton Thomas from Richmond Texas in Venice Italy?” He would say the same back to me: “Imagine, Sylvan Rogers from Toppenish Washington that used to work in the Brunswick, here in Europe!” We just felt so lucky to be there and constantly reminded ourselves about how “blessed” we were.After lunch at Breck, we went back to the Pensione.
At one point my sister, Darlene, had considered coming with us and I remembered thinking about that. We had really exhausted ourselves so far on our trip and we could barely keep up with our schedule of packing and unpacking at different hotels and then dashing off to see the sites. We are probably more adventurous than some people and Darlene probably would have been fine but it occurred to me how much easier it would be for most people (including us if we ever returned) to take a cruise ship here. No packing and unpacking or train schedules or dealing with high food prices and tiny rooms. You would probably save money on a cruise since they are all inclusive and you really only need a day or two to see the sights of Venice. It might not be quite as “authentic” or adventurous but we decided that if we were to ever come back to Venice, that a cruise was the way we would want to do it and we would recommend that to others.
After napping in the room for a while, we walked to the Roticceria San Bartolomeo which was a Frommer recommendation I think. It was convenient too since everything was under glass in a counter and you could just point at what looked good and not have to deal with names of things on a menu that you had no idea what it was. Sylvan had beef lasagna and Milton had eggplant lasagna. We both had a little salad and sodas. The bill came to 22 euro which is about $25.00, a real bargain for Venice!
|From the restaurant we walked to the Rialto Bridge. This version was built 1588-1591. When did Shakespeare write “The Merchant of Venice?”
Although this picture here was taken the next day in the sunlight, that evening the sun was going down and there was a guy playing a violin. It was so incredibly romantic. Neither Milton or I are usually very romantic but I tell you, a violin at dusk on the Rialto bridge really does something to you… it just stirs the soul and you can’t help but feeling romance.
|Milton standing on the Rialto bridge that evening. Incredible. If anyone reading this feels their relationship could use a little romance, head to Venice! If you don’t feel it there, you are dead.
|Sylvan and Milton on the Rialto Bridge.
Looking out from the bridge you see gondoliers carrying couples but when we decided to go to San Marco, we looked for the vaparetto stop.
|As I mentioned before, there are no cars in Venice. The vaparetto is a water bus system that will get you just about anywhere you want to go. We found the one that was going to Piazza San Marco but we were looking for the campanile and missed our stop because we didn’t realize there are more than one campanile in Venice. We were looking off in a different direction across the water at a different campanile. We tried to get off but they had already untied the boat from the dock and so we had to go to the next stop and walk back.
|Here is a pic of Milton on the vaperetto at a different time during the day when there was better light.
|“Milton Thomas in Venice Italy!”
|When we got back to Piazza San Marco that evening, there were five different bands playing at different outdoor restaurants around the square. You could sit down at one of the restaurants and have drinks and just watch one band through the evening but we did what many of the tourists did, we stood and watched one for a while and then moved to another and watch them. The evening was warm (we were in short sleeves), the music was excellent and we were in Venice! Did I mention romance?
|After we left the square, we meandered.. yes, meandered… that is the only way to experience Venice– meander… slowly stroll in whatever direction, whatever passageway…
along the way we stopped at an internet cafe so Sylvan could check and send emails. We each got a gelato from one of the many gelato stands between San Marco and the pensione.
|Often in Venice, I felt like I had to pinch myself…”Is this just a dream?”
|9-12-05- Day 7
Sylvan slept great but Milton was tossing and turning all night. We had seen a laundromat the day before near where we were staying so we decided that today was a good opportunity to wash.
Sylvan could not remember if breakfast was included in this hotel but when we went downstairs we were pleased to discover that breakfast was included. We had the usual pastries, cereal, oj and coffee out in the courtyard in front of the pensione. We seemed to be the only people staying there which was fine since it was very quiet. The receptionist and her husband (?) appeared to live downstairs.
|After breakfast we took the vaperetto back to Piazza San Marco. We found the post office and got some stamps for postcards.
After returning from Europe, I discovered this site with some great 360 degree pics. You need to have Quicktime installed on your computer to look at them. Click here for the 360 degree pic of San Marco square and St. Marks.
|We stood in a pretty fast little line and paid a little fee to take the elevator to the top of the campanile., the tower to the right of the church.
|From the top of the campanile., there some incredible views of the piazza below…
|… and the bay…
|.. Santa Maria della Salute…
|San Geiorgio Maggiore and the other campanile. that had confused us the night before.
|… and the roof of Saint Mark’s Basilica and rooftops of Venice.
|When we came back down from the campanile., we decided to get in line to visit St. Mark’s Basilica which is over a thousand years old. It is incredible inside but you are not allowed to take pictures. If is free to go into the main floor of the basilica but there is a slight fee to visit the museum on the second floor which we did do.
|Although these bronze horses that are now on the balcony at the front of the church are only copies, the originals are inside the church museum. They were found in Constantinople and in 1204 were brought to Venice. In 1797, Napoleon apparently took them to Paris but in 1815 the horses were returned to Venice. This photograph does NOT do them justice. I wish we could have taken some pictures of the originals inside but there was an Italian man that guarded them and would come over to you if you even looked like you were going to take a picture… which of course I didn’t but others did…
|We asked someone on the balcony to take our pictures. Piazza San Marco is in the background.
|This is another picture we took from the balcony at Saint Mark’s. That is the Doge Palace on the left.
|Here is another angle of the Doge Palace, with facades dating from 1309, was taken at another time.
Click here for another Quicktime 360 degree view.
|This lion with wings is the symbol for Venice and you see them everywhere but this is probably the main one that is most famous. This picture was also taken from the balcony at Saint Marks.
|Something else you see a lot of in Venice is the masks. They sell them every where. They are usually made of paper mache and are quite beautiful and are used during the annual carnival. That would be a great time to visit Venice.
|After our visit to the basilica, we wandered about a little in the piazza. We wandered back to a restaurant we had seen near the Rialto bridge and had lunch. Milton used the bathroom at the restaurant and came out and told Sylvan how weird it was. Bathrooms in Europe can be an experience for Americans. We wandered back to the hotel, stopping at Bella Oggi, a small by American standards supermarket along the way. We got some bread and cheese. That was really not as simple as it sounds though since the cheeses have different names than what we were used to. Apparently they don’t usually carry what we call “cheddar” cheese. Everything was white. We could figure out what was Swiss cheese from the holes and what was gouda from the red rind, but everything else was a mystery.
When we got back to our room we took a little nap.
|When we awakened from our nap, we decided to go do our laundry at the laundromat we had seen earlier. Even that was an interesting experience for us even though they did have instructions in several languages. First you had to put your clothes in the machine and buy your detergent from a little vending machine. You did not put your money in the washing machine itself. Each machine had a number and you put the money in another place at the back of the building where the dryers were. It all went fine when we figured it out.There was a weird guy in the laundromat though that was overly friendly with everyone. With Sylvan’s experience working with psychiatric patients, Sylvan noticed him right away and notified Milton to avoid him. He put a lot of wet mildewed clothes in a machine but the whole time we were there, he never actually started the machine. He told someone that he was from “Pasadena” but then did not seem to know where Pasadena was. He also had an accent. Later when we were walking by the laundromat, he was still in there. We never did figure out what he was up to but others seemed to avoid him too. After we took the clothes back to our room, we went back to Brek for dinner.
|After dinner, we walked back to Piazza San Marco and listened to the bands again. One band was playing classical music and another was playing showtunes.
Along one of the passageways on our way, there was a guy playing guitar and harmonica and was playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” We sure felt like we were somewhere over the rainbow. It was poignant in that like Dorothy and Toto, we were definitely not in Kansas.
|We looked for the bridge of sighs. The bridge of sighs connects the Palazzo Ducale, where prisoners were tried, to the prison across the canal and the “sighs” are those the prisoners felt when going to prison.
From San Marco square, we took the vaparetto back to the Rialto. Sylvan got another gelato.
|9-13-05- Day 7
At 12:25 pm we got on the train to Florence.
|The trains in Europe are amazing. They are high speed and very comfortable and go everywhere.
Also in this pic, you can see our luggage. As small as they are, we still found we brought unnecessary stuff! When you are traveling as much as we were, you want to travel as light as possible.