Sunday, 6 April 2014

Venice, Day One

Venice, Italy 

For our first daylight exploration of Venezia, we took a water bus (like a zippy little ferry) down the Grand Canal to the Piazza San Marco - a large and opulent square. 

On one side, it was flanked by a long line of shops seen behind endless archways. And, as Venice is all at sea level, there were puddles, though none too deep. 

The Basilica San Marco is an enormous cathedral, filled with gold and jewels and, strangely, pieces of dead saints (including St Roch's femur, St Mark's thumb, and someone's shriveled hand). Lonely Planet told us that the Treasury also held a lock of the Madonna's hair, but when I asked the attendant, he said that wasn't the case. I wasn't particularly disappointed, but Lonely Planet lied to me. 

The architecture is eclectic, with onion bulb domes and a Greek cross layout. 

We took a walk around the neighboring streets of Piazza San Marco, and found a cafe just starting to serve lunch. I ordered pasta, and Yannick got calamari. We had a bit of a giggle about the overtly American guy sitting behind me (pictured above), who told the waitress "Gimme some of those shrimp things". 

Some eateries were clearly only targeting tourists, like this one. I suppose it caters to tourists wanting hot dogs (except Italian food is amazing, and who would rather have hot dogs), but toast?!


Before we even came to Venice, we knew we weren't going to go on a gondola ride. Beyond the fact that it was completely overpriced, we wanted to explore the backstreets and hidden canals off the main tourist circuit. Wandering around, getting lost in the alleyways felt like a much more authentic experience than being shepherded around in a corny boat ride. And the gondoliers charged extra for singing. Hehehe. 

We took turns carrying around the bottle of water. We did this everywhere we went, as it got very hot in a lot of places. The worst were Spain and Greece, but also Rome, where we had to buy bottles of frozen water from vendors. The ice would gradually melt, providing us with ice cold water surrounding a bottle-shaped ice cube. However, we became so thirsty and the ice melted so slowly that we would try to speed up the process. We would press our hot hands to the bottle, or shake it vigourously, draining any new drops we could get. 

Flooding would occur in Venice in the winter months, and these platforms were stacked up on the roads for when that happened. They would have to be laid out to make a raised platform to walk on, and then stacked back up once the flooding had subsided. Some of these were laid out in front of the Basilica San Marco, to keep the queuing tourists' feet dry. While we edged along the platforms, with elderly American couples ahead and behind us, we watched pigeons washing themselves. 


The Ponte di Rialto, the oldest bridge crossing the Grand Canal. As you can see by the people lined up on it, it provided a great view. It also had many vendors of roses, knock-off handbags, and squishy toys you throw at the ground that make surprised sounds. 

A nice wooden-paneled boat.


Return of the colourful hanging bedsheets!
This is what the majority of the smaller streets looked like in Venice. Narrow, with tall buildings on all sides, and a bit dusty. I'm glad I didn't see more dog poo, as I did see dogs being walked. But the streets were clean for the most part.

Bakeries on the island of Cannaregio sold these large biscuits, with an array of flavours. We were too full from dinner, otherwise we would have had one.


As we made our way back to the bus that evening, we were farewelled by a fleet of gondolas and the last rays of sunlight hitting the Venetian rooftops. 

Venice, Day Two