Monday, April 30, 2012

Making Our Way Around Venice, Italy

It looks like we've arrived in Venice...

We were told the sailing into Venice is one of the prettiest sights, so we were up at 5:30 a.m. Lots of little bridges and old buildings...

Our first glimpse of St. Mark’s Square so distinguishable by the tall campanile or bell tower...

The church of Santa Maria Della Salute on the left was soon to be known as “Barb’s church.”

Beautiful sunrise…

There wasn't a lot of canal traffic at that time of day.

As we reached the cruise terminal, the sun was just above the horizon.

And then it was time to get off the ship, and board our shuttle boat to St. Mark’s Square. Princess would be delivering the luggage to the different hotels, so we grabbed our carry-ons and got on the water taxi. This musical statue was right at the port.

Our first look at the buildings on the water.

Goodbye Pacific Princess! It was a fantastic cruise.

And we were off to our hotel. I must have loved the look of this building, because I took pictures of it several times like I hadn't seen it before. It is Santa Maria della Visitazione built beginning in 1493.

And a closer look at St. Mark’s Square with the Doge’s Palace on the right.

Barb and Jim in Zaccaria Square with our hotel in the background. Our room ended up being the one on the third floor on the left with the door open. It was a really good location overlooking the square.

Mmmm…yummy! I thought I would like Venice just fine!

Our rooms weren't ready, so we bought a water boat pass and got on one of the vaporettos to take a ride on the Grand Canal. In the background is the palace of the Duke (or Doge) of Venice and the seat of government from the 9th century to 1797.

One of the many, many bridges on the canals. Venice is a series of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by these bridges.

This is one of the “bus” stations, which the vaporettos pull up alongside. The system works much as a subway system only with boats.

We stopped at this restaurant, Trattoria da Nino, for lunch. We liked it so much we ended up going back a few nights later for dinner.

We’re looking pretty pleased with ourselves.

Ed…a man of many hats!

This is the church of San Zaccaria located directly across from our hotel. It is dedicated to St. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist.

It is full of wonderful old paintings, from the floor to the ceiling. The cost of maintaining these churches is significant.

The church has a crypt, which is unusual for churches in Venice, and several doges are buried there. It is prone to flooding.

A monk walked by outside the church just to remind us that it was the real McCoy.

There are lots of these fountains all over Venice. I saw many people filling their water bottles, but I wasn’t that brave.

That evening we took the vaporetto to the end of the line to a residential area. If you get away from St. Mark’s Square, the prices in the restaurants go down substantially. Many residents bike to this station and then take the vaporettos to work.

Back at the hotel, we looked like we had been up since 5:30! Our rooms were on the 3rd floor, which had a small terrace with a swing. We quickly named it “our” terrace. The end of a long, but really superb, day.

The next morning we headed over to St. Mark’s Square thinking we would take a tour of the Doge’s Palace. We passed by the famous Bridge of Sighs, which linked the Palace with the prison building. The name came from the small windows on the bridge, providing the last direct sunlight that the prisoners might have felt for many years, perhaps forever.

The campanile, or bell tower, with St. Mark’s Basilica on the right. You can walk up the many steps in the tower to get a great view of the city. There were so many people in the Square that day. It was a long weekend for Italians, the next day being May Day, so everyone was off work.

The Basilica is so richly decorated that it is called the “golden church.” The acoustics inside are so unique that it is said that musical works by Venetian composers Vivaldi and Monteverdi do not sound the same when performed elsewhere.

Look at the intricate statues on top of the Basilica.

The figures on top strike the clock on the hour. Underneath you can see a winged lion, widely used in Venice, as a symbol of St. Mark. Under the lion, you can see the roman numeral IX and then 45 on the right. This is supposed to be the world’s first digital clock. It changes every 5 minutes and shows that the current time was 9:45. Neat!

It was close to the hour, so we waited...

More winged lions…

The Doge’s Palace and look to the right…another winged lion.

A look around St. Mark's Square...

This beautiful building was part of the administrative buildings of the palace and also served as a residence for the staff of the palace, complete with concubines and eunuchs.

Orchestras play outside the restaurants in this area, to attract customers to their establishment. It is incredibly expensive to sit here and listen. If you want only a drink, you will pay a 15 euro cover charge.

We decided there were just too many people and thought the next day would be a better day to visit the palace when everyone had gone back to work. Instead, we set out in search of a supermarket that we were told was in this area.

We passed by many stores selling masks that are so popular during Carnival. Some of them were just amazing. 

Murano glass is produced on an island close to Venice, and in the 16th century the process was a closely guarded secret. Now you can tour factories and watch the artisans at work. This whole tiny orchestra is made of Murano glass. The detail was amazing. Most of the pieces were less than 1”.

Hmmm…not so fussy about the teeny tiny bugs and spiders.

Jim spied a Ferrari store and went in to investigate. He was inspecting Michael Schumacher’s old Formula 1 car in the window.

Here we are on one of the many bridges.

The crowds were just ridiculous.

Masks everywhere…this was in a tiny niche in a wall.

Everyone advertises Murano glass…some pieces more exquisite than others.

Oh yeah…forgot we were still looking for that supermarket. It is very easy to get lost in Venice, even with a map.

Lilacs or maybe was pretty anyway.

It is common to see these African men selling knock-off purses. If you say “no, thank you” you’ll often get back a “hakuna matata”…no worries. This little girl decided to take one of the bags and run with it! So cute!

We stopped for a cappuccino…mostly we wanted a washroom and they are few and far between. The bathroom break cost us 20 euros, the price of four cappuccinos. Crazy! We watched this little guy chase the pigeons, a favourite pastime the world over!

We found Laurel and Hardy along the way. The supermarket was becoming “another fine mess you’ve gotten me into” as we kept getting close, but still couldn’t find it.

Even if you were lost, the views were beautiful.

I wondered how some of this laundry ever dried as the alleys didn’t get too much sunshine.

At this point, both Ed and Jim bought better maps figuring that would help us find the elusive supermarket. After much consultation…

We still didn’t have a clue!

Barb and Ed bailed at this point. It was pretty hot and we weren’t making much progress. Jim and I asked a local gentleman, who showed us on the map where it was, but pointed out that it was closed anyway because of the holiday. Good grief! We carried on back towards the hotel.

Look at how the gondolier navigates this corner with ease. There were so many wonderful sights...

Back to the Square…seriously too many people!

This sign might as well not be there.

For all the attention anyone pays to it!

Back past the beautiful Basilica…my aching feet were looking forward to getting to our hotel.

These dogs had a bit of a showdown and then decided they liked each other.

After a nice rest, we wandered down the street “a couple of bridges” to find a place for dinner. The wind picked up and we could see that rain was not far away. We headed down an alley and came upon this restaurant, Al Vecio. Right away, we felt at home. It was cozy and the staff was really friendly. Ed and Jim at the end of a great meal.

The couple behind us was Polish, but living in Toronto. They heard us talking about Canada and struck up a conversation.

We finished off the meal with a complimentary Grappa. Oy…it burned all the way down. Jim and his new Polish friend, decided to outdo each other. Our waiter was only too happy to fill their glasses again. It’s a good thing they called it quits!!

 A super day in Venice! Tomorrow we are going to tour the Doge’s Palace…

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