Skip to main content

Oh! Venice!

 

I was not hyped for Venice.  I booked the tour a few days ago--three hours in a bus, followed by half hour on a train before we even got there--and how good could it really be?  You've heard all the superlatives -- most beautiful, incredible, unique and stunning etc.  I'd heard it all too, but after three and half hours of travel even the perfect can seem disappointing.  Still, all the movies and the pop culture and the travel cynicism in the world didn't mean anything when I turned the first bend on the Grand Canal.

Believe the hype.  Venice is amazing.

It's a testament to human adaptability and ingenuity -- founded to escape barbarians after the fall of Rome and built on top of trees forced so deep they became petrified in the ground.  A city that became so rich that art and beauty is literally everywhere you look.  St Mark's Basilica (or San Marco's) (no pictures allowed) -- the largest church in a city with over sixty of them -- has a mosaic ceiling but instead of just random stones between pictures of saints it's actual real gold.


And the canals!  So obvious and efficient and historically necessary and yet their presence evokes something alien -- a strange civilization that developed to use boats instead of cars.  The architecture is built to purpose and aesthetically pleasing.  The whole city is truly remarkable.

We took a water taxi in from the train station to Piazza St Marco.  It was a long bus ride and we were all understandably grumpy.  The guide understood this but shuffled us along.  By the time we had reached our destination we were all grinning ear to ear.  "Well?" he asked, "You like Venice?  Or you think we should get back on the bus?"  We opted to stay.

The weather was gorgeous and not too hot, which helped.  We watched a glass blowing demonstration -- Venetian glass is a big deal -- which eventually turned into a predictable if entertaining sales pitch.  The glassware was extraordinary but way way too rich for my blood.  I grabbed some lunch and took a look inside the basilica.  I opted to not pay extra for a gondola ride -- which I regretted as we entered the city proper -- but I suppose that's something for next time.  Instead I sat at a cafe on the Grand Canal and just enjoyed the feel of the city.

We walked through the backstreets (backbridges?) of Venice, learning history with a local guide.  It was informative, but a long long walk.  We did get to see the Rialto Bridge however, the commercial (and geographical) centre of Venice--still bustling 1500 years later.



It was a quick visit.  Just enough to whet the appetite.

Venice is special.  And one day, I'll be back to see it again.  Hopefully before it sinks.

Tomorrow---Roma!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Tubes and Towers and Treasures

One thing I've learned from this trip is not to push myself too hard in the service of seeing something instead of taking a necessary rest.  I have to be on a train tomorrow and exhausting myself makes me irritable and unpleasant, and no one wants that, least of all me.  As a result I missed the National Gallery today, which is a loss, but one I'm willing to take in service of not feeling like a zombie tomorrow.

I did see the British National Museum today.  One the one hand it was incredible to see such a huge collection of antiquities from around the world.  On the other it was sort of like Britain bragging about all the cool shit they stole when they were overseas.  I did enjoy the Roman treasure hoards hidden under English farmhouses and being able to see the Rosetta Stone up close.  Also I have no idea how anybody read cuneiform -- it takes a sharper eye than mine that's for sure.


Also, I did make it out to the Tower of London.  Had to take the tube which is not exact…

(Barely) Made it to Dublin

Well, I made it to Dublin.  Took some doing.  Got a great airfare out of Toronto with the caveat that I needed to take a ten hour layover in St Johns.  So I figured: Bonus, free day in Newfoundland.

St John's is a pretty city filled with nice people.  Smelled like the sea.  And a fair bit of weed. They like to blaze out there.



Went up to Signal Hill, the big central attraction which has a beautiful view of the harbor and the city and has historical significance not just for being a former fortification but the place where Marconi first heard the telltale beeps of the wireless coming across the ocean.  It was a good day even though I was exhausted at the start of it thanks to my overnight at Pearson, but I slept most of the flight out.

They almost didn't let me in to Ireland.  My fantastical dreams of meandering around Europe indefinitely got dashed pretty hard by the customs officer.  Apparently they don't love people who show up with no established exit time or ticket.  …

A Few Days in Florence

Today is my last full day to experience Florence and I spent the morning at Uffizi Gallery, built on the collection of the De Medici's, and expanded for centuries.  Many of the statues are copies of Greek statues but even those copies date to the Renaissance and those copies still needed to be carved by masters.  Makes you wonder--at what point does it being a copy mean anything at all?

It did have several original paintings including, of course, the Birth of Venus by Botticelli, who was so good for his time it was scary.  Plenty of other greats too, Raphael, Caravaggio (whose style was well loved by the De Medicis), and Leonardo's great unfinished masterpiece, the Adoration of the Magi--which is returning after being under restoration.

So a big day for art.  Yesterday was more of a city walk type of thing where I lined up to get into the Florence Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore).  That's its full name but mostly it's called Il Duomo for it's massive dome contain…