Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Venice, Italy-Here a church, there a church, everywhere a church-church
We were awoken by the runner of the hostel who we have dubbed "christmas eve" (of avenue Q fame for those not in the know) at about 9:15 am to her basically telling us we had to go eat breakfast. We had planned on sleeping in a bit, but maybe a bit of food isn't such a bad idea. We weren't really sure where to go in this maze of rooms, last night she said something we thought was downstairs, but Heather wasn't too excited about eating with the spider-webs, but as it turns out, it was upstairs. Walking through the hostel we wondered what lotto we lost getting the "room" behind the curtain, when there were 3 very large double bed rooms on our floor, all set up nice with furniture. After a bowl of corn-flakes, we went back down to shower and get ready for the day.
We really had no particular sights to see or places to go, so we just set out in a random direction to see what we come upon. We should note that walking around Venice you begin to feel like a rat in a maze looking for the cheese. There are a million streets and back alleyways to get lost on. About every other couple we saw was stopped, looking at their map. They say locals get lost here too, which we can easily believe.
Venice 1, Heather & Charlie 0.
After walking for an hour or so and passing many churches and crossing many bridges, we found a little square in front of a church and got our first Italian gelatto. We noticed there was a man behind the counter making it, to which Heather said " I like that man." We sat on a bench in front of the church and enjoyed it, looking at the map deciding where to wander. We thought we should head towards San Marco as it is the biggest tourist draw in the city with lots to see. We must have walked over an hour, making a few wrong turns on the way and consulting the map many times, we finally found it. San Marco consists of the basilica of San Marco, the old mayors home which is now a museum, a watchtower, and many shops along the huge sea front area. We thought we'd wander a bit along the shore and find some lunch before seeing the sights. We walked along the shore for quite a while checking out all the menus of the restaurants. Many restaurants in Italy charge extra for table service, usually 10% to 15% and sometimes a cover of 1 or 2 euros per person. As you can about imagine the places on the shore of Venice were quite expensive, so we thought we'd be best finding a place off a side alleyway which are usually much cheaper and many don't charge a cover or service charge. Walking up the shore we came upon a large yacht that had to be close to 150 feet long, and a bit up the dock, a sailboat even larger. We couldn't begin to imagine what they cost. We crossed over the Bridge of Sighs, which we thought had some sort of romantic story behind its name, but it turns out it was along the path to the old prison, and the prisoners were the ones doing the sighing as they crossed it many years ago.
We wandered back off the shore a bit and found a small cafe to eat lunch at. Heather got tortolini with procuetto and Charlie got a cheese pizza. Heather had a glass of wine with hers, while Charlie found a new flavor of fanta he likes, lime. After enjoying lunch, we headed back towards the square outside San Marco's basilica. We tried getting in, but were turned away at the door because we had a backpack, so Heather decided to walk along the shops while Charlie took a peek inside. It turned out to be rather disappointing inside, but very beautiful. There were no pictures allowed to be taken inside, but they basically had a roped off path through the church you could walk on. If you wanted to go up to the 2nd level to get a view outside it was an outrageous 4 euros, and to see the treasury room it was another 2 euros. The entire church ceiling was done in a beautiful gold mosaic, and was probably one of the more beautiful churches we've been to, but the cost to go upstairs and the quick path the shuffled everyone through kind of soured the experience. We are more used to being able wander around and take our time touring churches everywhere else in Europe.
After a bit we thought we'd head back to the hostel to clean up a bit and plan out our evening. We did get lost again and ended up on the complete wrong side of one of the islands than we thought, so out came the map and we headed towards the Rialto bridge, the biggest and main bridge across the grand canal. The street was lined with shops and markets, and also many black market dealings of handbags and sunglasses. They had many high-end name bags and glasses they were trying to sell to all the tourists, and would drop from 35 to 15 euros in an instant on the price of what should be a many hundred dollar bag. We still aren't sure if they were all real or stolen or made from the scraps at the factory. Whatever the story, they would have them all spread on the ground on a sheet, with someone on lookout for the police, and when they came walking by, they would gather the bags and run down the street till the police passed, and then found a new place to set up shop. Charlie may be looking for some black market sunglasses in Milan since he lost his in London. Heather just tried to stay away from the hand bags in general.
After a 2 hour walk, we finally found the hostel. We checked email and cleaned up a bit before heading back out in search of dinner. We took a new direction in hopes of finding something new, but we settled on a small cafe again where this time Heather ordered a pizza, and Charlie got a seafood risotto. We dined over a bottle of wine enjoying our final night in beautiful Venice. Heather ordered up an after dinner drink called Lemoncello, and it came in 2 rather large shot glasses rather than small ones as she's had before. We sat for a while and ate a bowl of nuts and a plate of chips that the server thought we needed to snack on while we relaxed.
On the way back to the hostel, we came upon the place we ate last night, with the same piano player playing again tonight, so we stopped by for a glass of wine. We listened to a few songs and started making our way back. On the corner where we had to turn there was a large crowd gathered, so we stopped to see what was going on. Turns out there was a band playing, and they were really quite good, hence the crowd. They even had someone selling their cd as they played. We stayed for a few songs before heading in to call it a night, we have plans to get up early before we get shooed into the breakfast room so we can catch our 9am train to Milan.