Monday, December 29, 2008

Venezia by train, boat and foot

After our relaxing stop in Florence we took a early morning train to Venice. It was a beautiful ride and shows just how agrarian Italy's countryside really is. Aside from the cars and the look of the buildings, the fields weren't all that different from the ones in the Midwest.

Venice was a place we had all wanted to visit, but had heard mixed reviews. Some people thought it was elegant and fantastic, others thought it was a smelly, crowded waste of time in comparison to the other places they saw in Italy. Needless to say, my hopes for Venice were somewhere between medium and low.It was sunny when we arrived and all the rich colors in the canals, the architecture, the sky and the people mixed together brilliantly like a painting. It was really that cliche and breathtaking. Venice reminded me of a town of out a Disney movie. It just didn't seem real at all (doubly because I've been to the Venetian in Las Vegas). It was amazing.

We took a vaporetto (water taxi) from the train station to our hotel near St. Mark's Square. There were two ways to get to our hotel. You could take the long way, which snaked all the way through the city along the Grand Canal or you could take the short way, a twenty minute ride through the more open lagoon. We chose the long way, which was delicious thing to do since real life hardly ever affords enough time to do things that way. We had read it wasn't worth getting a gondola ride since the long vaporetto ride took you through much of Venice. I still think it would be fun to do a gondola, but for the short amount of time we were there it wasn't high on the list of things to do. They were fun to watch nonetheless.

Our hotel was just a few bridges away from St. Mark's Square. Instead of measuring by blocks or streets, they measure by bridges. In the picture below you see a building with white wrap around it. All of the buildings under construction in Venice (at least the ones in main view of the canals, etc.) were covered like this. Functioning as billboards, they also kept the eyesore of construction to a minimum. There are no cars, bikes, skateboards or wheeled personal vehicles of any kind in allowed in Venice, making it a walking or boating town. It was funny to be walking along the street or a canal and see personal water crafts zipping alongside.

We walked to St. Mark's Square, which was two weeks away from the flooding that happened in November and December. Because of the time of day we went, it was hard to get good pictures with the sun shining so brightly. St. Mark's Cathedral was very different from the other churches we had visited. The floor is in ruins, all uneven and looking like a rundown old building. Its location makes it vulnerable to flooding, and the repairs are difficult because Venice isn't really on solid ground. You have to pay to visit different parts of the church, so you choose which parts you really want to see.

Afterwards we meandered between St. Mark's and our hotel, confounded by all of the shops in the maze that is the streets of Venice. Each little passageway looks like a small, dark alley where no good can come to you or your wallet. At every turn was another sweet little run of jewelry shops, clothing stores, bars, glass shops, cafes, etc. It was enchanting. I wish I'd taken pictures, but I was far too busy shopping for Murano glass and other treasures.Of all of the things in Venice I was most taken with, Venice's rose colored street lamps were my favorite. I'm sure I took 30 pictures of them.

Venice was molto bene.

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