Sunday, August 15th
We left Bolzano, took the train back to Verona where we grabbed a sandwich (mozzarella and tomato on a baguette). Even though Verona is the home of
Romeo and Juliet, the famous lovers only existed in books. However, the families did exist…and there is a famous balcony where you can pretend it all
happened. We didn’t stay long in Verona…again, we just stopped long enough to get transferred to another train on our way to Venice. Already we felt
like old pro’s at the train and metro stations. We still had no problems with thieves or pickpockets. But the heat was really getting to me.
We arrived in Venice and it was completely obvious where we were.
Wow! I’m in VENICE! The train station sits right on the Grand Canal. In fact, as we arrived by train, we were surrounded by water. There were no cars.
The entire city sits on water.
Amazing. Simply amazing. It was so totally Italy and completely Venice. Everything we saw, everything we imagined it to be was right in front of our eyes.
I burned through 2 rolls of film before we even got to our hotel.
All the homes…or palaces, were built facing the Grand Canal. The best way to see the front of them is by boat. All these palaces were built when Venice
was the world’s richest city, about 500 AD. Strict laws prohibit any changes in the buildings. Many of them are vacant and most of them are slowly rotting.
No one lives in the ground floors and any remodelling inside has been done from the 2nd floor and above. The pilings and posts don’t rot under water,
just at the water line where the wood meets the air.
The famous bridges, the buildings and architecture, the “traghetti”…gondolas, the sidewalks
built up on top of the previous sidewalks.
We walked ½ the island and all we could do was point and say “Look!” and “Wow!” There
are more than a hundred islands called Venice, connected by 400 bridges and 2000 alleys.
The population has decreased from its peak of about 200,000 to 65,000 today, and survives
completely on its tourism $. Local people know everyone.
The Grand Canal winds through the city, only 3 bridges cross it. There are no real streets with addresses, but nearly each street corner has a directional
or informational sign that points to a landmark.
Its confusing to get around so we just quit trying and simply wandered about. The guidebooks say to not worry about getting lost, because you’re on an
island and you can’t get off.
If we got hungry, we just stopped and ate. Anywhere. The main island of Venice sits in a lagoon and is built on pilings driven 15 feet into the clay.
The current of the river is very fast and doesn’t collect sediment. It doesn’t collect much of a smell either, surprisingly enough. It does not collect much
smell either, surprisingly enough.
If we thought Milan was expensive, Venice was more so. Everything must be shipped in by boat and then hand-trucked to its destination. Yikes!
If we wanted to get somewhere by boat, there were gondolas, 400 of them to choose from. Brand new they cost $30,000 each. But for 80 Euros, they
take people on a round-trip tour of the connecting alleys closest to their territory. Then there were “vaporetto”…boat busses…that take people to their
connections, just like busses on land would do. And then there were “water taxis”…that zip people around privately, just like a taxi would…which the
gondola drivers despise.
We decided to take a break from walking around and stepped into a local diner. It turned out to be an
English Pub! So we had a quick drink and snacks, watched the soccer match on t.v. and cooled off for a bit.
We decided to go ahead and eat and had ½ sandwiches of bread with no crust pinched together at the
edges around a mound of tuna salad. Yum. Then we headed out again.
We went to St.Mark’s Square and Mark got to feed the pigeons.
And feed the pigeons. And feed more pigeions. They were everywhere.
1 Euro spent for an amazing few moments of intense pigeon contact.
2 football field-lengths of pigeons being fed by tourists.
Mark had pigeons on his arms and hands and on his feet, picking at his toes…and even on his HEAD! As Mark says, “You haven’t lived until you’ve had
pigeons pecking your toes in St. Mark’s Square.” And happily enough, no pigeon poop on either of us!
“Piazza San Marco”…St. Mark’s Square is the only
square that can accurately be called a piazza.
It is surrounded by the offices of the
Republic…old and new. And a lot of other stores
Venice floods about 60 times a year. It starts at St. Mark’s Square as it is the lowest spot in Venice. There are no real tides, just the effects of the wind
blowing up from Egypt. When we got to St. Mark’s Square late in the afternoon on the 2nd day, the square was quite wet, but we didn’t see any real
flooding. There is a measuring device at St. Mark’s Square. When the water rises 1 foot a warning siren sounds. It repeats if a serious flood is on the
way. There is another indicator on the right of the Bell Tower showing the water-level from the worst floods in 1966. They have tables and benches they
put out for people to walk on if the water gets too high. Thank goodness we didn’t get to see this.
There is another indicator on the red brick building (to the left of Mark's left elbow) showing the water level from the worst floods in 1966.
Then we walked 300 “scales”…steps…up into the Bell Tower
where we got to see Venice from sky-level and all the red rooftops and tons of pigeons in the square. No wonder it’s so hard to get around in Venice!
We also sat and had a drink at Caffé Florian. Very famous café where we got to sit and watch others feed the pigeons, and watch children running around
screaming and chasing pigeons. All pigeon-poop free! They also have orchestras placed strategically around the Square so that no matter where we sat
we could hear an orchestra. They called them dueling orchestras. While we sat and watched and stayed cool, couples danced around St. Mark’s
Square. It was terrific!
We ate dinner right off the square, and then had our due
share of gelato for the night. We tried to get a gondola ride
part way back to our hotel, but we couldn’t communicate with
them that we didn’t want a round-trip ride. And we were told
that “gondolas aren’t motorboats and don’t go that far”. So
we grabbed “d’ell autobas”…the bus-boat back to our hotel.
When we got back to the hotel, the alley that we would have
taken to get there was closed by a locked gate. We figured
we were homeless for the night. But we wandered through
the back alleys like mice in a maze trying to find our hotel by
a different route. It was kind of spooky, but with Mark’s great
sense of direction, we had no problems.