Monday, November 07, 2005

Il treno aveva luogo in tempo! (The train was on time!)

Lara and I decided to go to Venice about three days before we left (so, I guess that means we made the final decision on 01.11.2005). So, we left for Venice at 15.30 on Friday (04.11.2005) – yes, that was the day after my parents left. Just to give you a little bit of background information, we were only going to be able to spend one day in Venice because we were arriving on Friday at 22.30 and we had to catch a train at 6.45 on Sunday morning. We planned the trip in the midst of our Global Strategic Management class, which was a week-long block class, so we had to be back in class at 9.00 on Monday morning (see, we go to class!!).

When we arrived in Venice (on time!), we found our hostel and checked in. It was a neat little place and it was close to the train station (a plus, since we had to leave so early on Sunday). After checking in, we walked around for about an hour and even had some gelato. Ironically, we found out of Saturday that the district we are staying in is the Getto. This is the old Jewish Quarter, and it was one of the most densely populated regions in Venice. It was named “Getto” for the copper foundry that was located there, and it is where the origin of the current word “ghetto” came from.

On Saturday (05.11.2005), we were up and out of our hostel by 6.30. Since we knew we would only have one day in Venice, we wanted to see as much as we could. First, we took the vaporetto (water taxi) down the Grand Canal and looked at all of the beautiful buildings. I found out that most of the ground floors of the buildings are not occupied because there is so much flooding in Venice. We arrived at Piazza San Marco (the only Piazza in Venice) around 7.45 and I was surprised by the size of the square. It is much larger than I thought it would be. When we got there, the square was almost deserted, except for a few people and the entire pigeon population of Venice (well, it seemed that way). We were able to take some nice pictures because the square was so empty.

Then, we decided to find some breakfast. We walked for quite a while, following the “Per Rialto” signs (Dad had told us not to rely on the map, but to follow the signs and the crowds). We got to the Ponte Rialto, which was also very quiet, so we were able to take some good pictures there too. We continued looking for a place for breakfast and eventually ended up in the market that we had passed during the Grand Canal tour. It was so neat to see all of the fruit and vegetable stands, along with butcher shops, fish markets, and cheese shops. We also saw plenty of boats pulling up alongside the market to unload their produce at the market. As we walked past the fish markets, the smell of seafood was so strong that it reminded me of fishing off the dock in Morehead City, NC. It was the first time that I found a place so completely different from home, but with such a familiar feel (or smell) to it.As we were walking around, I came to the realization that the Venetians are entirely dependent on their boats for every aspect of daily life. We saw boats loaded with fresh produce at the market and also boats loaded with things like toilet paper, paper towels, and bottled water – essentials to everyday life that you don’t really think about in terms of how they are transported to their final locations. After walking around for a while, we found a little coffee bar and we ordered cappuccino and pastries for breakfast. I felt like a local as I stood at the bar and drank my cappuccino.After breakfast, we headed back to Piazza San Marco to see the San Marco Basilica. While we were waiting to go inside, we saw workers starting to set up the wooden sidewalks that are used when the city floods. Since Piazza San Marco is the lowest point in the city, it is the place that gets flooded first. Before we left Vienna on Friday, I had looked at the weather forecast and it looked like it was going to rain a lot on Saturday. So, I was fully expecting to get wet at some point on Saturday, but I was hoping to get out of Piazza San Marco before it started flooding. We went inside the Basilica and it was beautiful. We were also able to see the Golden Altar, which is an amazing sight – 150 enameled panels with different scenes on each one of them. It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. The Basilica was impressive, but I don’t know if I am used to seeing ornate churches now or if it just wasn’t as good as some of the other ones. At any rate, it didn’t blow me away like some of the other churches that I have seen, but I am glad that I was able to see it while I was in Venice.As we came out of the Basilica, we were able to see and hear the outdoor orchestras that play in the cafes surrounding Piazza San Marco. The music was nice, and I was glad that I could have the opportunity to hear them play. Another interesting sight that we saw was the multitude of tourists that played with the pigeons in the square. A few enterprising entrepreneurs sell pigeon feed to the tourists (which explains why all of the pigeons were there this morning – they were waiting for breakfast!) and people will actually pay for the chance to feed the pigeons. So, we watched these people pay for the pigeon feed and have their friends take pictures of them with pigeons sitting on their hands, arms, shoulders, and even their heads. A couple of the people even poured it on their friends’ heads so that they too could enjoy this thrill. It was a very entertaining sight, and it reminded me a lot of “Home Alone 2” and the Bird Lady in Central Park.After watching the pigeon entertainment for a while, we headed back to the Ponte Rialto to go to a bookshop that was listed in Lara’s guidebook. This bookshop makes and sells leather-bound notebooks and photo albums. The shop was amazing and the man and woman who own it were so friendly. He was joking around with us and telling us that we could work for him – he said he would give us “bread and water…and if you work very hard, a little wine.” We had a wonderful time in the shop, and I bought a leather-bound scrapbook to fill with the memories of my semester abroad. I am looking forward to getting home and starting work on it.

After our stop at the bookshop, we headed for the Fondamente Nuove to take a boat to Murano. We bought our tickets for the vaporetto and headed across the Adriatic Sea to Murano. The boat trip was amazing! Just being out on the water was such a wonderful reminder of home. Seeing the choppy water splash against the boat reminded me of being out in the boat with Dad – something that I have really missed this semester. During the trip, we passed San Michele, which is the cemetery island of Venice. It is filled with mausoleums and has different sections for different religious faiths. We arrived in Murano, and it was a very interesting little town. It is actually made up of four islands that are connected by several bridges. We walked around all four islands, stopping to look in many of the glass shops (Murano is world-renowned for its glass-blowing shops and showcases). We even went to the showroom on the brochure that Mom and Dad had given us from their hotel in Venice. We decided that the hotel must have thought they were wealthy, because even with a 20% discount, we still couldn’t afford anything in the showroom. I think we wandered around Murano for about three hours before deciding that we wanted to go to Burano. We had a little bit of trouble finding the boat dock for the LN line (to get to Burano) and we ended up missing the first boat, but we eventually made it onto the second one (barely).The boat trip to Burano was even better than the one the Murano! There is something that I love about being out on the sea in a boat and smelling the salt air. It was such a great reminder of the beach at home. The town of Burano is very small (even compared to Murano) and we wandered around it for about an hour. Burano is well known for its lace, and there were so many shops selling everything from tablecloths to toilet paper covers to doilies. The houses on the island are all painted different colors, and they are so bright and cheerful. It reminded me of Rainbow Row in Charleston, SC (except that there were a lot more houses here than on Rainbow Row). We caught the vaporetto from Burano at 5 pm and took it all the way back to the Fondamente Nuove stop in Venice. It was a wonderful ride, and I enjoyed being on the water one more time. We started looking for a place to have dinner (all we had eaten was pastries and cappuccino this morning) and finally settled on a little rostericcia near the Ponte Rialto. The food was pretty good (I had spinach and ricotta cannelloni and tiramisu) and Lara and I shared a bottle of Chianti. After dinner, we walked back to Piazza San Marco because I wanted to see the square and the Basilica lit up at night. The square was very pretty (especially because the pigeons were gone). We took a few pictures, and then decided to take a vaporetto back to our hotel since we each still had one more ticket to use. It was an interesting trip because it took us through a part of the city that we had not seen (including the port) and I got to see a really big container ship being unloaded (yet another reminder of Morehead City). It was such a long day that we were both in bed by 9 pm.

Luckily, it did not rain on us at all while we were sightseeing. The rain started on Saturday night, after we were back in our hostel for the night and it was still raining when we left on Sunday. I guess you could say that we were really lucky. We had a great trip (even if it was quick) and I am so glad that I got to see that part of Italy. If you would like to see additional pictures of Venice, click on “Andria’s Travel Photos” and look in the folder labeled Venice.



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