Our first class Fracciargento speeds us through tunnels and along smooth tracks to Venezia. Meanwhile, we endulge ourselves on exquisite pastries of cannoli and chocolate. My heavens, they are good.
Gabrielle is smitten with the canals and boats of Venezia. It is a sunny day so we take advantage of our three-day travel pass and, once checked into our room at Hotel Rialto, we board the vaparettos to cruise the city. First stop is the Arsenal, a rather deserted maritime fortification, but then I believe Italy only has a couple battle ships. It also has one of the ancient Delos lions. Walking to St. Mark’s Square, we are able to directly enter the Basilica. Its mosaics are magnificent even if the interior is very dark. From the terrace, one gets a better idea of the size of this church and a closer view of the ceilings and the original four bronze horses which graced both the hippodrome in Constantinople and this basilica for centuries. Stepping outside, the terrace provides a commanding view of the square, the clock tower, lagoon, and its hundreds of pigeons.
We spent much of our first day on the canals, just rounding the island’s eastern tip into the lagoon as the sun set behind the rooftops and bell towers of Venezia. It was a magnificent sunset as we returned to our hotel area to find a small restaurant for dinner. We are enjoying delicious dinners and the white wine has been very good. Then of course, we must have our gelato fix for the day.
We were moved to a different room tonight. The Hotel Rialto overlooks the bridge of the same name. It is a maze of twists and turns, hallways and rooms. Without dropping bread crumbs or using GPS, one could get lost. That is what happened to the Wifi. So I asked for another room. We now reside closer to the front of the hotel, with only three or four twists to arrive at our door. But there is Wifi and if I lean out our window, I can see the Grand Canal through the narrow passageway below. I can also sit on the toilet without banging my knees into the shower. Best of all is the ceiling of wooded beams.
Our second day was also spent on the water. That’s not to say we did not visit a church or two. The wonderful Rialto Market was a lively scene of colors and smells. We probably looked at our dinner for the night. Fish, myriad shell fish, vegetables, meats, flowers and junk abound.
We walked to the gorgeous 1729 Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta I Gesuiti. The facade is ornate but it is the marble, porcelain and gold interior that takes the breath away. Gesuiti is a local church of Fondamenta Nuove.
We boat, float and motor the lagoon to San Giorgio Maggiore with its rather plain interior but wonderful views of Venezia from its tower. There was an elevator so all the more enjoyable.
Tonight we dine Buon Ricordo and I earn another plate. I had an excellent dinner of fried seafood and zucchini.
Last night we “sprang forward” another hour. With this time change, it is rather dreary as I wake. The day is not as sunny and definitely cooler.
We visited the Peggy Guggenheim Museum for its wonderful collection of Cubism, Abstractionism, Surrealism, and Expressionism. Among the artists are many of my favorites: Klee, Picasso, Dalí, Miró, Kandinsky, Calder, Wyeth and Ernst. Jackson Pollack is well represented here as Peggy was his patron for many years. Pollack’s “Alchemy” is recently restored and on display. Peggy is interred in the garden beside her dogs. Good for her.
We also toured the rooms and prison, crossing the Bridge of Sighs, of the Doges Palace. It’s rich ceilings, painting and wood interiors are well preserved and oogle-worthy. This is true of most buildings and churches in Venezia, if not in all Italia. When approaching a church, it is always worth a few minutes to walk inside and enjoy the interior. I never know how magnificent it might be.
Our first gondola ride, with Antonio, floats us past the Rialto into small canals, under bridges, and around sharp corners for a ride past Marco Polo’s house, or so Antonio says. It was a pleasant but short ride. It is an experience that I have avoided for 40 years, glad that Gabrielle and I partook, and wish were more pleasant, but the gondeliers are basically all cut from the same rough sack cloth.
More popular than the gondolier are the pigeons of St. Mark’s Square – hundreds of them. Even though it is “forbidden” to sell food and feed the birds any longer, it does not stop people from doing just that. The challenge is to get them to eat out of your hand. Once the pigeons recognize the availability of food, there is no stopping them. One’s hands, arms and head can become a roost. Gabrielle had a good time tempting the fates with pigeons.
No chance to buy bird seed but the opportunity to purchase a 3€ selfie stick abounds. I’ve come to hate them but still on the fence whether society should ban its use. I will leave that to the museums and tourist sights of the world. The time will come when this latest invention will begin to appear on all the entry posters as “banned, forbidden, hell no” you can’t use that here.
Evening we boat to the other side of the lagoon to walk the quieter streets of the Dorsoduro neighborhood. After a drink along one of the side canals, a few minutes of Mass at a local church, we head to the Locanda Martin and squid ink pasta. In 1989 my friends and I roomed here, our geranium-decorated balcony overlooked the canal. We had just enough Lire to buy a plate of squid ink pasta and immediately fell in love with the taste. We have tried ever since, unsuccessfully, to replicate it. Tonight I am once again enjoying the unique taste of pasta with pieces of squid and its inky sauce. Meraviligoso!
Gabrielle has proven there was little to worry about. She is a great travel companion, willing to taste, experience, observe, enjoy. I love to hear her observations and conclusions.
It reminds me of her dad over thirty years ago. I think he was nine. We were preparing to visit Greece and Italy, much the same trip we undertake in 2015. On seeing a photo of the Greek Parthenon, he excitedly rushed upstairs and returned with a penny. On the back, a likeness of the Lincoln Memorial. He connected the similarities of the two images. To me that is what travel is all about, the similarities, the learning, the life experiences. It is wonderful to experience that with his daughter some 35 years later.