Saturday, July 02, 2016

Florence to Venice

Saturday, July 2nd Florence to Venice

Our train to Venice leaves at 10:15 a.m. and I relax and write this journal on our high speed train traveling 300 kilometers and hour. Just as on a plane flight, a stewardess offers us drinks and snacks and we arrive in Venice in just two hours.  It is shortly after noon and Art rushes to the TI office to buy Vaporetto passes that includes a student museum discount card for John.

Canal scenes from the Vaporetto
Canal scenes from the Vaporetto

Vaporetto stop for Pension Guerrato
Detail of Venetian architecture

Within minutes we are stepping onto the #1 Vaporetto that will take us to the Mercado Rialto canal stop for our Pension Guerrato, a Rick Steve’s recommendation. The Pension is just short walk from the Vaporetto stop through the fruit and vegetable market and left down a narrow cobbled alley. The inviting and informal lobby is on the second floor and our reservations are in order. We are presented with a very heavy brass key to our top floor room, five flights up with no elevator. John sighs and hauls both his and my suitcase up the creaky stairs. Our spacious room is delightful with a rooftop view of Venice and heavy crossed beams across the garret ceiling and a sparkling modern bathroom.

Entrance to Pension Guerrato

View from the window of our pension

Within minutes we head out to explore Venice and walk the maze of narrow streets towards Saint Mark’s Square. The square is blindly bright and mobbed with tourists and I feel a bit disoriented but Art is prepared with the Rick Steve’s audio guide tour and we plug in our head phones and listen to the orientation to Venice and find our bearings.

View of Saint Mark's Square
Facade of Saint Mark's Basilica

The line into Saint Mark’s Basilica is impossibly long so we put that off for tomorrow and wander the back streets of Venice towards La Balute, a point across from the Grand Canal. On the way, we find a tiny corner bistro/bar with three available stools inside and cool down with late afternoon Campari Spritzers.

Tapas at a back street Venetian bistro
Narrow canal scene

We pass an exhibit for Zaha Hadi and pop into the museum to inquire about ticket prices with plans to return tomorrow when we have more energy to enjoy the exhibit. Away from the throngs of tourists we sit at the point in the shade of the Della Dogana Museum, our legs hanging over the edge of the cement pier.  Venetian style, Saint Mark’s square is across the inlet from where we sit and we watch the traffic jam of assorted boats zip by.  Vaporettos, gondolas, shuttle taxi boats and private yachts motor by and when a large cruise ship passes in the distance, waves surge and splash our legs.  Two artist’s sketch the scene and we are among just a handful of tourists and photographers enjoying this out of the way vantage point off the Grand Canal.

La Balute point, away from the throngs of tourists
Art on pier pilings, La Balute
The pier at La Balute

La Balute Plaza
Away from the throngs of tourists

We wind our way back through the maze of narrow streets, crossing tiny arched bridges and enjoying the intimacy of roads less traveled but the narrow streets soon join the main shopping street artery, swimming with streams of tourists.

Canal off the beaten tourist route
Main tourist artery, Venice

We pass shops of colorful Venetian glass, glittery jewelry and tacky tourist souvenir shops crammed with cheap and garish carnival masks, T-shirts and copies of Venetian sculpture. It is dinner time and in our usual dysfunctional manner, we read every restaurant menu before settling on a restaurant not far from our hotel. The restaurant only has inside seating and although, John and Art have a window view of those crossing the small adjoining bridge, I have no view and the restaurant feels claustrophobic. The food is not memorable and once again it is the affordable and very drinkable wine that puts a soft glow on the evening.

Evening light along the canals, Venice
Evening light, Venice

Outdoor cafe dining, Venice
The tide encroaches

 We finish dinner shortly after 9:00 P.M. and the “football” game between Italy and Germany has just begun. Art and John want to watch but there are no restaurants that will allow us to sit and order just drinks without dinner. Around the corner from our Pension, a throng of young people gather, standing room only, drinking beer and watching the game on large outdoor screen.  Art returns to our hotel and John and I continue to look for a bar where we can sit, drink and watch the game. Although there are dozens of restaurants spilling out along the canal, we must order dinner in order to sit. I notice that the tide is coming in and many of the table and chair legs are a few inches underwater.

Fans watching Italy vs Germany

Evening in Venice

We walk back to the square near our hotel where now charged and boisterous young people, stand, drink and cheer on the game. I leave John to enjoy the lively scene and walk the short distance back to our pension and climb the five flights to our room. As tired as I am, I am unable to sleep soundly until two hours later, I hear John softly enter our room. Italy lost to Germany.

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