Published: July 17th 2006June 8th 2003
San Marco mosaic detail
One of many mosaic inside San Marco.
- Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), architect Finally, we are in Venice, Italy!
Jason, Ryan and I left Tiburtina in Rome last night at 10.52pm, for a six hour train ride to Venice. We met a Mexican guy who was extremely excited to see other people from North America. So he shared a train compartment with us to Venice, while Ryan was practicing his Spanish with our new buddy.
We arrived in Santa Lucia train station in Venice at 5.55 am, which to our dismay, was way too early, so we decided to take a morning stroll along the canals, trying to get to Piazza San Marco. Venice is very different from Rome, and all you see are major streets and roads made out of greenish water of canals, and Smart cars and mopeds operated as water taxis, traghettos and gondolas.
There are street signs (or, should I say canal signs?) that were painted on side of buildings, with yellow arrow directing people to major tourist attractions. After around forty minutes walking across Venice, we concluded that the cleanliness of Venice without the Roman craziness of cars and mopeds was very charming.
Gondola parking along the main canal.
early morning is calming, instead of buzzing of tourists, locals were starting their days by sweeping and preparing their daily routines. Boats making deliveries arriving at the docks, and real Italian men were loading up packages and supplies to shops and stores using wheelbarrows.
Finally we arrived at Piazza San Marco, and we were pretty worn out. We decided to take it easy for the day, and tried to check in at our hostel across the main canal. We had to wait for the “water bus” that would carry us to Giudecca Island
. As soon as the ticket office opened at nine o'clock, we bought our €10.50 day pass that allowed us to ride the traghetto all day.
Our hostel, the Ostello Venezia
is located by the #82 Zitelle stop, and it costs €16.50/person/night. We decided to reserve spots for two nights, although the boys were thinking of going back to Rome earlier than what we were planning. After putting our stuff at the locker (we couldn’t check in our room at that moment), we went back across the canal to Piazza San Marco to have a breakfast.
We decided to take our own tour around Venice,
This is the last thing I expect seeing in Venice.
and the first stop was Rialto. We decided to pretty much ride the traghetto the whole day, sightseeing with no particular things to do, and go with the flow.
Venice day 1: Introduzione della citta di Venezia Venetian details
San Marco is the symbol of Venice, apart from the canals and gondolas, and it is the most detailed church I've ever visited. The whole surface of the church, inside and outside, is filled with details: walls are covered with intricate gold mosaic, tile floor, stone carved arches, domes, iron work on frames, and windows. As the whole city was built on top of islands which naturally has unstable ground, San Marco shows some deterioting conditions, as the floor is unevenly sinking and colums start to tilt in different directions. Nonetheless, the church is still standing after more than six hundred years witnessing the live of Venetians around it (and tourists!).
The second floor of the San Marco is interesting, we were closer to the four horses and the view looking the San Marco pier over the Palazzo Ducale
was classic. We also had a closer view of the Bell Tower, which was rebuilt in 1903
Street direction signs
In quale direzione per andare a Rialto?
after it collapsed all of the sudden after more than 400 years standing. Piazza San Marco
is famous for its pigeons. For one Euro, you can buy a bag of dried corns for pigeons bait. The pigeons are trained to listen to the clicking sound made by dried corn fell to the paved sidewalk, as they will fly to you once you have a bag of corn. We found it entertaining, as we were sitting down at the steps surrounding the Piazza to people watching and pigeon watching. When I was about to start sketching Piazza San Marco, I realized that I left my precious DK Italian travel book on San Marco observation deck, but it was too late. I never found it, as I was scattering back looking for it on the second level of San Marco. Damn it! But then, almost spontaneously, I realized that I left my pencil case on the steps surrounding Piazza San Marco when I was sketching it, and we headed back to the spot where were sitting. Of course the damn thing was nowhere to be found. Two strikes within a half hour time! So what next, I will left my computer
The main transportation
I guess this is how they deliver supplies to stores, via canals.
somewhere by the Rialto?
Walking around Venice is intriguing, especially if you expected to refilling your bottle water with a nearby drinking fountain. As we had been living in Rome for several weeks where fountain water is took for granted, we were looking for a drinking water fountain for hours, without any result. Finally when we found one, we were drinking and drinking for about twenty minutes, feels like a khafir found an oasis after two months walking through the Sahara desert. Santa Maria della Salute
is on the other side of the canal, could be reached by walking or water bus. The church was built after a plaque hit Venice hard, and locals had made a promise to build a majestic church dedicated to Mother Mary, if the city was cured. Of course the city healed up, and as promised, the Venetians built the church at the tip of the city. The church is huge, built differently from a typical church, with no aisle or nave, it is just circular white church with very tall ceiling. It is impressive from the inside as from the outside. Pentecost at the Venetian Canals
Today is the
Unloading process of the Venetian supplies.
Panthecost day for the Catholics. I decided to walk around Venice by myself, as Ryan and Jason left to go back to Rome this morning. I have roughly fifteen hours to do whatever I want.
Seeing it as an opportunity to experience the culture more closely, I managed to attend two masses in Venice: at the Scalzi
by the Santa Lucia station, and at Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
. As today is the Panthecost day, there were many choirs groups singing at corners of the canal city, and each group had a distinguished uniform that unique to other groups. Later on, around nine in the evening, all of these groups which consists of roughly 300 people, gathered in Piazza San Marco where they sang as a unified group.
Walking around Venice by yourself, instead of being with your significant other, sounds pathetic, but I really enjoyed it. Venice is more than just Piazza San Marco
and the grand canal; there are many inland areas and neighborhoods around the major touristy sites where the locals live as Venetians. After all, Venezia is not Disneyland; it is a real city with real people live in the city for generations.
This is where we stayed at.
When I wrote my journal at a bench by the Santa Maria Formosa
, there was a group of older ladies sitting and chit-chatting around me, spending a nice, slow afternoon after Sunday mass. One of the lady sat next to me and started a conversation in Italian, and she was wondering about me and my background. At first, I wasn't fond of talking to her, since I was in the middle of writting my journal and she spoke so fast in Italian that required my full attention, so I asked her whether she spoke English. As she didn't speak any English, I gave up my journal and started talking with her. I'm glad I did, because now I learn so much about their way of living in the city.
Venetians look different from the typical Italian we always had in mind: dark hair, dark skin, and brown eyes. In fact, locals seem to look more like their Austrian/German counterparts, with stout posture, blond hair, blue eyes, and Venetian accent. Of course I wasn't so sure about the accent, as I am still learning Italian myself, but their Italian sounded differently than Romans.
We always think about canals when
The real one.
we talk about Venice. Although there are no motorized vehicles allowed in the major Venice roads (at least in the islands), but Venice is more than the islands. The day before, we went to Lido in the mainland, and surprisingly, it looks 'normal': streets with crowded cars and mopeds, bus, bicycles, and normal houses. We even managed to see a humongous cement truck transported in a boat, which would be interesting to follow where it went. Of course I prefer the pictureque Venice with its gondola, traghetto, Venetian windows, arched windows, and bridges over canals. For once, I sat down by the grand canal, and sketching an interesting detail of Venetian building on my sketch book. It was a very calming several hours of sketching by the canal, with boats and gondolas passing by, water splashing nearby somewhere below, and the smell of Venetian fish market behind me.
The highlight of the day was the discharging ceremony of San Marco flags by the Italian Navy in Piazza San Marco around nine o'clock. The choir groups I mentioned before was gathering around the piazza, singing, and the Navy marched up front carrying three large wooden box, and started to lower
Palazzo Ducale detail
Next door to San Marco.
down the flags. After placing each flags in correspondent boxes, the men carried the boxes to the pier of San Marco to be loaded on a boat which then carried them somewhere.
Time to go back to Rome by the midnight train, and I found myself sitting on the train took off from Santa Lucia, still thinking of the Venetian way of life.
There are more photos below