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Published: October 22nd 2017
Geo: 45.5151, 12.672
(Erin here.) Venice was incredible! We started out the day with a 30 minute ferry ride to Murano, which is a tiny island northeast of Venice. Being on the water was lovely—warm, salty breezes and lots of Mediterranean sunshine! The captain even let me drive the boat when I was standing next to him. "Hands here. You drive," he said.
In Murano, we watched a glass blowing demonstration where three men all worked together on one project with their long glass blowing tubes, moving the hot ends in and out of the fire, cooling the glass in cold water, and always turning and turning it to maintain a uniform bulb on the end. The younger two were clearly serving the older glass blowing master, who was seamless in his movements. First there was the red-hot, fiery bulb, then the dripping ropes of blue and orange to decorate the bulb, and finally we watched in wonder as it slowly became a full-grown rooster, complete with comb and tail. Of course our tour group was then dumped into the extravagant gallery, where several of us indulged in hand-blown glass souvenirs.
The ferry sped us on over to Venice and we watched
as the bell tower of St. Marco's square grew steadily larger on the horizon. When we docked, we walked along a marble walkway that channeled us up and over four bridges and then into St. Marco's Square. What a beautiful city! White marbled buildings, narrow cobblestone passageways which you could easily touch with both hands outstretched, balconies adorned with geraniums, vendors selling Carnival masks, and lots of glass sculpture and jewelry.
Regrettably, we only had about 8 hours to spend in Venice, but we were determined to savor every minute. First, we were given a tour through the Doge's (or “duke's”😉 Palace (there were 120 in total) and all its lavish state rooms. The paintings in the courtroom each showed the Doge of the time in a seated or kneeling position, indicating that the state—not the Doge himself—was the most important entity of Venice. In fact, the largest painting on a single canvas is inside the Doge's Palace, hanging inside the largest, non-pillared room (the ceiling was suspended, unseen, from above). We also got to see the little slot where accusers could write down the name of the accused, fold it up, and drop it in the box for the
judges to take up as a case. Perhaps most impressive, however, was the Bridge of Sighs. We crossed over it from within the palace, and once on the other side, began our descent into the prison cells below. Our tour guide pointed out that it wasn't a bridge you wanted to cross only once, because that meant you died in prison, whereas if you crossed over it a second time, you were, of course, being freed. She offered to let Jared stay behind in the nice, cool cell blocks, but with a chuckle he of course declined.
Reemerging into the hot Ventian sun, we were on our own for free time, and the first order of business was to find the toilette—always a bit of a challenge in Europe. There were a few small blue arrows painted onto the marble walkway that indicated the WC (water closet) was opposite St. Marco's Basilica, so we headed through the square in that direction, prepared to shell out some Euros to relieve our bladders. When we found a woman standing near the doorway collecting money, thankfully a nice English-speaking tourist warned us that she was a peddler and that we actually paid upstairs.
For the rest of the afternoon, it was lovely walking at a leisurely pace and soaking up the sights and sounds and flavors of the city. We had some Pizza alla Diavola (pizza of the devil, meaning covered in hot pepperoni) at a sit-down café with a rude waiter. He demanded that everyone order their own individual pizza since “Of course, I have to pay for this chair, and this table.” Still, I ordered a salad and Sean ordered the pizza and we shared anyway; hopefully our tab was enough for him to afford the chairs this month!
After lunch was our gondola ride, an activity so quintessential to Venice we could hardly pass it up. A sleek gondola, pointed on the bow and stern, met us at one of the canal banks. The gondolier wore a red striped shirt just like I imagined he would (think they play into the whimsy of tourists at all?). He navigated us smoothly through the green canals, passing under arced bridges and beneath balconies dripping with flowers. We entered the Grand Canal right in front of the Rialto Bridge for one of those “WOW!” moments. Dozens of gondoliers sang and hollered
back and forth to each other with such passionate Italian that we couldn't help but laugh.
By the end of the afternoon, we'd sampled gelato in flavors from stratiacella (vanilla with chocolate pieces) to fragolla (strawberry), the boys had eaten more pizza slices, and we'd meandered right and left through narrow alleyways. Around every corner were quaint shops selling coffee, glass, silk scarves, and leather shoulder bags. By the end of the afternoon, the sun was sinking in the sky and the Doge's palace took on a creamy white glow. Our parting shot of the city was the setting sun, blazing white behind St. Marco's Square, and a row of royal blue gondolas, bobbing in the surf.
Our final Italian evening was spent at the beach in the small town in which we were staying called Lido di Jesolo (“Sandbar of Jesolo”😉, a half an hour from Venice. Before long, the beach was illuminated in the light of the full moon, rising over the Adriatic Sea. We played with the long exposure setting on my camera, spelling out our names with a flashlight in the air. What a wonderful day!
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