Venice is shiny
Kind of on a whim I went to Venice this weekend. Best whim ever! Venice is shiny.
First, a few notes on the week. The World Cup party madness has continued, and is just as enthusiastic but a lot less frequent. On monday I watched some of the team's triumphant return to Rome. The players kept jumping up and down and singing "Chi non salta, è un franchese." In English, If you aren't jumping you are french. Even this homemade soap store got in on the madness.
(the window says "smell of victory")
On Monday I visited the Palazzo Vecchio where Rosella works and she showed us some private rooms that aren't open to the public. The PV has been the seat of city government since the Medicis and Rosella works on the government side, not the touristy side. Her office is a fabulous renaissance creation with frescoes and coffers and fancy everything. I was seriously imagining a "new wing" with your typical off-white walls and cubicles.
On Friday I went to Costanza's band's first ever concert. They were so good! Their music is kind of Irishy so when we got home I played her some Flogging Molly. They have two guitars, a bass, a drummer, a violinist and a flautist, all teenage girls. It was funny to hear an Irish-style song about Ireland sung in Italian.
ok ok, here's the part you came for: the Venice. I had originally planned on going to Cinque Terre, this very quaint set of five towns on the coast, with a group of girls from the school, three of whom I'd never met. I decided I would have a better time doing that kind of thing on my own, so I bought tickets late Friday afternoon for Venice. I couldn't get a train until 10.30, which meant i could sleep in a little (which was good because the concert Friday lasted kind of late). The bad part was that the parting train left at 7, and I'd only have like six hours to see the city. The worse part was that the train was 30 minutes late to Florence and got to Venice 40 minutes late, which meant I only had about five hours to see the city. I packed myself a picnic lunch of excellent french bread (from the "housewife" bakery, I swear that is actually the name of the bakery) and cream cheese and some cookies, which I wound up not eating. Ate the bread and cream cheese on the train and got to Venice ready to go.
The city is beautiful. It is clean. It is quiet. There are NO CARS. Florence is a very, very noisy city. In Venice there are no streets for cars, only those for pedestrians. The residents do have motor boats, but they can't go very fast so you don't even have much noise from those. Every time you cross a canal on a beautiful white marble bridge a cool breeze comes by. Florence is hot and even the breeze is hot. Venice was so fresh. I really think I was more impressed by the temperature and lack of car and vespa noise than anything else in the city.
I walked around the north side of the city and hit a couple of the major sites: Santa Maria dei Miracoli, the hospital (which was actually a fer real hospital and not, like, an old hospital you could take tours of) and the cathedral of John and Peter. (or maybe paul). Then I went to Piazza San Marco and Basilica San Marco, which is very fancy and shiny. The outside has several shiny golden mosaics and lots of ornamentation.
The inside is stunning. The inside of the five domes are covered with these very byzantine-lookin mosaics. I loved the floor, which had the most amazing intricate marble and precious stone designs all over, but we weren't allowed to take pictures. I did manage one clandestine photo of the ceiling.
There's gold in them thar mosaics!
The color of pilgrims at San Marco is orange. You may or may not know this, but in Italy they are very strict with rules for dress when entering churches. Your knees and shoulders (and boobs) must be covered- no shorts, no mini skirts, no camisoles, no wife beaters. The line to get into San Marco was not to pay for tickets, but to have an inspector make sure you were properly covered. I had come prepared (I always keep a cover-up when I'm wearing a cami, just for this reason) but many others had not. If you were immodest but within certain boundaries, they would give you orange wraps to help you cover your nakedness. It was amusing to see so many people dressed in the same color, like pilgrims of some crazy religious order.
I found a decent jewelry cart near the basilica and picked up a fabulous murano glass bracelet for myself and a surprise for Mom. Sadly my economic shopping has not paid off, because I am a little green around the wrist now. Anybody know how to make cheap silver not do that?
Venice is very tourist-friendly, much more so than Florence. It is much more centrally located (thank you geography) and everywhere you go there are signs pointing you to the things you ought to see. I gave up on the total crap map I bought and just followed the signs to San Marco. As I was going I kept seeing signs for this other thing, the "Rialto" which I had never heard of. After San Marco and the jewelry cart I decided to find the thing, and i did. Here it is.
It's Venice's version of the Ponte Vecchio- a bridge with cute expensive little shops on it. The shops face the center of the bridge, which is why you can't see them. I was running out of time but wanted to look around a bit and found the PERFECT little venetian glass clock for my fabulous new living room. I bought it, waited for the bus-boat thingie, and rode down the grand canal back to the train station.
When I came to Italy I'd decided not to travel alone, but at this point I've gotten pretty confident in my ability to avoid dangerous situations. Plus the North is supposed to be safer. Doing Venice alone was great. If I had been with someone else there is no way we could have seen as much as I saw in five hours. And I am so glad I went because it was gorgeous and COOL! I didn't regret not staying the night until I got back to my oven of a bedroom and had to fall asleep in the 90 degree heat with no breeze and the roar of the traffic below. Today was furiously hot in Florence and the whole time I was like, "but it's so nice in Venice!"