Our multiple trains to Venice (from Vernazza to La Spezia back to Florence to Venice) were somewhat complicated but uneventful. After our night in Termini the trains would never seem so bad again. I'm pretty sure we were starving the whole time but it didn't matter. This is me and Brie taking a nap. Part of the time I was sleeping directly on my folded-up glasses, so I had a really charming indentation across my cheek for like a day. It looked like I had gotten slashed in a bar fight.
We arrived in Venice when the sun was about to set, and our first view of the city leaving the train station was amazing. The light was really delicate, the sky just starting to turn pink, and there was a canal of beautiful blue water with boats zipping along. It seemed, and I used this word so many times in Venice, surreal.
Originally I wanted to take a water taxi, because the thought of the vaporetti, or water buses, was kind of intimidating. But the price they gave us was higher than I thought it should be so we decided to just try the bus. It ended up being a beautiful ride. The train station is at one end of Venice, and our place, near San Marco, was down the winding Grand Canal, so we got a full tour of Venice as we rode. It was really incredible. The sun was setting during the ride, so by the time we got to the dock near our bed and breakfast, it was night. The picture at right, of the church in the moonlight, is from the talented Yvette, as well as the two at the top. Sometimes she does take non-slanty pictures.
We got to the shore and managed to find our way through the little alleys to our place, which was another cool little personal apartment turned B&B. Riccardo, the very perky owner, showed us around and recommended a place for dinner, which we ignored, choosing instead to go to a weird little restaurant with flourescent lighting and a lot of fried foods. It was the only recommendation from the good book on the entire trip that we didn't really like. The waiter was Venetian, and had their particular accent, which is extremely clipped and kind of monotone. He sounded like an Italian android. After that we wandered around a bit, got some gelato, and headed back. One of us, I won't mention who, had basically been awake for a month at this point and needed her beauty sleep.
In the morning we got up and had breakfast, which Riccardo had prepared, and which included rolls with butter. I was so excited, I was just saying the day before that I missed butter. When we were all up and at the table, Riccardo came in to clean or something, and looked at Heidi and said, "WHOA, what happened to you?" Which you would think would be slightly offensive, but Heidi just took it in stride, and Riccardo fell in love to the depths of his little Venetian heart. (Brie and Yvette, I really apologize for this picture, I know I'm not in it and everything, but it was necessary for the story.)
After that we got ready and figured out the water bus situation and went to il cimitero San Michele, the Venetian island cemetery. In the late 1700s Napoleon's people declared that the Venetians could no longer bury their dead in the city center. (I'm not even exactly sure how or where they did this.) So they built this floating island cemetery. I have a thing for cemeteries so I was pretty excited about this one, although I didn't know it was walled all the way around. I had hoped that we would have a view of the water behind the headstones. Near the entrance we saw a film shoot with monks and men in knickers running around. I was jealous. The whole cemetery was filled with a kind of smoky haze, which we finally realized was due to pollen from the cypress trees. On the right is a row of crosses for Italian soldiers, some killed in World War I.
After a bit of confusion, and several vaporetti, we headed back to San Marco, where we had lunch at a place with a pushy host. "For you, no cover charge. If you come in right now. If you wait, I can't promise anything." Whereas in other places it wasn't too difficult to get away from tourists and touristy restaurants, Venice was full of them.
After lunch we split up, Yvette and Brie heading off to get lost and Heidi and I to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, where my friend Maggie interned for a year. We did see all the interns standing around, leaning, as they are allowed to do, and not sitting, as they are not allowed to do. (I remember Maggie telling me this.) The collection included Magritte's Empire of Light, which was fun. Heidi's Italy journal had this painting on the cover. I was struck by the space itself. It was Peggy Guggenheim's former home, so I expected it to seem like paintings in a home. Instead it seemed, from the space and from the pictures from that period, that she lived in a museum.
On the way to and from the museum we took a traghetto, which made me feel very local. It's like a gondola ride, only it's just across the Grand Canal, and no one sings to you, and it's fifty cents instead of ninety euros. They're necessary because there are few bridges and a waterbus just to cross the canal can be impractical. On our way back, the gondolier... the traghetier, I guess... leaned down to Heidi as we were leaving and said, "Hello..." in this low voice. The guy across from us laughed and said, "Oh, the old 'hello' trick."
After our little tour we went to meet Yvette and Brie, but they had gotten lost and were a bit late, so we went into Harry's American Bar (we weren't being cheesy, apparently this is a famous Venetian bar and you're supposed to go there when you're in Venice) and had Bellinis (named after a Venetian painter, and made from... I think... champagne and grapefruit juice) which were overpriced but delicious.
Then we met Yvette and Brie. I didn't feel like we had seen enough of Venice yet but when someone said maybe we should go rest before dinner, it seemed like a great idea to us all. We came back, rested a little and then went back out for dinner. Heidi picked a place from the good book but we couldn't find it, so we ended up going to a place that was in a little piazza near our hotel. I'm not sure what the others thought of it, but I had really amazing gnocchi, baked with mozzerella and onions. I don't know why I keep describing my food. I think I'm hungry. Yvette and I balanced our books with our handy dandy little notebooks. We were very proud of ourselves.
After dinner I'm pretty sure we got some gelato, walked around, and headed back fairly early. It was Yvette's last night in Italy, she would leave early the next morning and fly home, business class. Lucky. In honor of Snow Pea, this is a showcase of some of her lovely Venice photographs:
And one of the four of us. I know the background isn't very interesting, ok? I had to set my camera on a bridge and hope it didn't fall into a canal. You want interesting pictures, you come to Venice and take some pictures of me so I don't have to use the self-timer function on a bridge. Around this time we had to keep taking random pictures of ourselves near canals because this weird guy was following us, and we thought that by stopping to take pictures he would walk past, but he didn't, he just stood there and watched us and made comments and offered to take the picture for us. Finally we lost him by wandering into a weird little alley where we kind of thought he would trap us and kill us.
We had free internet at the B&B, which was nice, because I had gotten so far behind on this thing, and when we got back I tried to catch up a little and Heidi slept and Yvette and Brie talked. And then the next morning... Snow Pea was gone, the first of my merry band to desert me. The next morning we got up and had breakfast and Riccardo put the moves on Heidi, who did manage to get us ten euros off the room through unknown means. (Later, our roommate in Rome would get a plumber to come fix the shower drain in exchange for a kiss. Had I known this was official currency in Italy, I would have taken a much cheaper trip.)
In Christ Alone
2 years ago