Just so you know, all my screen instructions are in Polish right now. Good thing I’m familiar with the livejournal format! Also, for all you typo Nazis (i.e., Luke) I’m not proofing this. Tally ho.
Picking up where I left off (it would be nice to get us to Poland before we actually leave it), after our delicious lunch, we headed back to San Marco Plaza, where I promptly bought some gelato. In Italy, gelato is one of the major food groups. We bought a museum pass good for Correr Museum and the Doge’s Palace, then spent several hours roaming through them and the Basillica (which is free). The opulence of Venice in centuries past boggles the mind. The artwork is already becoming a muddled mess in my memory. You can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting a Titian, Bellini, or a Tinteretto.
When we returned to the hotel after dinner George’s luggage was in the lobby. Yay!
Day Three, Saturday, Sept. 2:
After breakfast we strolled across the Rialto Bridge to the vaporetto stop and rode back to San Marco Plaza. (Yes, we do learn.) The pigeons were still there, in case you were wondering. Rick Steves even draws little dots on his map to represent them. I love that. 🙂 From the plaza we made our way to San Zaccaria Church, stopping off at a cloistered courtyard from the 1100s. Everything is so old, I can’t wrap my mind around the history of it all. There are two bodies on display behind glass in the church. The inscription for the upper one reads CORPUS S. ZACHARIAE, PATRIS S. JO BAPTISTAE (body of St. Zachariah, Father of St. John the Baptist). Yep. He’s supposedly lying there for all to see. It’s a bit creepy.
The churches in Venice are beyond ornate, wallpapered with paintings worthy of the Louvre. Tombs are located in the floors and mounted on the walls. There’s so much marble, carved wood, sculpture, gold overlay . . . after a while the eyes glaze over and the mind refuses to compute.
We’ve done LOTS of wandering in Venice–some on purpose and some because we went the wrong way–but it’s an island so you can’t really get lost. We just explored the narrow “streets” until they dead-ended or led us somewhere worth stopping. We crossed countless adorable little pontes (bridges) over canal-alleys. The architectural variety, odd angles, brickwork, colors–wherever you turn there’s a feast for the eyes.
We found a nice cafe on an out-of-the-mainstream street called Rosa Rossa and shared a delicious vegetarian pizza for lunch. As it turned out the couple seated next to us, Daniel and Claire, were from Seattle, and she grew up in Conroe, Texas. We gave them Grace and Curtis’ contact info, and they said they’d go check out the Jubilee sound. 🙂 We sat and chatted for quite a while, which was nice after all our meanderings. Dessert: dolce latte gelato! 🙂
Next we made our way to the Frari Church–another wonder of architecture and religious art. Titian’s tomb is located here. It’s a floor-to-very-high-cathedral-ceiling sculpture depicting a number of figures and some of his paintings in bas relief. Other gigantic tombs and monuments lined the walls of the massive interior leading toward an arch that framed a Titian altarpiece. A rare, well preserved “choir” separated the body of the church from the nave. Each choir member had his own “chair”–a carved wood masterpiece with inlaid designs creating a 3-D scene. Unfathomable detail. Flanking the central altar were “chapels,” each containing tombs, paintings, and sculptures from various historical periods. Gothic. Rennaisance. Lots more.
We left Frari and roamed the streets (again) in search of an idle gondolier for an early evening glide through the back canals. We found a friendly fellow taking a cookie break who spoke fairly good English. We agreed to pay 80 Euro for a three-hour tour. (No wait. That’s Gilligan. Our ride was about 45 minutes.) Our gondolier told us his name several times, but we couldn’t decipher it. He cheerfully narrated points of interest in fast, heavily accented English we followed as best we could. It was fun! 🙂
After our ride George and I decided we wanted to catch up our paper journals, so we scouted out a breezy courtyard called Campo S.S. Apostoli. These neighborhood mini-plazas are all over Venice, and this one was a popular gathering place for local families with children. We enjoyed the antics of a pack of young boys (toddler to about six years old), running, laughing, shouting in Italian, and playing some sort of tag that required them to kneel and pray aloud to “Jesu Christi” to avoid being tagged “it.” Quite amusing.
The campo sported a shop for dogs, which may have partially explained the menagerie of dogs on leashes, adding to the general chaos by barking and lunging at one another. Incidentally, we’ve been a little surprised by the large number of pet dogs in Venice, especially given the lack of lawns. One must always watch where one steps!
Other unexpected sights:
~ men of all ages in brightly colored pants. Lime green, hot pink, etc. on hip youngs guys with sunglasses and wavy, black hair to elderly gentlemen. So much for European black.
~ babies. Not that babies are unusual, but here they are out partying with their parents way past the bed times of American infants.
~ grafitti. It’s everywhere, defacing history in garish strokes. Most of it isn’t even artistic. Very sad.
~ a man playing intricate songs on water glasses (a la Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality) accompanied by another man blowing into a large set of glass pipes. Lovely.
~ other street musicians and artists: violin, cello, guitar, accordian; painters with their easels set up on the street. . . all adding color to Venice’s muted palette.
~ inexpensive local wines. light, elegant, so nice.
~ church bells
We wrote as much as we could at the campo, given the endless cacophony and visual distractions. We also chatted with a friendly couple from the German Alps. Then we took off in search of dinner, choosing a pizza place with outdoor seating. The posted pices were very affordable, and we soon discovered why. One older man with grey hair and mustache was the only waiter. He offered no guidance as to seating, so we seated ourselves. He never smiled as he unceremoniously plopped placemats, napkins, flatware, and glasses on our table. I ordered white wine, an onion and olive pizza, and still water. George ordered gnocchi and the waiter simply barked, “NO. Do you like spaghetti?”
“Yes, I like spaghetti.”
“Tomato or meat sauce?”
“Okay.” Thus the waiter dictated George’s order. He also seemed slightly irritated that George wanted red wine, since I’d ordered white. After huffily clarifying that we had, indeed, ordered two different wines, he marched off.
The food was barely mediocre. My olives were basic whole black ones from a can. The sauce on the pizza was unflavored tomato sauce. And he didn’t bring any water. When George reminded him, he brought a bottle, opened it, slammed it on the table and declared, “Same glass!”
We just looked at each other in disbelief as he left. We both had wine in our glasses, so I drank the water from the bottle. Meanwhile we named our waiter the Stemware Nazi, which kept us laughing through the rest of the meal.
A young American couple asked the S.N. if they could take the table next to ours and he just shrugged and muttered something like “whatever,” so they sat down a little apprehensively. We gave them a quick heads up and they ducked out before the S.N. returned to slam their table settings before them. I felt like a Good Samaritan.
Even though the food was poor, we only spent 22 Euro on the meal, and Italians don’t generally tip. (Perhaps if they did the S.N. would be a bit more personable?)
We stopped at a gelato stand for one last frozen hurrah. I got cioccolato again and George got caffe. then we wound our way through shadowy streets and over bridges spanning inky water splashed with rippling light, returning to our Pensione for the last time.
Tomorrow it’s ciao to Venice and hello Krakow! See you in Poland. 🙂