Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Travel Chronicles V - Autumn - From Montagnana to Venice

Thursday 11th - Montagnana - "Oh, noooooooo"

When the alarm clock rung (or sung, whatever) at 5:45 am, the second thing I heard in the total silence of montagnana was a painful "oh, nooooooo" coming from under the blankets on my right. Truth to be said, we had ended up in bed after midnight to prepare everything and the few hours of sleep hadn't been enough at all, but the thought that in just a few hours we would had been in Venice, together with an abundant breakfast, quickly rekindled our strengths.

Montagnana was almost eerie when we got out and soon I realized why: the sky had totally changed and was a dark grey. Our luck with weather, that until the day before had been a full summer, had gone and exactly in the moment we would had liked it the least. In any case, by 7.15 we were on the train in route to Venice, with a brief stop in Padua to switch and by 9.30, in perfect time, we arrived to Venice.

Thursday 11th - Venice - Lost in the maze

Venice's train station in probably the only one in the world surrounded by the water. As soon as you walk out of it, you already are faced by one of the major venetian channels, crossed by a a somewhat steep bridge which we crossed readily. To be noted, I was loaded with the large backpack which was hosting most of our belongings and that was probably weighting a good 20 kgs. Passed the bridge, we entered the intricate maze-like streets of Venice, sometimes so narrow to not allow two people to walk side by side, and sometimes not allowing a single person to pass if not turned on its side.

Soon, too soon as it turned out, we reached the B&B that where we would had stayed the night and where we counted to leave our stuff before proceeding in the exploration. We had to wait a while as the previous guests checked out and the room was put in order, but we were then positively impressed by the room, with XVIII century venetian-style furnitures.

Unfortunately, as we were waiting for our room, an unwelcomed guest showed up that would had been with us for the days to come: the rain. To be honest, we were lucky in the misfortune in Venice. The first day it made just a few quick appearances to remind us of her during the day, but then, despite a grey sky (which gives Venice a given atmosphere I do not really dislike), it mostly spared us when we were outdoor, just as much as the second day when it made a much stronger appearance, but again limited to about a hour (just the time needed to go from the apartment to the station, obviously).

Taken possession of the room, we headed out and walked to the "Frari", one of the main churches of Venice, not too far from our B&B (Which I chose very close to a "vaporetto", the Venice ferries that take the place of buses, and to the Rialto bridge). In front of it, and not unlike Padua, we were welcomed by music in the shape of a lone player of lute.

Leaving the description of the church itself to more appropriate venues, I shall just comment on one thing peculiar of Venice and that I'd like to be introduced in Rome: you do pay a small fee to visit churches and other historical places, but not if you are a resident of the city. I didn't mind paying 2 euros to visit this and other churches in Venice (as I didn't mind paying such small fees in other churches in other cities), but I think it's just proper that a citizen of a city to be allowed to visit his own places without having to pay. Mutatis mutandis, I'd like to be able to enter the Colosseum for free, as I used to when I was a kid: it's my city, i have the right to live it fully, I do pay taxes to it, after all!

Leaving the church, we headed to San Marco passing over the Rialto bridge. There, we were part of a funny incident. As we were at the very top of the bridge and looking at the "Canal Grande", I noticed what I classified as the largest woman I had ever seen next to me, giving me her back and saying something really loud in german. She was indeed huge, with shoulders of a wrestler. Then she turned and I said to myself "ok, correction here, it's the largest transvestite ever" while at the same time a wide smile appeared over Susanne's face. As the woman/man kept acting in a weird way I issued another correction "ok, that is the largest german crazy transvestite ever", but as a TV camera appeared Susanne finally explained to me I was facing a famous german comedian, Hans-Werner Olm in her "Luise" character.

Crossed Rialto bridge, we walked in the maze of narrows streets until I finally had to admit my orientation sense was badly failing me and, not without shame, I passed the lead to Susanne who, honestly, seemed to feel more at home in such a situation and not much later finally took us to Piazza San Marco, where I was immediately nauseated by the stink of thousands of pigeons people think funny to feed and have all over them (literally). We headed for the cathedral (after having left our small backpack at a near church turned into a wardrobe) and thoroughly visited that, included the presbiterium with its majestic "Pala d'oro", occasionally annoyed by the loud voice of an american guide leading a group of only slightly noisy people (in a church where, in theory, you should keep silence all the time).

Having left the cathedral, we went in search for the tourist information office to buy a daily ticket for the ferries and an integrated museum ticket. There, we got to know that, being the lucky ones we are, the ferries would had been in strike the whole day after. once we got the ticket, we headed and visited the truly magnificent Palazzo Ducale, prisons included (note for erudite italians: we crossed a group of people saying things like "Ah, is it the way DOWN for the Piombi prisons" or "Ah, such prisons are so bad, no wonder Silvio Pellico wrote "Le mie prigioni" here".. no comment). Left the palace, a good 3 hours later, more or less starved, I paid the first of several visits to a MacDonald (which, by hindsight, was a wise choice as future experiences would had led me to create a whole theory about eating in given cities) and then, in order to rest and at the same time not wasting any time of the few precious hours we had in Venice, we took the ferry that runs all along the Canal Grande and we were so lucky to get immediately the two places right at the tip of the boat, enjoying a great and unimpeded view for the whole cruise.

It was, as I did remember it from my first visit 15 years before, a breathtaking experience: the palaces and their peculiar style, S. Maria della Salute's church, the gondolas, the flags, the wooden taxi-boats, Rialto's bridge... everything seemed just perfect to me and even the cloudy sky, in my opinion, added to it, making it melancholic but not gloomy. And Susanne's expression of awe and joy just made it even better, I must say.

Disembarked once again at the train station, we took another ferry, this time towards Murano, where we would had liked to see the glass-blowing artisans. We got an interesting cruise again, seeing the much less touristic and therefore usually neglected northern side of the city from the sea and we arrived on the island in a sudden, violent but luckily quick shower of rain. Unfortunately, we discovered that the glass-blowing activity, especially after the summer, goes on only during the morning. I then took Susanne to visit the little but wonderful church of San Donato, with its mosaics and external abside, and then we spent a bit of time looking for something for my mother (I eventually took her a necklace made of tiny glasses of different colors).

We got back from Murano, again under rain, and we headed home to dry ourselves as, amazingly for such an organized person as she is, Susanne's shoes weren't waterproof and got totally soaked at the first drops of rain (which proved to be a problem in the next days and was solved in Venice with a hair-drier...) and prepare for dinner. And here I elaborated a theory: in places like Venice (and London) you better go at a MacDonald unless you are up for leaving 50 euros per person at a restaurant. In fact, we did indeed go to a restaurant where I had the displeasure of eating one of the worst pizzas I ever tried and Susanne the strangest mixed salad I had ever seen... everything for the price of an averagely abundant meal in a nice restaurant in Rome, which is not famous for being such a cheap city itself. After that, another ferry cruise along the Canal Grande at night (a bit sad, truly) and to the Arsenal. After a long, aimless, walk around the area we decided to get back home and call an end to our first day in Venice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And now the rain is female???
Its unequivocal male!