We woke up this morning to a seemingly cold and rainy day, showered, packed up and went to breakfast. We misplaced Aida's toothbrush ( I think she lost it but I'm not allowed to say that) so Teta and Emma went to the front desk to get her one so her retainer wouldn't be left on the bathroom sink. Breakfast was very appetizing except for the broccoli melon juice. After breakfast we began walking to a bank to get € or rather for Teta to get € because I left my bank card at home and everyone in Venice (and Italy in general) only takes cash because taxes are so high. We left Ronnie waiting at the bottom of the bridge and continued down a maze of streets hoping we would find our way back. We got to the piazza with the bank and got what we thought was plenty of € for the day and to start saving up cash to pay for any tours we booked. Of course throughout the day the small things added up, one gelato here, a gift there.... Hope we have enough for the tour! Next we had a gondola pick us up at the hotel and sail in and out of the small canals and under bridges. Olivia got a kick out of the gondolier carrying Ronnie inside! It was peaceful and informative. The gondolier taught us that people think the houses were built first and the canals around them but we learned that the canals are natural. In 1960 the tide was 2 meters too high for 2 days straight which was very strange because the normal tide goes In and out on a 6 hour cycle. It flooded all the first floors and today most are abandoned. The homes are 300,000 € and it is very expensive to live there especially because the maintenance of the homes is so extensive. They must paint the inside and outside of their homes twice a year. There are 433 gondoliers and each one passes the job on only to one son. The gondolas are all made the exact same size with the exact same materials in a special shop in Venice. All gondolas are driven by have one gondolier accept the ones that take you right across the grand canal from one side to the next- they have two. We learned that there are some canals that only gondolas are allowed in because they are so narrow. When Ronnie asked about traffic rules the gondolier answered that it's pretty much a jungle - every man for himself except that everyone pretty much respects the vaporettos because of their strict bus schedule. They also get out of the way of fire and police boats. Next we took a vaporetto to the Jewish Ghetto and after climbing up and down a few bridges carrying Ronnie's chair we walked around enjoying the gorgeous artwork and glasswork and judaica. The Shuls were closed unless you go on a tour which we couldn't wait for. We got some typical venetian goodies at the kosher bakery like the S shaped cookies and meringues. Of course we went to the kosher pizza store for lunch which was a little bit of a disaster. Run by a very Israeli, Israeli who was yelling at the customers we finally got our order straight and waited for our pies . We also picked up some yummy looking cold cuts, and a can of pickles for Aida that would later turn out to be quite a nuisance. The owner wouldn't give us plates or bags and the store is only take out with absolutely no place to sit. We walked out with two big boxes of soft messy pizza and no where to eat it which made everyone quite anxious. We sat on the floor by the vaporetto stop attempting to eat it without dropping it all over ourselves. Aida gave up immediately and the rest of us just kept on trying, at this point it started to drizzle and we decided to move under the bus stop where we were making quite a mess. I ran to throw the boxes out in the garbage and almost missed the next vaporetto.
We decided to meet our planned tour "Venice for kids" in St. Marco square. We met David the tour guide and after he helped us over two bridges he immediately got us started by showing us the prisons from the Middle Ages and the bridge of sighs where the prisoners were transported from the courthouse to the prison sighing that this would be their last look out on to the world before their prison sentence. Next we walked into st. Marco square and David started us in a contest seeing who could find the most winged lions ( the symbol of Venice- representing St. Mark) he pointed out the tower of the clock that marks time, phases of the moon, seasons and signs of the zodiac for over 500 years. At the very top are two bronze figures hit the bell every hour on the hour as many gongs as the number of hours it is. We made it at 2:00 so we saw them hit twice. The time is in half roman and half Arabic numerals. We looked at the tall columns welcoming the travelers into Venice and noticed the beautiful apartments that the politicians lived in in the square. The most interesting part of the square was how in one view we were looking at so many different centuries at the same time. For example the mosaics of the story of the merchants of Venice who smuggled in the bones of st mark with pork next to the later architecture , or the mosaics from the Middle Ages whose picture were flat and the later ones that were more 3 dimensional.
Back to the pickles- Aida refused to carry them and kept trying to hand them off to her sisters who kept threatening to throw them out. They even played we pass the pickles around to see who had to hold them. After all that arguing they must have gotten hungry because they finished eating the pickles after that.
Next we visited the Basilica di San Marco whose walls are covered with refined gilded mosaics that represent the crucial biblical event and have the stolen bones of the body of Mark from Constantinople. There are many important works inside especially the pala d'oro alter panel of archangel Michael decorated with thousands of jewels like garnets, rubies, pearls and sapphires. The floor of St. Marks is in cool geometric patterns and mosaics of fantastic creatures rippling up and down. The tour guide and guard were shocked when Emma pointed out that one of the scenes on the ceiling in mosaics was the story of Joseph and his brothers. They both said that most tourists don't appreciate the real details of what they are looking at but Leave it to Emma! The ones outside were Old Testament stories and the ones inside were new Testament stories.
Next David took us to a shop he claims sells the best and freshest gelato in the square. Ronnie didn't make it over the steps this time but we all brought back plenty to share- Nutella, lemon, dark chocolate, kit Kat and meringue flavor. We moved on to a taxi boat portion of the tour which was very fancy. We took it all around the grand canal learning about different buildings in Vence and learned that if the tiny islands of Venice are connected by bridges they are considered a part of Venice and if there are no islands connecting them they are separate islands like Lido and Murano. We also learned how the buildings were built on the muddy sand with wood piles that kind of petrified with the mud and turned into foundation. The buildings were then built over that. David played with the girls alot throughout the tour and I think Olivia wanted to stay in Venice with him! David also explained that the Jews in the ghetto were not as disadvantaged as it may seem and that although it was the first ghetto ever they lived a pretty decent life in Venice building beautiful synagogues and enjoying and sharing in much Venetian culture. Their were however many restrictions on them by the government. We learned that "Ca" stands for casa or "home of, the family name" Emma Hannah and Olivia had fun standing up in the taxi boat dodging the bridges as we passed under which David yelled at because he said it was dangerous. We stopped at the hotel to pick up our luggage which took slot longer than the taxi driver expected but them he drive us to the parking lot. We had to scrounge together the last Euro we had and added done American $ to it to pay David for the tour since they only take cash as well and there is a maximum amount that you can take out per day- we have to keep collecting cash to make sure we have enough for Rome's tours! We thanked David and carried the luggage off the boat through the parking lot to the car. The car was still there on the 8th floor, thankfully in one piece and nothing missing. We drove about 3 hours to Viareggio with lots of round about at the end and Emma and Aida getting nauseous. Hannah sang us a song the girls made up about Ms. Lucy putting her baby in the canals of Venice or something and about bridges, Aida yelled at everyone a lot and thank goodness Emma made it to a bathroom in time after yelling at Ronnie to stop lurching forward because it was making her nauseous. Apparently he never heard of that word before! to We arrived in Viareggio again unsure what kind of hotel and town it would be and the first word that came to our minds was...."interesting"- it's kind of a mix between Miami and Wildwood. The hotel is very old but refurbished with very high ceilings and very wide hallways. We checked in and immediately went to check out the beach which looks beautiful and fun. We bought some beach toys to play with on shabbat and spent the rest of the night walking along the outside of the beach admiring the shops and people on the way. There are a million gelato stores but also fancy clothing stores, book stores and restaurants. We walked till 10:30 and then went back to the rooms to get a good night sleep for Pisa and maybe Florence tomorrow!