Venice... Is easy to get lost in. It's charm lies in it's canal waterways and winding, narrow streets. Not to mention there's no cars! How refreshing.
Venice is old. Time and water have weathered the city, but that means beyond every corner there is a charming building or church with history, one that looks like no other building. There are flowered balconies everywhere, and my new friend Lina had a certain affection for taking pictures of them. Anyway, piazza San Marco is the centre of the crazy, tourist-infested city (sooo many massive cruise ships full of tourists). It features the campanile tower, St. Mark's basilica, the Doge's Palace, and a clock tower. Apparently the square even floods every once and a while during high tide and I'm so disappointed I never got to see it for myself :( I toured the doge's palace. Back in the day, Venice was its own state and republic. Every decision was made by a group of people, but they still needed a representative of the city, so they created the doge position. They were clear it wasn't a king or a lord, that wasn't what the city wanted. Once you were the dodge, you were until you died. My guide made it clear that it wasn't always pleasant for every doge because they had to give up all their personal business. That means if they were too young and still working, they had to give it up and yet, still be able to pay for their lives as the doge.
The palace was quite lovely, though the massive number of tourist has affected is preservation. My favorite parts were the large halls were business were taken care of. This is where the Bridge of Sighs is. It's a covered bridge leading next door to the prison and I walked it. I had heard of the bridge long ago but had no idea it was in Venice lol. The guide said it got its name from the British who thought prisoners walked the bridge and it was their last glimpse of daylight- hence the sighing. In actuality they aren't sure if prisoners even walked the bridge- it was used by workers in the palace and prison. Currently they are renovating the bridge, so tourists taking a picture of the bridge from outside get a lot of the surrounding advertisement, not so much of the bridge :(
The famous Rialto bridge is pretty cool. It has 2 rows of stores between three pedestrian lanes. On my last night in Venice, Lina and I found some great bars in the area but more on that later.
In San Marco square, beside the palace, is San Marco basilica. It is gorgeous on the outside but the rush of tourists on the inside definitely affected my ability to appreciate the church. Thus Lina and I tried again my last day but our legs weren't covered enough so we were rejected (no tank tops, no shortish shorts). There were beautiful gold mosaics but I had seen similar in Lyon, so I appreciated Lyon's more.
Finally the tower and the square itself. I never went up the tower but it is huge, as is the square. The square is where the famous pigeons are. People make money offering tourists bread to give the birds, so they fly onto the people's shoulders and hands. Gross eh. Every time I went to the square, I said "hello famous pigeons" to them... Because they are lol.
Gondola rides.. Are expensive. So I took a traghetti. $.50! Instead of 80 euros!!! It was short but I was on the canal and I got my pictures. Gondolas do look like fun though- you'd see the city from a different angle. And many tourists did. Couples, touring families... Their business is still going strong. I wonder if a gondolier has ever fallen in? Lol. I wouldn't want to- the water is sort of murky.
I have never seen so many churches in one city and I saw a lot of them. Frari was huge and Santa Maria Della Salute was amazing, especially on the outside. Santa Maria is across the water from St Marco and there was a decent view of it from my hostel. Of course there were other smaller Churches, names of which I cannot remember.
My hostel was on an island across from the Venetian mainland called Guidecca. I was lucky to have a great view of the mainland from my window, but that also meant i always heard the loud partying on the seawall at night. Because of the location, I bought a vaporetto (waterbus) pass. It was nice being on the water so much, considering a gondola is so expensive. Taking the vaporetto from one end of the canal to the other is a must.
I went to one museum in Venice- the Peggy Guggenheim, which has modern art the new yorker collected over her lifetime. It was interesting- she had Klee (Swiss artist whose museum I went to), Dali, Picasso, as well as some very interesting sculptures. The museum was her house, and it was cool to see pictures of her in each room with the art in the places she chose for them.
Other than the island on which I stayed, I visited Lido- where the Venice Film Festival is held. It has some great beaches. There is also an island called Murano, famous for it's glass making (however I didn't make it there).
There is a small Jewish ghetto in Venice where Jews were forced to live. It's a tiny island with only 4 bridges (hard to leave..) It has tall apartment buildings because they tried to place as many Jews there as possible. There are plaques of wartime images commemorating the Jews as well.
The two most beautiful places I visited include Scuola Grande di San Rocco and theatro la fenice. Scuola Grande is a gallery, but it didn't seem that way. It was also used for religious purposes as a meeting place. The second floor walls and ceilings were incredible. It is home to works by Tintoretto and Titan. The dark walls and rich paintings were quite a sight- I had to sneak pictures.
The Venice theatre is new- rebuilt in 2003 after arson by electricians that caused quite a stir in Italy. It is now nicknamed the Phoenix, as the most recent fire wasn't the first. Anyway, they rebuilt it to exactly the same specifications as before, except for the paint colour of the boxes (i did the audio tour lol). It was awe-inspiring. Blue, gold, amazing ceiling, beautiful carvings, light red chairs ..once again I had to take (illegal) pictures.
So on my last night, Lina and I decided to chill with some prosecco (venetian wine sort of like champagne) and red wine, see Venice at night and grab food. We definitely saw Venice at night- didn't get to the food though lol. So near the Rialto bridge we walked past a place Lina had seen before and was pleased to find again. We grabbed some beer and spoke to a couple other tourists. Then we wondered around, and found a bar with TONS of bras on the ceiling. Hilarious. I got the most amazing blue green apple martini. It was blue but it tasted green! We also met a cute couple from Norway. The bartender - well he was sweet and took a picture with us and then Lina's obsession started. He is now known as 'my bartender' or Lina's bartender? Anyway it was funny, albeit hazy. I don't think he knew much English but that didn't stop Lina lol. Anyway, it's like 2 am, we are on a random street in Venice, and totally lost. That's when the real fun starts! I did say it's easy to get lost in Venice. Luckily there was a local who was willing to help us. Of course that wasn't all he wanted which was really annoying, but we still got back to the main square! Yay!
Back at the hostel, 3 am, it was time to say bye to Lina because i had to get to bed!! Needless to say the next morning wasn't pretty, especially considering I had to be up at 7:30 am to take the water bus for 45 min to catch my train. It was a fun night, but I paid with the hangover and lack of sleep, not to mention the heat lol. Italy is *hot*!!
It's hard to do Venice justice in a blog but I did my best. It's a great city, worth all the acclaim.