"We are here on this planet only once and might as well get a feel for the place." -Annie Dillard

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


November 20/21


Well I wasn't sure if I was going to make it. I had even convinced myself that I really didn't need to see/experience it. I'm glad I got over that and made it happen!

I left the Massulo's the morning of the 20th and arrived in Venice early afternoon. Of course, I was a bit down because of LEAVING MY JOURNAL on the train when I transferred in Bologna. OH POOR JOURNAL. Fortunately this was my third one of the trip and I still have my first two. And this blog. But jeez I had a lot of good food ideas written in there...... I'm really working on taking this as an exercise of letting go.....

Anyway, arriving in Venice, I was still a little frustrated with myself for this journal loss, but as soon as I stepped out of the station and saw the grand canal, things started perking up. I was in Venice! The strange city of canals and gondolas and St. Mark's Basilica, and holy cow it's cold! Central Italy was getting pretty chilly, but here it was feeling pretty wintery! Fortunately, with the loss my journal and the information on housing that it held, the address and the location of the place I was staying was easy to remember, as the name of it was not (still don't remember the name!). So I made my way to 555 Santa Croce, checked in, went to my room, And then.....


As I wandered around the streets and bridges, I just kept thinking how these Venetians really must have been a strange and determined (or more likely desperate) lot to make their way out in a lagoon of little islands, lay down millions of logs, and build a city. Those barbarians they were escaping from must really, really, really had been a threat. But what do you know, it worked, and Venice eventually became quite the world power, with a monopoly on the East/West trade.... In Greece we saw many signs of the Venetians and many towns on the coast that actually used to be controlled by Venetians. Bus alas, you can read about the history more HERE if you want.

I also happened to arrive on November 21, day of Feast of our Lady of Good Health, held every year since 1631, when they first celebrated the end of the Plague. I decided to try and wander my way there, quickly giving up on my hopeless map, and finally realizing I might just be going in a totally opposite direction, asked directions from a very nice nun who walked me all the way there! I arrived to find where I think all the actual Venetians were hiding - La Salute Church, where they crowded in, lit candles, had a church service, thanked the Lady, and then eating time!

Mass to at La Salute church to celebrate
The Feast of Our Lady of Good Health

By this time it was dark, I was pretty tired, and so I wandered back to my residence for the night, crossing the famous Rialto Bridge, over bridges, through little alley looking streets, gazing at people braving gondola rides in the cold, and to my place, where it turned out I was sharing a room with three French students - back to French time once again!

The next day I got up and headed out - lots to do and little time to do it.

First things first, vaparetto ride down the Grand Canal, gazing at all the old palaces of once powerful Venetian families, now most museums (and flooded first floors), and smiling to myself thinking how strange to see people obviously on their way to work, hoping on and off these vaparretos just like city buses. Which is essentially what they are!

And then, hopping off, I headed to St. Mark's basilica, crazy church of Venice with East/West influence and more gold mosaics inside than you can wrap your head around.

St. Mark's Basilica and square.

Just a little taste of what the inside is like all over.
This particular depiction is on the outside over one of
the entrance doors.

Behind the Basilica is the Doge palace, former site of the leader of Venice (the Doge) and the Senate chambers. This place is HUGE. It is also connected to what was the prison, and I'll tell you, after wandering through the seemingly endless rooms in the palace (me daydreaming about what it would have been like to be a daughter of the Doge or something of the sort, wandering around in my cool Venetian dress, probably being very cold (It was COLD in Venice - I guess that's why it's NOVEMBER.), and then making may through the prison area that I swear I was just going around and around in circles in, I wanted OUT! I actually had a little chuckle as I was wondering around in the prison, following the arrow signs supposedly leading to the exit, everything looking the same. Stone cold. And I thought, ack I'm trapped in prison!! I couldn't even imagine the horribleness it would have been to be a prisoner in something like that. Just walking around the corridors made me restless. (miniscule portion of Doge palace seen in picture on right)

Finally escaping, I did more or less the same route I did the night before, only this time in daylight, crossing the famous Rialto Bridge, admiring shops, looking down the canals and trying to wrap my head around the fact that I was in VENICE, thinking how strange it would be to grow up here having boat rides and bridge hopping be such a norm, and then back to the train station.

The famous Rialto Bridge, Venice's oldest.

Where, it turned out I had a good amount of time till I needed to catch my train, so I wandered over to what was the Jewish Ghetto. Did you know that the word ghetto originates here in Venice? This area was were, in the 1500's, the Jewish citizens of Venice were ordered to live. It was also the site of an old copper foundry (the slab term in the Venetian dialect was 'geto'), and there you have it, the first Ghetto was born. The area now is only home to about 500 Jewish citizens, but there is an active scene trying to revitalize the community and I actually had a really great lunch at a Jewish restaurant, eating yummy felafel, hummus, tomatoes, veggies..mmm... a nice break from the usual Italian fare!

And then, just as soon as I arrived, it was time to go collect my bag and catch a train, on to my last stop on this Italian adventure - Milan.

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