In search of the far canal
23.03.2017 - 25.03.2017 17 °C
I mean, really, you would think after traversing the desert wastes of Iran, to see the tomb of Cyrus the Great; gazing at the golden horn in Istanbul, or imagining the roar, as you stare at the Colosseum, you would be a little jaded when viewing new places. Not so! Venice has added a completely new dimension to our experience. Whether it's a trick of the light; the combination of water, gorgeous buildings and statuary, or the riotous colour combinations, Venice has blown our minds! There is an absolutely unbelievable quality to this city. The gondolas surfing the waves amid brightly coloured tethering poles, the sunlight glinting off a thousand coursing rivulets, the sea spray adding a soft viscous glow to the whole picture, whilst the crowds throng this way and that. And the the air of decay and acceptance from the buildings that have served silent witness to the passing centuries. All this and we have barely entered St Mark's square.
Sorry to go a bit Venizzia Sciocco, but this city has captured our hearts. We arrived late Thursday afternoon, got lost three minutes after taking directions to our apartment and took a while to reorient. Second time around we got there and were delighted to find a spacious bedroom, separate lounge, kitchen, bathroom and entryway on the first floor, with a lovely aspect over a bar. We are a part of the coterie and we've only just arrived!
After ditching our gear, we headed out, electing to go native, no map, well maybe we cheated a little, but mostly just followed our noses and the signs to Rialto and San Marco piazza. Through myriad alleyways, across wonderful little stepped stone bridges, around corners surprising us with unexpected options, we got lost; found new canals, new alleyways and all of this interspersed with cafes, pretty little shops, bars and an incredible array of masque galleries that recalled the carnivales, balls and galas that formed the mad, luxurious events of the past 500 years. Venice is at once decadent, mysterious and exciting. It doesn't matter that most of the buildings have an air of faded glory. The history is just so marvellous that it transcends its age and seems to have a tangible vitality.
We finally arrived in St Marks square where, like Spinal Tap, everything was ratcheted up to eleven. The cathedral is absolutely beautiful, as is the Doges Palace, but the duelling quartets across the square were divine, reminding us that this was not some dusty, tacky tourist attraction. On the one side was a dais holding a violin, double bass, accordian and a clarinet, supported by a piano, whilst on the opposite side was a similar affair! And bear in mind these two acts weren't the entertainment; they were merely there for the amusement of the patrons of the opposing restaurants that surrounded and supported them.
As one then strolled around the square and finally out toward the sea, the vista opens up and combines once again to create an amazing view: the sea, the island backdrop, the gondolas, like horses champing at the bit, riding nervously up and down on the waves, straining at their pylons. The gondoliers in their gaily striped outfits straining against the sea as they steer their charges into shore; the crowds of tourists becoming a part of the picture: here a bride decked out in red organza posing for the photographer, there a mini skirted, bright blue dreadlocked photographer taking photos of her no less gaudily dressed subjects and of course the constant wave of sightseers clamouring for space to grab their own slice.
After taking our snaps of the Bridge of Sighs, altogether now: aaaaah, we exited stage left down a tiny alleyway, took a couple of turns and popped out next to a couple of great bars serving delightful drinks and cicchetti, yummy little delights which are often given away as accompaniments to the drinks for customers. We enjoyed a couple of drinks before deciding we better get on home for dinner. You can imagine our dismay when we realised we had managed to stroll in completely the wrong direction from home. It was almost a 3km slog back, but who could complain? We ended the evening with a home cooked pasta, courtesy of the cheese and kisses and some delightful Pinot Grigio. Almost 15 kilometres, not bad for an afternoon's work!
Viva Venice! We say, and this is only day one.... Bring it on!
It was a late night, what with the hubbub from downstairs. Our apartment is situated above a corner where three different bars intersect and the patrons were all attempting to outdo each other. It didn't matter though, we snoozed off fairly quickly, thanks to the aforementioned wine. Next morning we headed off through the Jewish Ghetto, which is apparently the original after which all others are named and strolled on until finally emerging at the Fondamente Nove , the Vaporetto station for Burano. We had purchased 24 hr tickets on the internet the night before, as it worked out much cheaper than paying €7:50 per trip or 75 mins (bearing in mind that we intended to use them for several more trips). Apparently locals pay only €1:50 per trip or 75 mins. It is a pleasant sail out past the Cemetrie, which is an entire island given over to the dead, then on past a couple of other islands until arriving at the gaily decorated Burano. The locals must have put their heads together years ago to think of a distinctive way to make their island stand out and decided to paint every house a different colour. It is a riotous blend of lemons, blues, oranges, aquas, purples and so on, simply gorgeous to behold. Of course there are also canals everywhere, so the reflections only served to heighten the impression. After walking for some time, we finally settled on a pleasant little cafe for lunch and a bottle of rosé, before finally boarding the ferry back to Venice.
Once back, who could resist a Vaporetto ride down the grand canal? Water taxis buzzed back and forth around us, gondolas took their leisurely time to paddle past and a multitude of other vessels cruised about. Of course the many mansions and public buildings which lined the canal all served to remind us that this was indeed a powerful and noble city, even if accepting it was more in the nature of a faded glory. Under the Rialto and finally back to our nearest stop, from where we wended our way back to our apartment. After dinner we decided to find out what all the noise was about and visited a couple of bars, seeing a lively little jazz combo and enjoying martinis and wine. A very pleasant day's work complete, we retired to bed around midnight.
Our final day consisted of another vaporetto ride to St Mark's square and a pleasant stroll about, although to be fair, the crowds were thicker than flies on a turd, so we didn't dally too long. After a stroll around the perimeter admiring the numerous ancient shops and cafes, including Caffe Florian, the oldest coffee house in the world, which has been serving coffee since 1729, we caught our final vaporetto all the way down the grand canal once more to the railway station, from where we took our leave. But not before sampling some local gelato, yummy of course!