Day Two: Venice

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Today was a walking day. Hotel shuttle to San Marco, then we left the canal behind and followed two short walking tours suggested by Rick Steves in his book “Rick Steves Walk – Three Walks in Venice.” I would recommend his books to any traveler going anywhere. They are insanely practical and give excellent advice for avoiding crowds and what you can expect to pay for transportation and tours, along with funny, pithy comments. Very down-to-earth.

We started west out of Piazza San Marco along the waterfront and detoured into one of Venice’s only parks, the Giardinetti Reali, or Royal Gardens. Later, we will look down on the garden from the rooms of Empress Elisabeth, which we will see later in the day at the Correr Museum.

We continued down a street with shops you probably couldn’t even enter wearing jeans… Gucci, Roberto Cavalli, and more. Over a little bridge and we were at the San Moisè Church, which we could enter free of charge as long as our knees and shoulders were covered.

All these churches are amazingly beautiful. San Moisè Church has an original Tintoretto, all the more fantastic because it is in its original setting, not removed to a sterile museum wall somewhere.

A few more twists, turns, and bridges and we were at La Fenice Opera House, burned to a hollow shell in 1996, but restored and reopened in 2004. A little farther to Campo Manin, home of Italian freedom fighter Daniele Manin in the early 1800’s. We ate lunch in a sandwich shop in Campo Manin, splitting a delicious Greek sandwich on pita bread with two tiny cans of diet Coke.

Down a couple of tiny alleyways off Campo Manin, you can see what Rick Steves calls ” one of Venice’s hidden treasures” – La Scala Contarini del Bovolo. That’s where I took the photo above. It’s the outdoor spiral staircase for a palace, because outdoor stairs saved space for rooms inside.

On to the Rialto Bridge again, and the start of the second walking tour. Crossing the bridge, we are in the center of Venice’s market area, with fresh produce stands and a fish market that you can locate with just your nose. The fish market was David’s favorite, trays of every kind of fish imaginable, incuding swordfish and octopus, resting on beds of crushed ice.

More shopping on our way to Campo San Polo and its Church of San Polo. We discovered that nearly every time the streets widen into a campo (square), there is a church there. I bought Erin a sweatshirt from a street vendor, and I bought myself some Murano glass earrings from a friendly woman in a jewelry/glass shop. Another chance to practice my Italian, which worked out pretty well this time since I’ve been practicing the word “earrings” (orecchini) since the day I booked our trip.

We ended the walk at the Frari Church, which we didn’t tour because we were kind of tired. We made our way back to San Marco by way of the Ponte dell’Accademia, one of only four bridges to span the Grand Canal. We bought David a bottle of water which revived him a bit, but it’s not easy to find a public restroom in Venice. There are some marked on the map with the letters WC, but we never saw them and they cost money to use.

On our way back to the shuttle boat, we decided to tour the Correr Museum in Piazza San Marco, which exhibits relics of Venice’s history, and tour the rooms of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife, Empress Elisabeth.

Crossing the square, we saw that the line to see the Basilica of San Marco, which was endless this morning, was very short and moving at a fast clip toward the door. We went in behind two young women in shorts and cami tops who were turned away at the door for not being properly dressed.

The Basilica is easily the most glorious sight I’ve ever seen, and you will just have to take my word for it and look at photos on the Internet, because photography is not allowed.

A few blocks away we found a little place, Ristorante di Stefano, where we found a meal special of pizza or pasta, insalata mista (mixed greens) and a drink (caffè, tè, or coke) for 10€.
I wanted to have real pizza made in Italy, not at Pizza Hut, and I wasn’t at all disappointed by my yummy margherita pizza with its crispy crust, obviously baked in a real pizza oven.

6:00 pm and back to the hotel, sleepy and full of good food and so very tired of weaving our way through crowds of tourists. They say Venice has lost half its population in just the last few years, now about 60,000. If I had the chance to live here, I really don’t think I would. For one, i am used to the open skies and green spaces of the Midwest, and for two, there are tourists everywhere, all day long. That would get to me after a while.

And with that, we say goodbye for now to Venice. Honestly, we both think we’ve seen enough for now… and our cruise leaves tomorrow, so we’ll spend most of the day figuring out which boats will get us to the cruise terminal the cheapest, with time to spare for whatever mistakes we make along the way.

A presto, Venezia. See you soon, because we have an extra day here at the end of our cruise which was a total surprise and a blessing…and worth another story, soon.

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