DM and MM's Italy Trip Diary

Day 10 - Venezia

Tuesday, 8 May, 2001

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The first thing on our plate today, besides nice soft bread rolls and hot jam-filled croissants which made up the breakfast at Hotel Villa Rosa, was to book our remaining train tickets for the rest of our trip. This would be so that we didn't have to bother waiting around at ticket offices in railway stations any more.

After waking up we showered, noting that the shower curtain was rather skimpy and inevitably getting most of the bathroom floor soaking wet. I mopped up a bit with towels, which ended up soaking wet, so I left them to dry hanging over the shower nozzle.

Breakfast was quite nice, though the hotel must have been packed since the room was crowded, mostly with French high school age kids, who were presumably on some sort of school trip. The bread rolls were blissfully soft, and we had a complement of six on our table (originally set for four people). After initially declining a hot drink, I ordered a cioccolata, which was rich and very nice. The croissants were brought hot to our table, and were filled with apricot jam.

After eating, we walked straight over to Stazione Santa Lucia to sort out our train tickets. We first went to the booking windows, then noticed a sign which said that you should have train times and numbers ready before attempting a booking, and that such information was available at the information office. We walked over there and queued in yet another take-a-number system, this time with everybody waiting outside the office and only one person at a time being let through the doors. When we got through, we gave the man at the desk our list of chosen dates and destinations and he helpfully found appropriate trains for each day and printed them out for us. Then we went back to the ticket office and asked for booked seats on all the appropriate trains. We ended up with three Eurostar trains and one Intercity train booked, and a handful of regional trains left over for which bookings were not required (or possible).

Morning in the Market
Campello dell'Anconeta market

That settled, we started our day's walking by heading down the main tourist strip from Stazione Santa Lucia towards Piazza San Marco. One of the first interesting sights we saw was the produce market on Campello dell'Anconeta, which had several stalls selling brightly coloured fruit and vegetables. We stopped to buy a couple of apples for later.

Buying apples
Buying apples at the Campello dell'Anconeta market

We continued along, stopping frequently to gawk in the shop windows and occasionally inside the shops themselves at the various items for sale. Most of it was either Murano glassware, decorated Carnevale masks, or Burano lace. The glass and masks were extremely bright and colourful, making for very eye-catching displays. Interestingly, we noticed that the shops often had signs saying "No Gelato", indicating one could not enter carrying an ice cream, but dogs were given free rein to enter anywhere their owner's cared to take them, including food shops.

Sun and Moon
Painted leather decorations on sale

When we got close to Ponte di Rialto, where we'd crossed the Canàl Grande yesterday, we took a left turn away from the main strip and into some less-trammeled calle. We approached close to Piazza San Marco, but turned away again at the last minute to explore further back streets, heading east towards the Sestiere Castello. We slowly turned north and then westward again, picking up some calzone to eat for lunch on the way and ending up on Fondamente Nove, looking out across the lagoon north-eastwards towards Isola di San Michele and Murano.

Fondament di San Lorenzo
Fondamenta di San Lorenzo and the leaning bell tower of San Giorgio dei Greci

We walked along the Fondamente before turning inland again and rejoining the tourist strip back to our hotel for a mid-afternoon break. It was interesting walking the back streets away from the tourist areas, seeing the way the residents lived, with their clothes hanging to dry on lines strung across the canals, small shrines on walls holding paintings or mosaics of La Madonna and decorated with flowers, and the many private boats berthed haphazardly along the canals.

Fondamenta Rio Marin
Fondamenta Rio Marin

After a short rest in our room, we headed out again, this time heading southwards over Ponte degli Scalzi then cutting across directly towards Chiesa Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, then onwards to the nearby Traghetto San Tomà, on which we crossed the Canàl Grande. The ride was quick, but fun, on a gondola with only two other passengers. I stood, like most of the local men seem to do, and it took a good deal of balance - not helped by my trying to quickly organise a snapshot of Michelle sitting by one of the oarsmen.

Traghetto San Tomà
Crossing the Grand Canal on a traghetto

Safely across, we headed through Campo Santo Stefano directly to another traghetto, this one taking us near Chiesa Santa Maria della Salute, where we stopped for a while. I wanted to arrange some tripod photos of us together in Venice, but it started to rain, so we elected to use a few minutes to explore inside the chiesa. There some good 17th century paintings on the walls of the chapels inside, and the original stone mosaic floor, which had broken up and sunken in places.

Campo Santo Stefano
Campo Santo Stefano

When we emerged, the rain had slackened slightly, so I reloaded the camera with black & white film for the intended photo. I pulled out the black permanent ink marker which I was using to record film and frame numbers on the film canisters, but it stubbornly refused to work. I shook it to get the ink flowing and then noticed in ever-increasing horror the indelible black spots spattered all over the church wall, my arm, Michelle's arm, and our clothing.

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
Chiesa Santa Maria della Salute

Undeterred by this disaster, I set up the tripod and arranged a photo of us looking out over the Canàl Grande. Then we headed south to the Fondamente Zattere, overlooking the 500 metre or so gap to Isola della Giudecca. We walked along the fondamente, stopping at Gelateria Nico for a gelato. The Lonely Planet described this place as having the best gelato in Venice, and I certainly don't have any arguments. As we continued along the fondamente, a large car ferry came down the channel, guided by a tugboat. We thought it was a cruise ship at first it was so big.

Tripod self-portrait of us looking across the Grand Canal

We turned inland, cutting our way through the sestiere of Dorsoduro and Santa Croce on our way back to the hotel. About halfway the rain began getting heavier and we hurried the last 10 minutes or so to avoid getting too wet, but were not in any serious danger of becoming soaked. We did manage to see a canal intersection with traffic lights for boats on our journey though.

Venetian portrait
Portrait of Venice

It was a day on which we hadn't really planned to see any particular sights, but merely to wander the streets of Venice and see whatever turned up around the next corner. Quite a satisfying way to spend a day! By the time we'd done our two trips, it was fairly late and we decided dinner was a good idea. We ventured forth again, with an idea to try to find somewhere nearby that offered some of the local specialties of risotto and seafood, rather than have pizza yet again. Unfortunately, by not wanting to walk too far in the rain we were restricted to rather expensive touristy places, and settled on a trattoria in Campo Santa Geremia. Michelle had gnocchi al pomodoro and I tried the grilled sole with a salad and a glass of the house white wine. The fish portion was small, but delicious, and the wine must have been quite strong because I felt very light-headed.

After regaining some sense of balance, we left the restaurant and returned to the hotel once again. I wanted to go out again with camera and tripod to try to take some night scenes. We walked back to the Ponte degli Scalzi and I took a couple of exposures of a rather unsatisfying vista along Canàl Grande. Hopefully they'll turn out, and hopefully future days will provide night scenes as interesting as the one at the Colosseo back in Rome!

Grand Canal at night
Grand Canal at night, from Ponte degli Scalzi

Finally, it was back to the hotel at just after 22:00 for a well-earned rest before the morrow.

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