A Whirlwind Tour

A Whirlwind Tour

Pardon this, my briefest of posts. Some of our dearest friends are visiting. We took a trip to Rome and went back to Venice twice. We saw a number of wonderful things. I will write about it soon, once I’ve begun the process of wading through the approximately 1500 photos I took. Luckily at least 450 of them will go straight to the trash bin with all of their blurry, dark, or redundant brethren. I’m a bit of a nervous shooter at times…

Until then, an iPhone shot from the window of our room in the holiday inn express in Rome. We had never seen so many aerials on rooftops before. (I previewed the post and the image didn’t show. If there’s no image, forgive me. It’s late and this is my first phone post on this blog. I’ll try to fix it Domani if it is missing.)

Ah, Rome…

Venezia- The extras

These are some of the other Venice photos that really didn’t fit into a category, but they were too neat to pass up.

GrafittiImageWho is Hogre? Exactly how massive is this critter? Is he friendly? Maybe he just likes tourists. Maybe he just likes playing with boats. Maybe this is a depiction of a small sea-critter at bathtime. Maybe this is a simulation of a real cruise ship attack. Who is he? Inquiring minds want to know!

…So inquiring minds looked it up. Hogre is a famous-yet-elusive street artist who hails from Rome. His art is really impressive but his webpage is confusing. I love it.ImageImageWe saw the P.O.P.E. squid all over the place. I’m not sure what he represents exactly.ImageDrainage-ImageThis information may be wrong, but we were told that rain and flood waters drain into these grates…Imageand pass into the cisterns below these wells. The water is filtered and purified in fine sand underground. The wells are sprinkled throughout Venice.ImageThis hydrant looks like a clown to me. Mildly unnerving…

This spotImageImageIf you come visit me, MAKE ME take you here.ImageThis guyImageWe sat outside a little ristorante and drank beer and caffè while this fellow watched over us. I wish I had walked over to see who he is. Next time. The beer was quite good and the waiter was very charming, especially after his underling threw a glass at me. Ok, maybe he didn’t throw it, but it did tumble and it did land, in pieces, on my shoe. Don’t worry, my shoe and I were fine. Also, I didn’t shoot the head waiter (but only because he asked me not to) (and because the statue guy probably would not have approved) (and because I left my waiter-shooting gun in my other handbag) (It’s a joke).

Things-

ImageA giant, abandoned pane of glass.ImagePansies basking upon the railing of a canal-side ristorante.ImageI never realized that doors could be magical until I came to Italy.ImageAn Easter egg the size of a toddler. Those are full-sized wine bottles, amici!ImageDoor pull? I bet it feels warm from the Spring sun. I did not touch it.ImageImageWouldn’t you love to work in this building? I don’t know if I’d feel better or worse knowing that these chaps were standing watch.ImageThis was a really lucky shot. I had to wait quite awhile for people to clear out long enough for me to snap the photo. Something interesting is behind that blue door, but I can’t tell you what it is… yet. (Mainly because I don’t know… yet.)ImageIs this not beautiful? The photo does not capture the way the golden accents gleamed in the sunlight.ImageSeveral thousand tiny pieces, one large masterpiece.

So there you have it. Venezia in a rush.

Coming soon- Roma, and more Venice.

Venezia- The Merch

Like any tourist destination, Venice was loaded with shops. Merchandise aplenty!

I’m going to tell you a secret. This is my favorite thing about Italy. Are you ready?

The absolute, hands-down, best thing about Italy is that advertising is not the national bird of this country. The fantastically preposterous thing about Italy is that while there are occasional ads sprinkled throughout the cities and on the highways, in comparison to the ads of America, Italy is BARREN.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I adore this. Road trips are beautiful and peaceful without being begged to stop at one of the six nearby McDonald’s or sleep at whichever crappy hotel has the most dollars for billboards. It’s so relaxing for the mind.

I mention this because the shops here seem to operate on word of mouth and a dash of luck. They’re tucked amid churches and homes, and sometimes are completely invisible unless you happen to look just right. Since we only had a few hours for this particular trip to Venice, I can only imagine how many amazing shops we missed.

Thing number one- Murano Glass

Murano glass is world famous. While I had heard of it before this trip, I had mainly only seen it in beads and glass animals. While those are definitely impressive, I honestly wasn’t overly impressed. I’ve been seeing glass animals and beads my whole life. Though they are cool- meh.

But then we wandered into a Murano glass shop and our minds were opened.

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I was blown away. We learned that each month has a different theme, so if you love a certain piece in the store this month, you’d better buy it, or forever hold your peace. April’s theme seemed to be religious icons- it was Easter, after all. We’re not religious, but we could not resist. The pieces were so beautiful! Although we’d had no interest in buying glass (we’re clumsy people and glass is breakable), we left that store with much lighter pockets and much heavier bags than we’d had when we entered.

Thing number two- the lost art of letter writing

I couldn’t tell you whether the Venetians are big letter writers, but if you judge by their shop windows, the art never died in Venice. We were greeted with vast selections of quills and inks, wax seals, letter openers with Murano Glass handles, and fancy stationery. We managed to avoid spending money in any of these shops, although one day I will venture into one and ask the proprietor for help in commissioning a specially-designed wax seal press.

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Using shadows to photograph reflective shop windows…ImageImage

Thing number three- masks

While Venice is known for many things, from what I hear, Carnevale in Venice is not to be missed. Unfortunately this past year- we missed it. We were still too new. But next year, we will be there, come hell or high water (perhaps literally).

In case you don’t know, Carnevale is the elaborate celebration that occurs just before the beginning of Lent and the Easter season. It’s also known as Mardi Gras in the southern parts of the US, and simply as Carnival in Brazil. Carnevale in Venice lasts for several weeks and is loaded with parties, concerts, shows, and activities. People come from all over the world wearing incredible costumes and masks.

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Many of the masks use designs that have been popular for centuries.

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Image There are seven historical types of Venetian mask. The devil isn’t one of the seven, but the mask in the bottom left corner appears to be the Pantalone- the joker.

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These are the Medico della Peste. These were worn mainly by doctors to avoid catching Bubonic Plague. I’ve read that they kept straw and scented plants in the beaks of the masks to help filter out the airborne particles from the plague.

Thing number four- Clothes

We didn’t buy any. We didn’t even look. There was no time, and I still haven’t quite adjusted to the Italian manner of dress yet. While it has grown on me, I’m still just not ready to make the plunge.

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This is a very, very popular style among young, Italian men. The floral shirt, the tight(ish) pants with the baggy crotch and unusual button placement… It’s everywhere.

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On the other hand, graphic t-shirts are not popular with Italians at all. On occasion you’ll see t-shirts on the street, but more often than not if you see someone in a t-shirt, they’re not native Italian.

Thing number five- my favorite thing of all

Of course we saw a bunch of random, strange items for sale in Venice, but this one jumped out at me more than any other. Although we have a bit of an apron collection, we bypassed this beauty. It was just a bit too much chintz for me.

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Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn, but oh, how I love Venezia…

So there you have it. A small compendium of the things you can buy in Venice. We also saw stores with books, musical instruments, frameries, grocery stores, and the most boring Hard Rock Cafe shop I’ve ever visited. The cafe itself may be much better, but the store had nothing of note, unless you count shirts worn by Prince, Beyonce, and Madonna, and underwear worn by Britney Spears. I personally can’t say that I consider those things to be notable, even though I did just mention them.

Next time I’ll post my excess photos from Venice. I have a bunch of neat little things I saw around and about. We have some friends coming into the states in a few weeks so we will be going back to Venice (yay!) and taking our first trip down to Rome. We may also spend a day in Florence. Stay tuned, friends!

Venezia- Canals and Bridges

It’s hard to imagine a city with no roads. I always heard that Venice was nothing but canals, but it was impossible to fully grasp the concept until I saw with my own eyes. I figured that the middle of the island would be inundated with scooters and bicycles. Not so. (Please scroll through this post with your mouse pointed over the photos. On my computer, at least, the photos are brighter than they should be if my mouse isn’t over them. I’m not sure why.)

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There are several modes of travel through Venezia. The most famous, of course, is the gondola.

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Gondoliers are absolute pros. They steer these long boats through some incredibly narrow spaces, often in the path of much larger, motor-driven boats. All this with one paddle- while standing! If it were up to me to steer the boat, we’d be crashing into everything. I was so amazed, watching them.

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This is the view from the Rialto Bridge. I could have stood there all day, just observing.

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One of Venice’s many, many bridges. This is why scooters are bikes are unrealistic.

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This canal seemed unremarkable until I noticed that shock of emerald green in the distance. The sun hit the water just right at that moment.

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Zoomed in.

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See that large boat on the left? That is a water bus, for budget travel. We did not ride one this time, but next time we certainly will. The water buses will take you directly from the train station to St. Marks Square and are significantly cheaper (and less romantic) than a gondola ride.

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The canals bustled with activity.

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Another popular mode of travel was the private motorboat. These reminded me of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

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Did you know that there are only approximately 400 registered gondoliers in Venice? To become a gondolier, one must undergo 6 months of rigorous training, pass difficult exams, and pay a rather steep licensure fee. These fellas also need an intimate knowledge of the canals of the area. Tourists can take gondola steering courses, just for fun.

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Passing under a bridge.

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The view from the backside of the Rialto Bridge. Much less crowded than the picturesque front.

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Leaving Venice as the sun began to set.

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This bridge was reserved for law enforcement.

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Just like parallel parking on a neighborhood street.

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Hands-down my favorite picture from that day.

Stay tuned for future posts about our visit to Venice.