11 September, 2017
2017 – Venice Day 2 – Touring Around Town & Walking On Water
Our hotel in Venice is really quite nice. We have a view of a canal and the room is decorated very “Venetian” style. The chandelier that lights our room is made of very ornate glass.
We met up with Lorenzo (our city guide) and other people from Portland (Nancy, Mike & Ellen) that are joining Antimo’s group today. It was fun to hang out with other Portlanders.
This area is steeped in history which would consume volumes if I tried to share just a hint of what we learned about the city today.
“Situated on the Adriatic Sea, Venice always traded extensively with the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim world. By the late 13th century, Venice was the most prosperous city in all of Europe….It is situated across a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by bridges, of which there are 400.” (Wikipedia)
And we walked up and down a good portion of them – well, at least it felt like it. We were told that there are over 30 million pilings under the city and eight million holding up San Marco’s square alone. When the wood pilings are pounded into the clayish ground under the shallow waters, they fossilize according to our guide. (I may not have these stats exactly correct, we did drink wine at lunch after all.)
There are certain streets that were previously canals and later were covered over to make walkable streets. You could tell which were once canals by the name “Calle Della Terra” in front of the name of the street. Ricardo said he was finally able to walk on water!
In Piazza San Marco we saw St Mark’s Clock which is housed in the clock tower. We witnessed a very interesting thing around the top of the hour. Looking up at the top of the clock tower we could see a mechanical motion of an old man ringing the old hour out and a few minutes later, a young man ringing the new hour in. These are cast iron figures as far as I could tell.
Lunch at one of the local ristorantes was fabulous! Ricardo and I shared fried zucchini flowers stuffed with crab meat. We were told not to order fish on a Monday because that is the fisherman’s day off so we would not be getting fresh fish. We ordered it anyway (as did everyone else at the table)! It was very good.
While we were eating lunch, the tide came in which meant that certain streets were flooded due to the recent rain storms. We tried to walk around those streets to get to our next destination but kept running into another flooded alleyway/street. We were amazed at the people that would just take off their shoes and wade through it or buy these rain booties that come up to your knees for 8 euros. So the group discussed it and decided we’d rather pay 8 euro for a drink in a nearby cafe and wait it out until the tide receded. Ricardo’s comment: “These boots are made for drinking – not walking.”
When the streets were passable again, we headed out for the Palazzo Grassi where more of the city-wide art exhibits were displayed. This statue was massive – as you can see by the size of the man in the background taking a picture. We didn’t see any seams or places where they put the statue together so wondered how they got it in the building and assembled it. I couldn’t get past the size of the….. well you just had to see it in person.
Lorenzo explaining something about the gondola.
This quaint book store is Venice’s version of Powell’s Books. They repurposed an old gondola and put it in the main aisle of the shop to hold books. You literally had to walk sideways to get around this full-sized gondola. Very unique and fun to visit.
I’m a little obsessed with paper and printing “stuff.” I always loved when school would start again after summer because that meant new paper supplies. This little shop around the corner was very old and the newest machine they had in it was 90 years old. And yet, they make cards and stationery for many celebrities, including Queen Elizabeth! They will custom-make about anything printable using hundreds of year old techniques.
We finished up the main part of the day with a short gondola ride back to our hotel to rest before going out to dinner. I have a death grip on Antimo’s hand because we are sitting on the side railing. This boat swayed a lot and glad our commute was only across the Grand Canal. I asked Antimo to take a picture because that will be my last gondola ride! The one we experienced in California with Bill and Gay was much less turbulent. Bill you would have surely spilled your wine on this one!
After our rest, we went for a passeggiata to work up an appetite for dinner. Just imagine doing this while strolling along the Grand Canal of Venice. Sitting on one of the smaller bridges was this man and his son from Oregon – both wearing OSU shirts. After we shouted “Go Beav’s” they came over to talk to us. Funny that they are staying in the same hotel as us. Small world.
I keep referring to the art around the city for this special exhibition. Here is the name of it. Biennale Arte 2017. It only happens every two years in Venice, so this was a real thrill to see art pieces all over the city on such a grand scale.