Tuesday, September 2, 2008
VENICE - AS EXPECTED
On the 26th of August we arrived at the train station in Venice having come from Ljubljana, Slovenia. Upon exiting the station we went to the taxi area, water taxi that is. The hustle and bustle of people getting on and off the boats was amazing. It was true organized chaos. The Grand Canal was wide and surrounded by beautiful buildings right up to the water's edge. Beautiful, but old and worn in a Venetian way. We arrived at the water taxi stop, Rialto, to meet Maria Antoinetta, our "landlady" who proceeded to give lisa and I big hugs. Passion, Italian style!!! We snaked through alleyways narrower than Dubrovnik's to arrive at our flat, adjacent to one of the smaller canals. Though small, the two room flat was well laid out. Siena and Avocet gravitated to the large open arch in the family room and proceeded to start watching the gondolas go by.
Venice is a city of streets in a maze. So far we haven't gotten lost on this trip, (well except for that one time in Dubrovnik...and another in Krakow...) but here we were constantly "lost" the first two days. Even though we had two detailed maps we had a difficult time finding our way through the alleyways. We eventually got our bearings to and from San Marco Square and Rialto Bridge but had to constantly look at the map to get anywhere else. I still didn't feel secure in my directional capabilities when we left. lisa is never secure in my directions - but I am a man!
We visited San Marco Square more than anyplace else. It contained the Doge's Palace, San Marco Church and the square itself. It was historic and well restored...."but". The "but" is that the entire area was congested with tourists. You were always in a crowd, like Macy's the day after Thanksgiving...yuk! It effected not just getting around but the moods of the shopkeepers. They seemed tired and out of sorts. I'll bet the "off season" (if Venice has one) improves their moods.
The restaurants had the same issue. The waiters were not necessarily friendly, the food average at best, and EXPENSIVE. We knew Venice would not be cheap, but we were unprepared for 2.00 Euro per person cover charge, ($12.00 US just to sit down) 12% service added, not to mention the 5 Euro soft drinks. I talked later to a waiter on the island of Burano and his comment was that all Venetians wanted was money. The comment seemed to have some merit.
In addition to the San Marco Square area, we visited the Jewish Ghetto (the first in Europe), the islands of Murano (know for their art glass) and Burano (know for their lace making), "road" (pun intended) the canals and spent an afternoon shopping for Venetian Carnivale masks (which you could easily spend days doing if you were up to it).
The girls liked Venice better than lisa and I did. They have been buying a "tipical" doll in traditional dress from each country we visit. They each bought their dolls here and paper mache masks as well. They loved the shopping experience. After four days, I was ready to move on to a more sedate place where we could get a "real" feel for Italy (Lucca and Montepulciano in Tuscany are our next two stops) without it being overly touristy.
Like the title, I knew Venice would be as expected, a place you MUST see but where three to four days is plenty.