Venice

The shutters on the french doors in our room at Villa Stucky were very effective at keeping the room dark. I woke in early morning gloom with just a glimmer visible through the curtains, found that it was only 6:00 am and rolled over, conscious that Majella’s plan was to arrive in Venice not much before 10:00 am and that breakfast did not start until 7:00 am. When I woke again, it was just after 6:30 am and time to move but the room was no brighter. By the time I had showered, Majella was awake and moving. When she finished we got Joel moving. We tried calling Jane and Lea at home, using Skype-out, before we went to breakfast around 7:30 (about 3:30 pm Sunday their time) but nobody was answering.

Breakfast was an Italian variation on the continental breakfast – juice from a machine, coffee from a machine that did a fair capuccino, a range of cereals with yoghurt, cheese, prosciutto rather than salami, panini but no rye bread, croissants, chocolate danish, peach flan, and cheese cake. I may have missed something in that list and I did not try everything but after I had eaten my muesli with yoghurt, some ham and cheese, and a roll with strawberry jam washed down with an orange juice and two cappuccinos, I simply had to try the cheesecake. It was good, unusual for breakfast but a good foundation for the day of walking I was anticipating. Majella had muesli with yoghurt, cappuccino and more but drew the line at cheesecake despite my recommendation. Joel stuck to cereal followed by chocolate danish.

After breakfast we returned to the room, as dark as ever, for final preparations. We tried again to call Jane & Lea without success but Joel left a message before we headed off to the railway station – a few hundred metres away – and bought tickets for our return journey to Venice. While we waited the 15 minutes or so until the train arrived we chatted with a young couple we had seen at breakfast in our hotel. They were originally from England but were now living in Canada and travelling with their three young daughters – the youngest just 5 months, a little younger than Callum. We wondered later in the day how they had managed getting around in Venice with their retinue.

The train arrived on time and took no more than about 20 minutes to reach Venice. We had not acquired a map, so I bought one at the station though it turned out to be of little use in practice because it and the streets of Venice lacked sufficient complementary labels to make navigation accurate. For most of the day we resorted to following the signs indicating the way to San Marco or Rialto, the major landmarks of central Venice. The exit from the station brought us to the edge of the Grand Canal. We considered taking the ferry down to San Marco but thought it better to reserve that option in case we needed a ride back to the station.

We spent most of the day exploring the narrow streets of Venice.

Instead we headed off on foot over the bridge and through the narrow twisting streets looking first for the Rialto which we needed to cross in order to find our way to San Marco which was Majella’s intended first destination. I did pretty well with following our progress on the map for the first while but 5 or 6 turns and a few unnamed locations on the map along with some mismatches between the signs and my guesses about which way to go found me following my nose and the signs. At time, it seemed that a local might have navigated by nose, discerning the variations in odours coming from the various canals.

It took us a little less than an hour to make it to the Rialto. Much of that time was spent by Majella looking into shop windows and occasionally entering shops looking for gifts and souvenirs she might want to take home. Joel also had some interest in shopping for gifts but started to develop a passion for his ‘birds eye’ view of Europe. If there are any missing pigeons, or other birds in Venice, Joel stands ready to assist in identification using his extensive photographic record of the pigeons of Venice.

It took us another 45 minutes to reach San Marco. That was shortly after 11:00 am and already there were long queues waiting for entry to both the cathedral and the Doges’ palace. If the posted opening time on the cathedral was to be believed, people on the queue were anticipating a 2 hour wait and none of us was prepared to take that on. We wandered through the square toward the waterfront, checking out the sights. By 11:30 am, Joel was beginning to ask about the time with a keen interest in the schedule for lunch. Majella said something about noon and inquired what Joel might want to eat. He had seen pizza earlier in the morning and expressed a preference for that. Starting along the waterfront east of San Marco, we wandered back up a series of narrow streets to see what we might find for lunch.

Shortly after midday we paused to look at the window of a small bar-cafe. A young woman invited us in and Majella could not resist the temptation to sit. In we went. It seemed all the staff in this place were Asian-Venetians but the menu made some pretension to being Italian. Joel had pizza, large enough that we wondered if he would make the distance, washed down with Coke. Majella had toasted sandwich with white wine. I had a ciabatta with salami, cheese and egg plant, with red wine.

After lunch we headed back toward San Marco where Majella had unfinished business with the shops around the square. We made our way back there and browsed the shops. I hung back at the entrance to some because the prices were clearly beyond my pocket. In some, had Majella or Joel managed to snag a piece of fine glass on a back pack, Majella would have needed to postpone her much planned retirement by a year to pay the bill. In the far corner of the square we found one attraction that I was prepared to enter but where Majella developed an uncharacteristic reluctance to leap in. This was an exhibition related to an artistic installation of a large black cube in San Marco which announced that entrance by one way was free but the alternative was €3 around the corner. The challenge was that the free entry was lined with black foam with a texture made of pyramids similar to the surfaces used in acoustic enclosures. Although there was light from the street at our backs most of the way in the forward view was pitch black and Majella was more than a bit reluctant to venture where she could not see us. Eventually we got her through and into the exhibit which was not all that interesting after all. I would certainly not have knowingly paid €3 each to see it.

Once Majella had finished her visit to the shops of San Marco we headed back toward the Rialto where she and Joel had more shopping to complete. Along the way we picked up gelati but Joel was unable to finish his – probably a result of eating his large pizza for lunch. Once the shopping was done, shortly after 3:00 pm, Majella was ready to head for home. We wandered back through the narrow streets. This time I had more luck with navigation. Using a combination of the map, signs and dead reckoning, I managed to find San Polo and San Rocco on the way back to the station. San Rocco was the first church that we had seen that was both open and without a long queue in front. We went in. I took a couple of photographs – flash free – but then Majella spotted a priest or sacristan who appeared and made signs about photographs, and prompted me to stop.

somebody on the other side of the church continued pressing buttons and making noises and we were all treated to a minor tirade in Italian from the priest/sacristan. We waited quietly until he disappeared again and then made our exit and headed for the train. By this time it was well after 4:00 pm and we caught the 4:56 pm train back to Mogliano Veneto and the Villa Stucky.

As the train ran along the causeway out of Venice, we could see evidence of the approaching change in the weather and the promised storm. We made it back to the hotel before the rain arrived but it did arrive shortly after and the last few drops were still falling as we walked out for dinner shortly after 7:30 pm. We went no further than the Bersaglieri across the road from the Villa Stucky. Joel had ravioli with creamy mushroom sauce and grapefruit juice. Majella had gnocchi with meat sauce and I had penne all’arabbiatta. We shared a 0.5 l jug of vino rosso that was served slightly chilled and hit the right spot. After dinner we walked back to the hotel for a well earned rest.