Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Venezia, Italia (Mar 26-27)

Venice really is a city like no other. First of all it's an island. Second, it's sinking. And finally, I'm quite confident that you can't walk more than 100ft without changing roads. I've thought that other cities have been difficult to navigate but there were usually a few main roads I could use to get to where I wanted to go. In Venice the main roads are the canals and everything on land is just a maze of walking paths. I have never been happier that I brought a map with me. That being said, wandering around the city and sometimes getting very lost was a lot of fun.

Venice is full of tourists and therefore has more gift shops than I've seen since I went to Disney World. Venetian glass and masks are the hot ticket items and they are everywhere! I bought a couple pieces of glass and would have liked to have gotten a mask but I was worried it would get squished in my backpack so I decided to wait on the mask until I can make it to Carnevale or Mardi Gras Venice-style.

I spent a lot of time just exploring the city but I also went into over a dozen churches. I went to a few of the larger churches such as Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and Santa Maria Formosa and S.S. Giovanni e Paolo. I also went to the Basillica di San Marco, one of the city's premier tourist attractions. The majority of the churches I visted were small (and free); some of them were so small they weren't named on my map. The small churches, and even the larger churches were similar to the ones in Florence, slightly more art but still tasteful. There were definitely more visible relics in Venice. I saw hands, feet, blood, even a tooth, of various saints all over the city. Personally I think such relics should put away but I will say that everything was very well preserved. San Marco had more gold in it than any church I've seen since I left Prague. The knave wasn't as big as some of the other churches I visited in Venice but it was definitely the most ornate. Just around the corner from San Marco is the Bridge of Sighs where prisoners were once led across a canal from the Palazzo Ducale to where they were executed. Unfortunately they were renovating the buildings around the bridge while I was there so my picture is cluttered with scaffolding. The church I remember the best was a relatively small one, I was looking for one of the bridges across the Canal Grande when I noticed it was hosting an exhibit on Vivaldi, who was born and raised in Venice. Having played "The Four Seasons" way back in high school orchestra I thought I'd check it out. Not only did the exhibit have information about his life, it also had probably three dozen violins, violas, clarinets, and an assortment of other string instruments - all dating back to the 1700s. There wasn't anything especially remarkable about the church but the exhibit was very neat.

After crisscrossing the city a couple of times I ended my day at the Piazza San Marco. I was on the opposite side of the city as the train station so I took a water bus on the Canal Grande back to the station. The Canal Grande is the major road of the city and definitely the easiest way to travel without getting turned around or lost. The riches families lived on the Canal so the houses visible from the water have ornate fascades facing the water. I took my waterbus to the station as the sun was setting which made for some very pretty skylines.

As with every city I've visited I had to leave so much of it unexplored. I am definitely completely enamored with the country of Italy and cannot wait to go back and explore some more. Everytime I go my list of places keeps getting longer and I have yet to actually cross any of them off since there is so much still to see and experience.

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