me and the pigeons in St Marks.
The trip to Venice
was actually quick and painless. We left on time and only got into Rome
morning traffic for about half an hour and then we were on our way through Lazio, Umbria, and Tuscany on our way to the Veneto. We stopped for lunch at an Autogrill just south of Florence
and had lunch and by some miracle of consequence it was an Autogrill that crossed the highway and Ann’s bus happened to be stopped on the other side and we got to talk for about 15 minutes. After lunch we were in Mestre
to get the train out to Venice within a few hours. We had a train and I followed Jason’s instructions to a t and just like he said the hotel was to the left about 500 feet. The lobby was on the first (the American second) floor, only 30 steps up there. We had feared the worst from what we had read about our hotel, but it actually wasn’t that bad, maybe a few bed bugs, a scary dog or two, crappy breakfast, and mean night desk people, but the location was incredible and Venice was just outside the door.
You learn a few things in Italy. Each city has a special lesson. In Florence, it is how to shop for leather, how to increase your own natural ability to walk great distances, and how to avoid looking like a stupid American. In Rome, the greatest lesson is how to hold your bladder for extended periods of times, as there are no bathrooms in the entire city. In Rome, you also learn how to be a passenger in a taxi doing 80 through a convent going the wrong way down a street. The lessons of Venice are many. I learned to stand up on boats in giant waves, how to avoid pigeon poop, how to find cheap food in an incredibly expensive city, and that a slowed down world is a much more interesting world. When you can only walk and take boats, it forces you to slow down and really enjoy the wonderfulness around you. I don’t think there is a more beautiful city in the world. It is slow and leisurely and filled with winding pathways past the most breathtaking architectural things. Everything oozes oldness and seems to be falling apart in the most grand way. Its sometimes a difficult city, but it is worth all the hassle and expense.
We had our welcome dinner at a restaurant down the street. It was sort of a let down, and the rain came in afterward, so I called it an early night. The rain turned into a thunderstorm and there was a mosquito attacking me for most of the night, so I slept terribly. The next day, the students started with class and we didn’t have our first appointment until 3 o’clock. I spent my day walking around, doing some shopping, and then I headed out to the Lido to check out the beach. I had some lunch there, a subject we will revisit shortly. Our first visit was a the Academia. We all made it there, most of the students still in bathing suits, and I started to feel terrible, a giant migraine was kicking in. As soon as the tour was over, I told Joyce I had to leave as I felt terrible, flashing lights and a pounding head. She said she would head back with me, and I practically leapt onto the vaporetto to get back to the hotel. I am allergic to a preservative of some sort and apparently my sandwich had been filled with it. I took a nap, threw up a few times, slept some more and then woke up and felt hungry and fine. Some of the students had found a restaurant down the street that was cheap and halfway decent, so I ate there, actually I ate there all three nights I was there. I walked around a bit and then headed back to the hotel. I ran into some students who had been to Piazza San Marco and had seen the filming of Casino Royale with the new James Bond. The Pope and James Bond in less than a week.
The next morning I went with Joyce on the early train to Padua
to set up the visit to the Scrovegni Chapel. On the last trip, this had been one of the most difficult days. However, this time, it went very smoothly. I found the site, got the tickets, had an espresso, and met the students with time to spare. The Scrovengi Chapel is sort of futuristic in an old master kind of way. You have to sit in a room for 15 minutes so the microclimate can be stabilized before you enter the actual chapel, only for 10 minutes and 25 at a time. The interior was beautiful. We had a great lunch in Padua, and it was nice to see the city again, on the last trip we stayed in Padua and I saw the hotel and where my room had been overlooking the square. When we got back into Venice, I decided to go down to St Marks as it was getting late in the evening. The great thing about Venice is that after 8 o’clock a lot of tourists leave town and head back to the mainland. There isn’t much to do in Venice at night, so the crowds die down markedly. There were only about 200 people in the square and an orchestra was playing. I just looked around and watched the sun set. This was only the second day of the trip without rain. I usually pick a night in a city to go out with no camera and just be by myself. I take lots of pictures normally, but its nice to have memories that are just mine. I took the vaporetto the long way back to the hotel. It went outside the main part of Venice, past cruise ships and into deep water. The night was pretty chilly and I was in shorts. It was cold on the boat but I got to watch night fall over the city. It was amazing.
Our last day in Venice was filled with sites and shopping: Ca’ Rezzonico, Teatro la Fenice, and the Peggy Gugenheim Collection. I found a great Murano galss bead store and spent too much money on them. The highlight of the day was seeing the new James Bond, myself. They were setting up the shot near Ca’ Rezzonico and I was able to get some pictures, but had to leave before the actual shooting began. It was a quiet night, I packed and went to bed early.