Our visit to Venice, Florence, and Rome
Sunday began with our walking tour of the Piazza San Marco area.Having
scoped out the route to where the tour began the previous night, we awoke,
had breakfast, and headed out there. The tour operators broke the group
into three subgroups, offering the tour in Italiano, English, and Espanol.
Our tour guide (French, by birth, surprisingly), gave some interesting
and informative background on the history of Venice and how some of what
we were seeing came to be. Most of the tour was spent in the nearly 500
year old seat of government building adjacent to the basilica.. Nearly
every wall of this structure was covered with period art and expertly restored
to a surprisingly bright, colorful state. One area had been left unrestored,
illustrating the result of the restoration. Judie speculated that at least
some of the restoration was in fact repainting, and I suspect that may
be true – at what point does one really end and the other begin?
The Piazza included a clock tower that was in the process of rennovation,
and therefore not visible. Thoughtfully, the repair crew draped their scaffolding
with a tarplin painted to look exactly like the clock tower being repaired!
After the tour we were given the option of either going off on our own
or taking a water taxi to Murano, to tour one of the glass factories. As
we'd planned to visit Murano anyway, we took them up on the offer. The
ride was about 20 minutes, most of which I spent with my head out of the
boat, gawking and taking photos, while Judie chatted up the other passengers
inside. They'd just come from Florence, our next destination, and provided
numerous shopping and restaurant tips, all of which later proved useless.
Once at Murano, we saw a brief glassmaking demonstration - this being
Sunday, there wasn't much activity, and nothing unique to the area. Being
a fan of glasswork myself, I'd seen similar processes before in other places,
and though it held the usual intrigue, I was somewhat disappointed to see
Rather than take the tour's ride back to the main islands, we opted
instead to explore the island a bit, and break for some lunch. While we
managed to escape without making very much in the way of purchases, I can
see how, if in the right frame of mind, of mind, this part of the trip
could become a serious money sink.
I think I was more taken by just grokking Murano than by the glass; the
view here probably hasn't changed that much for the last several hundred
years... except perhaps for the one ham antenna I noticed in the central
part of town.
After wandering for a while and exploring the shops, we stopped
for lunch, and tried our first pizza in Italy, and one of the numerous
waterside (what else is there here?) restaurants.
Next was a Vapparetto (boat-bus) ride back to the mainland, to the Jewish
Ghetto area. We just missed what we thought was the last walking tour there,
but were glad to find that we were in fact nearly an hour early for what
really was the last tour. While waiting, Judie found and bought a really
nicely illlustrated cookbook in the museum gift shop. The book was available
in both Italian and English – we debated a while whether the spirit of
the event would be lost by copping out and getting the English version,
but ultimately, practicality won out.
The tour included access to a small but interesting museum of Judaica,
followed by visits to three Synagogues built 400-500 years ago, yet still
in regular use by the Jewish community. Some pretty amazing Baroque art
and architecture, but sadly, no photos permitted. The tour was probably
not worth what it cost, but viewed as a donation to the museum, it
was a fine investment. Next was an unsuccessful walk to the north side
of Venice to see a vista that was depicted on my map, but really didn't
exist (Judie still thinks this was due to defective navigation), and then
a leisurely walk back to the hotel for a rest before tonight's dinner.
Our dinner excursion was to a restaurant called Al Covo, located in....
well, an alcove, about 500 meters east of St. Mark's Square,
along Venice's south shore. I managed to navigate there using the ..."go
in the general direction until you reach water, then figure out where you
are and turn in the right direction" method . That last part took a few
tries, but eventually we did find the place, but not before finding, entering,
and more-or-less getting thrown out of the Hotel Daniele, a place recommended
for its panoramic view from the bar/restaurant, which was apparently available
only as a restaurant and by reservation when we arrived. Al Covo
was a fine place to relax with bottle of wine and enjoy the fine food and
service. Being a bit off the beaten track, and small, it was a relaxing
and nice counterpoint to wandering around all over the place, as we'd been
doing for most of the day. I went for the gnocchi, Judie a seafood combination
consisting largely of creatures she'd never before eaten, or even seen,,
and we were both happy with the result. Despite the appeal of the chocolate
cake on the dessert menu, we decided that a cheese plate would go better
with the remaining wine. Correct decision.
Upon reaching St. Mark's square, we saw that large portions were flooded,
with elevated platforms placed to permit crossing these areas. We'd seen
these platforms disassembled and pushed aside earlier in the day, but had
no idea what they were. Venice at high tide is a great example of what
the human creature can grow to accept as normal; I can imagine a conversation
like "Well *of course* you need these platforms - how else could you get
to the museum when the tides are in." I wonder what the Venetians might
consider equally bizarre while visiting the US - maybe going to the supermarket
and seeing cheese in aerosol cans, instead of fresh? I don't know - but
I'm sure there'd be something. Anyway, we did manage to cross the square
and stay dry, and took a slight detour to the Rialto bridge area to check
out a restaurant that another tourist had recommended. The restaurant didn't
seem like anything that special, and Judie was forced to unnecessarily
climb the Rialto bridge, one of the bigger ones, so we worked our way back
to the room as directly as possible, and finished
We finished up a bit before ten in the evening, and began working our
way back to the hotel, and had a chance to witness Venice at high tide.
The first part of our walk took us along the southern shoreline, where
we could see that the sea had worked its way up to about street level,
or perhaps a few inches higher, as it lapped about a quarter of the way
across the plaza. The boats: gondolas, water taxis, and vapporetti appeared
to be parked on the street, not in the water and safely below street