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Days 6-7, Venice (9/19-20)

We left Rome by high speed train on Thursday morning and arrived in Venice in the early afternoon. Even through the light stress of maneuvering luggage onto a Vaporetto (the water bus) and through narrow streets to our Venetian home, I was already feeling the awe of being one of those places that you only read about or see in photos, one of those places you thought you'd never, ever see in real life. But there we were.

I'd heard stories about Venice. We'd been warned that it might be dirty, we'd been warned that it could stink, we'd been warned that it would be wet. Aside from some water in the square at high tide on Friday, none of those things really turned out to be true for our visit. The impression I took away was one of winding narrow streets packed with people and over-priced shops. Being short on space, there just isn't that much to go around. 

I think our first afternoon there was my favorite, and I know it was Calvin's as well. After finding our wonderful accommodations (a room with a view overlooking the Grand Canal), we slipped out to grab some lunch and ended up with a fantastic gondola ride that took us not only through the main canals but also down some more narrow paths. We started just below the Rialto Bridge and went through the main island to come out on the lagoon. From there we took the much loved Bridge of Sighs route home. With the sun falling lower in the sky the air was cooler and the quiet of the smaller routes was relaxing. I greatly enjoyed the colors of the buildings, and we had a good time finding pigeons in odd places again. Our gondolier gave us tidbits of information, at least half of which I was unable to understand through the accent, but it didn't matter. The trip was delightful.

On our second day we wandered through the narrow streets to St. Mark's Square to see the Basilica and the Doge's Palace. We'd been warned ahead of time that the Basilica was undergoing a long-term cleanup and repair project and would be mostly hidden behind scaffolding, and in truth very little of the front of the church was visible. Instead, we enjoyed watching the long line of visitors inch along temporary walkways over a growing pool of water as they waited their turn to enter the building. We'd arrived in the square at the beginning of high tide.

Having seen so many amazing churches in Rome we opted to be awed by the external Byzantine characteristics of St. Marks and skip the long line to get inside. We skirted the puddles, took some pictures, munched on gelato (of course), got overtaken by a wave while sitting on a bench near the lagoon, then went to the Doge's Palace, home of the Terrible Ten (think inquisition), the Mouth of Truth (a place to deposit your most accusatory notes where the Venetian inquisition would get them, but don't turn in a lie lest the mail slot bight your hand off), and the Bridge of Sighs. We saw it all, crossed the bridge, sighed at our last view of freedom before entering the dungeon, wandered through the dungeon, and took a big breath of fresh air as we crossed back over the bridge to our freedom awaiting on the other side. Melodramatic, I know.

Both nights that we spent in Venice we all gathered in the dining room of our humble, 300-year old abode to watch the sun sink below the buildings across the Grand Canal. It was relaxing, it was beautiful. We eschewed fine dining and gobbled snacks like prosciutto, cheese, and bread. Thanks to Curtis and Julie's excellent shopping skills we had the perfect ingredients to make good use of the panini maker in the kitchen. And on Friday night, after tucking in those of us who prefer early bed to late music, we headed to a nearby church to take in some Vivaldi (after stopping for gelato first, of course).

Calvin says that Venice was his favorite stop of the whole trip. He love the gondola ride for sure, but I think what tipped the scales for him was the extra time we enjoyed just sitting in the apartment, not having to be somewhere or see something. I loved those moments, too, the evening spent together with good food, good wine, and good company.

On Saturday morning, just about the time we were beginning to dread the walk with luggage back through the narrow, winding streets and the process of elbowing our way onto a Vaporetto to leave the island, mom flagged down a water taxi to find out how much it would cost for a ride to the airport (where we were getting our rental cars for the next leg of the trip). Amazingly, it was a deal, so we all hopped in, luggage and all, and not only saved ourselves the headache of the walk, but cut about an hour of time from the trip as well. Plus the ride itself was a real bonus, and watching our driver talk on the phone with one hand, drive with the other, and shift with his elbow while flying through water traffic was entertaining. Getting out at the airport we watched him back away from the dock amid seven other boats. Jabbering all the while with only feet between them not a curse word was uttered and nobody seemed concerned. We all agreed that if any of us had to do it, we'd have crashed long ago, but it's a way of life on Venice.

And then we were off to Verona.

On the dock in front of our apartment on the Grand Canal

On the Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge from the gondola

The Doge's Palace from the gondola

The Bridge of Sighs from the gondola

The moving boat

A series of what looks like near-misses in the gondola on the Grand Canal:
nearly missing a water taxi...

nearly missing another gondola...

nearly missng a Vaporetto...

St. Mark's Basilica

St. Mark's reflected in the high tide flooding of the square

Pigeons again

The Venetian Campanille

The Stairway of Giants inside the courtyard of the Doge's Palace

St. George and the Dragon in the courtyard

The Mouth of Truth in the courtyard

The Lagoon from a window in the Doge's Palace

From the Bridge of Sighs

into the dungeon

The flood line from April 11, 1966

Taking a taxi out of town

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