Saturday, March 20, 2010

Venice, Part One

View from the water taxi stand outside the hotel.  A moment later a kayak sped into the shot.

The last city on our Italian tour was Venice.  I had visited Venice in 1972 with my friend Rosemary, but on a hot and crowded summer day, and only for four hours.  This time our group stayed in two sister hotels just steps from the Bascilica de San Marco, and we had a couple days.  While the Florence hotel room was spartan and noisy, this room, at the Dona Palace Hotel, was large, comfortable and quiet. Best of all it was easy to find in a city that is a maze of winding streets, bridges, and dead ends.

Side view of San Marco

I think it would be very hard to be bored in Venice, with all the churches, shops, restaurants, and museums in a small area.  It would not be hard to go broke, however.  Hotels, food, souvenirs, are all expensive in Venice, so it's probably good we didn't stay longer.  I had been warned that the popular tourist areas are filled with beggars and pickpockets, but nobody in our group had no difficulties with that; perhaps it was a little early in the tourist season.

Entry stairway to the Doge's Palace.  Photographs are not permitted inside.

After we settled into our hotels, the group had tours of Saint Mark's Cathedral and the Doge's Palace.  San Marco is free, though tourists are confined to a specific pathway, and hustled along quickly.  I had not seen the Doge's Palace before, since in 1972 my friend and I only did things that were free.  This time we had a good guide, and each of us had little ear-speakers that broadcast her explanations as we went along.  It made hearing easy, and kept the overall noise level inside the rooms, the Bridge of Sighs, and prison, down to a civilized level.

Fresh seafood in a restaurant window 

It was too cold for gelato, but I couldn't resist photographing the shop window.

We were free in the evening to find a restaurant on our own.  There are many, and close to San Marco and the Grand Canal there are plenty of set price "tourist menu" options.  We had a good, if not outstanding meal at one the first night.  The next day at lunch we ventured out farther from the main tourist areas for lunch, and had one of the best, and priciest, meals I can ever remember eating.  It was spaghetti studding with fresh calamari, mussels, clams, and giant prawns, and I feel happy and satisfied just thinking about it.   It was small, warm, and filled with big groups of people speaking Italian - we didn't hear any English at all.  There was a farewell dinner the same night that I cannot even recall, out-shown as it was by that delicious lunch.

Carnival masks in a shop window.

Masks and a marionette

I didn't do a lot of souvenir shopping, no shirts, or masks, though I window-shopped all the time.  I also went into a small art supply shop that had a nice supply of brushes, papers, and all the familiar watercolor paints, including Maimeri, an Italian brand.  I did buy a small package of beautiful hand- marbled papers.  We'll see if I have the heart to cut them up for collages.

1 comment:

Leslie Hawes said...

Love the carnival masks. Some wonderful photos, too. You bring a good artists eye to travel pics!