Venice: La Serenissima, or the modern Atlantis

- Четверг, 24 мая 2012 01:19 - No Comments

Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.

Venezia è come mangiare tutta in una volta una scatola di cioccolatini al liquore.
Truman Capote, Observer, 1961

 

 

17th of April for the first time in my life I visited the country I have long dreamed about – Italy. Namely, its wettest corner — Venice.

 

The idea of traveling right now and exactly to Venice was pretty spontaneous and rather based on the free time and crazy Ryanair deals you just cannot miss. I paid about 20 euro with the credit card fee for a two-way ticket for 2.5 days. After packing my 5.5 kg-heavy bag I finally went to the home-city of Marco Polo and Antonio Vivaldi.

Ryanair. watching outside

Recently, I finally got used to traveling by plane. The nicest part of it is that, whatever the weather on earth is, when you rise above the clouds, you get blinded by the warm sun…

When our plane flew over the Alps, it was difficult to differentiate where the mountains end and the clouds begin, what, of course, made me pick up my camera.

cloudy mountains

Italy met me warmly, in spite of the rainy and cloudy forecasts. When I arrived at the Treviso Airport with the rest of the passengers, I was immediately seized by an extraordinary sense of happiness. Just because. Warmth, sun, Italy. So entire 45 minutes by bus to Venice, I couldn’t stop smiling.

By the way, the ticket for the bus Treviso — Venice (7 euro one way, 13 euro both) can be purchased directly on board of the Ryanair plane.

 

Venice, also known as La Serenissima (the serene) — is a city in northern Italy, located on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. Its famous feature is that its historic part is located on 118 islands connected by 400 bridges. Any vehicles but the water ones are prohibited here. So, along with the famous gondolas, you can use public water transport: canal tram «vaporetto», or take a water taxi.

 

As a consequence of the active aquatic industry and the global warming the water level in Venice is constantly increasing. It may even happen that by the year 2028 the about 270,000 residents-full city could become uninhabitable.

I decided not to wait until Atlantis goes under water and went to city, yet I can walk there!

 

Venezia. The Gran Canal

For this trip I was well prepared by printing a map of Venice and pointing at it all the important points (my hostel, next supermarkets, some restaurants, etc.). By the way, Venice is perfectly reflected in the google maps satellite which practically allows a user to visit the city virtually.

However, when I got off the bus and went, supposedly, to my hotel, I got distracted by canals and narrow streets, which were too beautiful to leave them.

Venezia. a random view

Changing quiet churches for noisy streets, I’ve been walking around about an hour. Still intending to find my hotel, I got lost, and kept hitting dead ends of the streets which, every now and then, leaded to the water. Finally I had to go back to the bus station and restart my way from there following the map.

 

I stayed at the hostel Venice Fish, which is located on the Campo della Maddalena. The location is excellent, actually so is everything else. The hostel has a great hall with comfy sofas and a huge table where all the back-packers gather together at night and spend time together. Since I was traveling alone I particularly liked this fact.

 

Venice’s most important industry is tourism, so don’t you wonder if you have to pay an extra-fee  for everything. You will probably not find any bed in a hostel under 20 euro/night, and since lately for every night at a local hotel a tourist has to pay extra 1.5 — 3 euro of “bed-taxes”. In a cheap hostel you don’t expect any breakfast included. In the description to mine there was an included dinner, which on arrival came out as free sangria at night. Well, that did also well. ;)

 

venice fish. the view from the common-room

The first evening I went for a walk around the city, excluding  on purpose the most touristic part of Venice — its central square Piazza di San Marco.

 

After a while I got really hungry. Another hard thing in Venice is to find a bar with non-touristic prices. After a half an hour of hungry wandering I chose to go to McDonalds. Yes, that’s right… I was in Italy and ate at McDon. But look what an amazing view I chose for my “happy meal”, just turning into a neighbour street!

 

everything can be esthetic. even a «happy meal» :)

I must say at first I was pretty skeptical about the fact of going to Venice alone. Still this city has such a romantic flavor which is perfect for couples. But immediately by arrival, all my doubts vanished. Venice fascinates you, attracts to its network of small streets and creates a feeling that you are where you should be. After an hour in the city, I even considered the option of moving to Italy. :)

 

il gondoliere

Tired of the trip and full of new impressions, I returned to the hostel. After a nice chat and a little sangria-party with the international people who also stayed at Venice Fish, I was hoping for a quiet night looking forward for the active tomorrow.

 

Usually I sleep well at hostels. This time though it was different. About 2 a.m. in our female room for six, I was woken up by a propeller in form of a seriously loud snoring girl. Her luck, I slept on top of the twin bed and didn’t dare to climb down and turn the culprit of my insomnia on the other side by myself.

 

Fortunately, sunny morning cheered me up and I went for a walk.

 

Gran Canal del mattino

It’s quite simple to find the square of San Marco in Venice (Piazza di San Marco) – there is a pointer to it on almost every street. However, almost all signs show two different directions at once, giving a tourist the right to choose which route to take. First I came to the Rialto Bridge, Venice’s oldest one, built in its present form in the late 16th century.

 

Il ponte di Rialto

Preserved in its original form Piazza San Marco is interesting because of its ancient buildings and monuments of great cultural and historical value.

 

First of all, it’s of course, the Cathedral of St. Mark, founded already in the 9th century. The beautiful building, built in Byzantine style, attracts many tourists. I came to the cathedral around 11 a.m. and found a huge queue at the entrance.

You can go in there for free, but a visit to the crypt containing the relics of St. Mark, or any other special area of ​​the cathedral costs a couple of euro extra. By the way, it’s prohibited to take pictures inside, what is strictly being checked by some serious guards.

 

La Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco

San Marco: a side view

 

If you want to see San Marco Cathedral inside – you better go there in the afternoon! There won’t be any long queues, and you may quietly walk along the magnificent building and enjoy its golden mosaics.

 

Later that day I paid 5 euro and climbed to the second floor of the basilica to enter the terrace of the cathedral and its private museum.

 

upstairs

In the museum of San Marco there are frescoes, tapestries and other artifacts older than 10 centuries. There you can see the original quadriga – the sculpture of the four horses from the roof of the cathedral, which is supposed to be created by an ancient sculptor of 4th century BC. The quadriga was taken to Venice first in the 13th century. According to Wikipedia, this is the only survived example of the sculpture of this art.

 

the antique horses

…Four gilded bronze horses are flaunting and the ancient artist gave them this similarity with the real ones, that it seems you hear them tramping and neighing.  Petrarch

Since I am not a fan of reading the descriptions in the museums and cathedrals, many facts about the places I visited I learned while writing this article. Therefore, my “aha!” effect came a bit late. :)

 

Another attraction of the Piazza San Marco is the Campanile Tower. You can go by the elevator upstairs, the cost of this fun is 8 euro. You’re supposed to get a great view of the entire lagoon. However, I decided to reserve a visit to this tower for my next unconditional trip to Venice.

 

Campanile di San Marco

Another interesting building is the clock tower on the roof of which there are two half-naked figures of bell-ringers with hammers that move and ring the bells every quarter an hour. Built in the 15m century the clock tower shows the time, the dominant sign of the zodiac and the actual lunar phase.

Il Torre dell’Orologio

 

And, of course, a very important part of tourism on San Marco Square are … pigeons. There are lots of them here, more than this — at St. Mark’s they are well trained to work with photographers; you may say, they truly work here for food. :)

It’s not that you have to wait for a moment to catch some pigeons in your picture… It is mostly impossible to take a picture without these “symbols of peace” present on it!

 

Hunting for pigeons

friendly birds

During the flood the whole square of ​​San Marco is in the water (aqua alta — high water), which on the one hand is dangerous for the cultural heritage, on the other hand is a memorable event in the life of the Venetian traveler. Going through the wonderful dry Venetian streets, you will notice special boards used to walk on during floods.

 

(c) acua alta

Here is, by the way, one of the most famous art motifs of Venice. View of the Cathedral of Santa Maria della Salute with gondolas.

 

romantic Venice

A bit tired of noisy tourists, I went along the canal, enjoying the sun and, as always, taking pictures of my almost every step.

Il Ponte dei Sospiri

 

 

a posing lizard

 

the magnificent view

 

On the way back, I got for myself a delicious Italian ice-cream flavored with Rafaello. «Un gelato piccolo di rafaello per favore!» – Exactly like this, singing the sentence. A little portion of ice-cream costs from 1.2 to 1.8 euro, but the portions are pretty big and it’s very tasty, so make sure you to try the Venetian gelato ;)

 

Talking about food. A meal in a restaurant in Venice is pretty expensive. In the most restaurants you will be charged extra for the «table» — about 1-1.5 euro per person — and for service, saving you thus from the «duty» of leaving a tip for the waiter. Pizza and pasta are still the most popular dishes served in every restaurant.

An alternative for restaurants are the supermarkets. I’ve been to two of them — Billa and Coop (the cheaper one). Here you can buy delicious variety of Italian cheese and ham and arrange yourself a meal in the antipasti-style.

 

Going back to my walk through Venice. After purchasing a cheap pizza at Coop, I went further to discover the city on the other side of the Gran Canal.

 

Canal Grande di sera

A curious monument stands at the Cathedral of Santa Maria della Salute — a grown-size naked boy holding a frog in his outstretched hand.

 

il ragazzo con la rana

I wasn’t surprised of the sculpture itself, but of the extremely sensitive security guards who stopped me in my attempt to grab the frog’s figure. :D It turned out that it was one of the sculptures from the exhibition, actually taking place in the art-center Punto della Dogana.

 

Catedral Santa Maria della Salute

Venice is also known for its carnival with its long history (the first carnival was held in the year 1162), taking place every year in February. The echoes of this colorful and endlessly elegant happening remain in the city throughout the year in form of the masks of the most intricate motifs and forms. You can buy a mask in every gift shop to different prices.

 

Maschere di Carnevale

Another trick for tourists is glass from Murano-island: jewelry, dishes, little statues and other doubtless “necessary” stuff. There is even a nice description for it: «Real, not from China». Murano-island can be reached by the waterbus. The glassware is better to buy there, and the island itself has to be a nice place.

 

Vetri di Murano

Going on trips pretty often I got out of the habit of buying any souvenirs. Except postcards though, which remain a nice tradition to send to friends. (the average price of a postcard in Venice is 15-30 cents)

 

Sure, speaking of Venice, I have to mention the most romantic form of transport — the gondola. Price of riding in a gondola can vary from 50 to 100 euro per hour and depends on its (gondola) design and condition and on your ability of the polite haggling. If you have a couple of friends with you in Venice to share a gondola with, you surely can allow yourself a luxurious trip to the Venetian lagoon. :)

 

Le Gondole

I heard that rainy Venice is grey and depressing. But on the second sunny day in the city of lovely pigeons, I craved for rain (strangely enough). I wanted to see another side of my new dream. And that evening my wish has come true. The canal water started to shiver in the rain, the streets emptied a little bit.

 

The only problem was a little flood in the first floor of our hostel. Luckily, the living rooms were located on the second floor so the water couldn’t reach them, and it added a bit of spice to our night meeting. ;)

 

Venice: the rainy style

My departure from Venice was scheduled for the next evening, so I still had time for further discovering of the city.

This day started with a coffee in a pleasant company of my new mate from New Zealand in a small cafe on Calle dei Boteri 1701. (Yes, the numbers of houses in Venice are four-digit!)

 

Keep walking in the area of the Rialto Bridge, we visited the fragrant market filled with fruits, vegetables and various sorts of fish.

 

Pesci

Someone told me that to be in Venice and not to get lost is a useless visit. Even if you have a city-map, don’t be surprised while realizing that you have already been on this very spot at least three times.

 

So, once again lost on one of the numerous small bridges of the city, I met my new American friend from the hostel, and we continued the journey together.

 

Today I had to taste the delicious Italian pizza. Trusting Tripadvisor’a advice, I intended to find a purely Italian restaurant called Osteria alla Frasca (Corte Carità, 5176), which is located in a random courtyard far away from the tourist center. Me and Mike were looking for this place for quite a long time and we actually found it. A small tent with tables in it stands at Corte Carita. Our attempts to enter the tent  failed as we saw the disgruntled waiter remarks — «we are closed!» Siesta, to get it clear. :)

 

Time was mercilessly running fast and my hunger only increasing. Having no other choice, we landed in one of the pizzerias in the broad street near our hostel.

 

pizza veneziana

 

By the way, three weeks before my first trip to Italy, I decided to learn Italian, and my visit to Venice only supported this desire. I actively tried to use my basic knowledge in restaurants and shops, as well as on the streets asking for the right direction.

In case of the local street musicians, my knowledge of Italian wasn’t that useful though. They expertly distinguish the nationality of the tourist on his appearance and begin to play «Kalinka» and talk to you in Russian, without hearing a word from you.

 

If you go to Venice, go further than tourist masses. Ironically, they are collected only near the major sights, forgetting about the beauty of the narrow streets, romance of the laundries drying outside and fresh green parks.

 

air-drying

You can find many beautiful pictures of Venice, its streets and canals. But none of them can show all the colors of the city, nor convey its special smell or atmosphere.

 

It is difficult to describe in words the infinite azure color of the sea, the fresh smell of fish in the market and the endless sense of freedom when you are sitting on all the steps and enjoying a delicious gelato.

 

Venice: the way of dreams

My trip to Venice ended rainy, but with a good taste of pizza and a pleasant company.

 

And here it is — another city that I call the most beautiful of those I have ever been to. After 2.5 days, I saw almost the entire city; still I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t just put a pin on the map of Italy, but also expanded the list of my favorite cities to which I will definitely come back.

 

;)

 

If I had to find a substitute for the word “music”, I could only think of Venice.

Se dovessi cercare una parola che sostituisce «musica» potrei pensare soltanto a Venezia.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, 1888

< watch more pictures from Venice 

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