Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Non-Singing Gondolier

"Would you like to ride in a gondola...would you like to ride in a gondola" I repeated over and over to passerby, sounding like an advertisement for the pricey Venice attraction.  It was Cari and I's second day in Venice and we had been recruited by a family to share a gondola (you can have up to 6 people for 80 euro), however we were still missing one.  It is tricky to spot a lone tourist as groups often spread out as they take in the sites, so we creepily stared at people trying to figure out if they were on their own or not.  More often than not they were travelling with friends.  30 minutes later we decided to suck it up and split it between the 5 of us.  Our gondolier didn't sing or wear the striped shirt but it was great seeing Venice from a new perspective!

Cari had arrived Friday afternoon and we had spent the afternoon and evening wandering around the siestre (neighborhood) Castello.  It was absolutely freezing and very foggy as we strolled which gave the streets an eery but quasi romantic feeling as streetlights created silhouettes and shadows through the mist. Although, I did at one point compare it to something out of Jack the Ripper as we walked through an especially empty park.  It was highly recommended that we get "lost" in Venice and we did just that while in Castello.  Wandering without a goal or destination really is lovely since you can just experience the city as it comes at you.

Before our gondola ride Saturday we headed to the Basilica di San Marco in Saint Mark's Square.  After the gondola ride we decided to head to the Palazzo Ducale for refuge from the cold since we were told it would take two or three hours to make our way through...unfortunately they didn't believe in heating so the palace was just as cold as outside!  Apparently many of the paintings inside were designed to impress foreign dignitaries and they were definitely magnificent.  After the main rooms, we crossed the Bridge of Sighs into the prisons.  The bridge seems like it was cruel and unusual punishment as it was prisoners' last look at the outside world as they went into imprisonment or to their death.  After our tour of the main tourist sites in Saint Mark's Square we headed to dinner.  We never made it to dinner though as we came across a benefit event for the pediatric hospital.  They had an awesome band all dressed as Santas and a variety of snacks and wine!

Sunday we had an organized tour to Murano, Torcello and Burano.  Murano is renowned for its glass artistry, so of course we had to see a glass-making demonstration.  The translucent, glowing orb of liquid glass was quickly spun so that it lengthened and then with a few quick movements the master transformed it into a vase like shape.  With a few more deft movements of a bar the vase was capable of holding flowers.  In the second demonstration, the master transformed a similar orb of glass into a horse within under a minute; he adeptly shaped the horse's body and then with a few rapid snips of a pair of scissors created a flowing mane and the legs bringing the figure to life.  

Glass Demonstration
With a glance at my clock I yelled to Cari "We have to run!"  With our bellies full of an assortment of fried finger foods, arancini (rice and fish balls), stuffed olives and fried mozzerella we sprinted for the docks.  Our boat had just pulled in the plank as we arrived breathless and shouting "wait!".  We had been at our next stop on the tour, Torcello, enjoying a light lunch when I happened to notice that the boat was leaving in 1 minute and we were 5 minutes minimum away!  The most interesting aspect of Torcello is its minuscule population; as of right now, 11 people live on the island!  Our last and prettiest stop of the tour was Burano (pictured left).  The law there states that the inhabitants are forbidden from changing the color of their houses as the town is a rainbow of color, with houses in every hue imaginable.  Aside from their colorful and beautiful houses, Burano is known for its lace; delicate cloths as fine as gossamer spider-webs.

Our last tourist site in Venice was the Guggenheim in Dorsodoro.  To be honest, much of the works were a bit too modern to be aesthetically pleasing to me; I'm much more of a traditionalist, although I do love the impressionists. However it was a very worthwhile visit since the collection includes pieces by Dali and Picasso among others.  The next morning we left Venice at 7am in order to avoid a citywide strike that would shutdown all the vaporettos we needed to get off our island!

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