Yesterday we left off with our Saturday in Venice going around on the "Christine Tour" and seeing all the beautiful architecture. It is the beginning of the tourist season and since it was a Saturday it was especially crowded, as you can see.
Since we had all weekend and there were a lot of people out, we decided to take it slow. Kathy also has a fractured bone in her leg, so that slowed us down a bit too, but no hurry.
Christine calls Venice the treasure chest of the world because it has so many artifacts from so many different countries. Venice, at the height of their trade success, was the world's leading power. When they were constructing what is now called Saint Mark's square, the people of Venice would just steal statues and artifacts from other countries to use in their own piazza. Saint Mark's body was actually stolen from Egypt and hidden in a barrel of pork so the Muslim customs agents wouldn't search it. Mark was killed and beheaded by Muslims while he was away trying to spread the gospel, and the dodé for Venice at the time of his retrieval sent people to steal him back. The return was successful except for his head, which had been lost. In the 60s the Roman church actually returned some of Saint Mark's relics to the Coptic church in Egypt, but most of his remains are still in his cathedral in Venice. Because of all the theft as a means of attaining "decorative" items, nothing really matches or is consistent in the square.
These columns are at the main sea entrance to Saint Mark's Square, and are the first thing the ships would see after they stopped to pay their taxes. One lion and one man with a spear? No logic or reasoning to it, that's just what they stole to stick up there. The entire piazza is decorated as if a billionaire had no common sense and built this huge, regal area with just a mish-mash of the most expensive things they could find. Pretty much what I picture the inside of Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch too look like if he never hired a decorator. (may he rest in peace)
Remember the bell tower from my original trip to Venice? It has the gold angel on top that landed upright in front of the basilica when the entire thing crumbled to the ground. The angel is 3 meters tall, and the wings are so big that the wind can actually blow hard enough to rotate her. When she is facing Saint Mark's Basilica, the Venetians take that as a sign of high waters or an impending flood.
After our tour we went back to the hotel to freshen up a bit before we were supposed to meet up with Sergio for proseccos. Two things: First, Sergio is the most amazing person and deserves an entire blog entry dedicated solely to him. Sorry, this one isn't it, so you're going to have to wait to meet him. And secondly, Prosecco is like the Italian version of champagne. Since it is produced in Italy as opposed to the Champagne region of France, they can't call it champagne. I'm not a huge champagne fan, but prosecco is where it's at. It is a white, bubbly wine, but is served in a regular wine glass instead of a flute. I'm not a huge connoisseur like the Bradley family, but I can tell you that every prosecco I've had since I've been here has been great.
We left the hotel room to meet up with Sergio and there were 2 little dogs running up and down the alley where our hotel was. Then this adorable little kid runs up after the dogs, and sees us being typical women and oohing and ahhing over him and the dog. So what does he do? He puts on a little show for us!
And while we're walking with Sergio to our favorite campo (where we had cappuccinos earlier in the day), we see this:
It's hard to forget you're in Venice.
After proseccos and great conversation, we headed over to see Marie Louisa, the lady Christine likes to buy Murano glass from. Murano is an island that is considered part of Venice, and is known for its glass factory. Murano glass is this beautiful bright, bold colored class, and is VERY popular on the streets in Venice. It's often hard to ensure you're getting Murano glass and not "made in China" goods, and the Murano quality can also vary based on the purchaser. Marie Louisa is very picky about the quality of glass she purchases, and she also makes all of her own jewelry in her store. Everything was so beautiful that we all had a hard time narrowing down our purchases. She had these super cute rings but didn't have the color I wanted, so she stood there and made it for me while we waited.
Sergio had made us dinner reservations for 7:30, so we literally had to RUN out of Marie Louisa's to get to dinner on time, because we still had quite a ways to walk. Sergio said he chose this restaurant because it is in a quiet location with many locals, has really great food and wonderful tiramisu, and had "cute boys," which is a requirement for Jessica. He was spot on about everything...the place was perfect! In Europe, dinner reservations for a friday or saturday night are pretty much mandatory because when you have a table, it's your table for the evening. Dinners are as much a social time as they are for the food, and the waiters don't push you to hurry so they can seat another table. We had so much fun that we literally opened the restaurant and closed it down. We were the first ones seated at 7:30, and one of the last to leave, around 11:30! Some pictures from the evening:
Kathy and I at our table at the beginning of the evening. Notice it's still light out.
Jessica had a crush...
Can you tell on who?? (His name was Davida. Christine and I had a little chat with him when Jessica went to the bathroom.)
On the walk back to the hotel, we came across this:
Holy crap?! A real Venetian flood! This was that exact same spot earlier in the day:
Our favorite prosecco and cappuccino campo? Yep, underwater too.
Alright, I realize it was probably just high tide and this happens every night, but still. It was super cool to see in person, and to walk around in it. You couldn't tell where the concrete ended and the actual water began. Christine was hoping her Venice wish would come true and someone would fall in when we were walking around through all the water.
Everyone had said that Venice was completely different at night, but you could never actually know or imagine it until you've experienced it. Dinner and the walk and exploring on the way back to the hotel was a completely different Venice than during the day. The tourists had either left the island or are in their hotel rooms, and you could actually see the city as a community, rather than a tourist attraction. It was so unbelievably cool to see people out socializing in a campo watching the World Cup game, and just to be able to imagine life in Venice. During the day, it's as if the entire city just surrenders itself to the tourists, and it becomes a bit like Disney World. At night is when the city's soul shines, and you can see it in all of its glory. One of the most beautiful experiences of Italy so far, because it was not only a sight, but a feeling.
As we turn to go down the street our hotel is on, Christine just stops at the corner and looks at me with a smile and says "unbelievable."
These 6 Venetian firemen (or Fuoco Uomini) are working on the building directly next to ours. Amazing! I was a giant retard and walked up and immediately asked "Gato?" complete with hand motions for whiskers. One of them gives me a funny look, signifying my status as the retard/crazy chick in this group of girls, and then points to the plaster. (Everyone still hasn't let me down about that one) These buildings are so old, that the plaster sometimes falls off of the brick in pieces. They put plaster over the layers of brick to add a bit of protection, and the humidity and age causes the plaster to just peel away and fall off. The lady living in this building heard the concrete falling and called the firemen. They had to get on a ladder with this pole and scrape as much as they could off, so that concrete doesn't fall during the day and hit someone. You can see all the powdered plaster on the ground at their feet. Yes, we got all of this information through charades because not a single one of them spoke english, and yes, it took 6 of them to do this job. The guy on the ladder obviously did most of the work. It's funny that the guy is actually holding the ladder in this picture because the 5 seconds it took me to take the picture was about as long as he held the ladder for during the entire operation. One guy held a flashlight, and the other 3 just stood around. And took pictures of course. :)
That was pretty much the end of a perfect day. It was time for some rest and hydration so we could do it all again on Sunday.
Okay, so "guidoliers," my own made up word. If you haven't ever seen the MTV show "Jersey Shore," you need to watch this clip:
Just the first 30 seconds will be enough for you to get an idea of what these self-proclaimed "guidos" and "guidettes" are all about. Let me tell you something. Mike "The Situation" had better watch out for these Italian gondoliers, because they are pretty fierce. ALL day long we were getting "wooed" by these "guidoliers." Right. I know they have a job to do and this was all part of trying to sell their service, but seriously. This guy leads with "Hey baby, I'm single."
The also REALLY loved getting their picture taken.
And Jessica REALLY loved taking their picture. Obviously of their most flattering assets.
P.S.--This was my first gondola ride! It went from 1 side of the canal to the other, and I was so distracted by Jessica's picture taking that I forgot to take any pictures at all! No worries though. We loved Venice so much that we're all going back tomorrow for a week! WOO HOO!!! I'll be sure to get another Gondola ride in with some good pictures to suit.
Today my favorite thing about Italy is: Italian dinner customs. Great conversations, no rushing to leave or go anywhere after the meal, spending time enjoying everyone's company, and awesome food. I could seriously get used to this.