24.06.2013 - 24.06.2013 24 °C
I have been anticipating our visit to Venice for quite awhile now. I've always had an affinity for Venice, ever since I read The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke years and years ago. When I saw it for the first time last April, I was not disappointed. I love its meandering alleyways and canals, its decrepit beauty and faded mystique. It's the perfect city to wander about in and truly get lost, whilst still maintaining peace of mind because you know you'll be able to find your way out of this maze due to the hundreds of signs, both official and graffitied, pointing you towards San Marco Square.
We took a forty-five minute train ride to the city, and then boarded a crowded vaporetto that took us to the Rialto Bridge. Gondolas floated down the Grand Canal, laden with tourists snapping photos and jabbering away to each other in various languages. Each elegant vessel was manned by a burly Italian man with a long paddle, a couple of whom even serenaded their passengers as they went. After taking a few pictures ourselves, we headed off to see San Marco Square, which, as I mentioned earlier, was very easy to find.
The San Marco Basilica was beautiful and imposing, its numerous domes and intricate facade barely impacted by the scaffolding marking the spots where the church's restoration was underway. The size of the line that protruded from the basilica was enough to put us off going inside, especially since three of us had seen it before. It was definitely a "book in advance" sort of thing that we'd missed the mark on. We strolled around the square for a little bit, admired the famous clock and bell tower, and then continued to walk through the bustling city of Venice.
We bought snacks from a bakery, and sought out a square where we could sit and enjoy them. There were a number of pigeons out and about as usual, and though most people find them rather annoying, one small toddler thought otherwise. We watched as she made a game out of chasing individual pigeons, all of which decided to run instead of fly away, thus prolonging the pursuit. She stumbled about, screaming with laughter, and her parents seemed quite content to leave her to it until they saw her picking up pieces of bread that the pigeons had been pecking at and toying with them near her mouth. Then she was whisked off, and our entertainment was gone. The pigeons seemed relieved, though.
The majority of Venice's buildings appear to be shops selling glass and masks. Sometimes a shop will sell both, which was always an exciting twist. I never got tired of poking my head into these stores. The rainbow of delicate jewelry, tableware, chandeliers and figurines each glass shop holds is always beautiful and interesting to me. Mask shops, on the other hand, are always a little darker and more mysterious than glass shops. The eyeless faces refuse to simply be admired, and will leer back at you. Some were glittery, intricately painted things, while others were adorned with feathers and leaves. Most were smooth, oval faces, but long beaks and cat ears would loom out of the shadows as well. I bought a small, painted mask on my last visit, but didn't have enough room in my bag this time around. I have this idea that I'll return someday with the sole purpose of purchasing enough ornate masks and glass statues to decorate my entire house. Either that, or I'll return periodically and slowly build up an impressive collection of these Venetian ornaments.
We stopped for lunch at one of Venice's many overly expensive restaurants. Everything on the menu cost about 30% more the moment we sat down, so we reasoned that it was like paying for a seat, and therefore settled in and made as much use of it as was reasonable. We had pizza and calzones, both of which were good, if not quite as good as the prices suggested they might be. After lunch, we hopped on a boat to go see the islands of Burano and Murano, known for their lace and glass respectively.
I'd been to both of these islands before, though stayed only briefly on Murano. I'd seen a brief glass blowing demonstration, poked around the attached shop for a bit, and then headed off to Burano. Needless to say, I was more familiar with this island. I had encouraged my parents to take us here, remembering it as a quaint and colourful place. The rows of multihued houses were just as bright and cheery as they had been the year before, reminiscent of the rainbow of clapboard houses in St. John's, Newfounland. There was plenty of lace being sold, as well as gelato, specialty pastas and glass. The streets and canals of Burano are much more open than those of Venice, but it is still easy to get lost, though not necessarily in a bad way.
Murano is much less outwardly polished than Burano is, but it makes up for it with what's inside. I think that the Muranese keep the best glass for themselves, and rightfully so. Often we weren't even allowed to take pictures of these masterpieces. One notable collection of figurines was a painstakingly crafted orchestra, all in powdered wigs and red tailcoats. The tiny glass conductor lead nearly fifty tiny glass musicians, who I imagined were playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons or a Beethoven symphony. I wanted to take them all home with me, but the size of both my bag and wallet prevented me from doing so.
We rode the ferry back to Venice, and decided to walk to the train station rather than catch a vaporetto. When we finally arrived at the station, we discovered that we'd missed the last train by fifteen minutes, and the next one wouldn't be coming for another hour and a half. After a few frustrated attempts to try and find an earlier one, we accepted the fact that there were far worse places to be trapped. In all honesty, I didn't really want to leave. I'm quite sure I'll be back. We used our last hour in Venice to buy and eat our last Italian gelato.