Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Venice Day 3 - Gondolas

The true magic of Venice to me was definitely the beautiful gondolas.  They entertained me everyday as I enjoyed my cappuccino, pizza or wine.  Between 9 am to 10 pm there were 100's of gondolas plying their trade up and down the Grand Canal and through the smaller canals.  Jim and I opted for the 10 pm ride, it was amazing, we were basically the only gondola on the water, it was so calm and the lights of the grand canal were magical.  Our Gondolier was able to tell us all about his job and the spots that we passed.  It must have helped that he wasn't trying to skirt in and out among water taxis, buses, delivery boats and other Gondolieris.  There are 450 gondola's in Venice now and they work 2 days on and 2 days off.  In their heyday during the 15th century there were 10,000 gondolas.

Every gondola has the same iron prow-head.  In the picture above we were lucky enough to be enjoying a glass of wine as the sun started to set and it made the prow-head look like it was on fire as it danced on the waves. 
"The iron prow-head of the gondola, called "fero da prorà" or "dol fin", is needed to balance the weight of the gondolier at the stern and has an "S" shape symbolic of the twists in the Canal Grande. Under the main blade there is a kind of comb with six teeth or prongs ("rebbi") pointing forward standing for the six districts or "sestieri" of Venice. A kind of tooth juts out backwards toward the centre of the gondola symbolises the island of Giudecca. The curved top signifies the Doge's cap. The semi-circular break between the curved top and the six teeth is said to represent the Rialto Bridge. Sometimes three friezes can be seen in-between the six prongs, indicating the three main islands of the city: Murano, Burano and Torcello." Gondola - Wiki
 St. Mark's square was definitely the main gondola depot.  As nice as it is among the smaller canals the views on the Grand Canal were amazing.

 This is October in Venice, relatively low season or at least a wee bit quieter than May to September and the canals were like the DVP.  Wall to wall gondolas just drifting along, it was hardly worth poling. btw the canals are very deep so the poles don't ever touch the bottom, all their maneuvering is the way the Gondolier walks up and down the back and the way he pushes the oar on the oarlock ( fórcola)

 All 3 nights Jim and I sat here at the main part of the canal and watched boats filled with tourists and romantic couples.  Watching the gondolas try to park reminded me of the mall at Christmas.  Gondolas would go in and out of parking spots to let the tourists out and then fill right back up again and start all over.  During the day it was 80 euro for the boat, you could then put in up to 6 people.  If you wanted a musician that was extra :).  Jim and I paid 100 euro for the romantic night time trip, it was well worth it.  There was more time spent on the water than trying to park.

 Can't you just picture heading off to the opera, the gondola would pick you up at your door and take you to the opera door.  Your outfit might be as wide as the gondola.  I can't picture how they managed to get in and out with their hair piled high, their fancy shoes and their crazy fancy outfits and sometimes wearing a mask.  :)  I would definitely have landed in the water.

 With all my watching and my camera at the ready I never saw anyone land in the canal :)  

Thank you Venice for sharing your magic with us.  

Monday, November 6, 2017

Venice Day 3 - Murano - the island and the famous glass

If you ever are in Venice and you wonder if a trip to Murano is worth it, YES IT IS.  Not only is it a wonderful boat ride, the island itself is a beautiful little town and the bonus is you get to watch some master glass blowers and actually see some of their amazing works of art. 

Jim and I were lucky in that the hotel we were staying in gives you a free water taxi ride over to Murano, it picked us up at the hotel, and in record speed (these guys are not slow and are maniacs on the water) drop you off at the pier for the glass company you are stopping at.  We were met at the dock by a lovely young lady who spoke wonderful English and explained everything that was happening to us and gave us a history of the Murano glass making artists. 

Sitting on benches with the canal lapping up at the walls and being only 15 feet max away, you were able to see all the little intricate things he did to make this amazing pitcher.

 We were so mesmerized we don't really know how long it took, but I don't think it could have been more than 20 to 30 minutes. 

The lovely young lady now took us on a tour of the showroom, no pictures allowed, these were all one of a kind works of art.  All of a sudden it started to feel like I was at a timeshare meeting.  Everytime I saw something I liked, it was picked up, put on a beautiful table to show it off to it's best, the calculator was out and the price for those beautiful 6 glasses and pitcher normally would be4000 euros but today only 1200 euros, what is your address we can have them waiting at home for your return.  Fully guaranteed, if they break in your lifetime we will make you a new one.  OUCH, 1200 euros for 6 glasses, the pitcher was 1000 euros itself.  Okay maybe we will keep looking, there were plates, there were violins, there were beautiful chandeliers.  There was one chandelier that was very familiar when I asked her about it she said the very large (very very large) version is at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. 

After dutifully walking through all the beautiful works of art, we said we would think about it :).  We now thought we would be escorted back to the water taxi pier.  NOPE, very politely she showed us to the back door and told us to take the bus.  :)

Thankfully we did go out the back door, because what a lovely little island Murano is, with lots of little shops (where I did buy a Murano glass ball made probably by one of their lowly apprentices) and we did stop for a lovely lunch (pizza - I do love my pizza). 

We finally find the water bus and off we go back to St. Mark's square for our mid afternoon wine break while we watch the gondolas and all the action. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Venice Day 2 - The Doge Palace and Wandering Around

Woke up to another beautiful day in Venice.  Definitely putting the shorts on today.  And then it's cappuccino time.  You have to love Italy, Cappuccino and pastry, pizza and wine, Capuccino and biscuit, Wine, Pasta and Wine and Limoncello to finish off the night.  My day is planned.  Now what can I do so that my shorts will still fit me when I go home.  Start walking girl.  Yesterday on a slow travel day we did 10,000 steps, hoping to break that today.

Today we are heading to the Doge's Palace, originally built in 810, it was rebuilt and expanded multiple times after fires and to add more chambers.  Not only was it the home of the Doge (supreme authority of the Republic of Venice) but it also housed the Council and Senate Chambers.

 In the 19th century the Italian government realized that if they didn't start renovating the buildings they would probably have collapsed.  The public offices were moved out of the buildings other than the State Office for the protection of historical monuments and the huge task of renovating it was undertaken.

I have decided I am a statue person.  As beautiful as all these paintings are, I think I am painted out.  My walking shoes were moving pretty fast as we passed by amazing paintings on walls, ceilings,  nooks and cranies, basically everywhere.  The 15th century seemed to produce a virtual conveyor belt of dark portrait and religious paintings.

While we were there work was being done on one of the many statutes dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries.  It amazes me that these works of art were made 600 years ago and how the Italians/Europeans prized every one and take such pride in their history and artists.

The view from one of the many balconies of the palace looking over the many little islands surrounding Venice.

The Bridge of Sighs, this little bridge connected the Doge Palace with the prison.  It was called the Bridge of Sighs as a lot of times this was the prisoners last view of Venice and their family as they peered through the gaps in the walls.  As you can see from the bridge another highlight and busy selfie spot on the Grand Canal.  :)

None of my womanly charms could convince Jim to go into one of the cells.  :)

Time for a little lunch
Time to keep wandering, need to work off the pizza.  

After seeing all these beautiful costumes and masks we couldn't resist going to one of the many little intimate opera shows they have on all around Venice.  These shows cost around 100 euros and are well worth it, the venues are works of art themselves and there are only about 150 people there and only 1.5 hours long.  And yes even though we couldn't understand one word they were saying, the emotion and love came through loud and clear.  Lots of fun, and great music, voices and costumes.

Final step count for the day 12,000.  Room for one more drink before bedtime as we enjoy the view of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute (Basilica of Saint Mary of Health)