Tuesday 17th April
Even at 6.30 am we can feel the heat of the day, Dave makes 2 cups of tea and I get another 20 minutes in bed whilst it’s brewing, I love my tea and normally have 2 cups but not today Venice beckons and I’m excited! As we’re walking towards the ferry stop about 300 metres away I start to feel anxious about the boat journey as it’s 30-40 minutes and I hope I won’t be ill, I have a box of Boots travel calms and as I walk along I take one with a mouthful of water, it says 20 mins before travelling so I’m ok, then I notice I’d put some stugeron in the same box and I’ve taken one of them, I think they need an hour? feel a bit panicky now, we step onto the ferry and I’m worried there are no outside seats only inside and I want space and a quick exit just in case! We sit down and I’m relieved that we set off immediately, after 5 minutes I feel ok, fingers crossed then, it’s quite smooth sailing and after 20 minutes I’m actually enjoying it, I’ve grown sea legs – Hooray!
After 35 minutes we pull into San Marco and we marvel at the water colour and the early morning air is fresh, none of the reported pong! We can just see the start of the Grand Canal now and I can’t wait to get on another boat and go up it. We hop off the ferry and go to find Vaporetta No 1 to take us up there, we wandered around for a bit and got a bit lost few for a few minutes, we didn’t have a street map yet, it was only just 9am and the streets were so quiet and empty, not what I was expecting at all, St Marks square was empty! No tables or chairs out yet. We stumbled upon a coffee shop set up in another small square and decided to buy a map €3.50 from the stall opposite and get a caffeine fix before our adventure begins, €7 for 2 coffees, not bad eh for Venice.
We find the Vaporetta No.1 stop and now it’s really happening WOW! What a joy it was, we stood outside between the seated areas with the breeze blowing on our faces and marvelled at the views, Dave was taking copious photos, we enjoyed it so much we stayed on until they chucked us off near the train station stop, but we hopped back on and went back to St Marco.
First off we decide to see St Marks Basilica, it’s free to enter and you have to drop your bag off at a holding area around the corner, we marvelled at the amount of Gold on every surface, it was dark inside but apparently they put the lights on for one hour and they came on just as we entered, just a few mind and lots of little candles lit by people for prayers, no photos it says but lots of people in guided tours were taking them on their iPhones so Dave got a sneaky one towards the end before our quick exit, even though it was lovely inside I preferred the architecture of the exterior and could have looked at it all day.
Next we decided it’s lunch time although it’s only 11.30 we’ve been up since 6.30 and already been in Venice for 3 hours so we find a bench between St Marks square and the Vaporetto No 1 stop it’s next to a little park on the canal front but it’s closed, there were a few trees for shade and benches looking out onto the canal, there are artists all around us starting their watercolours of the day and tat shops behind us selling their Vegas style diamond Venice caps, they’re everywhere although we didn’t see anyone wearing them.
We got our sandwiches out that we had made the night before and our flask of coffee, we had the stone bench to ourselves but Dave spotted an older Italian couple sat on a step near us so I beckoned them over to share our picnic spot, I loved watching them make their sandwiches from scratch, out came the bread rolls which she passed to him then the cheese and next some fine looking Parma ham, they squished them together. We all ate in silence enjoying our superb picnic spot.
It’s getting hotter now it’s nearly 1 pm so it seems like a good time to visit the Doge Palace, it’s €20 each to visit and €2 extra to view the John Ruskin exhibition which is on for 3 months, we decide that this is a must do also as he was a leading English art critic of the Victorian era 1819-1900 he was a water colourist and amongst many other things he was a visionary of his time, his desire was to move away from Capitalism and to open peoples eyes to the beauty free to all and all around them, there are many quotes attributed to him but I like this one ‘’ There is no wealth but life’’
He lived at Brantwood overlooking Lake Coniston in Cumbria, he was passionate about the English Lake district and you can visit the house today, and it’s 250 acres estate.
Once we’d finished the exhibition which we enjoyed as there were also Turner paintings too, an artist whom Ruskin knew and admired, we wandered through the various rooms of the Doge Palace, they are huge like State rooms I would expect to see in the likes of Buckingham Palace, you almost fall over trying to look up at the ceilings every inch painted with artworks, it was almost too much to take in, it’s a masterpiece of Gothic art from 14th and 15th Centuries and in 17th C it was the seat of Government and housed the Prison, in 1996 it became part of the Civic Museum of Venice network.
We wandered around the first-floor terraces looking down into the courtyard below then make our way down and down and down to the prisons below, we’ve been in many castles dungeons and prison vaults, some Medieval in UK and many in Europe on our motorbiking tour, but none have given me the creeps like this one did! From the prison you walk along a passageway and you are inside the ‘’ Bridge of Sighs’’ and through a small aperture you can see people on the bridge opposite at San Marco taking photos of the bridge and we are inside it!
After all that culture we need a beer! We’re feeling hot and stuffy so off we go with a plan of walking towards the Rialto bridge but get mixed up in the labyrinth of streets and end up at a bar near a small canal and a bit off the beaten track so we reckon it might not be too pricey? We take a seat and a grumpy waiter appears, we say Bon Journo and before we can say anything else ‘’Drinks or food !‘’ he barks at us, we order 2 x 40 cl beers, they mostly come in sizes of 20, 40 and 50 cl, 40cl will do as we don’t want to get drowsy in the heat of the day. Mr Grumpy appears and plonks down the beers after firstly picking up the napkins and utensils and throwing them onto the table next to us! I kid you not! We take a sip it’s cool if not a bit flat but it’s fine we’re thirsty, next thing some workman start up their drills and get busy with a hammer, we’re not enjoying this spot at all, we drink up quickly but not before Dave notices something floating at the bottom of his glass, looks like breadcrumbs? Yuk, we pay up €7 each, it’s what we expected but not for that service.
We walk to the Rialto bridge which we’d built up in our imagination but neither of us is that impressed by, sorry! It’s got lots of little archways all boarded in black as there are shops inside, it might have the history but not the looks for us anyway.
We go for a wander following our noses left and right around and around and find another square in the Castello area opposite Campo Giavanni e Paolo one of the largest churches in the City and has the status of a minor Basilica and apparently 25 Doges are buried in the church, it’s a lovely square with a small canal, gondolas passing to one side and this huge church and what looks like another attached to it, ( found out it’s the hospital) completely different periods from the look too! Dave decided he wanted something to make up for the flat beer with the floaters yuk! so we ordered 2 Aperol Spritz, the local Italian drink it seems as everyone has one, we get a table in the sun it’s OK I have my new hat! Which is when Dave realises he has left his cap at the noisy, flat beer bar, it’s his favourite cap and he got it in Costa Rica for our 25th Wedding anniversary holiday so he’s off with his phone and GPS to find it as we’ve been going around in circles! 8 minutes later he returns with the favourite cap which has the words ‘’Pura Vida’’ on the front which means ‘’ Pure life or simple life’’ and he would have been very upset to lose it, he’s hot and sweaty and that Aperol Spritz went down fast! We enjoyed an hour watching the local kids playing football up against the Church façade, no one batted an eyelid it looks like this is their spot the 2 goals being beside each other under some marble square cut outs, they had to be like this as the other end of the pitch was the canal! And the ball did go wayward a couple of times as the defence weakened, they were very good players though and showing some skills says Dave, one goalie was very good, maybe we were watching the next Buffon (Italian Team Goalkeeper)
It’s cooling down now as it’s 5.30 pm and we decide we are done for today, so we start to walk back in the direction of St Marks square to get our ferry back, in one little street we spot a little shop window of a tiny bar the sign says Cicchetti €1.80 , we saw little slices of baguette each with a different and interesting topping, tuna and some type of gherkin, parma ham and sun-dried tomatoes, salami and artichoke we ordered 4 of them and 2 glasses of Rose frizzante, it’s 6 hours since our picnic and we do like a little tapas style snack! We fancied 1 more each so Dave got the tuna and I ordered something like radish cream with finely minced/sliced dried ham it was delicious! I asked the guy afterwards what the meat was, and he made a little impression of riding a horse! Oh dear, but it was tasty. Chiccetti are small snack or side dishes an Italian version of our favourite tapas.
We got the No 14 Water bus back from St Marco to Punta Sabbionni, we’re exhausted and I fell asleep on Dave’s shoulder, we alight the bus and walk the short distance back, Dave chops all the vegetables in the fridge I want to make something with it before it goes off so a hot veggie curry it is with tinned potatoes (great for Moho’s) we decided to drink the bottle of Pink Champagne which we had bought in the Champagne area to celebrate Venice, Cheers! Hic !
Just about to go to bed and Dave exclaims, ”Cathy I’ve got an egg on mi ed! ” Translation of which is
‘’Cathy can you come and take a look at this small lump developing on my head?’’
He has indeed got 2 largish lumps on his head we think something climbed inside his cap when he left it at the bar, he’s not happy! He never ever gets bitten! He hates that bar lol!
Cheers and goodnight