In the midst of a rather lovely day, and I want to talk about that, so here’s the quick version of the rest of Venice:
We’re now up to day 2, Saturday morning, and after walking around a little in the cool of the morning, it’s back to the hotel for breakfast and then on to a 9:15 walking tour. The tour’s an optional thing, so only 7 (and ultimately 6) students actually go, but it’s led by Professor Mariotti — who, like all of our professors, knows a simply staggering amount about everything. Seriously, I think we’ve started asking questions about random doorknobs and chimney pieces just to test the limits of her stored trivia, and after a month and a half I think we’ve only stumped her twice O.O
So yes, out we go for about 2 hours, first to San Zaccaria for a stroll through the church (but also taking a special look at the S. Zaccaria nunnery, which was apparently packed with nuns who didn’t want to be nuns and who filled up the nearby orphanage to prove it), and then on to a little building some 15 minutes away for a series of really great narrative paintings by Carpaccio — and may I just say that I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite that combination of sweetness and horrible gore.
Walking tour takes us back to the hotel, and we now switch out Professor Mariotti for Professor Solberg and keep right on walking. This time, we (i.e. Professor Solberg’s “Decorative Complexes” class plus any interested tag-alongs like myself) are headed all the way across Venice to the train station up in the northwest part of the city, and from there it’s a hop onto a train and then off to Padua.
If you’ve heard of Padua, it’s probably because Shakespeare uses it as the setting for “The Taming of the Shrew.” But what we were there for was the Arena Chapel, this fantastic little box of a chapel which has an interior completely covered in paintings by Giotto. And the really great thing about this was that I’d actually learned about the Arena (aka Scrovegni) Chapel in my very first class in college, but had forgotten what it was called — so as our professor is explaining to us what we’re about to see, it starts coming back to me and then I can just get excited all at once instead of having to deal with some sort of tamped-down, drawn-out anticipation. Ignoring the horrendous hassle of actually getting in there, that chapel is incredible : D
Back on a train to return to Venice, and we’ve got about 3 hours free until dinner. Kari and I set off to go souvenir shopping, and basically it’s just a very nice and restful time spent wandering around and poking through shops and wending our way through tangles of small streets and side alleys.
And by the way, this is as good a place as any to mention that Venice, since we were only there for 3 days, really did feel like vacation in a way that being in Florence never does anymore. Florence is, in a certain sense, home and school and the daily grind, but Venice…Venice is pretty much hands down the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen.
But actually, more on that in a minute.
So after souvenir shopping, it’s back to the hotel for an 8:00 dinner which starts out with — wait for it — pasto al pesto, which is *the* favorite dish of many many people at this point and is indeed amazing. And in any case, dinner this time around comes with the company of Kari, Katie, and Alex, all of whom are just incredibly nice/funny/wonderful people. (And, if plans hold, I get to go to Lucca with all of them + Willi tomorrow, so \o/)
After dinner, back out with Kari for another walk to get a sense of the city at night.
And the city at night is, shockingly, incredibly quiet; Venice goes to bed very early in the evening, and there’s a very strong small-town feel to the dark and the stillness of all those teeny-tiny alleys and little piazzas. Except, of course, that it’s never fully dark and never quite still; lamps up, down and overhead keep everything from water to windowsill flowers gently illuminated, you’re always within earshot of the lapping of the water, and the water + the closeness of the buildings sends the sounds of families at dinner faintly echoing everywhere.
The word I’m looking for is probably ‘pleasant.’
But never too much of a good thing, so ultimately we wandered out of the closed-for-the-day residential areas and back to the ever-busy main piazza of San Marco, where we headed over to the water’s edge and just sat for awhile.
And, as luck would have it, turns out we showed up at just the right time and sat down in exactly the right place to catch a fireworks display right across the canal. Did not see that coming at all, but it made my night : D
Back to the hotel, and up early again the next morning because I’ve decided that I love sunrise here. And this time, Kari accompanies, because of the seven people who said they wanted to go she was the one and only who actually managed to roll out of bed at 6:00 on a Sunday morning.
And again, gorgeous:
The presence of a professional photographer confirms that we’ve got the right idea —
and then we just get to sit on the edge of the canal like so and watch the magic:
So worth it ^^
Allora, back, breakfast, and then another optional tour led by Professor Mariotti, this time through the Galleria dell’Accademia (aka another fancy art museum). I cannot adequately express how much I loved this place, but I LOVED it. ❤
And after that…free for four hours. And it’s a beautiful day, and try as I might I’ve still got zero interest in going to see the contemporary art exhibits that most students are headed out to, so I decide to just seize my Sunday and take one last super-long stroll through Venice.
So ultimate verdict on Venice: again, undoubtedly beautiful, totally charming, occasionally magical, absolutely in agreement with everything that I have ever heard said about it. But, on the other hand, it is definitely not a place that I could stay for any considerable amount of time. The tourists (and the PIGEONS) are one thing, but to be always penned in like that? Give it two weeks and living in the maze would get exhausting, and there’d be nothing but the same small patches of ground over and over again and not a single open field anywhere. Not a chance.
It would appear then, that in accordance with the fine and long-standing tradition of Italian partisanship, I’ve chosen sides. I still prefer Florence ; )
And there we go! Venice is done, and another week’s worth of blogging activity is getting pounded out on this keyboard before dinner so help me God, so stick around and I’ll have that for you in just a (very metaphorical) sec.