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(Day 40) Wrap on Venice

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. 

  More impossible homes…

  …impossibly small alleys…

       …and abrupt dead ends where you can just sit and watch the tide come in.

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.

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(Day 38) Rewinding to Venice

Wednesday, 9:16 am

No morning classes today, and I’m (mostly) caught up on homework, so let’s try to do this:

Going back a week and a half, it’s September 23rd and a Friday morning.  An early Friday morning, and still dark out; I’m up at 5:45 to shower, roommate and I eat breakfast at 6:30, Gabriella provides us with sack lunches (good ol’ turkey sandwiches — but alas, just not the same as home ; ), and we hop on a (late) bus to arrive at the station at 7:15.  Wait for late members of the group, board the private charter bus a little after 7:30, and off we go on the 3-hour trip north, with most everybody passed out sleeping.

More lateness ensues (because this was not our week for timing), and we get off the bus in Venice about 45 minutes later than intended.*  BUT, we’ve got a private boat waiting for us and all is well — we eat our lunches, and we get a little tour of Venice from the water as we head for the island of Murano.

    

Murano is, of course, that island where the super-fancy Murano glass comes from, and our first official stop of the day was to an actual glass-blowing factory for a demonstration.  Which was, in two words, quick and crazy:

^This guy, right here, was just whipping through this demo — and yes, granted that they put on this little show all the time and glassblowing is in any case a necessarily fast process, but wow.  In the space of about 6 minutes, he makes first a vase and then a glass horse (pictured).  Shove glass into furnace, twirl/press molten glass into proper shape, blow or twist glass into more delicate shape, done.

So up we get and we’re herded through a little door into the actual shop, where everything looks like…well, this:

And just a heads up, but if you’re going to buy Murano glass, buy it on the actual island.  There are shops selling glass things everywhere, and it’s way cheaper than it is in Venice proper.  (Plus you get to say that you bought your Murano glass in Murano, and that’s gotta be nice.)

About 45 minutes to wander around the town, blue skies and perfect weather —

— and then it’s back to the private boat (with more lateness) and off to our hotel.

And because visualization is always helpful, here’s Venice:

Look at the main island, at the big backward-S main canal, and then look just under it to that pointy bit of land directly facing the water.  That’s where we were, and to get to Hotel Messner, you go down the ‘street’ in this first pic (we’re standing on a bridge, the open water at our backs), and then down the side alley in the second and to that white overhang:

 

…Venice is kind of twisty : )

So, being late, we arrive at the hotel, throw stuff in our rooms, and dash back down to congregate with the professors at the entrance.  And then we’re off for the Cathedral of San Marco and a visit to the ducal palace.

And as we’re heading off (and once again because of the lateness), we decide to skip a large part of the walk** and go for the emergency gondola — which for whatever reason still strikes me as one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done.  So we rush over to the crossing point — and this would be for the 50-cent-per-person gondolas that just cross the canal, not the 80 Euro ones that do the whole lovers’ tour thing — and a bunch of us pile into the gondola.  And it is very unsteady, and you could tell that these were people who had never learned caution by falling out of a canoe.

But anyway.

Eventually the whole group is across, and we rush over to the main square, where we find the cathedral right up against the palace of the doges.

  (Cathedral on the left, and we’re hooking a right just     past that bell tower to get to the building that has one window and some arches visible.)

  

No pictures allowed in the palace, but we go in (this would be about 3:30) and get notes on the history of the government, on some sketchy Inquisatorial activity, on art/architecture/sculpture and so on.

Back out an hour and a half later, and everybody splits off into small groups for a couple hours to just wander around and see stuff and pick up any necessary tideover snacks, because we’re not getting dinner until 9:00.  Most people go with gelato : )

Then back to the piazza of San Marco at 7:10, and wander around waiting because we’ve got a reservation to see the inside of the church at 7:30.  But not just any reservation; the ACM group has joined up with another academic program, and has actually rented out the cathedral.  So this is a pretty big deal and the result is, as you might imagine, some very happy wandering/waiting.

      

BUT, turns out we have a problem.  The people in charge of the cathedral failed to take into account that this was a special feast day for the church, and mass would be going on until 8:30.  Which automatically means that A) we’ll be here awhile and B) we’ll be very late for dinner.  And they won’t even give us a discount.

The Church takes its tourist money very seriously, you know.

So, resenting them mightily, we stick it out, and finally head in around 8:45.  And I won’t spoil it for anyone who’s going to do this program, but even as a fairly manufactured/touristy experience, it is magnificent : D

Back to the hotel for a late dinner in the hotel restaurant (extremely good), and, at long last, bed.  (And you can tell we were all tired because, even though it was a group of 29 20-somethings on their first night in Venice, I’m pretty sure no one went out :O )

The next morning, got myself up early for something I had my heart set on seeing:

 

 

 

And there’s a Venice sunrise.  Just for me, fishermen and joggers.  ❤

I think my computer may have a heart attack if I try to shove any more pictures in here, and in any case I’ve got to get to class, so that’s all for today.  I may be able to wrap this up tomorrow morning, but even if not I can promise that the blog will be completely up to date by Friday night.  And anyone who has emailed me who I have not emailed back will have a response by that time.

Have good days, everybody : )

 

*Yes, one can drive to Venice, just as one can take a train to Venice.  As it was explained to us, ‘Venice’ as a city is a collection of tiny patched-together islands, some of which have been physically joined but others of which are simply held together by bridges and such; of course, it is the former type of patching that provides the more solid foundation, and they’ve got some of those ocean-road things to get from these more solidified islands to the mainland.  Also, we got a handout about how Venice was actually built, and if you’re ever bored and looking for something amazing, I’d encourage you to go read about that.  Because seriously, even though the idea of water-streets becomes weirdly normal within minutes of arriving, the very concept of this place is crazy.  The fact that this is not a carefully manufactured Disney themepark, that people have actually lived and worked here for centuries, is crazy.  Also awesome.

**Walking can take a VERY LONG TIME in Venice.  There is not a single straight street in the place, and every street that you think is going in vaguely the right direction hits a dead end at water — so the lack of direct walkways in itself complicates things, and then you’ve got to factor in how incredibly easy it is (compulsory, really) to get lost.  Which can actually be really nice if you’ve got the time for wandering, as every tiny side-street and off-shooting canal offers some new surprises, but it does play hell with your stress levels if you’re in a hurry.

 

(P.S. — For anyone who might have heard that Venice is sinking, that was true at one point but they have, apparently, stopped it.  It still floods routinely [they’ve got elevated walkways for that all the way into the heart of the city, and it just blows my mind that that can be a regular feature of existence], but it is not actively being dropped into the ocean.  So if anything kills it, that would be the crushing weight of the tourists.)

(P.P.S. — Forgot to mention this earlier, but OMG THE TOURISTS.  They’re *everywhere.*  And there are tourists all over the place in Florence too, but Venice — with it’s tiny walkways and little bridges and very little actual ground to walk on —  bottlenecks its traffic like you wouldn’t believe.  It is in all other respects a town small and quiet [no cars ‘n all]), but if you want to go see something pretty or famous, be prepared to shove like you mean it.)

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Classes, Travel and Touristing

 

(Day 35) Karma

Yesterday, I made fun of my internet for being sluggish and whiny.  Today, my cold came back with a vengeance and I fell asleep three times on accident and spent an hour and a half trying to slog through 30 minutes’ worth of homework.  Which I haven’t actually finished yet, because Gabriella brought me sympathy tea and then I fell asleep.

*headdesk*

I’m so sorry, but give me a little while to get back on top of this?

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2011 in Meta, Persons & Peoples

 

(Day 34) Askfdjsl.

Had a really, really wonderful time on the bike tour, and Venice stuff is coming very soon, but my internet connection is apparently feeling poorly and thinks that uploading pictures is too much of a strain.  So guess we’ll be humoring the invalid and trying again tomorrow.

But happy First of October!

 

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2011 in Meta

 

(Day 33) Backlogging

Relying on sprint-speak tonight, because I’ve got to get up in the morning to go on that bike tour:

Referring back to that Wednesday night concert: this was an opportunity ACM made available to us, and they paid for the ticket of anyone who wanted to go.  The evening’s entertainment was a selection of music by Gershwin and Bernstein, performed/orchestrated by this guy, Wayne Marshall.

To set the stage a little, the concert was set for 8:30 pm; this followed a work study session in the morning, Italian from 1:30 to 2:45, an on-site Medici class visit from 3:00 to 4:45, figure drawing class from 5:00 to 7:00, and a trek back to the station to meet Kari at 7:30.  So a very long day, especially since I was just starting to come down with that cold I now have.  Achoo.

So Kari and I set out once again, and we finally get to the Teatro Communale around 8:15.  And there’s a moment of perplexity, because the crowd standing around outside looks rather fancified, as in little black dresses every which way.  We ourselves looked respectable, of course, but we hadn’t been told to dress up — but eh, who cares.

We go inside —

— and find that we’re pretty much dead center in the orchestra seats.  Fantastic : D

Clock turns over to 8:30, and the concert-goers (relying on that very Italian idea of being “fashionably late”) wait until the official start time to start coming in — which is actually perfectly alright, because the ‘orchestra’ at the time is composed of one lone woman tuning a harp.

Twenty minutes later we finally get going…and bottom line is that it’s magnificent.  And fast.  Violinists flip their instruments onto their shoulders, horns are darting up and down behind the stands, all we can see of Marshall is the back of his tux knotting up and an occasional hand shooting off down the side of the piano, and the entire bottom section of the stage is just a throbbing sea of bows; aside from the way it sounds, it just looks incredible.  And the whole time I’m sitting there I’m just so very very glad I decided to come — yes, early bedtime would have been nice too, but this was pretty much perfect as a way to end a Wednesday.  Just sit there and listen and no worries at all.

So that’s that, and then we’re on to the intermission, which gets a late start on account of the encore procedure is kind of played out like a mind game.  First he’s gone!  –but now he’s back!  he’s shaking that dude’s hand!  again!  bow!  handshake!  gone!  back!  Too much clapping and I can’t feel my fingers anymore!

*sigh,* performers.  What can you do.

Second half of the concert nixes the piano but adds the choir, and now we’re on to Bernstein (and, as Kari told me several times with great enthusiasm, this means we get to hear “Chichester’s Psalms”).   And while the first half had been wonderful, this was the part that made me *really* wish that they sold CDs of this thing, because it was completely weird and fantastic and I would have been all over that.  iTunes, maybe?

…So yes, concert ends, there’s another round of exasperating encores, we’re out at 10:40, 20 minute walk back to bus stop, half hour wait for the bus, bed by midnight and up at 6:00.  And ultimately here we are.

 

Alrighty, then — my roommate’s on skype and I’m having a hard enough time forming coherent sentences even without distraction, so I think that’s about all we can do for tonight.  Back in tomorrow evening to keep on keeping on.

 

But first, a quick P.S. — While we were reading over the Teatro’s upcoming events [for one thing, it’s where we’ll be attending the opera], Kari and I found a concert on October 29th featuring music by Vivaldi, Mozart and Schubert.  \o/ ❤ etc., but the great thing is that we get guaranteed student rates and should be able to get tickets for about 10 Euro.  Nifty, no? : )

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Culture, Persons & Peoples, Practicalities, The City

 

(Day 32) And again…

Lost internet for a long long while and have only just gotten it back; we’re good to go now, but if I horribly offended anybody by not answering emails, that would be why and I get to call do-over.

It’s a bit late here right now, but I’ll be back tomorrow to start talking about Venice and the Wednesday night concert and my first ever sight-size drawing.  Yup, good times : )

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Meta

 

(Day 29) Bouncing Brevity

Monday, 9:50 pm

*sigh*, Venice talk is now on the back-burner, because apparently classes starting today means that I am actually (despicably!) required to do work.  It’ll be a little bit of a sprint to keep on top of everything for the next couple days, so I would say that you could expect more Venice-vacation rambles Wednesday morning, or Friday at the latest.

In the meantime, here’s the ho-hum daily updates, of interest only to my immediate family.  Everyone else can feel free to avert their eyes.

  • Like I mentioned yesterday, first library shift this morning.  And it was nice and I enjoyed it, but…well.  The students who started the cataloging ACM’s library in the spring seem to have left for us incomers all the books that don’t have call numbers, and which are therefore impossible to catalog.  So, having discovered this little setback, the ever-so-brilliant idea I came up with was to *give* them call numbers — as in actual ones, in accordance with the Library of Congress cataloging system.  And Kari and I started on that this morning, but since there are actually two parts to the LC classification system that make it a really slick system for browsing (letters for the subject + numbers for the sub-category of the subject) and because I only just now found a way to accomplish *both*, we’re probably going to have to go back to refine the work we’ve already done.  AND I still have to spend tonight typing up ridiculously detailed fail-proof instructions for the other work study students, so that they too can do the impossible and catalog an un-catalogable library.
  • TLDR: We now have absolutely guaranteed work for everyone and this whole thing is going to look awesome on a resume.
  • Following that fiasco, a really fast lunch and then on to Italian, which we now have Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 to 2:45.  Like everyone else, I walked in perfectly awake and content but stumbled out sleepy and starving — mainly because there’s just no explaining Mondays.  Oh, and we also got more homework than usual, so that’s awesome.
  • Walked down with Willi and Katie to buy art supplies, and it was a beautiful afternoon so actually a quite pleasant time out and about.
  • Drawing class at 5:00.  The ACM group has been split into two, with half the group starting on cast drawings and the other half working on studies of a live model.  I’m in the figure drawing group, and I already know I’m going to love spending my evenings here.  They’ve got things to show me and I’m ready to learn, and the only homework *they* ever give is to draw more — which I think I can handle.
  • Finally got back to the house at 8:00, waited for Ellie, then dinner 8:20 to 9:15.  Start the homework, stare mournfully at the schedule for the days to come, and here we are.

But cool thing is, I do love all my classes so far (even though we have to give that oral presentation tomorrow in the Medici class), and we’ve actually got a couple events coming up that I’m really excited for.  Wednesday night, after figure drawing, most of the ACM group is heading out for a Wayne Marshall concert (performing Gershwin), and this upcoming Saturday I’ll be heading out with Kari, Willi, Katie and Leah for a 13-mile bike tour through the Chianti region.  And that will be a healthful and ever-so-fancy activity that I will just have to make up for on Sunday by bumming around the house all day in my pajamas.  I am a firm believer in balance, you know   : )

Oh, and please to be noting that at that point we’ve hit October, and one full month is officially down \o/

~~~

WELL.  That’s probably as long as I can allow for desperate procrastination rambles, so I guess it’s time to dust off that old Helmet O’ Invincibility and be off to do homework etc.  Back as soon as may be, and as always hope everyone’s hanging in there.

But just because I’d feel bad not to, one more Venice pic:

…See you tomorrow : )