The City of Canals and I

All aboard the gondola!
I can’t help but think that Gothic architecture and water go together as well as PB&J in sandwiches.

07/11/12 9:30PM Hotel Leonardo

Sunburnt. Seductive. Aged.

These words come to mind when I try to sum up the Venice I delved into today. Read “delve” as an intimate plunge into the hustling arteries and lonelier veins of every corner of the city, most of them still unknown to me…

The morning started with a classic breakfast of toast (soft, melt-in-your-mouth kinda cheese and thin prosciutto ham sandwiched between 2 slices of crispy white toast, no crust) in a streetside “snack bar” café. As we unconsciously people-watched, I noticed that many people walked small dogs here, daschunds, papillons, small collies etc. Also, I’ve found my ladies! Also Known As: severely tanned/sun-blessed women of all ethnicities strolling on their way to breakfast, carrying small bags of shopping, spaghetti strap dresses lightly trailing in the narrowly non-existent breeze, dark shoulders. With this level of heat and humidity, not to mention light intensity, it was hard not to start the morning in a totally sunny mood.

Enjoying a slow breakfast at Snack Bar

We then headed to the Gondola Service dock where we were told that all boats were booked til an hour later at 11:30am. Fair enough, we bought 4 twenty euro tickets and wandered about the smaller streets behind the dock area using the “Ferrovia” signs as our North Star. I didn’t trust Dad to take us back to the starting point in a circular route but somehow, winding through the unfamiliar steps, allyes, sidewalks, and puentes, we suddenly found ourselves right next to the Church steps by the gondola docks. Crikey. Well. Okay. Good intuition, Dad. Better be in my genes too.

Onto the Gondola! Classic example of tourist-rip-off-yet-inescapable-cycle-since-you-do-this-once-in-a-lifetime. Mom had been harping about finding the most handsome Italian young man to row our gondola while serenading her with romantic ballads while the rest of us look on from the non-intrusive banks. Very sweet, Mom, but we loved you too much to give you such personal space. There’s no doubt the gondola guys were friendly enough though, lighting up a cigarette or breaking into song now and then during our ride; but honestly we were left with all the old guys.

They probably handpicked all the finer looking boys into the police force instead. They do a fine job of swaggering up the bridge steps, looking good, and arriving just in time to miss the hawkers, who scent law reinforcement more acutely than a herd of wild deer (which I spotted for the briefest and most magical instant outside our apartment in Oslo 11 days later). They wrap up their wares in a scoop so deft it should be officialized into an art. Seems to be the case in too many cities, otherwise where would our pirated DVDs/DKNYs/Guccis/iPads be??

Church of the Scalzi, right next to the Santa Lucia Railway Station, is a baroque church completed in the late 17th century.
Every angle along the Grand Canal was picture-worthy, even for an amateur photographer like me!
My “I have no idea where I am but I’m LOVING this place!” face.
Wandering away from the Grand Canal, we came across more of these slimmer waterways afloat with leisurely gondolas.
Take a peek: these quiet slivers of town offer an authentic feel for the daily lives of today’s Venetians.

To kill time, we decided to wander about the pontes and campo del Roma to the West of the Santa Lucia train station. Venezia is not unlike a Goddess who looks good from any angle, because anyone who clutches a camera develops a mysterious walking disorder in which the affected is unable to proceed more than 10 ft without stopping to shoot Venezia from a newfound angle, each a little more heart-stopping than the previous: a colourful panorama of century-old canal-side houses; a collage of criss-crossing bridges that play with our senses of spatial perspective; tight, secretive alleys from which a single gondola emerges like it was born to do so. Oh and the campo del Roma, contrary to my expectations, is nothing like the Piazza di San Marco. In fact, it is simply a bus terminal. Talking about underwhelming.

After our slow gondola ride, which, to my aesthetic and economic satisfaction, did transport us into less frequented parts of the city, we opted to walk to the Ponte di Rialto and afterwards the famed Piazza di San Marco itself. Let me tell you, by all means, step on-board a gondola. But if your goal is to simply get lost in quieter parts of the city maze, I’d recommend that you go on foot instead and save your 20 euros for an exquisite Italian dinner. The gondola looks very narrow and kayaklike in its length and pointy ends, but sitting on it, you experience a thrilling level of motion equal to sitting on your couch, with the rare jostle when a passing sewage boat or water taxi disturbs the waves.

How neatly can you park your gondola?
Drinking in the city (but not the water)
Taking a moment off

I know we are in the middle of our ride on the canal but I’m afraid I’ll have to suspend our gondola here til Wednesday. This hot, peachy day is far from over and I have SO many more pictures to show you! Wait for it…… (say that in Barney Stinson’s voice).

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