Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day 2: Venice

Typical Italian breakfast
On the second day of our vacation, we slept in until about 8:00 am and then went to breakfast in the back garden of our hotel, Casa Rezzonico.  For those of you who may not know, Italian breakfast is nothing like American breakfast.  Rather than eggs and bacon, it is much lighter fare such as yogurt, croissants, fruit, prosciutto and cheese, or pastries. 

One view of the back garden at Casa Rezzonico
When reading some reviews online, we realized that the church or "library" from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade took place at San Barnabas Church.  According to the map, the church should be right around the corner....  so after breakfast we took off in search of the famous church where one of our favorite old-school movies took place.  We managed to get all turned around...big surprise! We could not figure out where in the world this church could possibly be...  We broke out the map and tried our best to re-navigate toward San Barnabas.  Eventually we ended up circling around and found Campo San Barnabas....RIGHT next door to our hotel, but in the opposite direction than we originally headed.  Ooops.  It is even funnier that we had walked through this campo at least six times already and by this church several times, but I guess we never took a good, hard look at it straight on (we were almost always walking into the square from behind it...) , and once we looked at it in a new light, we realized that this was the church from the movie!  We laughed so hard that we had totally missed this detail every time we saw it before and that we had just spent over an hour tracking down a church that was 100 meters (Like that metric touch?)  from our hotel! It was open so we entered the church, but it is now used to display an art exhibit on Leonardo Da Vinci.  Very interesting to me, but there was a hefty price tag to enter, so we chose not to.  Cool connection though!   
Where "X" marks the spot in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade...
Typical narrow walkway in Venice

Speaking of wrong turns, this may a good time to discuss navigation within the island of historic Venice.  First of all, let me say that maps should only be used "loosely" in Italy- especially Venice.  Venice is comprised of one main Grand Canal and several smaller offshoots-smaller canals. These are the main thoroughfares.  If you are not on a boat, you need to take to the walkways of Venice.  There are no typical streets or cars or land buses on the island.  These narrow alleys wind all over Venice- around buildings, around water, around anything.  None of them are straight.  Many of them are not even marked.  On a map, it may appear that you come to a crossroads where you can either go right or left, but when you get to that actual crossroads, it is more like your choices are to continue straight or veer to the right.  So we just learned that you have to just choose one.  You will most likely be faced with this decision about 30 times in a typical walk which leaves a lot of room for error.  To complicate things, you can usually not get a bearing of where you are located based on landmarks (if you are unfamiliar with the area as we were), because you are sandwiched between tall buildings and cannot really see out in the area around you.  8 times out of 10, you will "choose poorly" (Get it??) and end up on a completely different part of the island than you originally intended. However, the good news is that you are on a small island.  You can only go so far. We quickly learned to take this lightly and just enjoy getting lost and finding our way back.  It became a sort of an adventure.  We felt very safe in Venice everywhere we went- even in the back alleys as long as we were together.  However, as a single female, I would not be caught in these skinny walkways alone at night.  

Our next step was purchasing a day (12 hour) pass for the vaporetto, or water bus.  In hindsight, we wish we had purchased the three day pas to begin with, as then we could have just hopped on and off the vaporetto to get here or there without getting so lost. It is good to know that there are no direct walkaways immediately adjacent or following the Grand Canal.  You will have to enter the maze that is Venice and it will take a lot longer than you think.  Also, there are only four bridges that cross the main canal so you have to find your way to the next closest bridge to cross- if you can find it... This is where vaporetto pass comes in handy. No matter where you are, you can almost always find a stop along the Grand Canal. Let me add that the vaporetto can be quite pricey, but it is very worthwhile if your time is limited in anyway or if you want to venture out from the main island at all. A single-use vaporetto pass- good for 90 minutes or one trip- is  7.  However, if you plan to be around and sight-see for at least one day, I recommend that you buy a pass, saving you a chunk of money and time.  See this sight for a list of the current prices, which by the way were raised the very day we arrived in Venice...go figure! We wanted to have free reign of the island that day and even leave the main island, so we each bought a 12 hour unlimited pass for  €12 each. 

Watch this great video of our ride along the Grand Canal from the vaporetto bus... 
We hopped on the vaporetto and headed for St. Mark's Square once more.  There Sam found his hat.  And it was another perfect picture opportunity. 
Next we jumped a vaporetto to the island of Murano- a smaller island of Venice.  There are several, but Murano is well-known for its Venetian glass.  We decided to see some glass-blowing in action.  It was a fun 25 minute boat ride out there for a fairly short (and HOT) glass blowing demonstration, but it was something different to do.
Venetian Glass Blowing Demonstration
Sam enjoying Murano
Church of Santa Maria e Donato
The island of Murano was small and somewhat uneventful, but did we take a stroll into the Church of Santa Maria e Donato. With that, we decided to head back to the historic district, find our way back to the hotel and find some grub. 
More Murano
Next we took the vaporetto back to the Ferrovia stop by the Saint Lucia train station. We stopped in and bought our train tickets for the following day to Monterosso al Mare.  This was our first time using the self-service machines, but were glad to discover that it is pretty easy (as long as you find one in working order) and they take American credit (non chip and pin) cards just fine.  For more info on how to do this, I found this site particularly helpful.  After buying our train tickets for the next day, we ventured towards home and stopped at a Snack Bar.  Unfortunately, I did not write down the cross street, but it was somewhere on the corner of Calle de Mezzo near San Polo.  There are several restaurants called "Snack Bar" throughout all Italian cities, and most of them I would not recommend, but this one was OK. There are the type of places that several pre-made sandwiches, pizza, and pasta. You pick out what you want and then reheat it for you.  We chose to sit and relax, while others get it to go.  This one was quite nice. Sam chose to get a ricotta and spinach cannelloni, while I chose just a simple pasta pomodoro (with tomato sauce). 
It was at this restaurant that we found ourselves in a conversation with other Americans- truck drivers in town from Georgia.  They had just come from Milan.  They had a bit too much to drink and invited us to tag along with them to St. Mark's Square. Although we were honored by their invitation, we politely declined and continued on our way to our hotel. Or so we thought...  We stopped by a second snack bar along the way for some very mediocre gelato.  Sam got banana. I had chocolate. We ended up getting completely lost once again- ended up somewhere in the area known as San Polo.  Here we found our very first grocery market.  We were in love!  In Italy there is almost a complete absence of any commercialism-no Home Depot, no Wal-Mart, no large grocery chains, and we only saw one ritzy McDonald's and a Burger King awkwardly crammed into some historical buildings all throughout Italy.  It felt so good not to have to rely on these franchises and just get back to basics.  This was just a family-owned market, stocked with the freshest ingredients.  We wandered through the store and bought a couple huge 1.5 liter bottles of water.  (We were seriously dehydrated.) We explored the market and bought some random items to snack on during our train trip in the morning.  We were amazed by this boxed wine that looked like a giant juice box, so we had to buy it.  And note this boxed wine only cost €3 (not €10)!
Check out the price for THREE balls of fresh mozzarella!  Outstanding! 
I think Sam's favorite part of the whole trip were the grocery stores! 
We headed home and took a one hour break in the blessed air-conditioning of our hotel room. Then we sat on the back patio of the hotel and drank some wine in the nice, cool shade. It was so hot, so Sam was desperate to find a linen shirt.  The guy at the front desk of our hotel recommended a department store near the Rialto.  The store is called "COIN". We thought we would check it out after our visit to the Rialto Bridge.
Before we embarked for the Rialto, we were really in need of our own multi-tool/pocket knife.  We figured the corkscrew would be handy for opening wine and the knife could be used to cut bread and cheese when we snacked.  We found a tiny hole-in-the-wall hardware store just by our hotel in Campo Santa Margherita and bought one after much sign language due to an obvious lack in communication. It was an awesome cultural experience!
The Rialto Bridge
The Accademia Bridge
We took the vaporetto (using our 12 hour pass) to the Rialto stop, wandered along the insanely-packed shops of the bridge where I bought my one and only souvenir- a beautiful blue and white beaded bracelet.  We then continued around the corner into a very ritzy shopping area (totally NOT us), but we eventually found COIN.  They had a couple linen shirts, but as I suspected they were way more than we are used to spending on clothing, so we opted out.  Sam was disappointed, but now had made it his mission to find a linen shirt sometime on vacation.  While we circled stores on this quest we somehow ended all the way back at St.Mark's Square again- funny how this happens! We then walked back to the Accademia Bridge. From here, we hopped on the vaporetto down to the Ferrovia stop near the mouth of the "fish" (Look at a map of Venice here.)  We crossed the Scalzi bridge and immediately came across Bar Pizzeria Vittoria.  We had passed it a couple times prior and it just looked inviting so we thought we would give it a try. It has nice sturdy wooden booths outside.  We sat, each order a glass of wine and split a margherita pizza. The food and service were both fine- nothing spectacular, but definitely not bad.  See the full review here.  
Bar Pizzeria Vittoria
Margherita Pizza

We then hopped back on the vaporetto (Thank goodness for that day pass!) and rode it all the way down the canal, awaiting sunset!  We eventually circled back to our stop.  We once again (don't judge) grabbed a gelato at Il Doge- Sam had the Italian wedding cake, and I had the Crema, similar to a custard flavor. I just found this awesome website that decodes Italian gelato flavors!  If only I had read this before we left!  We were always just guessing...  
Finally back at our hotel, we indulged in our  3 wine in a juice box, and it was much better than the selection from the night before!  
Tune in tomorrow for more adventures when we take one last look at Venice and then head for the beach! 

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.