When we first set out the itinerary for our trip, Venice was a "well, if we're in Italy, we should go see Venice" - almost a have-to-do, not so much a want-to-do. Our two nights here have exceeded our expectations - what a great city!
Arriving yesterday afternoon, we took the necessary vapparetto ride from the train station to St. Mark's. The B&B where we are staying is literally a 2-minute walk from St. Mark's Square, on a quite side street (up 4 flights of stairs!). Ric, the owner and our host, is great - young, funny, and friendly. He set us up for two great dinners and helped us map our our "agenda". Last night, after a simple dinner, we just strolled around St. Mark's Square. The weather has been great - about 75 during the day, not muggy, a bit of a breeze in the evening, but warm. The square is magical at night - no crowds, small orchestras playing at 4 diffrent cafes, taking turns to out-play each other, while the crowds wander back and forth, dancing (some people, anyway!) and enjoying the music. The square is softly lit by lanterns along the promenades, with the large facades of the Basillica, Doge's Palace, the Campenilli, and the Square itself rising overhead.
Today we started with a stroll through the city - it isn't rally that big. We took the advise of trying to get lost - and were pretty succesful! We crossed over the Rialto Bridge and wandered through small back lanes and alleys. We stopped for a while at a small square next to a good-sized church. Here we just sat and watched the locals (very few tourists) go through life - from kids kicking soccer balls, to a dad teaching his 2-year old daughter how to step in a puddle and make wet footpirnts on the concrete; to a small boy chasing pidgeons, and parents and grandparents playing with their kids. Even seeing the teenagers with their cellphones surgically implanted to their ears made us comment on how people everywhere are the same - maybe we speak different languages and come from somewhat diffrent backgrounds - but we all are pretty much the same when you sit back and watch.
After touring the Frari Church (out of the way, but well worth the trip), we found a small bistro for a quick panini for lunch (cheap and good!), and road a traghetto across the canal (kind of a big gondolla used for commuting - as Ric said "three minutes of fun for 50 cents!). We then returned to the St. Mark's area and did the "touristy" things - the Basillica (very impressive, especially the gold mosaics), the Campanelli (a 300-foot tall bell tower with a fantastic view of Venice), and the Doge's Palace - the home of the old duke and center of the Venetian government for hundreds of years. While we did get to walk across teh Bridge of Sighs, it is under renovation on the outside, covered with scaffolding (and a big billboard!).
After a full day of touring, we had a great seafood dinner at a small restaurant, then wandered to the Grand Canal and took a nighttime ride on the vaporretto (they're right - it is romantic!), and then finshed up with another evening in St. Mark's Square.
Tomorrow we leave Venice and catch a train for the Cinque Terre, but I'm sure Venice will remain one of the highlights of our travels. Since we're not sure how accessible internet will be in Vernazza, it might be a few days before our next post. Until then, Ciao.
Mike and Karen