Day 22

Posted by Whit Barringer , Wednesday, June 20, 2007 8:57 AM

6-16-07

CT 11:25
IT 6:25

Enchanted

(Two days have passed by now since these events, so forgive me for those things that are vague or not mentioned at all.)

Because I stayed by myself on the far side of the island, I was subject to my own schedule for the most part. That said, I figured I would go straight to San Marco and hit the museums. Unlike the day before, the Circulare bus didn’t come, so I decided to take Bus A since it was probably going to come back to S.M.E. anyway. Wrong. I was on the part of the circuit that went straight to the other side of the island. I have a picture of the sign that said I entered another town. Anyway, I got out at the last stop and then hopped back on the bus after taking pictures (at the end of one leg of the route, the bus drivers get out and stretch). I then got back to S.M.E. and took the ferry right away.

I got the Piazza San Marco and twiddled my thumbs a bit, wondering what to do. I kind of wanted to feed the pigeons, but I had 30 Euro in my wallet and I wanted to make it last until I left. I saw a huge line for Basilica di San Marco, so I went ahead and got in line, reading Italo Calvino all the while. When I got closer to the church, I saw bad news: I had to go check my bag at a place that wasn’t in the church. So I had to get out of line, go to San Basso church just a block away, check my bag, and come back and get in at the end of the line. It was a major detriment to my enthusiasm, but the line moved pretty quickly and I got to listen to the British people behind me read out of their guide book.

When we got inside the door, there were people being taken aside and cloaked with what looked like butcher paper. One of the women behind me gasped (well, it was hideous), and said, “Why are they putting that on?” I turned and told her (from my plentiful experience) that they had to wear it because their shoulders had to be covered. The woman behind me said, “OOOOOH. Of course” and submitted herself to fashion hell. I had jean capris and a t-shirt on, so as usual I was fine. When I walked in, for someone who has museum/church fatigue, I was generally awed. Every inch of ceiling was covered in gold and multi-color mosaic. It was absolutely gorgeous. Think my pictures of the baptistery over a space 20 times bigger. It was absolutely gorgeous and inspiring.

I hadn’t expected getting in the church to be free, but I soon found out why. To get into the Treasury of Saint Mark, two rooms to the side, I had to pay 2 Euro. I tried to pull a student discount (remember how much I have to work with), but the guy shook his head, looking kind of tired of me already. I forked it over reluctantly (you have to constantly remind yourself that a) you’ll never be able to come back or b) you don’t know when you’ll be able to come back, or you will never be able to spend money). The treasure ended up being mostly reliquaries. When we went to the Medici Chapel last week, we thought that was a lot of dead people in pretty caskets. There were so many people’s parts in those little jars and chests that it almost looked like a Frankensteinian graveyard. Some of the coolest ones were in the shape of forearms – complete with hands – with windows to the bones in the arm that they contained, the actual container being gold and gem encrusted. It was a fantastic show of what I consider to be an ugly part of the Catholic Church – the dissection and dismantling of human beings for political and religious purposes. While it may be ugly, it’s extremely interesting to look at. The second room mostly had artifacts from 9th and 10th century Constantinople and Byzantium (pre-Schism), huge swords, and other such treasures. I also saw what would end up being the first of many artifacts that had been taken to New York to be in an exhibit called Venice and the Islamic World.

When I exited the treasure of San Marco, I looked for tombs. I usually find those the most fascinating aspect of these Catholic churches. Surrounded by dead people, worshippers pray for their salvation and for their own guarantee of an afterlife. But there weren’t many to be seen in this church. The mosaics (anytime you see a mosaic in Italy it’s either going to be ancient Roman or Byzantine. If you ever come, you’ll see that this influence is everywhere) were pretty much the life of the party here, especially the ceilings and the floor. Even the floors were covered from wall to wall in swirling and optical illusion mosaics.

I went up to see the screen and realized that I had to pay again, this time only 1.50. The man was a lot nicer than the last guy, at least saying, “Buongiorno.” I paid him and said “grazie” to which he said, “Prego, rigazza. Ciao.” Where I would consider it a bit belittling for someone to consistently call me “sweetie” or “dear” in the States, rigazza has its own charm (depending on the gender, it means “young girl” or “young boy”). Anyway, I went up the stairs to go to the Pala d’Oro, which is something like an altar screen I think (I’m not sure how these things work). On one side it was a painting on wood of saints and Christ (almost as common as the Crucifix and Madonna and Child). On the other side was this beautiful array of Christ, apostles, and saints, plated in gold and encrusted with gems on every side of it. It was absolutely gorgeous and gaudy, which I think was the point to an extent. After that, I walked around the church slowly, trying to absorb as much as I could. The church was holding mass at the time I came in, so I went ahead and left for the gift shop. I bought some postcards and a book and left. I got my bag and tried to determine what I should do next.

I knew there were museums across the piazza from the church because I had seen signs for exhibits. I thought, “Why not?” and went to check on what was up. There was a huge sign about a pass, but it was about as labyrinthine as the city so I had no idea what I was actually reading. I went up these huge stairs to a room filled with gift shop books and two clerks. The one I went up to spoke perfect English and told me that I could get into all of the San Marco plus quite a few civic museums for 18 Euro (one museum, the Ducal Palace, was 13 Euro alone). I didn’t want to pay that much (and I wasn’t going to be here that long), so the guy suggested I take the San Marco + Pass that only included the museums of San Marco plus one other civic museum for 13. I took that deal, because I planned on going to two other museums, making the pass more than pay for itself. I got my pass, checked my bag, and went through the Museo Correi.
Which was a bit disappointing.

See, I’ve come from Florence, the Renaissance city, so 17th century art is kind of anticlimactic to me. I did like the ancient artifacts, like the map room and Venezian armory, but otherwise it was almost a bust. When I came out of the museum, I was trying to decide where I wanted to go next. I walked along the right arm of San Marco when I got a call from Dr. Bane, telling me he was in the piazza. I went to find him and with one more call, we successfully found each other. He said that his bunch was trying to get money out of an ATM and then they were going to the Accademia, where some Da Vinci stuff is supposedly being held (insert Bane’s hypothesis that the Vitruvian Man, which the museum claims to hold, has been lost as he has not seen it at the Accademia or any Accademia sponsored exhibit where it was supposedly placed). They invited me to go with him, but I refused saying I still wanted to go to Murano, the glass craft island. We parted ways and I took the 45 minute boat ride to Murano.

Murano is a twin island to Burano (though the latter is smaller). Both islands have their craft of choice – Murano being glass and glass blowing and Burano being lace and lace-making. As can be imagined, Murano is the island of choice for wealthy tourists but also those who are curious – as they do glass blowing “shows.” Burano is less touristy, but tours can still be taken to see the lace workers on the job. I had come to see the glass blowers actually blow glass. However, Dr. Bane and Paulette had talked about how they will try to show you to a big show room, give you champagne, and look at things that are over 1000 Euro. I saw people waving people in, and I ignored them, thinking they were trying to steal my money or make me buy something I didn’t want to. When I realized that I was so afraid of being conned into a bad situation I wasn’t seeing anything, I decided I didn’t need to be there. I had called Natalie, trying to meet up with them, but it turns out I was on the wrong side of the island anyway. So I hopped on the next boat to the Lido – after I’d gotten a coke.

When I got to Lido, I’m not really sure what happened. I got on the right bus, but not at the right stop. So I waited for a bus to go the other way since I’d gone too far. The bus I got on took me in a complete opposite direction than I thought it should have, so I ended up having to take another bus back to S.M.E. I finally got the right bus, go to the Hotel Meridiana, went up to my room, and got a call from Dr. Bane asking if I was coming back. So I stayed for literally five minutes, went back out the door, and waited for the bus. The bus I needed didn’t come, so I had to walk back to S.M.E. – only 15 -20 minutes this time. I took the Accademia vaparetto and as soon as I stepped off, Dr. Bane and Paulette were there waiting for me. Turns out they had already done the Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim museum. We all went out for gelato, but went ahead and got Giuandotto or something to that effect. It’s a treat only served in Venice. Basically they take a huge slab of chocolate, cut off a rectangle, and drop it in a cup of cream. It was good, but I didn’t want to finish it because I’m not that huge of a fan of chocolate. Then we all decided to go back to the Rialto Bridge to shop a little.

When we got off at the Rialto Bridge, a change place on the side said the exchange rate there was 1.50. I started freaking out and I called my mom to warn her she might have to help me out with the exchange rate going up. Dr. Bane and Paulette offered to spot me until Florence in case the exchange rate was lower there. I went to a couple of shops and bought some glass animal families for gifts and myself a masque. Dr. Bane had started gathering people to go on a gondola ride and to figure out who all wanted to go to dinner (I hadn’t eaten anything substantial yet at this point). Our reservations were for 9:30, so we could go on a gondola ride at around 7:30. We amassed 18 people while Paulette went and bargained with the gondoliers. We got a chain smoker, who only sat on the dock and puffed away. He was certainly good natured though.

We all got into the boat, me last. When I sat down he said it wouldn’t work and wanted me to switch with someone across the boat. One of the scariest moments in my life trying to walk across a gondola, but I made it without any tipping. Then we set sail through Venice. We got to see the water damage up close, which ended up being my interest throughout the entire ride. It was so quiet, though. The gondolier would occasionally point out one of the houses of Marco Polo (which prompted us to sing, “Marco Polo One, Marco Polo Two, Marco Polo Three,” and so on) as well as the Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs. It was a fun ride and I might like to do it again sometime.

Btw, the gondoliers don’t sing anymore. They have a separate company for it, whom they have to call. They’ll send out an accordion player and a singer, who sit in the boat with you with the gondolier. So no, there was no singing. But we tried to get them to.

After all of the gondola rides, we took off a brisk pace to get to this excellent restaurant Paulette and Dr. Bane kept talking about. We went the wrong way two or three times. When we finally got there, there were 12 of us and they volunteered at table for all of us instead of the original nine on the reservation if we would wait 10 more minutes. We did and then went up to the second floor of the restaurant. It was the first time I was going to eat all day, so I got salmon pasta and sautéed mushrooms. Good lord, I’ve never seen so much pasta on one plate for one person. It was huge and extremely good.

After dinner, we all went to the dock and hopped on the boat. Dr. Bane showed me where I needed to get off if I wanted to go to Lido Casino, but I decided to go on with the rest of them and either catch the bus or walk home. I ended up doing the latter, but it was safe or I wouldn’t have even mentioned it. I was exhausted from my long day and was completely ready to go to bed. Instead, I went downstairs and used the Wi-Fi, trying to get my money’s worth. The clerk happened to be asleep on the couch when I came in, and hopped up when he heard me like he’d never been asleep. Then he started to come back into the room and groaned when he saw I was still there. About 10 minutes later, he came back with a pillow and asked if I was going to go to bed. He laid down on the couch and I just stared at him (all of the passports that people had given for their room keys were still in open cubby holes next to the unlocked front door) and said, “Hopefully.” He asked me when I checked out. I told him and he grunted and went back to sleep. When I went to bed he told me bye.

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