-Why Venice is so beautiful
-Sights we saw
-Our Hunger Walk
Two things were overwhelming to me today.
1) I am 100% in love with Venice.
2) Venice is bloody HOT!!
We had heard mixed things about Venice. Some people don't like it because its a dying city and all that. Now I am not naive enough to think I would want to live there. It's totally a tourist trap, claiming to be the most "romantic city in the world." But I admit, I got caught up in it. It is SO beautiful and (from my one-day exposure as a foreigner) so magical. You could just get lost there for hours (and we did, though I wouldn't recommend it on an empty stomach). It is so incredible to listen to the dueling orchestras play in St' Mark's Square as the sun goes down. Or to just stand on a bridge overlooking the Grand Canal, and watch the gondoliers maneuver these ENORMOUS boats around each other using nothing but a single weird-shaped oar.
We decided not to splurge the 80 euro (nearly $100) to take a gondola ride ourselves, and while initially I had mixed feelings about that, I think that was definitely the right decision, because you can experience the magic of it just standing there watching them all.
So first impressions:
The entire city is literally on water. I think in my mind, I imagined you would have to take a ferry to get to it, but then there would be cars and traffic over there. No no, we never saw a single car. You literally walk or take a boat everywhere in the city. Right up to your front porch if you want. How amazing is that?! And we totes happened upon a bunch of spots that were in the movie, "Italian Job," so that was a fun surprise. Any Marky Mark lovers recognize this spot?
Second impression, I have never been so hot in all my life. I am coming to accept the fact that I am going to be wet from sweat every moment of the day, and be sticky from previous sweat every moment of the night for the rest of this trip. There's no escaping it. I was dripping for most of the day. But despite the heat, I loved (almost) every minute of it. (Story to come).
One of my favorite things was watching street artists create works of art right in front of you. It is AMAZING! So amazing that I might have splurged on a painting...
Also, all the Carnevale masks everywhere. It was cool and a little creepy at the same time.
We saw so many beautiful things. We got to wander into the Frari church, a huge cathedral that is considered one of the best places for art-lovers to go in Venice.
We walked around pretending that we understood things like, "depth" and "lines" and "baroque" and "high renaissance" vs. "early renaissance." Despite our ignorance, it really was beautiful and super interesting. We also got to wander around St. Mark's Basilica and see other beautiful paintings. Right next to St. Mark's is "The Doge's Palace." The doge was ruler of Venice, and his place was spectacular from the outside, but because we are cheap (and hoping we don't run out of money), we didn't pay to go inside. But there is a bridge from the doge's palace, connecting it to the prison just across the canal. It's called "The Bridge of Sighs" because when prisoners were given their sentence, they would pass through that bridge on their way to the prison. The view of Venice they saw through the windows of that bridge was often the last view they ever had. Sad story. Cool bridge.
So after seeing that, we wandered a little more. But then our stomachs growled, and this where things started gettin sketch.
We had left Menaggio so early that morning that we weren't able to eat breakfast. So at one of our train layovers on the way to Venice, we bought some bread. That is what we had had to eat that day. A little chunk of bread, each. When we first arrived in Venice around lunchtime, we didn't even think about lunch, we were so caught up in the magic we saw and making sure we could find a hotel (sidenote: this was the first time we just showed up to a city without having a reservation somewhere and just found a place when we arrived. It totally works! No more panic for future places we haven't reserved). Anyway, we had wandered for hours on empty stomachs, fueled only by our curiosity and wonder. But those things only fuel you if you don't realize you're hungry. Once you realize you haven't eaten in 8 hours and you are sweating your brains out and you are out of water, nothing else matters but finding sustenance. The problem is, we were so famished by this point that we wanted really good food (I mean come on, we earned it!). The problem is that we were lost somewhere around the Accademia. We saw some sketch places and some expensive places but didn't want either. You would think our hunger would have just made us pick the first thing we saw, but it was the weirdest thing. It's like our brains were so fuzzy, we were both slurring our speech, and we had to find "good, cheap food." And every place we turned down, made it that much more important to find a place that would make all this effort worth it. It was the worst.
We wandered in the heat, delirious from hunger until we finally chose a nicer, more expensive place and drank all the water we could while sharing the cheapest thing on their menu (I think they were unhappy with us). Regardless, we made it, and afterwards, we got gelato. And then all was right with the world again.
We were in no state for a before picture so I'm sorry you can't compare. Trust me, it was rough.
After dinner, we had a renewed sense of strength, so we hung out in St. Mark's Square. Every night, the square is dotted with "dueling orchestras" that rotate playing their music all night to the crowd seated at the cafes in front. It turns out, if you sit down at one of those cafes, the owner can charge you 20 euro for listening to the music. But if you stay standing, you can listen all you want. Luckily we were warned about this, so we walked around to whatever orchestra was playing and shamelessly danced to that particular kind of music, until they stopped and a new one started. Then we'd move too. It was so great, dancing to a live orchestra in Venice as the sun went down.
It was then that we noticed the birds.
St. Mark's Square is COVERED in pigeons. Like, they're everywhere. And they don't fly away. If you stand there long enough, holding your arms out like a scarecrow, they will come and land on you thinking you have food. We know this because we saw two 8-year old boys doing it and Robbie was convinced if they could do it, so could he. So I laughed and laughed as he stood there in the middle of all these birds and tons of people holdin his arms out like a goober. Until it worked. Then all laughter was gone, and I was right there with him, like a Mrs. Scarecrow, willing them to come to me too. When they did, it was so crazy. I was elated and terrified at the same time.
Unfortunately, we didn't really think about how unsanitary those pigeons were until after we did it. Then we were worried all night that we were going to catch some crazy disease. Still cool though.
We finally took a water bus back to our hotel and we were SO exhausted. Seriously, as disgusting as I knew I was from the heat, I could not stand up off the bed to take a shower. It took Robbie five minutes of persuading (and he even had to bribe me with a foot massage) for me to finally get clean.
Long, long day. But I would not have changed a thing. We loved Venice so much!