Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Exploring Venezia and an Evening With Good Friends
The streets of Venezia were a bee hive of activity today. With warm temperatures and the sun shining brightly in the sky, we wasted no time getting right out to explore this amazing city on an island.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco is a 16th century building. Often referred to as "Tintorreto's Sistine Chapel", there are over 50 paintings inside, Housed on two floors, the museum has conveniently placed chairs around the room with mirrors in wooden frames you can borrow for a better view. For the first five minutes inside, I couldn't understand why the place was so badly lit. Turns out I was wearing my sunglasses!
Finding Ca Rezzonico was a bit of a challenge. After a series of left and right turns, many leading to a tiny bridge, or a dead end, and waiting for a vaporetto that never came, we finally found it. It's a museum showing the life of wealthy people in the 18th century. The paintings, porcelain, and furniture are nicely displayed although the focus of most of the rooms is what is on the walls and ceiling.
Back on the streets, crowds were gathering around bridges, churches, and gelatti stands. In San Marco, people sat on the steps to escape the sun while others fed the pigeons, window shopped, or stopped by one of the carts selling Venezia souvenirs. They appear to be doing a lot of restoration work and while the fencing around the Campanile explains the process, huge cosmetic ads covered one of the buildings and even the Bridge of Sighs. We are always glad to see continual restoration work in progress, but it was disappointing to see ads placed over scaffolding.
Just off Rialto Bridge, visitors were tempted by machines churning ice cold lemon and orange drinks, and by slices of coconut placed on a fountain. Most appealing of all were cups filled with fresh watermelon, strawberries, oranges, and kiwi slices. We saw some men selling knock off Prada bags. They create an appealing display for the tourists and then scurry off with them at a moment's notice if the police are spotted. Just to see what they would say, I asked one of them if they were real and he enthusiastically replied' "Yes. Please have a look!"
In the evening we met our good friend, Monika, and her friend Hanne in front of San Marco for dinner.
We started right off with a spritz at a very atmospheric cafe right on the Grand Canal with gondolas docked right beside us and vaparretos motoring by.
On our way to our restaurant which was hidden behind the main tourist area, we noticed a full moon rising above the Lido. With her camera propped up on the rail of one of the bridges, Monika captured the image for us.
At the restaurant we could tell that this was a place more for the locals. With not another tourist in sight, we enjoyed a delicious meal surrounded by several large extended families. With all the happy chatter around us, it was quite loud inside, but when you're in the company of good friends, it doesn't really matter. After dinner we decided to find Harry's Bar, a favorite spot of Hemmingway. Like adventurers ourselves, we searched along the dimly lit alleys and along the water's edge, but never found it. Instead we stopped at Piccolo Martini which was a cute little restaurant.
The midnight bells rang out a warm welcome just as we stepped into San Marco. Surprisingly, only one cafe was still open with people gathering around to hear the orchestra playing romantic tunes.
As it was getting late, it was time to say goodbye to our friends and for us to Venezia. Tomorrow we head to Croatia!