Saturday, 22 August 2015

Italy, Venice {day 7}

Our last full day in Italy needed to be seized! And, if we didn't want to stand in the sun outside St. Marks all morning, we needed to get going early! 

That said, vacation-time-early isn't all that early. We left the hotel a little after 8 and got to the square at 8:30 or so. Entrance only opens at 9:45 and there was no queue yet so we sat close by and watched the situation. At 8:45 the queue barricades were put out and the queue began. There were less than 10 people in front of us, but we needed to wait about an hour until the doors opened, which meant we just embraced the great view of the mosaics above the doors and the fascinating clock-tower as it ticked off the time....

As we waited, I really wasn't sure if it was going to be worth the wait. But it totally was. The interior was just spectacular and like no cathedral I've seen before, covered in rich, deep colours and golden mosaics. It's a little odd how one has a cordoned off, carpeted path to walk on, which doesn't really allow one to sit somewhere and take it all in. Since no photography is allowed and one waits so long to enter, I found that a little disappointing. 
But, there's a photo of the entrance-way before one is properly inside - so you can imagine what the real interior is like! :) 

Since we queued early, we were out of St Marks just after 10am, which meant we had pretty much the whole day ahead of us. We wandered along the route we'd walked the previous day, and made our way to the ships pavilion. 

We peeped into the building and it didn't seem worth the ticket price, so we decided to skip it after all. We sat by the canal and poked a finger in so that we could say we'd touched the Mediterranean sea, while looking on our map to see where to go next. 

The Basilica di San Pietro di Castello appeared intriguing and the walk there was really pretty as we passed through a sort of ship yard and came across old ladies and their shopping-bags. 

We arrived at the church, and walked into the entrance, and then noticed that to go further we'd need to pay. While it has a fascinating history, we really didn't want to pay for this one, when San Marco's entrance was free. Plus, from the door way one could pretty much see everything anyway. As we sat on a bench in the avenue leading to the doors, we watched many others arrive, walk in, and walk out 10 seconds later. Clearly others felt the same as we did, which is a pity since one walks quite a distance in an obscure direction just to see it.

We hadn't had any coffee that day, and after starting the last 6 days with good, strong coffee, I was definitely feeling the effects! We found a cafe with a view of the sea and defied every travel-tip-website on Italy, and ordered a Cappuccino after 11am while considering what to do next  - more canal-wandering.  

By the time we got near Santa Maria dei Miracoli, at the Ponte Santa Maria Nova, we were actually searching for a slice of pizza, but we came across some gondoliers. On one hand, I didn't want to fall for a tourist trap, which it really is. But on the other hand, this was our one chance to experience a Gondola ride and I'd been given money in advance for my birthday to use on this trip.
We went over to a Gondolier and asked for details, and after getting the price confirmed, we walked away somewhat dejectedly... I wasn't convinced we should spend so much. We stood in the shade considering what to do, when the Gondolier, Alessandro called us back over. He offered to find some people to share the Gondola with us, which would halve the price we'd pay. We agreed happily and he told us to give him 5 minutes... I was skeptical, but we waited in the shade and tried to look like the kind of people you want to share a gondola with. Sure enough, within 5 minutes two friends travelling Europe together, one from Korea and the other from Turkey, were ready to join us.

We were a happy bunch and the gondolier was really informative and friendly. He took us through some quiet canals, then briefly out into the grand canal, then back into quiet waters and past the house where Marco Polo lived. It was a quiet time of day with no traffic-jams, and it awesome sharing a gondola - not only did we pay half the usual price, but the girls were also really willing to take photos for us, and us for them.

As we were nearing the end, Alessandro started singing and it was so quiet and peaceful. A kiss from Malcolm made it one of the most romantic moments.

After saying goodbye and walking off in a muddle of happiness, giddiness and love, we were a little disorientated an found ourselves back at the edge of the island, but on the opposite side that we'd anticipated. We had a beautiful view though, and enjoyed the walk while searching for a slice of pizza for lunch. Funny how when one's looking, there just doesn't seem to be anywhere...

We eventually had our pizza, and found our way back to our hotel to take a break from all the walking we'd done. Once rejuvenated and feeling fresh-legged, we set off again, this time to find the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.

We found it, but it was hard to get a good look at since there was a sort of walk-way shelter between the buildings that we weren't even sure what to look at. But, the girls we'd shared the gondola with were sitting on some steps and we asked them for their gelato-recommendations and went with them to get some, get to know them a little, and then be on our way again. 

We actually had plans to go somewhere for dinner, but we realised how close to the Accademia we were, so we went there. The building itself wasn't amazing, but the view on the way and then from the Ponte dei L'Accademia were worth the detour! And then, since we were so close, we went all the way to the Santa Maria della Salute and watched Venice light up across the water.

The down-side to a city of canals, is that we now needed to do a LOT of backtracking to get back to the bridge that would take us to San Marco... so, a long walk later, we were at the Piazza, and enjoyed seeing the square all lit up and feeling the sea-breeze sweeping over it.

Our supper plans were still on hold. We wanted to eat somewhere at a canal, but not at the grand canal since it would be more expensive. So, another long walk ensued, and we finally got to a restaurant in the North. By now, all that they were making was pizza, but with this beautiful spot right next to a quiet canal, and it being very unlikely that anybody else was still serving anything but pizza, we decided to eat there. Pretty much a perfect end to an incredible day in Venice!

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