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Venice

September 16, 2011

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Venice from our hostel on Giudecca, looking north across the Giudecca canal.

Friday, September 9

“You’re going to love it!”

This from the woman of a couple we met on the bus from Villach, Austria, to Venice. In fact we did not. We didn’t hate it, but of all the cities we’ve visited so far, Venice is the least likely to be scheduled for a return trip.

In the words of the indispensable Rick Steves, Venice is a museum, kept alive on the artificial respirator of tourism. That’s a big part of the problem. Tourists are everywhere, lots of them. Of course, we are tourists, and it’s a little awkward to complain about a problem if one is part of that problem. All the architecture is frozen to make the place appear as it did to Canaletto, and the entire commercial apparatus exists for the tourist.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on your tastes. The best analogy I can think of is Disneyland. If you enjoy making frequent trips to the Happiest Place On Earth, you’ll probably like Venice. If, on the other hand, you don’t think any sane adult should have to visit the park more than once in a lifetime, I advise you to schedule one, maybe two days max for Venizia.

That said, Venice is famously picturesque, and herewith some photos.

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First, a little orientation. (Map from our copy of Time Out Venice, which we found to be a handy pocket-size guide to the city.) Venice is a cluster of islands off of Italy’s coast on the north end of the Adriatic. It’s shaped, if you think about it, a lot like a fish. Except for a causeway for rail and truck traffic connections to the mainland, the city is surrounded by water, and save for the island of Lido, there are no automobiles. This means that all the functions provided by motor vehicles in other towns are provided by boat. For instance…

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…the vaporetto. There’s something kind of atmospheric about the name – vaporous, breezy, etc. There’s nothing airy about these noisy, clunky water buses, but they do get the job done, and they provide most of the inter-island people transport for tourists and Venicians.

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By the time we checked in to the hostel and were ready to sightsee, the sun was going down. Twilight on the Riva degli Schiavoni, the main waterfront walkway.

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Gondolas parked for the day.

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The Campanile, at St. Mark’s Square.

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The Square, with St. Mark’s Cathedral at the rear and the Doge’s (Duke’s) palace on the right.

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The open-air cafes that line the Square are called orchestra cafes, and each has a small ensemble that plays arrangements of light classics and schmaltzy pop for the entertainment of patrons and strollers.

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A last look at the Square at night before heading to bed.

Saturday, September 10

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The good ship Nieuw Amsterdam, of Holland America Lines, shading the Riva San Biagio, while blocking most of it. I had seen these boats only in pictures before, and nothing prepared me for the sight of something so huge. At any given time there are four or five of these behemoths docked in Venice, mostly at Santa Lucia, the port/railway station.

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If you look back at the map, you’ll see that there is a waterway, the Grand Canal, that starts at the mouth of the fish. There is an irresistible temptation to follow the anatomical analogy to its logical conclusion, but let us just say that it is possible to take the #1 vaporetto from the mouth to the end, thus having an inland tour of the city’s most popular sites for the cost of a bus ticket.

This has not gone unnoticed by the readers of the tourist guides, so that even if you get on an empty boat at the start of its route, by about the third stop it’s loaded with sweaty, camera-clicking under-dressed rubes much like yourself. They all mean well, if they mean anything.

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The World Traveler, secure in his knowledge of Europe’s great cities, considers the plight of the newly-arrived, hoping to breathe free. But there are so many of them, and what can one do, really?

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From the boat, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, about which a little more later.

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Also from the boat, the Salute church.

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At the end of the route we found ourselves at the Punta Della Dogana Gallery. As it happens, the Venice Biennale was going on and the Punta was one its exhibition sites. Although the Gallery was closed, this anatomically correct lad was on view for free. It’s only fair to say that just about every other statue in Venice is also free of fig leaves.

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Also on view, through the rear window, was Jeff Koons’ gorgeous red heart with a gold ribbon.

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The Rialto Bridge, which has handicraft shops on either side, most featuring glass products from Murano, one of Venice’s islands.

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How could any picture of Venice be complete without gondolas traversing the rios, or small canals? A few of the gondoliers wear the striped shirts, and even fewer, thankfully, wear those silly-ass straw hats with the ribbons.

Sunday, September 11

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Today we visited a couple of museums: the Peggy Guggenheim collection, and the Punta Della Dogana gallery mentioned earlier. On the way we saw this fellow in an underpass playing Renaissance lute tunes on an Italian lute; note the unfretted strings at the top used for bass notes.

As part of the Biennale, there was a free exhibition of Asian artists called Future Pass, which had some of the most entertaining pieces on view. I regret not noting the artists’ names.

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Yet another canal shot:

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We finally made it to the Peggy Guggenheim collection, which featured most of the artists she had known in Paris and in New York, from Picasso to Pollock. As usual, no photos were allowed inside, but outside was Marino Marini’s “Angel of the City”, a popular subject for obvious reasons.

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Across from the front door was a sculpture garden which included a construction with mirrored and partially-silvered surfaces, which provided us with the most fun we had had all day.

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The Grand Canal at the end of a beautiful day.

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A pleasant evening meal near the hostel, with Venice twinkling across the canal. Tomorrow Verona.

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One Comment
  1. Leticia permalink

    i think i can fall in love with this version of disneyland!!

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