I did not read. I took photos instead. A lot of photos.
Last month, I went to Venice (for the third time). I went with The Man, who finally said that Venice “exceeded [his] expectations”.
This isn’t something I’ll hear often, especially not about holidays.
The most famous thing about Venice is St Mark’s square. San Marco. A bit too famous in fact, as everyone and their cat congregates there. Well. Maybe not their cat. There would be far fewer pigeons if people started bringing cats along.
The fun thing about San Marco is the two competing cafes across the square. What I had never noticed before, despite two earlier visits, is that they are, in fact, four. Florian is the oldest and most famous. So famous in fact, they have now taken to selling canvas bags trimmed with leather, and their logo embossed on them. The direct competition is Quadri (the best espresso I’ve ever had), who are also my favourite place for a quick caffe in the morning. I have it at the bar, which has windows onto the square. Florian’s bar is dark and gloomy with kitchen noises, by comparison. The two cafes are “competing” because they were hosts to meetings of opposing political parties (or, rather, policians and partisans).
The secret contender is Lavena. I didn’t try their coffee, but I did sit with The Man outside, late at night, listening to their lively band and sipping tea. Lavena is where Wagner and his father-in-law Litzt hung out when Wagner was living in Venice. What Lavena looks like in the spring Venetian sun:
The fourth caffe… I don’t remember its name. It closes earlier than than the main 3, does not have a live band in the evenings (€6 per person charge for listening while having a drink…), and is partly overlooked by most. It gets lost in the confusion of tables on that side of the piazza.
The reason Piazza San Marco is called Piazza San Marco is the Basilica (of, you guessed it, San Marco) which sits on one end of the square. This may be the only tourist attraction in all of Venice which does not impose an entry fee. The queue to get in is gigantic, but I’ve personally be lucky to get in within 10min (both times) in the later part of the afternoon.
What I love about the church is, surprisingly, the floors. I love the mosaic floors! I also find it quite comical that the palazzo ducale is completely adjacent (has a door to) the basilica.
Walking around St Mark’s, arm in arm, before midnight rang on the bells, was my favourite part of the day. One night, it was also acqua alta (high tide). Don’t the lights make you think of a cruise ship sailing through the ocean at midnight?
We also went to the little island of Murano and saw a glass-working demonstration, by the maestro and team…
That was the best €5 spent in the entire trip. The team and maestro were amazing, telling us stories about glass, museums, the work of today, how the colours change as the temperatures change. I wish I could have played more with the glass. Most of us got to try blowing glass!! In front of that furnace was the first time I have not felt cold in a long time :)
Demonstrations are on tuesdays and thursdays, at 16:00, at the Scuola del vetro Abate Zanetti, on Murano.
I say €5… In reality I suppose it was a little bit more, because you cannot swim to Murano, you need to take the vaporetto. And look at the tourist ticket prices!
I think if that is all you want to do, two singles are best. But if you want to also pop over to Burano (colourful houses and lace museum – I haven’t been) or take an evening “tour” in a vaporetto (sit on the No.1 for a while), it is worth getting a longer ticket. I was impressed that the tickets were made of paper and used RFID, and so could be reloaded!!
There was, of course, more walking. Venice is all about walking. We made it to the bridge that is across from the ponte dei sospiri (bridge of sighs) to take this photo. It isn’t named after a romantic sigh… Unless you consider a condemned man’s sigh upon glimpsing the outside world one last time as he is being taken to gaol romantic.
A few days later, we visited the palazzo ducale, and got to look out those cut-out windows ourselves.
If you lean in, you can see San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance.
memories of sounds and flavours
The holiday is a blur of dead ends, cries of “gondole, gondole”, squid ink food, caffé, and gelato.
We both loved the Peggy Guggeinheim museum and how artistic and slightly bohemian that neighbourhood has become as a result. (This… murano glass encrusted bottom was spotted in a shop window nearby)
Besides. The most visible piece of the collection (because it’s outside on the terrace right on the Canal Grande) is… very happy indeed.
We both loved Venice. I truly enjoyed taking photos of it for the first time. In 2002 and 2003, I do not remember what i had done with my film camera, and I did not have a digital camera at all. There are no photos from then. This time, I also took the time to draw a little. Recognise the church?
My favourite photo of Venice is in fact of San Giorgio Maggiore. Well. He’s in the picture :)
Venice is truly magical at night. My favourite memories of it are from the dead of the night, walking around in the chilly quietness, hearing just our footsteps and the lapping sounds of the water.
From my first time there, in 2002, I have believed Venice to be magical. A place out of time. And it is.
While you are there, time warps. Days blur a little. Dinners happen later. Gelato is consumed multiple times a day. Dessert is before dinner, after dinner, it doesn’t matter. Bedtimes slip to two am as lovers indulge in one last walk around St Mark’s as everything is quieting down after a long hot day.
Would I go back?
Of course I would. In a split-second. Or a 2hr flight! (Thank you British Airways)