Tuesday, June 19, 2012

La serenissima

This past weekend I spent Saturday in Venice and Sunday on the small islands of Murano and Burano. This was my second trip with the travel agency affiliated with Stranieri and it was even better than last week's in Spello! I woke up at 5:00 am (very early!) on Saturday morning to get my things ready in time to make it to the tour bus at 6:00 am. The bus ride to Venice was about 4 and a half hours of rolling hills, light sleeping, and listening to our tour guide, Riccardo, talk about the history of Venice, as well as what the plan was for the weekend.

The first thing you see when entering Venice is a large bridge that was constructed in the 1950s. This is the only modern bridge of the hundreds you can cross in Venice! If I remember correctly, Riccardo mentioned that there are over 400 bridges and over 100 small town squares. We traveled as a group to Piazza San Marco, Venice's main attraction. Although it took a good hour or so to get there, the path was marked very clearly so tourists wouldn't have much trouble. 

Welcome to Venice!

By the time we finally arrived in Piazza San Marco most people were starving, so we split up and went on our way to find food. Just as last week I joined the group of Dominicans from New York, although the group was a little bigger this time. We ended up finding a nice-looking restaurant not too far from the the plaza. The food was great and our waiter was awesome. Although most of us ordered and spoke with him in Italian, we had fun talking to him in English and Spanish as well. I ordered a pizza "diavolo" which was supposed to be spicy, but wasn't. That might just be because, as a Mexican, I've been desensitized to mildly spicy food!

After lunch we walked back to Piazza San Marco and took in the beauty of the square. A hat that resembled a ship captain's caught my attention, so I bought it for 6 euros. There was a ton of stuff to capture with my camera, so I kept stopping in my path and taking pictures. For me, the main attractions were the pigeons, though, because I had been looking forward to frolicking taking pictures with them all week. My friend Melanie, who is a photography major, got some excellent shots of me courting the pigeons with bread crumbs. It took a while for them to realize I was trying to get their attention, but once one noticed, the rest came. At one point, I had three feeding simultaneously while perched on my arms. 

They were slow on the uptake...

...but they came soon enough! This was right before I yelled, "I am pigeon man!"

We decided to make our way to the top of the tower in Piazza San Marco to get a good video of the city from above. In the line, we spoke to a Mexican couple from San Diego who were in their last few days of a cruise around the Mediterranean. We rode an elevator to the top of the tower and then took turns going from window to window and looking at Venice and the surrounding islands from above. By the time we had descended, one of the other groups had made it out of Saint Mark's Basilica so we came together and walked around looking at all the souvenir stands. 

View from the bell tower.

At about 5:30 pm, me and my friends Rafael, Eduardo and Melanie split off from the other groups and headed back to the bus station where we had been dropped off. We had a 7:00 pm checkpoint to make at the station and, since we had decided to walk back, we had to leave earlier than the groups going by boat. This turned into a grand misadventure. We started off just fine and followed the posted signs, but somewhere along the way we stopped seeing them. After about half an hour of walking aimlessly and saying "oh yeah, I remember this place" (when, in fact, we didn't), we pulled out our map of Venice and asked locals to help point us in the right direction. 

We were probably very close to heading toward the grand canal and just taking a boat back when we turned a corner and found one of the major bridges we crossed earlier in the day. We were ecstatic! It was about 6:15 when we crossed this bridge. From here, it was smooth sailing again and half an hour later the station was in sight. Before boarding the bus, I picked up a few postcards. 

The shower and dinner at the hotel felt like heaven after spending the day walking around Venice under the scorching sun. Rafael and I were both surprised by how much food we were given for dinner. We sat at a table with Eduardo and Riccardo and talked philosophy, politics, identity, humor, and life in general. 

The next day, we were up at 7:30 am to eat breakfast provided by the hotel at 8:00. By 9:30, we were back at the bus station in Venice to catch a ferry to the islands of Murano and Burano. The ferry ride to Murano, our first stop, was refreshing. I couldn't resist the urge to fall asleep as I was rocked by the ferry and soothed by the fresh sea air. 

We made it to Murano around 10:10. Here, we were treated to a demonstration of glassblowing, which was really cool. In no more than 5 minutes, the man made a vase, a horse, and a swan. Afterward, we spent some time in the shop owned by the glassmith and his family. There were a ton of cool things in there and most people had a field day buying souvenirs here.

One of my favorites in the shop.

Our next stop was the nearby island of Burano, which was easily the most beautiful place we visited this weekend. Compared to the tourist-packed Venice, Burano was quiet and peaceful. The houses are all colored distinctly, which according the Riccardo can be explained by one of four popular legends. They range from reasonable (to help the fisherman make it back during foggy winter days), to comical (because the wives of the fishermen decided it was necessary so their husbands could find their own houses when they returned drunk from drinking at sea all day), to historical (famous figures came to the island to be inspired and one artist started the tradition by painting one of the house) -- pick your favorite!

Burano: the perfect island for picture-taking.

The group I was with was able to explore the small island in less than the two hours we were given to look around, so we spent some time in the shade by the ferry as we waited for everyone to regroup at 1:00. From here, it was back to Venice for the next four hours to check out any monuments we hadn't seen the day before. In Venice, our group had lunch. Back in Piazza San Marco, I tried feeding the pigeons again, but was stopped by an official-looking, orange vest-wearing, and "prohibited" card-waving couple. I watched as they walked over to a little girl with her dad and did the same thing. Dream crushers.

We departed from Venice on ferry again at about 6:45 pm, 15 minutes later than our scheduled time. This was because a group of French tourists that were sharing the ferry with us was missing some of their members. We later found out they wanted more time to shop, but the captain wasn't having it. A very unfriendly French lady who must have been leading the group marched onto the ferry and used to its megaphone to give the tourists a final warning. She stormed off a few minutes later. By this time, everyone was sick of waiting and the captain decided to get going. The other French people didn't make it back in time.

A few minutes past midnight, we were once again back in Perugia. I was tired and in need of a shower, but was content. It had been another incredible weekend of sight-seeing with great friends. Venice, Murano & Burano -- thanks for the memories!

No comments:

Post a Comment