Sitting on the Florence for Fun bus at 8:00 am with a small Italian man with a major cigarette problem was not the best way to start our day in Venice. Luckily for us (and all tourists, really) this does not make this place any less cool.
The only way to get into Venice is by train (since, um hello, the city is on canals). After the short train ride there from our three-hour bus ride from Florence, we emerged from the rather royal-looking train station to see a fistful of traffic… of boats. Instead of clamoring to find a taxi outside of Penn Station in New York City, we stood there and hopped on line to get on a taxi boat, which is pretty nice what really is a taxi. Standing in front of Canal Grande, the main canal of the city, is actually a little unnerving. On the one hand, the image is very familiar, yet on the other hand, you’re in Venice and you’re surrounded by grand palaces that dot the Canal.
Our little angry Italian tour guide shepherded us onto the taxi boat and pointed out some of the key sites, which mostly consist of beautiful buildings and architecture that are extremely gaudy and gold and romantic, like Santa Maria della Salute and Ca’ d’Oro. I’m sure you have seen loads of pictures of Venice that are photoshopped nicely with gondoliers and couples and pinks and reds and blues and greens. Well guess what. IT LOOKS JUST LIKE THIS. My pictures look the same as the ones on the postcards, because this city is friggin gorgeous. It’s hard to tell what’s someone’s apartment and what’s a restaurant and what’s a palace. Unlike other cities, when you see buildings falling apart and their scaffolding coming loose you don’t think, “Ew, gross.” You think, “This place is sick.”
I can’t really imagine what it would be like to drive my little boat to the grocery store and park it in the garage… that’s in the water. Obviously, it’s insanely expensive. But it also seems to be a little inconvenient and inefficient to me, and the fact that this city functions at all is really a mystery. When there is high tide (which seems to be pretty often) the city workers set up giant tables- literally folding tables- for people to walk across as they gander in St. Mark’s Square or wherever else. When you have an apartment on the ground floor, you have to either seal up the entire bottom half of your door or have some really sick steps. If you have a baby in a carriage, fuggetaboutit. You’re better off in… well not Florence either… I dunno, maybe Jersey?
Walking through this city retains its romanticism in some ways, like when you see gondoliers in their red-striped shirts lounging by their gondolas and little dogs wandering around. We were lucky enough to get on a gondola for a decent price (usually it runs for about 90 euro for 45 minutes), and even though we heard that being a gondolier is a great honor and you can only do it if it’s been in your family for generations, our own gondolier said he is the first one and was confused when we asked, and he also doesn’t really like it because “the hours are long and he really doesn’t have time to hang out with his girlfriend.” When we asked him to sing for us, he said that he only sings in the shower, yet all of us were welcome to join. The romanticism continued to fade when he chugged his Gatorade from behind us and then accidentally knocked it into the water with his foot. Go figure.
Piazza San Marco (the main square) is neat too, with the romantic Basilica di San Marco and Palazzo Ducale and the super cool Winged Lion, which is the symbol of St. Mark (the city’s patron saint). When Napoleon crushed this city, over 1,000 lions were taken in an attempt to crush Venetian pride, but as a Venetian mason was hired to do this, many lions were “accidentally” overlooked (according to Florence for Fun information).
We also got to see a glass blowing demonstration. Sounds lame, right? Yeah I thought it would be too. UM NO. COOLEST THING EVER. Davide, a guy who sort of looks like a modest lion himself, heated up the glass in the furnace and then sculpted a horse in like thirty seconds with the hot glass. I need to learn to do this.
Sometimes when I go on Facebook and whatnot and I see what my friends are doing at the bar, I’m actually a little sad and I miss them and just being with all these people at home, doing what I do best (running around like a maniac). But then I take pictures like this and I just feel like a jerk.