Thursday, April 22, 2010

Italy, Capitolo Duo

As I write this the washing machine is humming in the background (just like home). Thierry had to help with this one, as he has experience with European models. Speeds and cycles are grouped by temperature, not by regular, heavy, delicate, like we are used to in the US.

We have been taking our time exploring Florence, and took an overnight trip to Venice. I have good days and not too good days, so we haven’t been pushing. On Saturday, we walked around the Duomo and onto the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s statue of David which he created at the age of 29. The statue is quite magnificent. The Accademia also has an exhibit of musical instruments from the late renaissance, some of which were built by Stradivarius, and were part of the Medici collection. This also was very interesting and an exhibit that Thierry thoroughly enjoyed.

On our way back to our apartment we found the second of two open air markets where they sell leather goods, scarves, gloves, etc. The vendors were packed in very tightly and the stalls were quite crowded. Thierry felt uncomfortably claustrophobic and wanted to leave. We’ll have to go back and look again so I can buy something. So far, other than books, food and one scarf, that I purchased at the New Market, but found cheaper at the second market even after my negotiations, I have purchased nothing.

Thierry found a few walking tours detailed in his favorite travel guide, DK (Dorling Kindersley). One was billed as a two-hour (two mile) walk to the Church of San Miniato al Monte, starting at the Ponte Vecchio which is about a half-mile from our apartment. I failed to notice that the trip to San Miniato is uphill. I mean, really uphill complete with steps – lot’s of steps. But we made it, and it was worth every step. The views of Florence were breathtaking.

The church itself, which was built in 1018, is said to be one of the most unspoiled of all the Romanesque churches in Tuscany. We heard some beautiful singing and we were trying to determine where it was coming from. Thierry thought perhaps it came from the crypt. We then happened to walk past a closet and inside was a wifi router and a sophisticated amplifier system. Thierry also noticed little Bose speakers around the church. Well, it certainly added to the ambiance.

We treated ourselves to a birra when we arrived back in our neighborhood. We managed to find a great bar a few streets away and had a nice conversation with the bartender. We haven’t noticed any bars or places to go and sit on a barstool and hang out and drink beer. There are wine bars which have a bar with no stools, and may have tables in the back or out on the street, but this was the first one that we noticed that had a few seats at the bar. The bartender told us of another place not too far away that has a big bar, “just like you see in American TV shows, with a long bar and many stools”. We haven’t explored it yet.

We left for Venice on Monday morning. The train terminal was quite crowded and a sign was posted indicating that all trains heading north were booked until the end of the week (due to the airline situation). We arrived in Venice around noon and found our way to the hotel. Ca’ Le Vele was located on a quiet street and canal in the Cannaregio section of Venice. It is owned by two brothers, Max and Ivan. The hotel only received one star in Frommers, but was listed as a “find”. And it was. Quite charming, beautifully decorated, quiet, and they served a nice breakfast. It was very close to a Vaporetti (water-bus) stop and was also within short walking distance from the Rialto Bridge and the Piazza San Marco, both of which we visited.

Venice is wonderful and unique, charming but crowded with tourists. The decay that we saw everywhere was amazing. You would expect some day that the entire city will collapse. Add to this that the water levels are rising, and that the city itself is sinking by one inch per decade, and the recipe of disaster is complete. We’re glad that we saw it in its current state. We decided to walk as much of the neighborhoods as we could and get a feeling of the place, without the tourists. We visited the Ca’ D Oro Galleria Giorgio Francetti and saw an exhibit of Italian renaissance art as well as an exhibit of Dutch and Flemish drawings and 17th century art, including a Rembrandt.

We took advantage of the Vaporetti to spare me some walking. Our first stop was the Lido, where we walked around the neighborhoods nearest to the Lagoon. We left again back to Venice and got off at Giardini and walked in the garden and had lunch. We then got back on the Vaporetti and stopped to see the Jewish Ghetto, which was not far from our hotel. Thierry got a bit of a water/boat fix, and we both enjoyed the quieter side of Venice.

We arrived back in Florence to learn that L&M’s plane was cancelled (just that day), so they will not be joining us. My disappointment is palpable. Friends of Thierry’s from Holland (Hans and Roely) visited with us today and we’ll see them again at dinner. We have six very busy days remaining, and hopefully our flights will be able to leave the continent without any difficulty.

Since my last blog, we have found grocery stores. Now it seems they are almost everywhere. Very hard to see, they are much more subtle in their advertising here than in the States. Generally they are small, but carry a sufficient amount of fresh and packaged goods.

I have learned to walk down the street without having to jump out of everyone’s way. You must not look the opposing foot traffic in the eye (especially males!) Once you do, you are lost. You must walk with your head down or tuned sideways and with purpose. You don’t always make it without being forced aside, but it works more often than not.

Arrivederci, it has been a beautiful week in Italy.

1 comment:

Marian said...


Your trip sounds so exciting and beautiful. My sister and I visited Florenece and Venice and your journal helped me recall our trip fondly!

If you get a chance, consider going to Pisa which is a short train ride from Florence. The city is beautiful, the Tower a bit touristy but great neighborhood restaurants.