At one time Venice was referred to as the Crossroads of the Renaissance world, in fact The Doge Tomaso Mocenigo referred to Venice as, Mistress of all the gold in Christendom.
We were only going to be here for a day and a half so we stored part of our luggage at the train station. We stepped outside into the late Venetian afternoon sun and checked out our travel alternatives.
What’s a Water Taxi
There were three methods. We could walk; take a waterbus, or a water taxi. The first option was not feasible. After trudging to our hotel in Rome we knew our limitations, we could not carry our luggage that far. The second option was out for the same reason. Waterbuses are just like land buses, they follow a set route and time schedule and the nearest bus stop was too far from our hotel, the Hotel Ala. The last option remained the water taxi.
A water taxi is a speedboat or runabout. They are clean, fast, and usually attractive, and very expensive. It cost us 86,000 Lira or $66 for a 15 minute ride to our hotel. The experience was almost worth the expense. The powerful engines throbbed as we noisily chugged our way through the maze of canals. We arrived at a side entrance to our hotel and buccaneer-style walked up a plank into the lobby. Never, have I arrived at a hotel in such style.
The hotel was small but the employees were very attentive and catered to our every request. When checking in they offered us the opportunity to go on a free tour of the glass-blowing factory on the Island of Murano. This sounded exciting and since they had used one of my favorite words FREE, I immediately agreed to the tour.
Shopping in the Piazza San Marcos
It was now about 7PM and we headed for the Piazza San Marcos or St. Marks Square, the place-to-be in Venice. We walked out the door of the hotel (the front door this time) and down the street. We crossed over a bridge and continued walking following directional signs. We started seeing more shops, exclusive shops, Versace, Givenchy, and other immediately recognizable brands. We must be getting close to the Piazza. On the right side of the walk I saw an ATM, time to stock up. I withdrew 500,000 Lira about $333.
Oh Lord, What Did I Do?
About a half block further I saw a glassware boutique. I looked at the collection they had on display in the window and decided I had to go in (bad move). After looking a few moments I fell in love with a set of wine goblets. Venice is noted for its glassware and these certainly lived up to the reputation. They were beautiful, hand-blown made from Alexandrite glass (the glass changed color based on the temperature of the beverage), and hand-painted with both gold and ceramic dogwood flowers. They bordered on garishness, but I was captivated by their unique beauty. The price was 1,200,000 lira or $800.
After much bargaining, I bought six goblets and a carafe for this price. Since the proprietor swore I had already cheated him out of his retirement years with my keen bargaining skills, he would not allow me to charge the entire amount. I went back to the ATM to get more money.
I walked back to the shop and told the proprietor that I had obtained all the cash the ATM would allow me to withdraw. We bargained a little more and he agreed to allow me to charge $450 and pay cash for the balance. The next discussion was what to do with my purchase. He said, “No problem.” He would ship it to my home; he did this all the time and never had a problem. That’s fine for him, I had never done this before and I did have a problem. But I had no choice; I surely was not going to carry it around with me.
Mark and I walked out of the shop. I was dazed! “My God what had I done?” I had paid a fortune for something that I might never receive nor could I be sure it would arrive intact. I tried to get assurance from Mark that I had not acted stupidly. Mark in his stoic manner, realizing that I did not really want to hear the truth, gave me assurance.
Why did I do it, and even more questionable, what would I do with it? I had no place to display this treasure but did not want to lose it. My youngest son Gregory had a passion for china and glassware; I planned on giving it to him. I thought perhaps this may assuage some of the guilt I felt because he was not able to join me on this little junket. I also would be assured of having visiting rights to it.
We walked around the Square too tired to really know what we were looking at. We were very hungry and it was starting to get dark. We stopped in a small café on the square, hadn’t we been warned not to do this? We ordered a couple of sandwiches, two Cokes, and for dessert two pieces of cake. We were presented with a bill for 60,000 Lira or about $44 US.
Moral: Don’t eat at cafes in St. Marks Square.
Mark noticed a sign on the wall stating that Richard Wagner used to eat there and meditate while composing his great works. He was probably trying to figure out how he was going to pay the bill. Maybe he did his work at cost plus and charged it to King Ludwig. We’ll talk about him later.
After eating and feeling a bit rejuvenated, we shopped a little, realizing that we would return again tomorrow. As we walked toward our hotel it started raining. We passed a canal-side restaurant that seemed to be very popular and walked down to read the posted menu and get the name. It was the Ristorante da Raffaele. When we got back to the hotel we asked the desk clerk to book reservations for dinner tomorrow evening.
This is an excerpt from my book “Fulfillment is a Place”, a trip taken by my son and I to fulfill my desire to travel Europe. The book is available through Amazon Books