Venice

 Venice

******

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.

Acropolis

 

******

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.

31_glasswareDSCN3702

 

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

Roman Antiquities

The next day was spent visiting antiquities:

The Colosseum:

This immense amphitheater was built by the Emperor Vespasian to immortalize his family name. The Colosseum took 8 years to build and was inaugurated in AD80 by Vespasian’s son Titus. Ancient documents state that the Colosseum would seat 87,000 people, it is commonly believed that 50,000 is a more likely number. It stands 165 feet tall and is built as an ellipse with axes 610 feet by 515. The Colosseum is three stories tall with eighty arches around the perimeter in each story. There was a cover called a velarium that could be pulled into place and provided shade for the spectators on sunny days. The floor of the structure was wood and below the surface were cells and holding pens used to house the human and animal combatants before the battles. Acropolis

The Roman Forum

Once the center of commerce and activity for the ancient Romans, the site of the Senate House, the meeting place for the decision-makers and ruling body of the citizens of Rome. It was also the site of many temples and monuments to the power and grandeur that once was Rome, however only the faintest vestige remains of these once enormous edifices, much of the stone has been either taken by collectors (don’t try to take any) or reused in other buildings

image016image017

 

We headed down the Via del Corso toward what seemed ,to be a huge block of marble surrounded by a traffic circle. This enormous monument gleaming whitely and topped by its twin charioteers, appropriately named “the Wedding Cake”, was built in 1885 to commemorate the unification of Italy. The monument houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as a museum. I can’t begin to communicate the feelings that this monument inspires in me. It is so wide, and so tall, and so white, and so imposing that it insinuates itself into many vistas of the city. For example, as you look out over the Roman Forum from the Arch of Titus, you can see the twin charioteers looking down protectively.

image018

The Coliseum and the Forum were exactly what I had expected. I was blown away by the Memorial to Victor Emmanuel.

Were any of you surprised by this monument?

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