Today our overnight train back to Gyekenyes leaves Venice around 9pm. The forecast for today was pouring rain so we considered a few options for today’s activities. My first thought was to go back to the train station and take a day trip, since we wouldn’t have to be back until 7 or 8pm and we had walked around much of the city. There are a few options within 30 or 45 minutes by train, including Padua and Treviso. Ultimately, though, we decided leaving the city wasn’t the better option. We realized that in our travels over the last two days, we had covered a lot of the city, but hadn’t really paid attention. We were more or less heading toward a certain final destination and just passing by many sights. Today, we decided to create a clear path where we would actually see certain buildings.
It started last night when we were using Wi-Fi. I searched for “free things to do in Venice,” which also brought up many almost free things. These were generally churches, and I don’t think either of us is in the mood to see art museums this trip. There’s enough beautiful art in churches, if you don’t have a problem with the subject matter. We even went into a private art gallery today…which I will mention again shortly. So, last night, I made notes on my map, listing the worthwhile sights, open hours, costs, etc. We slept in as late as possible today, got our things ready, and checked out. As we were, we asked the hotel owner about the rain because he had some pictures of the times the hotel has been flooded. As you may know, Venice is right above sea level and it is quite easy for the city to actually flood, sometimes as high as three feet. As the owner explained, it doesn’t just come onshore from the “coasts,” it actually comes up. The island of Venice is actually built on millions of wooden pilings, so as he described, the water will literally bubble up through cracks in the living room tile, in the cobblestone outside….and will keep rising, then eventually go down. There is a multi-million (billion?) dollar project going on to create flood gates which will interactively block high inflows of water from the Adriatic Sea into Venice Lagoon, but it is not done yet. For now, Venice is in real danger of sinking into the sea as water levels rise and sediment builds in the harbor.
Back to our day, we checked out and heading clockwise, first going north to a large church called San Zanipolo, officially “Chiesa di Giovanni e Paolo.” This is the only one we paid for, 2.50 euros each, and we took lots of pictures. I think there was a baptism going on inside as we wandered around. This journey started around 11am, and over the next 6+ hours, we wandered throughout the city, viewing 6 or 7 more churches, including St. Mark’s and Maria della Salute. St. Mark’s is the one you see in all the photos of Venice, and has the body of St. Mark buried under the altar. It was a quick walk through, but we were happy to do it, as this church is known to have outrageous lines. We waited about 5 minutes, and the most interesting thing I noticed inside was that the floor is completely warped. We’re talking roller coaster warped, with noticeable dips and rises in the floor. This church is located right on the edge of the island…and when you see a news clip on TV about Venice flooding it is likely taken at this site.
We wandered into the “outskirts” (sort of) to a point at the edge of the harbor with a huge church Called Maria della Salute. The city built it as thanks for surviving the Plague. It is an enormous octagonal church and inside there was a soprano performing Bach, Mozart, and other classics with organ accompaniment. Actually, I think she was practicing for a later show, but it sounded great. We were going to see San Giorgio Maggiore church, which is a massive structure out on its own island. It is touted as one of the top free things to do. That is, of course, if you don’t count the 13 euro ($18 each) round trip waterbus ride…for a 3 minute journey! Pass.
We wandered into one church that happened to be free. It was having an exhibition of musical instruments, and the nave of the church had many displays of string and woodwind instruments, mainly from the 1600s-1700s, but some back to the 7th century! I think I have some pictures for those for you to see. They looked somewhat different than the refined pieces you see now, so I wonder if they sound different…or if music then was meant to sound different than it sounds now.
We ate lunch at a grocery store deli, getting far more food for far cheaper than is possible at any restaurant here. Then we passed several cafes charging 3 or 4 euros per cappuccino, and found a cool place that was part smoothie bar, part yogurt and fruit bar, part coffee bar. It had as close to an American coffee shop atmosphere as I have seen here… maybe because it was more fun and not fancy… It’s still not quite like Starbucks. It was 1.30 euros each. This morning we got cappuccinos at a gourmet coffee shop, which only cost 1.20 euros a drink, even though they were selling beans for over $50 US a pound. Must have been serving the cheaper beans in their drinks! But they were roasting beans while we were in there, so it seemed like a legitimate good coffee store.
By 5pm, we returned to the hotel to pick up our bags and walk toward the train station. It is now 8pm and we should head to our train in the next 30 minutes. We are at a “self-service” restaurant right by the station. Basically, it is the Italian version of Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes, if you are familiar with that restaurant. We each has a cream of carrot/curry soup and big salad, and now we are sharing a pasta al pomodoro. As I have been typing, I have slowly been enjoying a quarter liter of local red table wine. It is 1.70 euros here….it was 4 times that at the place we ate two nights ago! This place is a find! And we came in because it has free Wi-Fi!
In case you are curious, the private art gallery we wandered through had lots of provocative (obscene?) paintings of cartoon characters, comic characters, Hitler,…. it was interesting.
And it never did rain, just light drizzle for a few minutes… I imagine the rain will come tonight and tomorrow as the hotel owner predicted.
Lots of pictures tomorrow!