Venice is definitely the highlight of this Italian adventure. I've extended my stay here by three days because I just wasn't ready to leave. I liked Rome because of the history, I liked Florence because of the art and culture, but I wouldn't choose to live in either place. Venice is completely different. It's Italian and yet it's not. It runs at a different pace. I suppose it's the lack of traffic (and it's resulting noise). Although, there is traffic on the Lido but it's still not the same - no constant honking of horns, no pushing and shoving to get to the front. It's that lack of aggression that makes the difference I think.
One thing I've noticed about Venice is the lack of cats. There are dogs everywhere, on leashes usually, but I haven't seen a single cat. I can't believe there aren't any - though they don't generally like water, so maybe that keeps them away.
Edit: Haha, saw some cats yesterday on Burano.
I'm not sure what the "road" rules are on the water but everyone seems to know where to go, who has right of way, etc. It's quite peaceful out on the water, watching the world slip slowly by.
If you are visiting Venice then it's worth buying a bus pass: 33 euros for 72 hours, 50 euros for a week. Much much cheaper than paying 6.50 for a single trip. Going to Burano, for example, without a pass, would cost 39 euros, there and back. 3 buses there, three back. You'd be mad not to get a pass which gives you unlimited travel for the duration of the ticket.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is interesting. Her house, right on the Grand Canal, has been converted into a gallery to display the art she'd collected over the years. Most of it is early 20th century work: Picasso, Dali, Klee, Kandinsky, Ernst, etc. Not really my cup of tea but interesting to look at. Picasso's 'The Poet' kept drawing my eye, as did pieces by Yves Tanguy who I'd never heard of before. There's a Jackson Pollock there too - absolute rubbish if you ask me.
There's an olive tree in the sculpture garden, a gift from Yoko Ono. The Wish Tree. Sweet.
On one of my jaunts in to San Marco I discovered that the bell tower has a lift. Woohoo, up I went! Magnificent views over Venice in all directions.
St Mark's Basilica is also worth a visit. Its many domes (4, I think) are decorated with mosaic in the Byzantine style. The overwhelming impression is of gold. Because the backgrounds of these mosaics are just gold they're not as interesting as the ones in Ravenna with their detailed landscape backgrounds. Impressive in their own way though.
The central area of Venice is dominated by the Grand Canal. It's a busy thoroughfare with a constant stream of vaporetto (waterbuses), taxis, working boats, private boats and gondolas. There are four bridges that cross the canal, the Rialto being the oldest and most famous.
Like the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, the Rialto bridge is lined with shops. They're enclosed within the bridge though, rather than hanging off the sides! There's also a market in the area to one side of the bridge - fruit, veg and fish. Great seafood in this town!
People go to San Marco square to take pics, see the palace and basilica, etc., but the Rialto area is where Venice really happens. Until the 19th century, this bridge was the only way across the canal on foot. Hence it became the centre of most activity - the market, shops, restaurants, etc. It's probably the most constantly crowded part of Venice.
There are over a hundred islands that make up "Venice". The Lido, where I stayed, is one. Murano and Burano are two others I visited. Murano is the home of specialist glass factories and is full of shops selling glassware. I'm not a fan of coloured glass, never have been. It always looks a bit tacky to me - though I did see some lovely chalcedony glassware in the museum and "milk" glass, which looks almost like porcelain. Lots of people must like it though as the shops seemed to be doing good trade. It's not cheap either!
Still, it's a lovely place to wander around.
Burano is a tiny island about an hour and a half from Venice central. It specialises in the manufacture of lace. The main street is lined either side with restaurants and lace shops.
The most striking thing about Burano though, is the houses. They're all painted in bright colours: red, pink, yellow, blue, green, purple. It's exceptionally pretty.
I spent a lot of time just wandering through Venice. I'd catch the bus to San Marco or the Rialto and take off in a random direction. It's impossible to get lost as eventually all streets lead back to the canal. The streets are narrow and there are endless canals and bridges to cross. It's quite enchanting really. There are plaques everywhere to show where famous people have stayed or lived: Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Byron, are some I saw. It's easy to see how such people would have been inspired by the place.
Away from the canal you see more of ordinary Venetian life: people sitting outside cafes in the afternoon, kids playing football in the small communal squares, people just going about their business.
Venice is a wonderful place and I'd love to stay longer.
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