Thursday 28 June 2012

Somewhere in Venezia

With the sun drenched Tuscany behind us we made our way to the perpetually waterlogged maze of Venezia (Venice). My first impressions were good - it was a striking city as we walked along the gondola-filled canals, over carved stone bridges, and down tiny, dark-but-friendly alleyways. We did not wonder why it was a popular destination – it was unique.

The Grand Canal - Venezia
€80 Gondola ride - Venezia
Gold falls over the city of Venice - Venezia
My second impression was – damn this place is confusing! I'm pretty handy with a map but this was the sort of place in which it was a common sight to see baffled tourists turning awkward maps upside down, savvy flashpackers walking around with GPS in hand making u-turns at dead-ends, or not-so-savvy backpackers who shunned the exorbitant 8 euros for a map and were simply lost.

Can you take my picture? A real budget backpacker, didn't even have his own camera just relied on the good will of others - Venezia
We had scored a free mini-map at our hotel, which helped a lot when combined with my Nokia phone map (I recommend downloading these if you're a Nokia user – they're free). People would ask us, “Where is the Bus Station?” and I would have to point them down back the way they had came. The problem was that Venezia was made up primarily of water roads, with winding pathways a secondary afterthought that often lead to dead-ends or the water itself – one cannot actually follow the canal if you are walking around, as you would sooner or later be forced to cross a bridge which will take you down an unintended alleyway, again often ending abruptly in a dead-end. It did not help that crucial T-intersections were not always shown on the maps.

Lovely dog one the streets - Venezia
One of many canals in the city their famous for - Venezia
But in saying that, Venezia is about getting lost, and exploring the places that chance leads you to. We found some amazing shops and buildings this way.

Carvings on the stairs inside a house - Venezia
Beautiful Masquerade mask - Venezia
Gondola under the bridge - Venezia
One fantastic secondhand bookstore we stumbled upon had so many books they had built a staircase out of them, providing a rewarding view down one of the canals.

Stairs made out of old books - Venezia
Bridge over the canal - Venezia
And then there was the Basilica di San Marco. We read that the Vatican frowned upon Venetian tendencies to glorify Venezia at the same time as God, and this church was no exception. I would have to agree with the Vatican's opinion of this one, with 8500 square metres of 24 carat gold mosaics lining pretty much every interior surface of its Greek cross layout. Cosmopolitan was also the word with Byzantine onion-bulb domes, Gothic rosette window and Egyptian marble walls. Then there was St Mark’s sarcophagus which was studded with 2000 emeralds, amethysts, sapphires, rubies, pearls and other gemstones. Completely over-the-topalist.

The domes at the Duomo - Venezia
View of Venice from St Mark's Bell Tower - Venezia
We started to become comfortable navigating Venezia's back alleys and decided it was time to get lost somewhere else.

The leaning tower of Burano? - Burano
My sister told me about another island a bit to the north that had a fetish for bright solid colours and got hold of a lot of paint. We caught the scenic ferry ride to Burano, quoted as being the most colourful fishing village in the Mediterranean, and we couldn't say otherwise.

Crazy colours of Burano
Fire engine red anyone? - Burano
We wandered the streets snapping away, and the strict adherence of every household item to the selected colour scheme made us laugh. From matching bins to painted vents; even the plants were getting in on the action!

Matching Bin - Burano
A new meaning to lime walls - Burano
The Boundary - Burano
The flower didn't agree with the boundry - Burano
Crazy colour - Burano
We headed back to the Venezia for our final night in Italy. I wanted to end on a high but somehow instead of say, gorging on pizza, pasta and gelato again, Tia somehow pulled a cultural chord and convinced me to see an Italian opera instead. I'm definitely not one for shows where even the talking is sung, but this particular version of Il Barbiere Di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) was surprisingly enjoyable. Instead of the conventional stage and orchestra in front of a semicircle theatre, the three scenes took place inside the rooms of an actual Venetian manor, where the performance was so integrated with the setting and the audience that I almost got poked in the eye by a spectacularly energetic cello bow in Scene Two. I recognised some of the music, but the opera itself was a comedy, and although we didn't understand much of the italian, the acting was funny enough that we couldn't help but laugh. It was a great night out.

From where I was sitting I could read the Cello players Music, Italian opera - Venezia
That was it for Italy. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The food, the photography, the people, the cities, hell even the singing, it was all perfect.

Beautiful sunset - Venezia

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