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Day 2: A flood, St Mark's piazza and Coleono's balls

17 April 2016

sunny 22 °C

Venice – Day 2 – 17th April 2016

A simple brekky of croissants and jam await each morning, complete with freshly made cappuccino. The hostel is in a beautiful old building near the S. Zaccharia vaporetto stop, a short stroll up from St Mark’s piazza, perfect for jumping on the water bus to any one of the amazing locations around Venice. So first thing on the itinerary was a trip up the Grand Canal for an orientation with the famed water way. But no…I’m headed in the wrong direction towards Lido, an Island somewhere off to the East of Venice, for a very long round trip to no-where!

Back on track and I’m mesmerised by the buildings flanking the canal….some slightly askew after centuries sinking slowing into the soft foundations, all beautiful in a charming, old-world way. I made it to Rialto, who’s only fault is the out-of-place modern fashion advertisement on the bridge crossing the canal. Why!? Rialto is renowned for its maze of market streets and high fashion shops, not to mention the endless cafes, pizzerias, and restaurants. I’m sure it was only a moment ago I ate breakfast, but my Italian food-baby needed sustenance, and only a head-sized slice of fresh margarita would do, chased with a macchiato and cannolo e cioccianti (Nutella-esque chocolate-filled mini cannoli!). The German lady sharing the hostel dorm validated that ordering and consuming your espresso at the bar in the café is half the price of sitting down at a table, and feels decidedly European. The €1.50 for the best coffee so far was much more tolerable, and a far cheaper addiction to embark on over the next few weeks in Italy. A little lazy shopping followed, topping up my ‘European wardrobe’ with some funky blue and white patterned pants and a blue and white striped dress (can you see a theme emerging? I’m preparing for France!) at H&M, which is from what I can tell far better here than in…Joondalup.
Breakfast take-2 and shopping now complete, it was time to meet the tour group for the skip-the-line St Mark’s Basilica and walking tour of Venice. I had grand plans of meeting lots of other solo travellers and instantly making new travel-buddies MeetUp style through these walking tours, and this one in particular came highly recommended. We met in the gardens behind St Mark’s piazza; beautiful, picturesque gravel-lined paths with a glimpse of the St Mark’s bell-tower through the foliage in the background. The day was another perfect, warm, spring day, about 22 degrees, hot sun, cool shade…just what I’d ordered. Sitting on the park bench waiting for the remainder of the group to arrive, a lady, also on the tour, sat next to me and promptly proclaimed she hated Venice! Cio che sulla terra! She was promptly scrapped from the ‘new found friends’ list.

Our tour guide, Andrea, wasted no time telling us that as it was a Sunday, unfortunately the basilica was closed to tourists for an impromptu religious occasion, and my heart sank. This was one of the highlights of my fantasy trip to Venice. Thankfully, I had a few days up my sleeve to check it out another time. The tour did, however, give us a brief history in front of the basilica in the piazza which is absolutely breathtaking, even from the outside. The enormity of St Mark’s piazza, the library, Doge’s Palace, and the basilica itself, shadowed by the bell tower opposite, is indescribable. And having a lifetime of imagery of the scene did nothing to suppress the feeling of standing there in person.
Did you know…Venice floods up to 60 times per year, rendering places like the piazza inaccessible if not for the raised wooden walkways which are put into place and otherwise live scattered throughout the city? Did you know the basilica, gloriously embellished with out-of-this-world architectural pomp, is this way after numerous renovations over the centuries, and was originally a fairly plain looking brick number? Did you know the copper-cast horses which take pride of place on the terrace above the entrance, made in the fourth century, were stolen from Constantinople during the Crusades and brought to Venice under the order of the Doge, and were later stolen by Napoleon and taken to Paris to sit atop the Arc de Triomphe? And the horses collars were actually added to the horses after their arrival in Venice from Constantinople on account of the heads needing to be severed to facilitate transportation? And the ones you see on the façade of the basilica are replicas, with the original horses in the upper level museum of the basilica? A mighty impressive history of thievery.

The walking tour proceeded throughout the small ally-ways behind St Mark’s basilica, stopping at a few notable places, including a statue outside Venice’s ornate local hospital. The huge equestrian statue of Bartholomeo Coleono had the most humorous history of a sight so far: apparently the huge wealth of Coleono was bequeathed to the financially struggling city of Venice on the condition that an equestrian memorial of Coleono be erected in front of St Mark’s. The Venetians were not in the habit of individual memorials, however needed the cash, so agreed. On receiving the money and casting the statue, the cheeky Venetian government erected it in front of St Mark’s hospital, despite knowing the intention had been to have the statue in front of the basilica!
Coleono had a pretty good sense of humour, and a pretty big ego (amongst other things, so I found out). One of the plaques on the side of the pedestal contains imagery of what appears to be three sets of pears. Ah, how lovely, Coleono respected the CSIRO’s 3 fruits 5 vegies rule too. But no, apparently the ego-driven Coleono was very proud of his…err…virile prowess and his third testicle!
The tour ended and we were set free back into the labaryinth of Venice, where I promptly sought out my first pasta dinner. Not far from my hostel, a nice little square (from my first day with the saxophonist) housed an authentic looking restaurant where I ordered an afternoon spritz, Cianti wine, the most delectable baked scallops I’ve ever eaten, and a decidedly average mushroom pasta. I’ll have to get used to the literal explanations of food….for it was plain pasta with chopped up mushies! Not overly exciting, so I promised my tastebuds something better tomorrow. The meal was ridiculously expensive, circa Perth prices, so I’ve learnt to be more discerning in my selection of restaurants in Venice from now on.
After an early evening nap (gosh the napping is good here!), I took myself out on a very romantic evening stroll through the centre of St Mark’s piazza. To my utter delight, it was partially flooded with a few inches of water, reflecting the thousands of lights around the perimeter of the piazza. Doge’s palace, the basilica, and library are breathtaking in the evening. I was suitably romanced. But my date was demanding, and insisted upon a stroll through an ally and a ridiculously expensive tiramisu and half bottle of moscato. Lucky she’s a cutie. And lucky the tiramisu is the best I’ve ever eaten…hot damn! I could get used to this…

Daily summary:
Boat rides in the wrong direction – 1
Breakfasts consumed – 2
Glasses of wine consumed – 5
Gelato consumed – 0
Pasta consumed – 1
Pizzas consumed – 1
Hours spent lost in Venice – 5
Romantic dates with yours truly – 1
Euros spent on coffee - €1.50

Three bronze testes….priceless!

Posted by jenniferhall 10:44 Archived in Italy Tagged canals venice statue italy basilica romantic horse tour pizza bronze walking_tour pasta espresso date_night coleone testicles scallops

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