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Day 3: Venice..a Doge, a goose, and a colourful adventure!

18 April 2016

sunny 21 °C

Venice – Day 3 – 18th April

As the creepy hot air emanating from the decades-old hair-dryer attempted to puff its way to victory, I had plenty of time to contemplate my third day in Venice. I’ve never been so happy to wake up on a Monday morning (sorry Doug!), with some of the main sight-seeing action taking place today.

A croissant and a cappuccino later, and I was lining up at the entry to Doge’s palace at 8:25am before its opening time of 8:30am. Good strategy, FYI – only a few minutes later I was entering into the relatively empty inner courtyard. The Doge, being the head of the city, but not king-like, had a pretty impressive combination home/office. Room after room of decadently adorned cavernous chambers bursting with Renaissance art of religious and political imagery was on the first and second levels (I think, it’s hard to count levels when there’s so many stairs!). An armoury, and maze of prison cells, accessed through the historic Bridge of Sighs added an eerie feeling to the tour.
The audio guide was well worth the additional €5, but alas, my flailing memory cannot contain that much info whilst juggling the camera, hat, and phone. Whilst it’s nice to capture some of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences, there’s something to be said for popping the camera away and immersing yourself into the actual experience; visualising what it would have been like sans selfie-sticks. The most spectacular chamber was the Chamber of the Great Council, an enormous chamber and the largest of its kind which doesn’t have supporting columns breaking the visual spectacle of the highly adorned ceiling. This was where meetings of the 1,500 strong council would meet, comprised of the male members of Venetian families who were over the age of 25, making it a truly republic political structure. I hear it was a stinky hot room in summer, and they occasionally got permission to meet elsewhere in a breezy shed. Classy.

The Doge was a bit of a voyeur, and fancied watching the spectacle of a cheeky Sunday arvo beheading. He even had a special vantage point, between the 10th and 11th column (from the left) on the terrace, which are tinted pink. The executions took place between the two columns at the southern end of the square, and superstitious Italians seldom walk between them even to this day.
Next stop at around 9:30am was St Mark’s Basilica. The lengthy line queued outside did not bode well for me, with horror stories of 2 hour queues running through my mind. But as the basilica opens to the public at 9:30am, it was only a few minutes before we were funnelled into the entry. The ceiling of the internal domes of the basilica are highly decorated with millions of tiny mosaic tiles, many of which are gilded with 24 carat gold leaf. Inside it is dimly lit, and the effect is subtle, but I hear on a daily basis for an hour or so lights are directed to the ceilings and a golden glow emanates through the church. The floors are like waves, with centuries of movement confusing my inner spirit level. There are detailed mosaics adorning the floor, with what seems like a different pattern for every square meter. Definitely taking a mental picture for the next time I embark on a bathroom tiling job!

I paid €2 extra to see the Pala d’Oro alter piece, a silver and gold plated panel with almost two thousand precious gems sparkling to enhance the effect. I also paid €5 to head up a narrow, steep flight of stairs to St Mark’s basilica museum, where models and sketches of the various renovations of the basilica are on display, as well as the original horse statues (the horses on the terrace are replicas). Mosaics, tapestries, a double bass owned by one of the most renowned bassists of the church, and chorale books formed a history of the basilica. The terrace called, and did not disappoint with spectacular aerial views of the piazza and surrounds. The trouble with being a solo traveller is getting a good photo of yourself in front of some of the incredible sights. On the terrace I ambushed three separate sets of tourists to get at least one moderately ok photo of myself with the piazza. Note to self: take the selfie stick out!
Entry to the Doge’s Palace included entry into Museo Correr so I ducked in to have a quick look given I was starving and exhausted, and as delightful as the beautiful building was, and some of the interesting sculptures, my favourite piece was a woman cuddling/spooning a goose. Delightful and joyful. Hope she didn’t eat it after the portrait was taken!
Heading out to find something for lunch, I got totally lost, and found myself doing a giant circuit of the little alleyways, only to end up back in St Mark’s piazza! I abandoned the mission and decided to grab something over on the island of Burano.

There are two main islands off Venice; Murano, famous for its glass making history, and Burano, famous for its lace and the colourful houses lining the little streets and canal through the town. Having a greater love of all things craft than that of expensive glass, I opted to just visit Burano. A lovely boat ride of 45 minutes, where the leaning bell-tower of Burano is quite clear, saw me arrive with moments to spare before my stomach started digesting itself in starvation! But despite my growling belly, the joviality of the town and the stark colours of the buildings drew my attention.
There isn’t much to do in little Burano, but as in Venice, walking the streets and marvelling at the simplicity of it all is delightful. I found a little café for my first Italian lasagne (Barbara, my last housemate, wins hands-down with her Nonna’s recipe!) and a glass of rose. Next stop, the equal-best tiramisu gelato of my life, matched only by Ice & Slice in Newtown (ahh the memories Stephifish!). The streets are lined with vendors selling all things lace, some dodgy, some extravagantly expensive, but nothing which tickled my fancy. After wandering hypnotised by every colourful building which caught my eye, and taking a few random turns, I was once again lost, but stalking fellow-travellers eventually led me back to the main strip.
Whether it was the small canal, or the trickling of a fresh-water fountain, I found myself for the first time acutely aware that I have not once in my time in Venice, or Burano at this point, seen a public restroom. Asking around a bit I found what must have been the only public WC in Burano, policed by a young gentleman. “None shall pass…[no pun intended]…until €1.50 is paid!” Heavens to Betsy (?), I have never paid for the privilege of ummm…you know. I had been warned, but still…something between injustice and embarrassment when handing over the euros. I find it somewhat fascinating that Europe has managed to commercialise something like this, but given the options are to pay or pop a squat in the street, well…I hope you know me well enough to know which way I went!

For those still guessing…I paid.

Burano is somewhere I would highly recommend. It’s got quite a different feel to that of Venice, and a couple of hours (including travel time) does it justice.
Nap time beckoned back at the hostel, and on my return I met a fellow Australian traveller on his first day in Europe, Aman. We compared notes of our itinerary, agreed it was nap time, and after said nap, went up the Grand Canal in the early evening on the vaporetto for dinner in Rialto and to get a few pics of the canal after dark. Poor Aman got hassled by a few rose merchants (where’s my rose Aman!!!) whilst looking for a restaurant. We eventually found one called Carbonera, where we waited for a table behind a lovely Norwegian couple – Gaute and Gro – who we had a lovely evening with at the next table, discussing the economic climate of Norway and their time studying in Australia.

Dinner was BBQ king prawns with polenta, and although absolutely amazing, I still got food-envy over Aman’s giant cheese ravioli with pesto sauce, and downed half a carafe of house red (not too bad), and shared [another amazing!] tiramisu. The four of us were practically the last to leave at around 11pm, and it was back to St Mark’s on the boat for a last look at night, then back to the hostel.

Truly amazed at how much can be squished into a single day (including a two hour nap!) – the joy of this delightful little town.

Daily summary:
Glasses of wine consumed – 3
Gelato consumed – 1
Pasta consumed – 1
Pizzas consumed – 0
Alleyways in which I got lost – 382
Cost of popping a squat - €1.50

Spooning a goose….priceless!

Posted by jenniferhall 10:54 Archived in Italy Tagged burano venice boat colour italy basilica canal photos tourist colourful murano gelato doge's_palace tiramisu doge's leaning_tower doge vaporetto tiramisu_gelato lasagne selfie_stick executions

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