|View from our hostel window to Piazza San Marco|
Our night and day in Venezia turned out to be filled with surprises, both good and bad. We knew going into it that the Hostel Venezia was gigantic and so many young people would be there, but we did not know that quiet hours were not enforced, or that the wind whistling through the rafters of the buildings would slam the bathroom doors shut every 5 minutes… all night long… Our hostel was on an island right across from Piazza San Marco, and so it was just a boat ride away from the main sights of Venezia, so that was nice. The hostel was right on the water separating us from the main island, and we ate pizza sitting at the edge of the water Saturday night. As I alluded to before, Austin and I did not get very much sleep that night between drunk Italian girls yelling and slamming doors from about 1am-4am. We got back at them by getting up early… and heading over to Basilica di San Marco for mass at 9 am. This church is by far my favorite we have seen so far; the entire inside is decorated with mosaics, and 24 karat gold leafing on the mosaic tiles light it up incredibly. We didn’t take any pictures because we were there for church, not for sight-seeing, but the acoustics were wonderful, the priest who was doing the mass had an awesome tenor voice, and Austin said he even gave a good message about being a good neighbor. It was a double win because typically the basilica does not open to the public until 2 pm on Sundays, and the line to get in was ridiculously long when we saw it later. So we got to see the church and go to church all in one go.
|Example of the incredible gold and mosaics from Basilica di San Marco… from one of the domes outside the main church buildling.|
|Outside of Palazzo Ducale|
After mass, we headed over to Palazzo Ducale, or the Doge’s Palace. This is where Venezia’s figurehead ruler lived, and where the governing bodies of Venezia met. There was also an extensive prison system and multiple chambers for the administration of justice. Venezia was all about justice- they had 50+ boxes scattered throughout the city, and if someone knew of someone else committing a crime, they were to report them to the justices by dropping a note in one of the boxes. All of the official rooms in this palace were decorated very extravagantly with sculptures, leather or fabric walls, and painted or carved or both ceilings. There was also a lot of 24 karat gold plating involved. Austin and I spent about 2 hours exploring the palace before we went on a guided tour of the secret chambers of the palace. This tour went over the specifics of the justice system, showed us rooms where all of Venezia’s secrets were kept, and where suspected criminals were tortured into confessing crimes. The main story that was told throughout the tour was of the real life Casanova, who was turned in by jealous husbands and sentenced to 5 years in prison. He spent a year and a half in prison before devising a plan to escape. He and a fellow prisoner were the only prisoners ever to escape from that prison. Overall, the Palazzo Ducale was something not to be missed, and we spent a good 5 hours there total.
|This door was just the right size for Austin to squeeze through|
Following that, we followed our guidebook on a walking tour of Venezia, down side streets, over bridges crossing the canals, and we saw many churches along the way. We made our way to the Scuola and Chiesa di San Rocco. The Scuola is a big building where lay members of the community who want to be a part of this brotherhood are allowed to do so, and meet in this building. The entire building was covered with huge paintings by the famous painter Tintoretto, showing scenes from the Bible and from Christ’s life. The ceilings of each of the rooms had at least 10 paintings each, and then other huge canvases covered the walls. It was an awe-inspiring thing to see, and Austin even made friends with the ticket counter guy so we got to stow our backpacks in his office while we were there. Afterwards, the church was right next door, so we decided to take a peek. There was beautiful music wafting out of the church and when we peeked inside, it was a choir warming up prior to a concert. We checked it out and the concert was a free Mother’s Day concert! We decided to stay and heard a recorder ensemble as well as this choir. The choir was accompanied by an organist that blew my socks off! He was so good at what he did, and at all the techniques that if I had the time and the interest, I have learned from lessons that I need to master. It was a delightful concert, mostly of sacred music from the choir, and a great way to spend a Sunday evening.
|Inside of Scuola di San Rocco with Tintoretto paintings.|
Following the concert, we looked all over for a place to eat. We were taking the night train that night, at 11:30pm, so we had some time to kill. We found a restaurant with decent prices, but we knew that they catered to tourists (they even had free wifi so that we could email our mothers for mother’s day). We both got selections from the tourist menu, and all the food was not bad, but not the best either. We spent a few hours there and got some business done on the internet as well. Around 10:00 we went to the train station to plan our first day in Rome and get ready for the night train…
Overall impressions of Venezia- WAY too many tourists. We may never come back.. and if we do it will be in the off season so that we can truly enjoy the city. The day trippers alone from the cruise ships and all of the shops and street vendors catering to tourists definitely cheapened the experience, and made it difficult for us to find the romance in it all.
The night train was actually ok, not as bad as I expected. Austin and I had the sleeping car to ourselves at first, but at different stops 2 random other guys also came in the car. Sleeping on my right side caused me to feel like I was laying down trying to ride a horse, and hurt my body, but sleeping on my left side was fine. Austin and I both got more sleep on the stupid train ride than we did the night before with the kids in the hostel screaming in drunkenness. We pulled into the Rome Termini train station around 6:20. Austin had set the alarm for a little later than that, and so he was surprised when I awoke him and told him that I thought we were getting pretty close. In the end, we had to rush to change back into our day clothes and pack everything up to get off the train, before they kicked us off. We bought tickets right away for our night train to Palermo to ensure that we got tickets, and then ventured off to explore Rome.