Thursday, January 8, 2009

Arrival in Venice

Image of Venice at night from the Rialto bridgeDear Gentle Reader,

Just after Christmas your Heroine and your humble scribe arrived in Venice.

It wasn't dark when we first alighted from the water bus (the vaporetto), but it was by the time we finally arrived in our apartment.

We rented an apartment online from Venice Apartments. We paid 100% up front, which seemed to be standard in Venice for private apartments, although decidedly nonstandard worldwide.

The apartment was great for the price. The location was superb. Wait for our comments about the service, though, and bear in mind that we came in the low season when things are not that busy...

(Even though, or maybe because, your scribe has resided in Tokyo, Taipei, the Windy City, and now Hong Kong, does not mean that he desires to be surrounded by crowds. Venice in the off season is the only time to go in my books, or, rather, in my e-cuneiform e-tablets...)

We alighted at the Giardini vaporetto stop (the water bus and taxi stop at Giardini) on the main island. The preceding vaporetto stop was at St. Mark's Square, the proceeding vaporetto stop was where the modern art festival, the Venetian Biennale, has been held (every second year) since 1895. 

We were near great bakeries, cheese shops, vegetable markets, and fish markets, and were in a locals only part of the ctiy--so no tourists. Walk 13 minutes and we were in the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) with the Basilica di San Marco a Venezia (St. Mark's Basilica) and the Palazzo Ducale di Venezia (the Doge's Palace).

It was just that we had to wait for two and a half hours by the water in windy, 2°C (36°F) weather before the young lady arrived to take us to our apartment and give us the keys.

Even that would not have been too big a deal. 

The young lady we talked to on the phone, who was meeting us to show us our apartment and hand over the keys, could have told us that she was going to be late by a couple of hours and we could have gone to find a cafe somewhere. Or a bar.

Instead, she said it would be twenty minutes... then an hour... then twenty minutes... ...and so it went and so we kept waiting by the lagoon.

We waited as night fell and as the wind picked up. 

And as two and a half hours passed. 

So we were not so happy with Venice Apartments, at least not with their staff.

Meanwhile, this had happened at the airport...

Image of a pair of jeans ripped through the crotch.First, Italy is fashion conscious, and ripped jeans are just not in this year, or last year, even if they are Dolce & Gabbana. Especially if they are ripped here. (Even if they are ripped there?)

Second, let me remind you. It was 2°C (36°F) and night was falling.

Your scribe felt like Frosty the Snowman in the beginning. After the first hour he sounded like Tinkerbell when he walked. By the end of the second hour he sounded like Alvin, from the Chipmunks, when he talked.

So the commencement of celebrating the New Year handover with a week in Venice was not idyllic. 

After access to the apartment, and the application of warm water, things improved dramatically. Your scribe was even able to go out again.

Here is another view of Venice at night...

Image of Venice at night from the Rialto bridge, opposite side
And here is the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore on the island San Giorgio Maggiore.  The church was designed in 1562 by Andrea Palladio (1508-1580). 

Image of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, as seen from Venice near waterbus stop Giardini on the Grand Canal.
Palladio would supervise construction for a few years although the church was completed after his death, but it was completed according to Palladio's plans.

Palladio is likely the most preeminent of known architects, defined by your scribe as architects whose names are attached to their buildings. 

His eponymous style, high Renaissance hearkening back to Roman architectural principles, influenced all subsequent architecture. 

Modern buildings, until post-modernism, look like they do because of Andrea Palladio.

Post-modernism in architecture can be pared down to post-Palladio. Strong, simple central features with symmetrical details and side buildings is the Palladio way, in the cole's notes version. At least, that is your humble scribe's position.

Palladio's palazzo's (palaces) were something your humble scribe was keen to see in Venice. The fact that Palladio's Chiesa di (Church of) San Giorgio Maggiore was almost opposite our vaporetto stop was visually magnificent. 

Every time we walked to the Piazza via the bank of the Grand Canal (several times a day) we would have this church in our field of vision out in the lagoon. (There is only one piazza or plaza or square in Venice, the Piazza San Marco. The rest are all campi, the plural of campus. A campus is a small field or area for gatherings, even if only of private persons outside of their homes.)

The other feature to note from the picture above are the two blurred ferries crossing paths. While there are a lot of boats, even at night, there are no cars in Venice (when you are off the Mainland). 

Only boats, pedestrians, and pushcarts like over sized wheelbarrows with bicycle tires for wheels (for when high lagoon tides or storms flood the city) exist. 

And you see pushcarts early in the morning, 5am and 6am, when the city is resupplying for the tourists, and the locals.

Throughout the waters of the lagoon, wooden piles have been sunk deep into the water and the mud, both to support the buildings, and to segregate the channels for the boats to drive in.

Here are the wooden piles in the lagoon, lit at night, with a ferry whooshing by. 

Image of a ferry and lit piles in Venice's lagoon.
This was our introduction to Venice.



gigihawaii said...


When I was in Venice in 1969, I attended the opera "Turandot" at the Royal Opera House and was shocked to hear the audience HISS the soprano! How rude!

The opera house was all gold and red, quite beautiful and elegant. I heard later that it burned down. Do you know if it has been rebuilt?

Junosmom said...

I am patient for an American, but I'm not sure that I'd have been as patient for 2.5 hours in the cold. With a hole in my jeans.

Recently I watched a TV show about the demise of Venice in the coming years due to flooding and rising water levels, and what they are doing to counteract that. I haven't been there yet, so I do hope they are successful.

Sepiru Chris said...


La Fenice (the Opera House) re-opened a few years ago after the fire of 1996. As per the hissing, the Italians have never been known for their politeness or their willingness to tolerate sub-standard singing...


Trust me, I was not feeling patient. Mind you, by the end, I was not feeling much. Until warmth flooded back. Pain came too...

How I could be so patient? Venice Apartments had received 100% of the payment...

As per water levels, I think I might have a good picture somewhere... I too hope they rectify the situation because I will definitely be back. What an amazing place...


simmers said...

good thing you didn't have to wait around here for that would have received some frostbite where the sun don't shine.

lyzzydee said...

Venice is so beautiful, we have spent several holidays there and really enjoy it. It is better in the winter as the water is not so aromatic!!!!

Heidelweiss said...

My Italian friends have told me that time means very little to them. Sure would be nice if they'd notify the rest of us ;). I actually love me some Italians but the tardiness does chafe. Except for the opening act, it sounds like a lovely time! I think.

Sepiru Chris said...


I would have indeed. But hanging around at your place would be enjoyable too.


Yes, I understand why you would return. I will be doing the same.


Keep some eyes knitting needle free for a future trip to Venice. And go forearmed with the knowledge that times means nothing to the Italians when it is your time, but there time they take slightly better care of...

Barbara Martin said...

Chris, it's been ages, decades, since I was last in Venice...but what a glorious city. The history alone intrigues and the statues that abound hither and yon.