There is no equivalent to Venice. This city defines Italy with its elegance, renaissance marble architecture, music, shipping and world exploration, right up to the color palettes of its artists. It also defines crowded tourism and near-extortion for many basic services. This is a laizzez faire city so winter season is a good time to visit.
My train to Vienna is booked out on Sunday morning (it’s Saturday when I arrived) so I simply extend my stay another night; the bonus of serendipitous travel. I use bookings.com usually, but in this case, I use the website of the man in seat 61. If you like rail travel in Europe, begin with this site. Within that site is a comparative website of all websites relating to discounted hotels: Hotels Compared. This leads me to the Hotel Lisbona so follow me through Venice….
This is one’s first view when stepping out of the train station in Venice-Saint Lucia (which terminates on what most people think of Venice–the island with canals). It’s a great way to start the day with a meandering (and I mean meandering) walk through the narrow streets.
My walk about one kilometer to my hotel along this canal but get lost a hundred times–which has its benefits. My cell phone maps app doesn’t help much because the buildings are so steep, the GPS can’t track your walking. I do best with range and azimuth directions (point & shoot). In Venice, it really doesn’t matter because you’ll always end up in an interesting place. There are no vehicles in the inner town–only boat taxis (very expensive) and “shanks mare.”
The Hotel Lisbona is about 200 yards from San Marcos Square. There as many pigeons as tourists and there are a lot of tourists because today is the first day of the Festival of Lights, Venice’s equivalent to Mardi Gras. I check in and discover the receptionist is from Chicago–Dave–who gives me all the maps and advice any American tourist could ask for–and how to avoid the pitfalls.
The first piece of good advice is to have dinner at Osteria da Carla which has nothing to do with oysters. The Italian term is “home cooked” or something like that. I do have the grilled sea bass with a patty of yellow/red potatoes and an artichoke all foo-fooed up in a piece of art–which I quickly destroy by eating it. (like the $80 fish I had on Capri cooked in pizza dough)–although this was fabulous and so was their local wine shown here. Great place–highly recommended by Ranger Doug.
Also with each meal, there is served bottled water ($3.50E) either gas or flat (carbonated or plain)–you all know this, but Italian (and any Southern European limestone sprung water) is simply soda without the sugar; delicious.
For dessert it’s tiramasu or however they spell it. When I first saw this, it reminded me of Mt. Vesuvius’s lava eruption and I asked for a doggy bag for the part I couldn’t eat…..I ate it all. No problem. The entire dinner–water, three glasses of wine (OK–I had to wash down this dessert) was $66USD which I thought was pretty good–and the waiters were super helpful, responsive, etc. and all but 200 yards from my hotel.
Tonight is the first night of Festival of Lights (Mardi Gras as I explained earlier) so everyone is wearing masks around town. I clutch my wallet thinking there might be more sinister forces at work. My credit card–second and last one–went kaput tonight when I checked into the hotel–Bank of America–Visa…..and I’ve spent a lot of time with them on the phone. Seems my card numbers get compromised–about twice a year and I’m getting sick of this. They clip me (and the receiver of any transaction) about 3% on every sale world-wide. And now they cut me off? This is a world monopoly like Coca-Cola whom I spent fighting on the front lines of dentistry for 40 years. OK….take another blood pressure pill……
And speaking of Coco-Cola, here is Disney and there are also a plethora of other American companies that have weaseled their way onto the canals of Venice. It won’t be long until Disney creates a fake-Venice you can visit near your hometown. The Rome Central Train Station has a huge 12′ graphic of McDonalds pointing out across the street to a dinghy hole-in-the-wall. More on this later.
The Italians leave nothing out in their architecture. I know nothing about this church, except that the lines to enter are several hours long on a Sunday morning in February….. I’ll admire the architecture from without. It’s like a summer day as I stroll several miles from the town center to the east end of the island to the public gardens.
OK–we need to talk about this. I’m confused if this is part of the dress-up for the Festival of Lights, although on a lesser, more depressing scale or perhaps a real beggar? This woman (perhaps not a woman–who can tell?) bows down to the street in an exaggerated scale with her plastic cup. Everyone avoids her, as do I. I don’t believe that people can be this destitute (or even act this destitute), especially in the priciest city in Italy. This is an act, methinks, and as a liberal thinking person, would be in favor of supplying this woman with a heated, safe haven…..and a job. I do not understand the art of begging–at all. It’s below my bottom line of what humanity is all about. I do understand social welfare and the right to work. But enough of Victor Hugo and social justice. I’m here to stroll and take in the views.
As I progress eastbound along the promenade, the crowds thin out. It’s a couple miles out to the end of the point of the public gardens–four main bridges like I’m standing on here. It’s slightly foggy and hazy which makes for good photography.
I walk nearly four hours returning to my hotel by 3:30pm. Here a gondelier is dressed the part attracting photographs and customers. I’m sitting in his chair below (by his gondola and unbeknownst to him) resting in his chair.
I finally retire to my room with a few small purchases. The drug stores are closed as it is Sunday, so I cannot buy any Ibuprofen for my arthritis, but I can buy the net best thing–which is corked in a bottle. Along with this ‘medicine’ I also purchase two glazed nut torts–like peanut brittle, but higher density nuts and with almonds and hazelnuts. Finally on my balcony, I munch on the nuts, relieve my pains, and report on the world below me through this blogpost. Tomorrow, it’s Vienna.