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Report 127: New Years 2001-2002 in Venice; Short visits to Florence and Rome

By Colleen (Moderator) from California, Winter 2001

Trip Description: Enjoying friends, churches, and special moments during 3 weeks in Italy.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Florence, Rome, Venice

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Day Tours; Foodie Trip; Shopping; Sightseeing; Single Traveler

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Page 1 of 8: Venice * 27 - 30 December 2001

Thursday 27 December 2001

Musings while at the Frankfurt airport watching the departures board for my flight to Venice: What would it be like to decide at the last minute to fly to Casablanca, Tabarka, Nizza, or Tallinn? Considering I've never heard of Tabarka, Nizza, or Tallinn ...

Most embarrassing moment: Being woken up by turbulence on the flight into Venice, and realizing my mouth had fallen open as I slept. (I hate it when that happens!)

Most Beautiful sight: Seeing a glowing red sunset in the distance, from the airplane window. Soft layers of scarlet and crimson slowly fading into twilight ...

Best news: Only one bridge to cross with my suitcase to get to my friend Shannon's apartment in Cannaregio from the Fondamente Nuove vaporetto (water bus) stop.

Luckiest last minute decision made prior to departure from California: To swap my lined rain coat for a heavy wool coat with a hood. It was C-c-cold in Venice!

Best thing about today: Arriving in Venice!

Friday 28 December

Loveliest way to start the day: Finding out that I would pass by the perfectly beautiful 15C Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli on a daily basis, walking to or from Shannon's apartment towards Rialto.

Funny thought: Finding myself on a bridge not knowing exactly where I was, and then looking around and realizing, "Wait a minute ... I've been lost here before!"

New sight: Frozen puddles in the campi near well heads and fountains. Most had been broken up into ice crystals, so they were more easily noticed and avoided. Although I missed a snowfall in Venice by about two weeks, the weather was still near or below freezing overnight.

Nicest people I met today: Ruth and her husband, Martin from New Jersey. (I "know" them from the AOL Italy message board.)

Most interesting way to pass the morning: Following the Santa Croce sestiere (district) walking tour, printed in the International Herald Tribune. Starting in Campo Santa Maria Mater Domini - with some of the oldest buildings in Venice - winding through calli with delightful details that Ruth and I kept pointing out to each other, cameras at the ready .... Spying a building's large window arches framed by marble reliefs of the four evangelists and their emblems. (The lion of St. Mark {Venice's patron saint}, the ox of St. Luke, the man of St. Matthew, and the eagle of St. John.)

Best purchase today: The "Chorus Pass" at the church of San Stae for Lit.15.000, which allows entry into 13 Venetian churches, and is good for one year. Single entry fee at the Chorus Pass churches is Lit. 3.000 or $1.55. In addition to the cost savings, I see two side benefits to the Chorus Pass: 1) not worrying about having small change for the entry fee, and 2) stopping into a church one might otherwise pass by.

Interesting sounding museum I never made time to visit: Museo di Palazzo Mocenigo, left to the city in the 1950's by the last descendent of this branch of the Mocenigo family. (Which, according to the Blue Guide: Venice, provided the Republic with seven doges.) The palazzo displays furnishings and decorations dating from the 17C and earlier, and includes a study center for textiles and costumes.

Most fascinating ceiling: Inside the Church of San Giacomo dell'Orio; a beautiful 14C/15C wooden ship's keel roof, with decorative carvings.

What I laughed at myself about later: My pointing out anything that looked ancient in the church, and saying, "Maybe this is the old pulpit." (As described in the information sheet handed out at the door.) I did this about three times, eyeing things like a carved marble baptismal font, before Ruth gently asked me, "Isn't a pulpit something the priest preached from?" Oh. Right. I knew that. I blame it on jet lag ... :)

Unexpected treat: Being invited to join Ruth and Martin for lunch at their rented apartment, next door to the Ca' Pisani, right on the Grand Canal. A tasty meal with simpatico company, and the pleasure of watching hundreds of dancing diamond lights reflected off the water of the canal onto their living room wall.

Sight that made me smile with pleasure: Turning around to see which the heck calle had led me to the Campo Santa Maria Formosa, and seeing the beautifully carved marble arch with a relief of the Madonna. It's molded into place between the first floors of two corner buildings. Looking down the calle I can see another carved marble archway at the other end. My Access: Venice and Florence guidebook states that the 14C "Arco del Paradiso" also contains the coats of arms of the Foscari and Mocenigo families, and that the Calle del Paradiso retains the original 15C "barbacano" design. The upper floors protrude from the ground floor for more space above, and to protect the street below from rain.

Biggest surprise: Staying up until almost midnight on my first full day in Italy. (I guess that "power" nap from 4-6pm helped a lot!)

Nicest way to end the day: Dinner at the home of Shannon's friends Iris and Cyril. Penne pasta, topped with chopped fresh tomatoes and bell peppers, capers, crushed garlic and grated parmesan cheese, accented by a couple of glasses of a yummy Chianti Riserva. Then a fast walk home in the frosty night, through quiet and shadowy calli ...

Saturday 29 December

Nicest way to start the day: Strolling in the early morning chill through the quiet of Castello, stopping to peer into store windows, peek in churches, photograph the Madonna statues with their typically Venetian little metal canopies, and slowly making my way towards the Arsenale.

Funny Moment: We'd had a conversation last night after dinner about the wide variety of beautiful brass door handles and door knockers in Venice. I heard a description of a pair of brass male and female heads gazing lovingly at each other across wide double doors. When I finally saw them -- the man and the woman were looking *away* from each other!

Most breathtaking sight this morning: The large sculpted marble garlands and cherubs over the interior doorway of the neighborhood church of San Francesco della Vigna. Built by Sansovino, and with a façade by Palladio, this (comparatively) small and quiet church is an oasis of serenity.

Perfect photo op: The silent and eerily empty expanse of the Campo Arsenale.

Perfect photo op, 2: The big black and white cat soaking up sunshine near one of the colossal lion statues guarding the gateway to the Arsenale.

Biggest challenge: Drawing something to justify carrying a sketchpad, colored pencils and pastel chalks around with me every day. My dad had given me a five-minute master lesson in perspective on Christmas Eve. It helped.... some. ;D decide to start (very) small, and sit on a sun warmed bench in Campo S. Biagio to sketch one of the elegant Venetian lamp posts on the water front.

"Be careful what you wish for" moment: The wooden boards were up for aqua alta (high water) through the Piazzetta San Marco and the piazza. Although the water was only a few inches deep, who knew that the tiny ripples of waves and the reflections of sunlight would have such a dizzying effect?

Slyest looking Doge in Venice: The thin-mustached Doge standing among the Wise Men in the life-sized Nativity scene set up outside Basilica San Marco. What? You didn't know that the highest ranking member of the Venetian Republic was present at the birth of Jesus??

Most satisfying purchase of the day: Looking for and finding the book, Another Venice, at Libreria Studium on Calle Canonica, behind the Basilica. This small (4"x6") paperback by Jacopo Fasolo has delightful water colors of the usual and unusual, and fascinating text.

Most satisfying purchase of the day, 2: A long black and rose colored velvet and silk scarf at one of the shops between San Marco and Rialto. The delicate pattern at both ends reminds me of the arched windows of the Doges Palace.

Perfect ending to the day: A Vivaldi concert by Interpreti Veneziani at the church of San Bartolomeo. Exceptional rendition of The Four Seasons, although the exuberant head tossing by the cellist was a trifle disconcerting to watch. Dragging my eyes away, I focused on the clavicembalo player to avoid catching glimpses of all that flying hair. Peace of mind was restored when I walked outside and saw the delicate white fairy lights shining brightly across the top of the Rialto bridge. It was like walking under a canopy of twinkling stars ...

Sunday 30 December

Most peaceful way to start the day: Listening to Pachelbel's Canon on the Interpreti Veneziani CD I'd purchased last night, while sipping caffè latte, eating sweet clementines, and planning my day.

Prettiest reflection: Inside the garden of the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, the high water reflected the hazy gray sky and the white marble columns supporting the graceful exterior staircase. During winter, the staircase is only open on weekends.

"Artiest" view: The terra cotta rooftops of Venice sighted through the marble ribs of the staircase.

Most interesting looking building in the skyline: The church of San Salvador's three large squat domes are very distinct, and completely different from the smooth rounded domes of San Marco. (A diagram at the top of the stairs identifies the various Venetian buildings.)

Most interesting trivia: The guard at the top of the staircase told me there are more pigeons than residents in Venice!

Nicest surprise: After bagging my groceries at the Billa supermercato in Dorsoduro, I was handed a bottle of Spumante. One bottle was given as a Holiday gift for every Lit. 25.000 of purchases. I think it was the package of delicious rosemary and olive oil flavored Gran Pavesi saltines that pushed my £ over the limit ... These crackers were really tasty - I wish I could find them in the US!

Funny Moment: Watching a pink nosed black and white cat carefully stalking pigeons over a bridge, and then seeing him switching his tail in disgust when they scattered and flew away.

Most unnerving sight: Monument to the Partisan Women. While under restoration, the large bronze statue on concrete steps is isolated from the lagoon by metal barriers. Looking at the dry monument at sunset made me shiver.

Most peaceful walk: Through the long, tree lined, pebbled walkway of viale Garibaldi near the Giardini Pubblici, to the via Garibaldi that runs through Castello.

Best way to end the day: Braving the cold to sit on the outside of the vaporetto heading back to Rialto, and seeing the almost-full golden Venetian moon rising over the gardens. Talking with my seat mates about the "circus" Ombra di Luna (Moon Shadow) while the huge moon disappeared from view. Turning past La Volta and immediately seeing it again directly ahead, glowing with bright abandon over the Rialto bridge and the waters of the Grand Canal.

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