Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Italy, the finale
Ok, all of Venice in one post, direct from my travel journal. Ready, go!
The city has the feel of a cracking oil masterpiece. Buildings made of perfectly carved stone are covered in moss and sinking into the sea. The city is decaying and maybe because of its terminal state we are forced to appreciate its best qualities before it dies. It's so romantic that it's strewn with young couples making out, in parks, by the water, up against the ATM...
The romance is aptly paired with a mysterious layout that makes navigating Venice without a map impossible. Or possible if you want to sleep in a different hotel every night. I fought at times to enjoy this aspect of Venice and withold my doubts of ever reaching the hotel/restaurant/vaporetto/etc. The winding alleys are paved with designer shops and shifty men selling counterfeit Prada, and of course, souvenirs of all shapes and sizes. We didn't indulge as the prices are set more for jet-setters than grad students.
My favorite site of the city was Basillica San Marco. It's story is as colorful as its amazing mosaics. The church contains both the stolen bones of St. Mark and jewels stolen from then-ally Constantinople. It's a mix of Holy Roman and Byzantine that's quite impressive.
But mainly one goes to Venice to experience the city itself. The canals and piazzas are omnipresent. It was too expensive for us to catch a gondola, so we settled for short skiffs in traghetti. Most of the people we saw in gondolas weren't romantic anyway. There were rich Asian tourists, Americans videoing the ride instead of experiencing it, and one couple with a gent playing on his cellphone while the lady looked forlornly in the distance.
We took an interesting tour of the Jewish ghetto. This is far from the hum of San Marco's, tucked away like Venice's Jews. We saw the hidden synagogues and learned about how your pocket book as well as your religion influenced your status in Venice. The only part that shocked me was our tour guide insisting that the Jews were forced to live on this tiny island ghetto "for their own protection." How quickly the nanny state becomes the police state.
At any rate, Italy is gorgeous. The weather was mostly pleasant and the people are quite funny. They have a brusqueness with each other that looks like they are fighting, but then one will break out into laughter, the other joining. Our last night we ate cichetti (appetizers) and bar-hopped. It was a delicious and apropo ending to our romantic trip.