Monday, September 28, 2009

On to Venice


We got as lightly late start this morning but still managed to get pretty much everything in. We had breakfast on the rooftop panoramic terrace of our hotel before checking out and starting our day. The first stop this morning was the Olympic Theater. On our way there we noticed that there were tons of teenagers out in the streets, and a protest group of some kind going down the street with flags waiving, chanting, and music blaring. We found out when we got to the theater that some students were on strike that day... not sure why they were striking, but it was interesting...

Anyway, the Olympic Theater was Palladio's last work, and it's pretty cool. The stage is designed to look like 5 streets branching off into the distance. The main street of Vicenza is Palladio, and the main street in the center of the stage is a replica of this street. The perimeter of the theater is lined with tons of statues, the only thing plain about the room is the wooden benches for the audience to sit on.

Next we took a bus to the Villa La Rotonda, which was started by Palladio and was the inspiration for Jefferson's Monticello. (See the back of our Nickel) We weren't able to view the inside of the Villa since it is only open on Wednesdays, but we were able to walk around the gardens which are very pretty. We walked back down a ways to see the next Villa, Villa Valmerana. We just got to see a little of the front of this villa because it was closing in 20 min and we didn't want to pay to go in and only get to see it for a few min... This Villa is called Villa of the Dwarves, it is lined on the outside walls by several dwarf statues. There is a story that says that the villa was built for a princess who was a dwarf, but her father didn't want her to know she was a dwarf so he hired all dwarves to work for her so she wouldn't know she was different. One day she saw a prince riding by and realized that she was a dwarf. She killed herself in anguish and her dwarf servants were so sad about her death that they turned to stone.

We continued our walk, mostly walking uphill, to Monte Berico. There is a church up here on a hill and awesome views overlooking Vicenza from here. We continued our walk back into town to grab a gelato, get our bags, and head for the train station. Next stop, Venice!

Coming into Venice on the train over the water was really cool. The city is stunning and feels kind of unreal. We walked to our hotel from the train station crossing a bridge over the water. Luckily our hotel is pretty close by because our bags are getting pretty heavy now. We then boarded a vaporetto and traveled down the Grand Canal to St. Mark's Square. On the way we listened to our audio guide which described the landmarks we were passing and was great to orient ourselves to the area.

St. Mark's Square was pretty packed with people. We listened to our audio guide to learn a bit about the square, then decided to go in to St. Mark's Basilica. We checked our backpacks at a little place off the square and got a fastpass kinda thing to the front of the line, and thank God we did because otherwise we wouldn't have gotten in today. We were expecting it to be open for a bit longer, but they started kicking people out about 20min after we got in there. The rest of the people waited in line for who knows how long only to be shuffled through the atrium and back out onto the square without ever going inside! What we got to see was pretty amazing. Tons of mosiac work all with gold backgrounds, very ornate and tons of domes.

Next we went to the Doge's Palace and saw the courtyard and some of the interior which is filled with dark wood and tons of artwork. This was the home of the Venitian govermnent and connects to the prison via the Bridge of Sighs. Convicted criminals crossed from the Doge's Palace to their new home in prison via this bridge which has some small windows looking out to the lagoon and they sighed as they saw their last views of Venice. We toured through the prison as well before exiting back onto St. Mark's Square.

Across the way we went to the Campanile di San Marco, which is a bell tower rising up from the square. We took an elevator to the top (yay, no stairs!) to get great 360 views of Venice. It is really a beautiful city... even with the gigantic cruise ships off in the distance...

We were hungry early tonight, and it's a good thing because we forgot to make dinner reservations. We headed to the restaurant early and got the last table available outside by the canal, lucky us! Dinner was great, gnocchi for me, spaghetti with clams for Kev, tiramisu and cappuccino for dessert... mmm we're gonna miss the food when we get home!

After dinner we walked around the streets of Venice for a while, just turning this way and that walking over the little bridges and canals. It was fun to go wherever we felt like going and not have to worry about getting too lost. Eventually we found a gondolier and decided to take a ride. It was expensive but worth it to do once. We rode through the canals for about 40min enjoying the starry sky, crossing under bridges in the dimly lit canals while our gondolier whistled and sang and told us a little about some of the buildings we passed by. It was really fun, romantic, and probably our favorite thing we've done on the trip so far. It's just a really cool city, so different from anywhere else... expect maybe Disneyland or Las Vegas... It's hard to believe it's a real place and not some kind of amusement park.

After our gondola ride we got some more gelato and stopped on the Rialto Bridge for a few minutes before catching the vaporetto back to our hotel. The moon was really neat looking tonight when we got to our hotel, very orange colored as it was descending over the city.

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