Thursday, August 20, 2015

Day 7: The Basilica and Views

The new room is louder. Lots of banging throughout the night. I picture the locals opening and closing their shutters all night long, yelling to their partner through their house. In the morning, it sounded like people were dumping metal pipes onto boats (I think it was the metal doors sliding open of the shops as they opened). AND, the new rooms do NOT have an espresso maker (the old one did). BUT, with two bathrooms, we have twice the toilette paper! Not that we ran out before, but it was close, even with the bidet :)

All our shoes were dry, no more squishing around!

After breakfast we headed to Piazza San Marco with breadsticks in our pockets, ready for the birds. If you are a pigeon advocate, please skip this part (as we are feeding them non-bird food and exploiting them for photos). The birds are crazy. They do tend to be able to smell who has food and who doesn't. If you don't, they mostly fly by, but if you do, they land on your arm, your shoulder, your head. I really wanted one on my head, but they wouldn't land there. They did tend to favour hats over plain heads. Their claws were mostly gentle. But, after a few minutes, our arms were a little irritated and we were out of food, so, perfect timing. It was also time for our tour at the Basilica di San Marco.

Alessandro had encouraged us to buy tickets online. This means you skip the line (which is an average of 45 minutes) and walk right into the Basilica. It cost a little more, but it came with a 60 minute tour. Not too long, for those of us disliking these kinds of tours. What was great about it was all the history our guide shared with us (I never would have read as much as she told us, so it was great to hear it all). The tour also allowed us to go into a side room that only tours are allowed to go into. There are absolutely no photos, videos, selfies (yes, it says this), or camera usage within the Basilica. But, in this side room, they close the doors, turn on the lights and we are allowed to take photos.

Outside wall of the Basilica (left).
BabyKiller in the side room (middle).
Our selfie, in an permitted area, over the tile floor (right).
There is a wall in this side room, where they took away the marble wall to see what was beneath it. But they took it off to roughy and took of half of a mosaic wall that was hidden under the marble. They have tried to restore it, but with the salty air, it is futile. Within just the last 7 years, more of the remaining mosaic has disappeared due to salt. So they have closed this room off and only open it a few times a day for the tours.

In this room, there are several items, including three burials and two baptising "baths". One, big tub, is to baptise adults, and the other (seen in the middle photo) is to baptise babies. However, the artist made the "lid" out of very heavy metal and the four doors (so you can baptise four babies at a time) are too heavy, so VERY unsafe to put a baby in there (so we nicknamed it the BabyKiller, not that any babies died in there, but in our warped need to entertain ourselves, this is what we called it).

Also inside the Basilica, our tour allowed us to go into areas that usually cost a small fee (so we paid for it via our tickets). We got to see the sarcophagus of San Marco, himself, if you believe it. Our guide mentioned that it had the Pope's seal on it, and anything with the Pope's seal is above scrutiny (no scientific tests can be performed). And we saw an amazing gold altar piece, the Pala d'Oro. It was truly amazing with the amount of gold and jewels and attention to details. We enjoyed the story of how the Venetians thwarted Napoleon's attempt to steal it by painting a ulgy-false front that he deemed unworthy of taking, so he left it.
After our tour, we were left within the Basilica to roam around at our leisure. We decided to pay a few extra Euros to see the upper level, which included a wrap-around balcony with amazing views of the Piazza.
As is our pattern, after the Basilica, we headed back to the hotel to rest before lunch. Also, backpacks are forbidden in the Basilica, so we needed to go back to pick that up and fill it with water and other items. Chris wondered if we needed to bring rain jackets again, I said no, I thought the weather was going to be ok the rest of the day (foreshadow alert!)

The Rialto (notice the giant building on the right covered
so you can't see the construction going on below it. the
building on the left is also having this done, but it's a little
harder to see in this photo)
After lunch, we headed to Peggy Guggenheim Collection. On our way, we were able to cross the Ponte dell'Accademia, the southern most bridge to cross the Grand Canal. Wonderful vistas and great photo opportunities. A great way to make up for the Rialto being closed. Side note: You can still cross the Rialto, but all the sides are blocked off, so there is no view off of the bridge, and coming in via water, you only see blocked out shops on the water side. Shops in the middle are open for business, and on one side, there is a 10x30 sqft. area where you can take photos off the bridge, but your view is of construction, not waterside restaurants with colourful awnings as it was in the past.

The Guggenheim Collection was more interested to me than the Biennale. I'm reinforcing that I definitely like old art better than a lot of the more modern art. I'm sure there are more artsy defining words to describe what I do like and don't like, but anyway. I did like seeing actual Picasso and Dali pieces. The visiting collection of the Pollock brothers (mostly Charles was represented, but there were a few pieces from Jackson) was cool to see. My favourite ended up being pieces by Vasily Kandinsky, while Xander enjoyed this piece by Picasso.

After the museum (yay, we made it through two museums and a tour on our trip!), we headed for some gelato (of course!) and then to the part of the island that would give us a panoramic view of Venice, from the Piazza all the way to the end where the Biennale is located. More walking, more gelato. More heat. More photos.
On our way to dinner, we figured we'd cut our walking by half if we could take two traghettos. Yay! But when we got to the first traghetto, it closed at 6pm, it was after 6. Boo!

So, more walking it is. Side note: yesterday was about 7.22 miles, and today is about 7 miles. We are deserving of that gelato!

We enjoyed a very lovely dinner. It was a most relaxed dinner, knowing we had seen so much of what we had wanted to do. Xander was feeling much better. The food was good. The atmosphere (a quiet square) was good.

In the last five minutes of our dining experience, a panicked waiter came running from table to table. He got to ours and talked super fast Italian. We looked at him with blank stares. He paused, realising we didn't understand a word he just said, "The rain! It's coming!" He was handing out table numbers on pieces of paper, asking people to bring all their stuff inside, to transfer themselves inside to finish out their meals. We had already finished, so we just asked, "Il conto per favore!"

Meanwhile, we looked to the skies, and yes, they were dark and foreboding. And yes, lightning started (foreshadow "cashing in").

Xander, not a fan of the lightning or thunder, wanted to race home. So we ran through the streets towards our hotel. Just about the time we got cramps from eating and running, the drops started to fall. We were almost home, but then... we passed a self-serve frozen yogurt shop... remember, moral imperative... doesn't matter that it's yogurt and not gelato... must. stop. to. get. frozen. yogurt.

So we stopped to fill cups of yumminess and that's when it really started to rain. We tried walking under as much cover as possible, but... it was wet and our shoes were squishy again.

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