On top of the most fascinating lagoon in the world, sits Venice, my home for the past few nights. Since my last posting I’ve visited the gardens of Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s palace. The beauty was unreal! It’s so hard to believe that such grand places were made for a single person. Villa d’Este could easily be one of my favorite sites so far. However, Burano is in close competition for being the favorite. It was Venice with a paint job! Lining the canals, each little building was brightly colored, usually with a matching colorful awning and beautiful blossoms spilling out of the windows. Yesterday we chartered a private ferry boat that carried my class to Cemetery Island or Isola di San Michele, Murano, and Burano. At the cemetery we saw many graves of nuns and priests. The tombstones all had a picture of the deceased person buried below. It was somber and eerie. The graves are recycled about every 40 years. There are dates listed on each tombstone indicating the remaining time that a body has left to stay in that space before it will be replaced by someone else’s body. We had a fabulous glass blowing demonstration in Murano, followed by lunch on Burano. I ate Venice’s traditional cuttlefish. It was the most foreign thing I’ve ever eaten. It was similar to squid, except much less rubbery, and it had a very rich, creamy texture on the interior. It was exquisite!
Having very few permanent residents, Venice has almost no nightlife. There are very few places open after dark. However, the gang (my friends Katie, Brooke, Nicole, Rocco, Ryan, and Briek) and I sniffed out some fun. There is a piazza about 16 minutes from our hotel (Hotel Spagna, which is really decent by the way). It’s called Campo Santa Margherita, and it was crawling with Italian university students. There were many restaurants and a bar lining the piazza, and the locals lounged everywhere socializing over large bottles of vino. My friends and I went to the bar to sample the drinks, the spritz and the Bellini. They were very good; however, what was most impressive were the Mojitos. It was the best Mojito of my entire life. The bartender made it with such special care. She even hand crushed the ice (ice machines are not common here). We then made our way to the one and only night club in Venice. We read some strange reviews about it online earlier in the day. One review said “When you arrive, just ring the brass bell by the door. You may have to wait several minutes while the eccentric owner sizes you up through the peep hole, but lingering outside in the narrow alley just heightens Piccolo Mondo’s quirky mystique.” It ended up being no trouble to get in. People of all ages were crammed in the Piccolo Mondo. There were many people older than my parents as well as young college students, and every age in between. We’re still uncertain about whether or not it was a gay bar. We saw mostly male couples. It was such a great time. The music was fun, and the disco atmosphere livened up the dance floor.
The next day in Venice we visited the Frari and the San Rocco churches. We saw works by Bellini, Titian, and Tintoretto. We learned about the Franciscans and Dominicans and their movement to secularize and urbanize Christianity. We also learned about the scuoles (religious fraternities) who ruled Venice for centuries. While Venice called itself a republic, through these scuoles it operated as an oligarchy for many generations.
Overall Venice was splendid, and so different than Rome. Italy was not unified until 1861. Before unification individual city-states existed, each unique and independent from the others. Today it is still easy to see the difference in cultures from region to region.
Next on my agenda is Arezzo, Florence, and Capri. Lots of traveling to be done over the next few days. Wish me luck!