Venice Virgins We Are Not

I do not sleep well in Noventa di Piave.

This will prove to be a recurring problem over our four nights in Venice. Interestingly enough, John, who woke very early every morning at Neil’s house in London while I slept like a baby, has no trouble sleeping here in Italy. I awake with sand in my eyes and slowly, ever so slowly, get up. John has already been up and gone down for breakfast: orange juice, fresh croissant, and coffee. I opt for the pillow.

Approaching Venice from the Water

Stephano, one of our hosts, has told us of one of the many options for traveling to Venice. We had been planning to drive into Mestre and then taking the train, to avoid the parking hassles. Stephano suggests that we drive to Punta Sabbione, the tiny finger-like peninsula which is across from Venezia, and then take one of the many ferries into the city. Noventa di Piave is already halfway there, and we quickly agree that that sounds like a wonderful idea. When we came to Venezia 4 years ago, we took the shuttle boat from the airport to Piazza San Marco and it was wonderful to approach the magical city by water. We anticipate the same. On the road and out of Noventa di Piave by 10 a.m., we expect the 40-kilometre drive to the ferry to be fast. It is, after all, a Tuesday and who would be traveling these roads this early in the week? Stephano neglected to tell us that this is major beach country, that the lido along the coast is lined with hotels and pensions full of summer beach tourists. Our road is crammed with not only beach tourists but also all the tourists who have been told of this wonderful alternative for getting to Venezia. We are bumper to bumper for an hour and three-quarters before we arrive to find expensive parking and even more expensive ferries to San Marco. We cram onto a boat with everybody else and head out for a slightly overcast trip to Venezia. As we round the point and see our first glimpse of the spires of San Marco and San Giorgio Maggiore and La Salute, the impatient and curious tourists surge to the top of the boat, cameras, video cams and squawking children in tow, blocking all attempts at picture taking. The sun breaks through, hot and intense, welcoming us to Venezia.

Leaving All the Venice Virgins Behind

Our return ticket says 6 pm so we walk with purpose and knowledge of where to go. We leave all the Venetian Virgins behind to let them savour their first glimpses of the rolling gondolas and the tacky paintings, the Doges’ Palace and the prize of all, the Piazza San Marco. As we pass through the Piazza, I hear an American woman say to her family, wide-eyed and full of wonder: “Can you believe that we are actually here?” We both stop and realize how lucky we are to be traveling the way we are and remember our first time in Venezia. We consciously slow our pace, trying to see this magical place through a Venetian Virgin’s eyes. We join some English tourists in the lift to the top of the campanile for a spectacular view of the city and the lagoons. From this vantage point, you can clearly see how Venetia is situated and its dominance of the water. It is a lovely view punctuated by a single but very loud bell clap, announcing the half-hour.

Three More Venice Churches

John wants to see 3 churches on this trip, San Giorgio Maggiore, La Salute, and Redentore, which we didn’t get a chance to explore when we were here before. We agree to do the 1st 2 today and grab Vaporetto 82 to start with San Giorgio, the masterpiece of Palladio. The inside is a cool, calm white interior, so understated and peaceful, and we enjoy the quiet. We make our way down and back across the canal to San Marco and walk to la Salute, the Cathedral of Health, built to celebrate and commemorate the end of one of the many plagues that devastated Venezia. We walk through familiar streets, finding our way around easily to cross the Canal Grande at the Ponte di Accademia, and so are now in Dorsoduro. There are two major canal restorations on our way and we stop and watch in amazement the painstaking process of renewal. We walk past the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and finally, the campo rises up to greet us. Soon we are inside. Like San Giorgio, la Salute is a clean, white interior punctuated with works of art by great Venetian painters like Tintoretto, Titian, and Tiziano. It has a round interior and is not like a standard roman cross style of church. In fact, there is no seating available to its parishioners.

 A Slow Venice Roam

Slowly, we roam the streets and campos as we make our way back to San Marco to catch our ferry. We come across La Fenice, still not totally completed despite the reopening ceremonies held last Christmas. 4 years ago, on our last trip, the theatre was still in ruins years after it was devastated by fire, the huge sums spent to restore it disappearing into the pockets of politicians and builders, with little making its way into the actual building, until Rome took control of the project, after which it moved forward quickly.

At the ferry stop, we look at the crowd and there are so many of us that we think it will be an unpleasant, sardine-like, trip home. But halfway through boarding, it becomes apparent a 2nd ferry is waiting and will take 1/2 the crowd, so we end up with seats on the bow, enjoying the sun on our faces and the views of the Lido and Venice as we head home.

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