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Thursday, September 25, 2008
Italy 2008 - Day 2 Venice
Italy Day 2 started with a 6am jog through the vineyard. What a great way to start the first full day in Italy - plus not a bad way to burn off the two plates of risotto from the night before! I have to thank Heather for getting me going as she is training for her second tri-athalon sprint. I am just trying to get some exercise into my life!
After the jog we stopped for a quick bite and some coffee and then get ready for the 30 minute bus ride to the Venice airport where we would meet tour boat to Venice and Murano.
The boat ride is beautiful as you see Venice off in the distance through the thick, moist air. It is such an unimaginable place and just doesn't seem real. This is my third time to Venice and it always awes me. You see the towers all tilting and listing from vertical and you realize this place is simply a mirage in time yet it is virtually the same it was centuries ago. What is so nice about Venice is the lack of cars, trucks, vespas and police sirens. It is quiet other than the constant sound of human chatter, a mixture of many languages, and occasional clanking dishes from the back kitchens of numerous restaurants. There is never a lack of detail and architecture. It is truly architecture Disneyland.
Before we made it to Venice though we had a quick side trip and tour of a the Nason Moretti glass factory in Murano, Italy. Murano is a small island just east of Venice and is famous for their fabulous glassworks. This was my second trip to the island and is also an amazing journey each time. We were greeted by Piero Nason - 4th generation master glass blower and now runs this family business started at the turn of the last century. The business is a family business and many cousins, uncles and aunts all have their craft and role in the company as so many companies in Italy are operated. With this comes so much pride and passion. Everyone has a stake in the manufacturing, sale and success or failure of the product. Their work is stunning and always changing. Formulas for colors and mixtures are kept in a simple three ring binder in a little back room with shelves of different metal compounds that all make unique colors. It is amazing that simple sand, soda, and minerals can make something so translucent and colorful, not to mention beautiful yet extremely functional. From stemware to Murano chandeliers it is astounding the different items these craftsmen can do with a blob of molten glass - and how quickly. It is definitely worth seeing when you come to this part of Italy. Once you see the skill and style that goes into making one champagne flute you can appreciate the price for these wonderful works of art.
We then re-boarded the boat and cruised through the main channel through Murano and then around the southern tip of Venice to the main docks just south of St. Mark's Square. As our group departed the boat at approximately 12 noon it was decided we would all meet here later in the day at 8pm - so we had the full afternoon to ourselves. Most headed right for St. Mark's Square while Heather and I took off down the narrowest alleyway and away from the crowds. We were on a venture for a fantastic lunch off the beaten path - which we found at the Traverna SanLio which is a small tavern and bed and breakfast away from St. Mark's Square but not out of reach. We started with a delicious carpaccio and a glass of Pinot Grigio. This was followed by our main dish whereby I had a local specialty Venetian liver and onions on a bed of polenta and Heather had the Sea Bass cannelloni. Both were absolutely perfect. We capped this lunch with a wonderful cheese plate. A cappuccino closed out the meal and we were off exploring the city. Of course this was quickly interrupted by a gelato which we enjoyed as we strolled the streets.
After an hour of walking we found a nice street with a park bench and we sat down and dozed off for a quick catnap. We obviously felt very safe or we were simply ignorant to our potential danger but we woke up with everything still in tact and we ventured off again. Now it was time to get to St. Mark's Square. The large cruise ship was loading up so the streets were emptying and now St. Mark's Square was ours.
We arrived and enjoyed the Doge Palace facade, St. Mark's Basilica, and the Campanile Tower and of course the Piazza San Marco. St. Mark's Basilica was constructed in approximately 1050 and is an amazing representation of the collision of the cultures of the east and west. It is an amazing structure and it is unimaginable the amount of time and detail that is present in this structure - all done without power tools and building codes!
After a few photos (ok probably 100+) we sat down in the Piazza for a glass or two of prosecco and a Cuban cigar and a couple hours of just soaking in the atmosphere. The theme from the Godfather or Volare' playing the the background and the sun slowly setting over the square with the lights of the evening slowly taking hold and you have a magical moment.
Soon it was time to go and make our way back to the rendezvous point and join up with our group. We grabbed a little pizza and a beer and it was time to take the boat back to the bus and back to the hotel. A great day for sure.