Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Italy Day 7: Travel to Venice

Before we set off to Venice, we visited the weekly Wednesday market that surrounds the Medici fort in Siena. Crowded tented stalls filled with all of the cheap clothes, practical home goods, and fresh foods it is otherwise impossible to find in the posh city seemed to attract the majority of the city’s populace. Mother became overwhelmed by the press of people, but I delighted in the hubbub and the tantalizing produce and breads.

We made our way first to Florence by bus, which made us all rather seasick with its hell-bent speed and swaying, despite the stunning Tuscan countryside scenery. It’s a good thing Ma didn’t notice the two car wrecks we passed, whose drivers had gone off the edge of the narrow steep roads, or she would have been even more nervous.

While awaiting our train at the Florence station, we enjoyed the offerings of the train station food court, which in typical Italian fashion did not stint on its lavishness. Our meal (at a freaking food court, mind you) consisted of flavorful roasted pork with potatoes and garlic, a saucy beef with mushrooms, a tender and cheesy roasted vegetable lasagna, and mounds of sautéed spinach. Our meal could have been much more lavish, but we were trying to restrain ourselves. If we only had food courts like that at home, travel and shopping would be so much better.

The train to Venice was posh and fast, truly travel in the lap of luxury. In a matter of short hours we arrived in Venice across the causeway tracks, timed perfectly to be just like Katherine Hepburn in Summertime, even with the same seats.

The evening light perfect in that way unique to Venice, echoed somewhat only, in my experience, in Paris and Banares: the light seems heavy, so saturated with honeyed yellows and rosy pinks that it almost drips on the surfaces and sticks to them longer than it should, turning white marbles to glow with interior warmth and making colored painted walls almost 4-dimensional, you can almost feel the atoms buzzing.

It being her first visit to Venice, Mother was suitably stunned upon stepping out of the train station onto its plaza along the edge of the grand canal. The slosh of the waves, the background stench of seaweed and salt mud, the hurried boats and palatial architecture all put on a good show. We hustled ourselves onto a vaparetto (canal bus boat), which conveniently dropped us a block from our pensione (hotel) at the Rialto Markets.

After depositing our bags we walked to San Marco to fully situate our minds in the heart of Venice. While the piazza was disappointingly smothered in scaffolding, construction shields, and stages erected for the holiday festivities, the main buildings held their own, including the domes of the Doge’s palace and the glittery gilded excess of the interior of the basilica. I think it wins for sparkeliest church, which is saying something.

So, about our hotel, Pensione Guerrato. It was built in 1288. As a hostel for crusaders. For real. Crusaders. 1288. Commence politically-incorrect swashbuckling romantic quest daydreams. The interiors had been sadly updated in the baroque period and again in the 1950s, leaving little of the medieval décor other than the wooden beams and worn stone steps. The Murano glass chandeliers and silk/gilt headboards and antique furniture and heat!!! and American-style bathroom were all quite lovely and much appreciated, though. We enjoyed spoiling ourselves, and slept gloriously.

No comments: