Time is a funny thing. It went by too quickly while I was in Italy, but it also seemed like an incredibly long time to be away from my hubby and kids. We saw several clocks like this one in Venice. A 24-hour clock, but notice that 1 doesn’t start in the same place as a traditional clock. Our back streets of Venice tour guide explained to us that the 1 was placed where most locals started their day, which on this clock looks like 4 or 5 in the morning and then progressed around from there. I also saw a similar clock inside the Doge’s Palace that showed what sign of the zodiac we were currently in. Fascinating.
I took pictures of a lot of boats on this trip, mostly for my sailboat captain husband (I also wrote down the type of each airplane I flew in for the same reason). The brown wooden boat in the middle of the photo below is a typical taxi in Venice.
Venice was also interesting because it had no cars, and therefore, no delivery trucks, so we realized that for every store that contained merchandise, those wares must have come on a very convoluted journey. Goods could be trucked to the mainland, but then must come via boat to Venice and I saw many boats like this one carrying various loads. This one had building materials, some were entirely bottled water, others were refrigerated dairy products. But unless the destination store was on a canal, the goods had to be hand carried in a wooden cart to the store front.
One evening while we sat in a cafe eating grilled octopus and drinking pinot grigio, we watched a public market full of goods be dismantled by hand, tents, display tables, and all, and then hauled off by hand on specialized metal carts, which would return the next morning to be set up again in the same spot.
Garbage was also curious in Venice. They haven’t the space to leave out a large can like I do at home in the alley, so Venetians put their garbage out each morning before 8 (or the night before), and a person comes by daily to collect the garbage. Recycling is collected on specified days. This garbage barge then wove through canals collecting the parcels. I took a photo of this one because of the persian rug on the front.
I was frequently reminded how much I missed my little boys while I was away by sites like this one. Apparently, Italian boys aren’t so much different from my boys at home.
Stucco work was being done on the neighboring building next to our apartment in Venice. The workers caught us watching them more than once from our balcony. When they caught us staring, some were flattered, but their boss looked perturbed and simply said, “Prego.” I understood prego to mean, “you’re welcome”, but later discovered that it has many meanings in Italian. It can mean what can I get you?, please come in, please take a seat, please go ahead of me (if you’re holding a door open), I also heard it used as a response to me saying excuse me when I bumped into someone, as in, no problem. It would make sense that the construction boss would say you’re welcome to me in the context of, “you should say thank you for all this free eye candy so I’ll just skip to you’re welcome,” but I think he meant, “can I help you?” The language barrier got in the way here or there, but in this case, I understood his meaning simply from his inflection and demeanor.
We also had a little misunderstanding the night of Ken’s 40th birthday. I stopped by the restaurant at which we had a reservation later that evening. I wanted to clarify that we’d like to sit a fuori, outside, because it was a special birthday. But the waiter thought I said that I was requesting fiori or flowers for a special birthday. When I made the request, the waiter looked troubled, then went to the owner and relayed the request. She looked annoyed and then said in a very dismissive manner that there was no way she could provide flowers for the party on such short notice. Luckily I understood enough italian to realize the misunderstanding. She must have thought we were some pretty high maintenance Americans. The waiter was so relieved when I clarified.
Later the next day I witnessed our stucco worker friends dumping a full bucket of construction waste into the channel. It made me realize that Venice must have storm water management problems above and beyond most places in the U.S. Here, construction workers can dump a bucket on the ground and it will percolate through the yard soil before draining to a nearby stream or storm drain, but in Venice, most things must wash right into the canal. Most canals in Venice are not deep, mostly less than 15 feet in depth. Our back streets tour guide pointed out that Venetians rely heavily on tidal flow to flush out the canals, to move waste out into the sea, and to bring in fresh water. I can only assume that water quality, and the availability of clean fresh water, must be an ongoing concern in Venice.
Here is that bucket of waste 30 minutes after he dumped it in the channel.
I had the most laughs in Venice, and in each of the cities we visited, just sitting in cafe’s and bars with my traveling companions. We met other tourists and some italians while practicing our language skills with waiters and servers. One of our favorite places in Venice was The Jazz Bar. They had giant beers, being toasted below by Scott and Jenny. The walls were decorated with Jazz greats like Billie Holiday and Dizzy Gillespie, while music videos by Mariah Carey and Beyoncé played in the background.
We never tired of hanging out in pubs and outdoor cafe’s, people watching and laughing at each days events.
Although we only rode the train through Pisa, the only leaning tower we saw was this one in Venice. Venice was built centuries ago in a salt marsh and is supported on wooden posts driven into the marsh clay. Over time, that wood has become petrified and quite solid, but it is slowly sinking nonetheless. Most buildings in Venice struggle with uneven settling, and many of Venice’s towers have had to have their foundations repaired, and many towers rebuilt over the years. This one leans a lot when you really look at it.
Although we weren’t allowed to take pictures, we also visited a famous church in Venice, called the Church of the Friars, that contained Renaissance art by Donatello, Titian, and many others.
Tomorrow, I’ll write about the second city in our tour, beautiful Florence, Italy.