Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Venice - A Tale of Pigeons, Canals and Cappuccinos

I have described Venice before to friends as a gracefully aging woman who dresses in a fashion which is slightly out of date but which she has managed to make her own. There is no one else like her. Her architecture is an orgy of styles. Patterned facades, stone carvings, placed in way that seems deliberately designed to take one by surprise. Striped mooring poles line a mix of plazas and tiny winding streets standing in her legendary canals. Massive chandeliers are visible through the windows of the grand, ornate buildings surrounding St Marks Square. The colors in the scenes which adorn the front of the Cathedral on the square almost appear to glow as if lit from behind.

Our first stop was for a cappuccino, now that my partner's curiosity had been aroused by his sampling at the train station in Rome. He liked it; a lot; we drank a number of them over the next several days. We then proceeded, caffeine fueled, down the Grand Canal to St Marks Square.

At first glance, one might think that 70% of all the pigeons in the world reside in the venerable square. Every step stirs up scores of them. Around the public plaza is a zone inhabited only by the wealthy. Expensive restaurants,high priced, high end hotels and an art gallery specializing in the likes of Picasso and Dali surround the world famous space.

On the far end of the plaza we pass through an arch carved out of the lower floors of one of the buildings and discover a shop window filled with odds and ends, including Venetian glass trimmed hat pins. As I collect hat pins we venture inside. A delightful woman greets us. A wonderful and disarming salesperson she is full of grace, good humor and a sales pitch that is hard to resist. We end up leaving with the hat pin, jewelry, both for gifts and for ourselves, and a miniature sterling silver gondola. I also have a collection of miniatures, some dating back to my great grandmother. We then lose ourselves in the narrow streets and canals that wind behind the buildings on St Marks Square.

The ground floors of the centuries old buildings have been made into boutiques devoted to every upscale, tony designer imaginable. Versace, Hugo Boss, Ferragamo and a seemingly endless multitude of others assault the senses plus the pocketbooks of those who can afford such wares. Amid this scene a ancient multistory old building surrounded by equally ancient canals bears a sign identifying it as a Best Western Inn.

As darkness falls we get REALLY lost. Retracing our steps and with the assistance of a waiter clearing tables at an outdoor restaurant, we eventually find our way our way and take a weary walk back to our hotel. As there are several arches leading to courtyards on the street where we are staying I come to identify ours by the pattern of cracks on the gangway wall.

We eat outside at a small restaurant down the block from the hotel. It is the final night of outdoor dining for this establishment. The next day we see the awning being dismantled and the tables and chairs being taken to storage for the winter months.

After dinner our tired feet carry us back down the street, past the cracked gangway wall and up the narrow stairs to our room for the night.    

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