I got near desperation when I finished the last of Donna Leon's Venice mysteries featuring inspector Brunetti. So I ordered a kindle book called "A Thousand Days in Venice." I am not yet ready to make a verdict on the book since I'm less than a third through, but several parts have captured my feelings about the city. One had to do with life being a tapestry, where every moment you live is woven into it, causing all the next stitches of weaving. I've done a hatchet job of conveying the idea, but it is the idea of making our destiny by choices.
Anyway, here's something that really speaks to me about Venice.
"I wasn't ready for how Venice made me feel, from that first moment when I walked out through the doors of the train station. It was as though Venice was more than a place. It was as though Venice was a person, someone familiar but not familiar at all, someone who caught me off guard. I was pretty jaded back then. I'd already been many places, seen so much, I just wasn't prepared for the frenzy of emotions in that moment."
I have seldom read a more descriptive version of my own emotions about Venice -- as more than a place. I didn't like Venice my first time, but then I had not prepared for it but just jumped on a train when I arrived in Wolfenbüttel for a fellowship on Whitsun and found everything closed. No reservations, a language I didn't then understand, and a city that in May is overwhelmed by tourists.
I have lost count now of how many times I have been to Venice. Since I have been 3-4 times each of the past three years, I think I have underestimated it, and have probably been there close to 15 or more times. When my trip to Rome had to be cancelled because of the black ice in the middle of the night and my knee, I tried to rebook but Rome near Christmas is way too expensive. Venice wasn't and guess what -- I am thrilled. I cannot get enough of the city, and to me it is especially beautiful in the darkness of winter when the locals predominate. Yet the temps are supposed to be good -- 50s and partly cloudy by day and 35 at night, which by Maine standards is late spring. I'll take it any day over midsummer, when the cruise ships unload, the crowds pack the bridges and not a local except workers is to be found. In the winter, you find the real Venice, what it once was like before --as some people, but not me say -- it became a living museum. It's not -- it's vibrant, alive and welcoming.
This is the city that continues to delight, inspire, and awe me with its physical beauty, incredible history, and to me an odd home-iness that the quote gets to. I always dreamed of Venice because I'd read so many books and seen films like Thomas Mann's movie version of Death in Venice, but assum go there under romantic circumstances. When I pretty much gave up on romantic circumstances, I just hopped on that train from Germany. The first trip was difficult -- I remember with joy running into a French couple who were equally lost and we could communicate!
But ever since, and especially each succeeding trip as I stay in different parts of the city, I get to know it as if I live there. Like when I lived in Paris for two years in the 1980s for my dissertation, I know the restaurants, the bakeries, and the very simple things that bring me joy -- like the vaporetti. And now that I can speak Italian, everyone treats me amazingly even though most people speak English.
I can't wait, especially since I'll be at the Pesaro Palace (and for Marriott's sake, at the Courtyard Airport last night since my flight is at 6:35 am). But the singular beauty of Venice, its tides, its sun, its people, and its smallness keeps making me marvel. There is simply no other city I always want to go back to more.
Do you have an opinion on "Murano Glass"?
Found it to be interesting, and the gift of it to others, has brought much delight here in the US!
This shop is one of two, owned by this guy, that really was an interesting place for gifts, near the Trevi Fountain in Rome! Prices were reasonable, and the gifts of Murano Glass, have been made others very happy. It is an island in Venice, but I had never heard of it.
You comments would be appreciated!
Do I like Murano glass?!? Everyone who knows me would laugh because while others wear gold and silver jewelry, I ONLY wear Murano . Each trip to Venice I go out to Murano (founded in the 1200s because too many fires were breaking out in Venice from glass blowing) and check out the new designs. Then I go back to Venice proper to check out a few of the best shops there because strangely enough they're often less expensive even in Piazza San Marco.
Now we all know what to get you for Christmas!
They told me in Rome that it is best to go to the island by yourself, so you can take your time shopping!
If you go on a "Tour" to the island, they "Hustle" you into the shops that the tour company has an "Affiliation"! I think I was there at Murano, but it was so long ago, I just don't remember.
I would put a good word in for the two shops in Rome. They seemed very credible! The staff was very helpful.
Would you give me the name of your preferred shop in Venice? When I go, I want to get more of these items as gifts.
Trouble is I buy them for myself (but I would have it no other way ). I have always gone myself to Murano, especially since I buy a 3 day or week vaporetto pass that has unlimited use (it adds up quickly if you don't plus I love just being on water).
You are right, Jerry, it's definitely a hustle when you get offered the free ride to Murano. You're taken to the most expensive showrooms, have to sit through it rather than explore for yourself (there's a great glass blowing museum there), and sometimes if you don't buy enough the hotel or whoever gave you 'the free ride' won't transport you back. I often go several times per trip, sometimes just at the end of the day to experience the whoosh of the boat as it picks up speed a bit off the shores of Fondamente Nova. There are four different stops on Murano, so it definitely is worth exploring as are Burano (the lace island) and Torcello (more far afield, but the earliest settlement of Venetians -- and the same vaporetto pass still works).
In Venice, one of the best shops is right in the Piazza San Marco, unbelievably. It is practically right under the clock tower. And you can get your tax refund right away at the other end of the Piazza. Another is not far from the Rialto bridge (again, go figure), not far from the Disney Store. I don't shop in the Disney Store but it is a landmark for finding other places like hotels and restaurants in the area. I don't remember the names of either, but will pay special attention this trip since I buy from both regularly.
I know exactly where the Murano shop near the Pantheon is -- like I said, I can't resist Murano glass even when not in Venice. And it's the real stuff. Murano had a problem a few years ago (like everywhere) with cheap imitations from China. Fortunately, the Muran(anians? istas? ers?) really rose up in righteous wrath, and if you're careful (and if the price isn't TOO cheap), I think the problem has mostly been solved. It's quite easy to tell the cheap (and non-authentic) stores from the real ones, in Venice proper or Murano. And a store should always have the authenticity seal on its glass, like Antica Murrina, one of the most important glassmakers.
Cheers in advance -- we got you to Rome, so now Venice is next. It is also (to my relief) getting more disabled-friendly by building flat side ramps over the major bridges.
I didn't realize there was one near the Trevi Fountain. BTW, do you know how you MUST DO IT (the coins)? I learned this from my dear friend Giordano. If you make a wish at Trevi, you must turn your back, and use your left hand and throw only three small coins (forget euros) backwards into the fountain if you want your dreams to come true.
There is a similar ritual in Dijon at the chouette (owl) sculpture on the side of Notre Dame. You have to place your hands just so (and the correct ones) if you want your wish to be realized.
I love the world of dreams and hopes, whether they happen or not !
Yes, two locations near Trevi Fountain!
One is at Via delle Murannte, 15
They also represent Ferrari and have hats, t-shirts, and souvenirs!
BTW, on two trips I never saw anyone throw any coins in Trevi Fountain?
This place is beautiful! You can walk from the Grand Flora, (You may want to stop at The BK Lounge along the way)
I too have a soft spot for Murano glass. Last trip I purchased a very special piece, a glass canoa made from gold colored glass from the gallery of Simone Cenedese for my Mom's 75th birthday. I had it shipped home at their suggestion. It was very scary plunking down a credit card, filling out the paperwork and then waltzing out of there with nothing but a receipt for a hefty charge along with some papers. I had never done anything like that before. What would I do if I got home and the thing never arrived? It's not like I could pick up my phone or hop in my car and go back there and, "Saya Heya!" Or what if it arrived - broken! I couldn't help but wonder if I might've gotten myself caught up in another crazy scam or an "emotional" purchase, but low and behold, less than two weeks after my trip ended, "Brown" showed up at my front door with a humongous box. It was the canoa. The box must've been about 15 times the size of the glass piece. It was full of stuffing, and in the middle was the canoa, wrapped heavily in a foam wrapping and taped. The packaging alone let me know that the Cenedese Studio was just as concerned with it getting to me in one piece as I was! I gingerly peeled the tape and unwrapped the foam to reveal the canoa. There it was, in perfect shape, not broken and right in my own home! I was so happy. And scared! Now I just had to hang on to it and keep it from breaking until my mother's birthday and get it wrapped and hand delivered, and then Voilà! Out of my care! (Seriously, I was really afraid it might break. I purchased it 10 months before her birthday. I myself couldn't imagine ever owning something of that nature, as I have three dogs and two men in my home, plus a revolving front door of young men - my son's friends - constantly streaming in and out.) So that's my one and only Murano glass story. I didn't think to take a picture when I checked it to make sure it was what I bought and not broken, and after I gingerly rewrapped it, I didn't dare unwrap it again for fear of a faux pas. If I can remember, next time I visit my mom I'll take a snap of it and post.
So all's well that ended well, and you are right. Shoppers can know if they are purchasing from an authentic Murano glass company by looking for the sign Vetro Artistico Murano Murano Glass. When I was there in 2012, there was still a problem with the cheap knockoffs from China, even on Murano, so the trademark is indeed important.
For myself, my favorite piece is a (n inexpensively made) very simple little millefiori bracelet that I purchased in Venice for 3€. It was made of a string of hand knotted millefiori beads, with a cheap spring clasp. At one point, the bracelet broke, and I took it to my jeweler and had it restrung and a 14K clasp put on it. $40 later, it was good as new, but I was warned that the edges of the holes that are drilled through each glass bead (so they can be strung) are sharp, just due to the nature of the glass itself, and that it is very possible that the string can break again in the future from the normal wear and tear of rubbing against the glass. No matter, I love that cheap (well, it started out cheap) little thing and will wear it to death. It is whimsical and a happy remembrance of my first visit to The City of Water. Millefiori
I'm not surprised you received it in wonderful shape, even though I've never tried it myself. I always pack carry on only so that if I need to buy stuff that requires an extra suitcase, I can do that too -- but mostly I've bought jewelry in Venice and in the Greek islands incredibly beautiful cracked sea-turquoise glass platters and decorations. Thank goodness I could carry them all home (my clothing added extra protection wrapped around the last set from Santorini).
But one of the things I love that Americans often find exasperating is the delight in wrapping a gift perfectly displayed in shops in the Mediterranean and even France. It's an art, and they will keep customers waiting (even losing some) in order to perfectly package your purchase. It sounds as if they did the same when the mailed your canoa and I am so glad it arrived safely!
Alas, I have spent much on Murano jewelry, but I spend nothing on anything while at home, so I figure I'm worth it! But you do always need to remember it's glass. I'll never forget when I was somewhere in Italy or Greece and got our my Murano earrings, and one dropped on the floor. Alas, no plastic...
Your plates sound beautiful.
Sigh. I understand about the glass jewelry. Very unforgiving. I purchased an all glass ring (the band part was glass too) for I don't think more than $20 equivalent. At work I was running up some stairs and encountered two steps with deep puddles of standing water. I tripped in an effort to skip over them, putting my glass ringed hand down to break my fall, which alas broke the ring. My daughter bought one too, and it came to a similar demise.
I was in a store (yes, right at the foot of the Rialto Bridge, and shame on me, live and learn, well ya know, I was with other people...) There was a lovely little glass thimble on a shelf by the window. It was, I can't remember, 15€ or something, and overpriced, but I was enamored. I thought it might be nice to bring back to my stepmom, a very accomplished quilter. I picked it up to take a closer look, and the store owner started yelling at me and saying derisive things about my nationality... "You Americans are all alike... you think you can blah, blah, blah - blah, blah, blah" and on and on. Whoa. I might've apologized, but after being given a verbal raking - and he wouldn't stop his tirade long enough to let me anyway, no just high tailed it out of there fast, thinking 'Ciao, buddy!' I learned a couple of things that day.
Sigh -- I know your feelings -- more from Paris in the 1980s than Venice in the present. As to the glass, it is the thing that hurts the most. The one I referred to was one of my very favorite earrings, of which I only lost half, but still. It wasn't even one of the expensive ones, but it's the same one I'm wearing in the Ken Follett photos (dark blue squares). I nearly cried, even though one store I know in Venice can, I think, replicate it. When I find something -- especially not very expensive -- that I love in Murano jewelry, I'm just going to buy extras. Necklaces are less fragile for some reason (I think they are held together more strongly).
As to the guy on the Rialto bridge, I can think of some fine words for him. (As you learned, don't buy anything on the Rialto Bridge, but inland a few blocks at least on either side.) Next time, though you won't be at that spot, if it happens again anywhere in Italy say:
"Tu non sai niente, stupido." It will stop them in their tracks.
Happily, most Venetians are lovely (in my experience). This is one of the reasons I ALWAYS go back to one restaurant and have twice posted photos not only of the food but the people. It's in Cannaregio, so I'll go again -- Al Fontego dei Pescatori. Each time I go there I am treated like family returning home, even though I don't have a drop of Italian blood in me.
Here's my most recent review of it on tripadvisor:
Hai molto da imparare, idiota! (Shriek, wave arms wildly, add a few choice words in French and German, then leave in a huff.) Note that I used the familiar tu, which would further outrage such an idiot(my best translation of glasshoppah, though you should use your term - I like it).
It's funny - I am normally the most polite of people, but as I age I grow increasingly intolerant of rudeness, idiocy (unless it seems to come naturally to the person in question) and fools.
I may try to send something back to myself this time. I think as long as you use a credit card and get receipts it's probably safe. My problem is where I would put anything. I live in a small 2 bedroom apartment, and almost every single wall is covered with enlargements of my travel photos by Shutterfly. And most flat surfaces are also covered with mementoes of the places I have visited. Maybe a new lamp, even though I like the 4 I have!
I think if we buy from a reputable studio, we're in good shapE as far as shipping. As for the goblets and space, they're protected in a cabinet. I could never set anything out in the open. In your case, do you have to consider your cat accidentally knocking something over? I know cats can go just about anywhere they want.
great post professor. I love your passion for the place and although I have never been there, I feel as if there is a connection to it just by the mentions you make of it. I am glad you were able to find a way to get there for Christmas since your Rome plans were squashed. There are reasons for everything and I'm sure you are going to be right where you needed to be even though that was not your plan in the beginning.
Safe travels and can't wait to hear of your next journey to your favorite place.
I always feel that way. I sometimes wonder other times and this time (a bit morbidly) if I had continued to the airport in the middle of the night despite hurting my knee, whether something might have happened because of the black ice. That's why even though we're expecting a bit snowstorm this weekend, I'm happy to be flying out of Boston Monday evening so I don't have to drive in the middle of the night, when the temps are way below freezing.
It's just hard to express how I feel about Venice, except the quote from the book I mentioned. It's funny that some of the places I instantly disliked on my first visit (when I was a poor grad student or early on assistant professor) have become my favorites -- Venice and Rome in particular.
I will still always have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Paris, but that's probably because I lived there two full years in the 1980s, and it is my least favorite part of France, the other parts of which (esp Burgundy, Brittany, Normandy, Poitou-Charentes, and the SW) I love dearly.
Oddly, as I mentioned elsewhere, I never go back to my ancestral homeland (Berne Switz) despite liking it very much the three times I went -- and elsewhere in Switzerland too.
Maybe the key is what I just said -- love/hate = Paris; love = Venice/Rome; liked a lot but never went back after about 5 total trips = Switzerland.
I think just like many relationships can be described by love/hate (in other words, your word, passion), so too "liked a lot" is pretty much damned by faint praise, especially since it was one of the first trips I took outside of Paris in the 1980s.
For me it is la joie de vivre, la gioia da vivere that matters, and I've never found much of that in Switzerland, but it abides plentifully in Italy and France.
As I thought more about what you and Jerry said, it occurred to me that the key to loving a place passionately (wherever in the world) is to begin to uncover it layer by layer until you feel you are STARTING to get to understand it. For me Venice means staying in and walking around all the different parts, especially the non-touristy ones. I'll be in Cannaregio, my favorite part of the city, but right on the Grand Canal. But I love walking to the ends of all the islands, finding the ignored churches, sampling the wares of the merchants at the far end of Rialto Mercato. It is watching the moonlight sparkle over the Canal and the sun rising over the lagoon. There is something utterly timeless about Venice. Many have said it reminds them of Historical Disneyland, but I think that's only true if you trot the main tourist sites. When you start to find places where they're speaking Veneziano instead of Italian (they can still understand Italian and English in almost all cases), you know you're in real Venice.
The same was true for me in Rome. The first few trips I always went to the Colosseum and Forum and sometimes to the Vatican. Then I started really thinking about the Colosseum and its history and it no longer drew me there. And I had seen the Forum a number of times. That's when I started venturing further afield, especially to my beloved Trastevere. It's when I walked -- at extreme protest from the concierge of the Grand Flora then -- to the Vatican. He told me it was much, much too far. In the process I got lost, going off in all the spokes of the about six-way intersection at the Capitoline, trying all the streets till I ended up on Coros Vittorio Emmanuele. And oh what discoveries on the way.
Sometimes you find things only when you're not looking for them.
What a fantastic comment, Jerry! I think that's exactly what I was getting at. Too much when we travel to new (or even revisited) places, we just visit "the sites." But in doing so we often miss the city or region we're visiting. I'm not trying to take away from the importance of seeing historical sites (ME???), but I think travel is always a pilgrimage, spiritual or secular. We are seeking or seeing something when we travel (most of the time - some people might only do so for business). But allowing oneself to get lost (while conveniently having GPS, maps or nice strangers available) can be the most fulfilling of all in terms of travel. Because you see the things that aren't in guidebooks, you meet people who change your life, and you start to see it all differently.
I don't try or want to speak for everyone, but that's been my experience.
PS -- I am going to get to Venice and the Pesaro Palace come snow, ice, sleet, rain, or acqua alta! Believe it or not, my Pesaro Palace rates are cheaper than my last night at the Courtyard Marco Polo (my flight leaves at 6:35 am and I cannot afford another speeding water taxi across the lagoon at 4:00 am like I did in August -- though it was exhilarating!)/
Yes, it is a great way to see any city. It's hard for people who like to control things (I'm one of them, though somehow when I travel abroad I let that go because I want to experience life there).
I just feel so lucky. I hope with my structural problems I can continue (my mind is ever better, but I may need to become the Bionic Woman).
Have a most wonderful trip!
You got me motivated to go to Rome, Thank-you!, now am looking at a return trip to Venice.
Main concern is, is there enough to do for 5 days? I would arrive on Sunday and leave the following Saturday. Stay in Venice at a good place until Friday night and then stay at the CY/Airport!
BTW, I'm good with maps, but have been lost, so many times, mainly by car. That's why a person had really realize, when you have a car in Europe (Probably most places), you are "In another world" with a car!
A car will do you absolutely no good in Venice ! There is absolutely enough to do in Venice in 5 days. The islands, the famous art museums, incredible churches, checking out the palazzi along the Grand Canal, the Lido, the fabulous shopping and eating. Definitely!
And you're exactly right about staying at the CY the last night, but not for the rest of the trip. My flight will leave Venice at 6:35am. I did the same a few months back, but had to take a water taxi at 4:30 am.
Regarding Venice, been there several times as I sell for a manufacturing company some 30 km north of Venice, near Padua. If interested, you might find one of my websites of Venice and area of interest:
Stayed in Padua several week ends and one of my favorite spots was the University of Padua, one of the oldest universities - if not the oldest in the world - and where Galileo actually studied, lectured. A plaque commemorating his tenure there still hanging on the wall. I have a video of the entire town also. Love these old cities.
I've never been beyond the Scrovegni Chapel, but will have to go back to Padua some time. The day I was there was sweltering (Venice had been tolerable only because of the water), and the lines into the chapel were so, so long, even though it was early in the day.
You should have been a historian!
I've stayed in several places in Padua, but last one was Methis, opposite side of town from train station. There is one near station, but not too nice. There is a very nice restaurant near the Methis - Alla Vigna - that you can walk to, and you can walk along the canal and enter city on via Vescovado, which takes you into old part of town - Piazza Signori, Piazza Del Duomo, Piazza della Frutta, etc. The other part of town that is nice to visit is Piazza Del Santo. By the way, history has been my love for the past 35+ years - very few novels in my library - mostly history, theology, philosophy, biographies, and language books. Reading about the Middle Ages - Huizinga's "The Autumn of the Middle Ages", Funck-Brentano's "Middle Ages", Cantor's "The Civilization of the Middle Ages", variety of books on The Reformation and Enlightenment, to name a few, is one of my passions. I believe this might be your area of expertise as well?
Thanks for the tips and you have indeed discerned my area of specialization in history. Although I loved Huizinga's writing, I took on his ideas in my dissertation and first book.
After 1600 I'm not very interested except for early French Canada, the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution (I did my fourth grad field in all of Russian history because my truly dastardly dissertation advisor did not believe I'd ever get a job if I specialized in four fields of my choosing). I wanted to do Late Medieval/Reformation Europe (and worked on France as my main field), Medieval England, Early Modern England and Italian Renaissance. He wouldn't let me do Italian Renaissance because he said I'd never get a job.
Like I said in the past, the one way to be sure I'll do something is to tell me I can't. It worked out well, as my Russian history advisor was one of the few sane members of my committee and I enjoyed teaching 19th and early 20th C. Russia (which I've done since at Colby). And ironically, one of the first classes I had to teach even before I got my Ph.D. when I was an instructor at Wellesley was Italian Renaissance. I was literally one step ahead of the students on reading.
As for the Enlightenment, it's easy to teach but I don't enjoy it (except Candide). I guess I don't like people assuring themselves they're rational . The Revolution, on the other hand, can be quite fun.
Cheers, ProfChiara (though you've obviously figured out my real name )
I share your passion about Venice, as you perhaps ascertained by looking at the website I developed several years ago and posted on "Insiders".
This is the first photo I took of Venice the moment I exited the train station; it was if I had stepped onto a stage setting. Later, when I brought my wife here too I told her to close her eyes as we left the station and then open them when overlooking the canal in this photo below.
Aside from this scene, however, as one who enjoys photography, I've always been impressed by the vertical nature of Venice........
.....perhaps this is due to the absence of streets of stone, concrete, or brick, traditional with most other cities.....
....this is part of the charm of the city, and it overshadows - in my opinion - the claim of Belgium's Bruges, with its canal city - the "Venice of Western Europe". Bruges is nice, but there's a mystic about Venice, perhaps due to its antiquity and the manner in which the city has not only been constructed, but also preserved, through the centuries. It's always amazing to me that while we tourists are enamored by our brief visits, there are thousands of people who live there and have to depend upon the water-borne city services (garbage disposal, transportation, food deliveries from the mainland, flooding....not to mention, dealing with all of us "tourists").
These are absolutely beautiful, and show how much you (like me) revere La Serenissima. Oddly it was only on my last trip (maybe Donna Leon finally got to me) that I started thinking about having to haul off the trash every day by boat and bring all the supplies into the city that way. When you think about it it's pretty amazing -- and one of the reasons prices tend to be higher in Venice than elsewhere.
And much as I love Bruges, it doesn't even come close as far as I'm concerned. Thank you so much for sharing "Your Venice."