the last visible dog (intertext) wrote,
the last visible dog

Venice Days Four and Five


It was a blazingly beautiful day, and I was up early, so I decided to take advantage of the light and hop on a boat to Burano, the impossibly picturesque island of coloured houses.

Burano wide view

My friend kp lives in a very pretty ginger-bread "character" house on the waterfront of Victoria, right on a tourist main-drag, so she knows what it's like to have tourists staring in one's front window and taking photographs. I feel for the people of Burano, and think that if I lived there I would paint my house black or put something incredibly ugly in my window. It's no wonder that they were a bit surly, and that only one woman returned my "buon jiorno" with anything resembling warmth.

It's a photographer's paradise, though, and I wandered blissfully through little streets where red geraniums bloomed against mauve walls, and pink, yellow and orange houses reflect in the green canal water.

Burano windows door turquoise wall

Thence to Torcello, a little island that would have been quiet and rural but for the heavy machinery working (I seem doomed to arrive somewhere in the middle of a restoration project). I was, however, able to visit the Basilica, which has byzantine mosaics that almost rival San Marco's.

Torcello basilica courtyard

There was no snake at this water-trough on a hot, hot day, but there was a lizard

Torcello water trough

A hop on the boat again, to Fondamente Nuove, and then a walk through winding and quiet streets back again to my San Marco neighbourhood.

back-street canal


I'm not in the least bit tired of Venice, but I did feel rather like not having to negotiate maze-like streets for one day. So I got on a train and went to Padua, where I fulfilled one of my "life-list" ambitions to see the Giotto frescoes, which I consider one of the single most beautiful and moving depictions of the life of Christ anywhere in the world.

The frescoes have lasted about eight centuries, but are endangered by their own popularity. Sensibly, those who look after them control admission to only 25 people at a time, and those 25 are allowed only 15 minutes. You go in and out through a kind of air-lock, to minimize exposure to the elements. Despite the rather bureaucratic (but extremely efficient and sensible) precautions, the chapel is one of the most beautiful places I have seen, and totally worth the extra trip and the wait in the heat. Imagine a simple, Romanesque building, a single nave and altar, but with floor to ceiling painted with glowing, luminous frescoes by the inimitable Giotto. The ceiling has stars and saints and angels looking down. The walls depict the life of the Virgin and the life of Christ. The altar is the Last Judgement, complete with Patron buying his way into heaven - well, I think I would let him in, too, for having made such wonderful art possible. Giotto has a way of humanizing the mystical that is transcendent and powerful. On the panel that shows Christ being laid in his tomb, the angels in the air above are wracked with grief; you feel that they can barely keep themselves aloft. In another panel, the mothers of the Innocents, slaughtered by Herod, have tear tracks running down their faces

It was a little strange going into Padua, which is so much more a "real" town than Venice, and seemed indeed to be quite complacently successful, with its Gucci and Valentino shops intended for its own inhabitants rather than for tourists. I see why some people say that Venice is running down - it seems a little faded by comparison. But I feel more comfortable here, and there is a sense of life and energy here that I didn't feel in Padua.

It was 35 degrees, and much too hot for much sightseeing, so I sought out a cafe in the main town square, where I had the most amazing lunch of stuffed zucchini flowers and salad and some wonderful light creamy dessert and prosecco (for which I am developing a definite taste) and espresso and then I got on the train and came "home" again.

Something that was quite fun was that there was a young American guy on the Vaporetto looking bewildered and consulting his Rick Steve's guidebook, and I was able to give him directions to where he wanted to go.

By the way, I'm sampling my way round the gelaterias of Venice. My favourite flavours at the moment are "fruitta di bosca" and "melone" and when ranking them I give extra points for lack of snoot - the place on the corner near my calle has very good ice-cream, but the servers are, unfortunately, distinctly snooty.

Today (Saturday) it is blissfully cool and rainy (I never thought I'd be happy about bad weather when on holiday). I'm going to hit the supermarket near the internet cafe, make my own lunch, and then go Scuola hopping this afternoon. I read about one that has pics of St George and the Dragon.

Ciao! Until next time.

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