Life in Venice


I safely arrived in Venice, Italy Friday morning (Venice time, +6 hours EDT) and eventually made it to the island after a somewhat long wait and roundabout journey on the waterbus. Unfortunately the waterbus drops off at the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) which is completely on the other side of the island from where I am staying initially. Made an excellent 2.50 Euro investment in a map and eventually found my way to the convent where I am staying until Sunday. Without the map I have no doubt I would have become hopelessly lost as Venice is full of narrow, winding alleys and canals, punctuated every now and then by a “campo” (a square).

I have a couple of days on my own in Venice to explore before my workshop begins Sunday evening with a group dinner. Am just spending the time exploring, walking around and taking in the sights and sounds.

Initial Impressions

Venice appears to be like any urban centre, only more so. Since there are no cars, walking is the main form of transport (although I have seen several children on rollerblades); the vaporato is also available for longer journeys. They are essentially water buses that run certain routes, just like any other public transportation in cities.

Although I passed a couple of actual grocery stores, Venice has at least several open air markets. I’m not sure if there is a main one or if Saturday is a bigger market day than other days. Mainly lots of fresh produce; however with the proximity to the sea and the seafaring history and nature of the Venitians, a fish market was also available, although I showed up when they were just finishing up and packing up.

Venice is know for its gondolas, among other things. A romantic gondola ride through the city is what many people think of when they think of Venice.

Well, that wasn’t going to happen on my trip because I’m traveling alone and a gondola ride by yourself is anything but romantic; also they are pretty pricey, anywhere from 50-100 Euros, or so I’m told. Didn’t actually haggle with any of the gondoliers that I saw waiting for customers.
There is the poor man’s alternative. The grande canal that runs through Venice is like a very large river (probably a couple of hundred meters wide). There are only 4 bridges that cross it. They also have “traghettos” which is essentially a ferry gondola. For half a Euro (50 cent Euros) they will ferry you (and the 12-14 others that they fit into the boat) across the grande canal. It’s not romantic, it only takes a couple of minutes but it lets you get the “x” in the box for the gondola ride. There are about 7 (I think) of these spaced along the grande canal that just go back and forth all day long. Very convenient if you need to cross.

The little bit of Italian I know comes in handy; the longer I’m in Italy the more confident I’ll be in using it I’m sure. The downside to speaking Italian to the shopkeepers is that they assume that you speak the language and reply in kind (usually losing me very soon thereafter), whereas if you just start in English then they know that I’m another clueless American.

I came across one of the more interesting slice of life things here this afternoon; a “three card monte” game on the street. For those of you not familiar this is a con that street hustlers run. In NYC and other places they usually have three cards that the hustler shuffles back and forth. Your job is to guess which card is the ace, or something to that effect. Here the hustler was using 3 boxes with a ball of paper underneath one of them. I watched for about 10-15 minutes. In this case he had 3-4 ringers in the crowd to not only keep the interest up but to also obviously pick the wrong box (making the “mark” think that he’s smarter than them) and also picking the right box as well.

It was interesting how expectations played into the psychology of the game. The “ringers” were betting 50 – 100 Euros, so that when a “mark” would bet, that would be the expectation, not 10,15,20 Euros. I saw 3 guys taken: an American, a Brit, and an Asian. I didn’t really understand it because the guys seemed fairly intelligent and THERE IS NO WAY YOU CAN WIN. It’s fixed. One thing is certain, wherever you think that the ball is (or ace, etc.) it’s NOT THERE. Ever!

After 10 minutes or so a fairly large crowd had gathered. An image of a building had caught my eye so I taking several photographs of it, probably not looking through the viewfinder for more than 30 seconds or so. When I was done taking the 2-3 photos I looked up and everyone was gone, scattered like cockroaches. I figure that the guys have a lookout watching for the police (polizia) and someone gave the signal.

Ciao,
Robert

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~ by l on September 27, 2008.

One Response to “Life in Venice”

  1. I figured it out, which most people would do intuitively. I am not the most up to date. Talked to Dad and he had seen your blog, thought the pics looked quite professional which I agreed. Can’t wait to see more and hear more about your trip. Live this to the fullest.
    E

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