Life in Venice Part Due (Two)


Today I had to leave my spartan room at the convent (Casa Card. Piazza) and  move into the Hotel (Best Western) Ala on the other side of the island. While I’m sure it’s not the nicest hotel in Venice by a long shot, it’s still nicer than any Best Western I ever stayed at while working at Delta. The floors don’t have that “I hope I don’t catch something feel” and the room, while quite small (typical for any hotel in a city) is quite nice. Probably a 3 star accommodation.

Learning from my experience on Friday I decided to spend the 6.50 Euros and take the vaparatto to the other side of the island instead of spending the hour caring my two backpacks. Money well spent.

Some of the things I’ve grown to like here (besides the obvious ones) is the Euro (horrible exchange rate aside). They have .50, 1, and 2 Euro coins which they actually use here. I know we have $1 coins and 50 cent pieces but they aren’t used; here they come in quite handy. Also pretty much everything I have purchased so far is rounded to 10 Eurocents; thus no pesky pennies to keep up with. The only exception was when I bought a piece of pizza in the shop that was sold by weight (different size pieces). The shopkeeper weighs it, tells you how many grams, and then throws it in the oven to heat up. I’ve got a 2 Eurocent piece left over from that exchange.

Another thing they do here is that stores that need to be easy to identify have a universal symbol (this may be an EU thing and done in the rest of Europe for all I know). Evidently the two most important ones are the pharmacy and the tobacco shop (go figure). The tobacco shops also sell lottery tickets, not unlike the convenience stores in the US.

There are two main tourist places in Venice: the Piazza San Marco (St. Marks’s Square) and the Rialto Bridge. There’s a history to the Piazza San Marco that I won’t get into here but it’s like the Times Square of Venice, the place where EVERY tourist has to go. It’s very crowded mid day; the people outnumber the pigeons but not by much. I returned in the late afternoon with my fisheye lens (and less people) to take this picture to give an idea of the vastness of the square.

The Piazza seems pretty cool, if touristy. The first floors of the buildings have shops in them, there are (overpriced) cafes with multiple seating arrangements (nothing intimate here) with live music playing (Mozart while I was there).

Unfortunately it looks like commercialism has crept in here as well. I’m sure maintenance is an on going issue with all the buildings around the Piazza; I would guess that this is an attempt to offset some of the cost. Scaffolding is behind the advertisements:

Warning: obscure movie reference – Somebody needs to tell the Italians that they picked the wrong Bond villain from the wrong Bond as Sean Connery was the best James Bond; Roger Moore pales in comparison.

The other tourist trap is the Rialto Bridge, the largest and one of only four bridges across the Grand Canal. The bridge is so wide that they have stores on it in the buildings.

Venice is famous for its Carnival masks, among other things. There is a rich history there as well that I won’t get into but there are numerous street vendors and stores that sell the masks. I don’t know this for sure but I suspect that these are tacky tourist items, somewhat akin to the Mexican sombrero or cheesy t-shirt that other tourists bring  back.(My apologies if anyone has one.)

After observing the gondoliers more, I have become quite impressed with their maneuvering, especially considering the narrow canals and only one oar. There seems to be an unwritten (or perhaps written) code that when two gondolas are passing in an infinitely narrow canal, you don’t touch or scrape the other guys gondola. Probably considered unprofessional or bad form (kind of like certain things we would consider bad airmanship in aviation). 

However “body english” and using the walls is perfectly acceptable.

In the hierarchy of street peddlers, it appears that the Moors (reference Shakespeare) have the market on the Gucci handbag knockoffs. All over the island these guys are the ones selling the fake handbags. Not really sure how they cornered that market. 


More tomorrow hopefully. Off to dinner now with the group.

11:00 PM – Just returned from somewhat typical Italian dinner. Leisurely, 2:30 – 3 hours, several courses (prima is a pasta course followed by a meat course and then dessert), wine, and good conversation. People at this workshop from the US, UK, Australia, Mexico, Canada, and Norway.


~ by l on September 28, 2008.

3 Responses to “Life in Venice Part Due (Two)”

  1. Hey Robert. looks like a great trip. thanks for including us on the distribution list. I’ll try to sign up for updates. Have fun. Great photos.

  2. Love the blog. Have a blast. I am so envious. I would love to take a trip to Italy some day. . . .enjoy. E

    Uh oh Bob! Your comment about the Bond movies got me thinking about movies and Venice and now I must share:
    Venice is one of the all time great movie locations. Few places can simultaneously be romantic(Summertime, The Wings of the Dove, Dangerous Beauty, Casanova) and frightening (Don’t Look Now, Death in Venice, The Comfort of Strangers, The Talented Mr. Ripley).
    When Chip and I were there in 1989, we watched them shooting “The Comfort of Strangers” in St Mark’s Square. It was a nice day so I got a gelato and watched the shoot for a couple of hours. The scenes involved the whole cast..Christopher Walken, Hellen Mirren, Rupert Everett, Natasha there was a lot to see. There was no place for a trailer, so between takes they would just sit down and watch the tourists watching them.
    Chip finally had to drag me out of the Square or I would have stayed until the wrap party. Whenever I see the film on late night cable, I have to watch that scene, and I get to actually see that day again..pretty cool. And I swear I can see myself in a couple of shots, I’ll have to get the Blu-Ray (if it ever comes out) so I can know for sure.
    It’s an underrated movie that really should be a cult classic. Christopher Walken is in top form, delivering one of his “so bad it’s good” performances, complete with bogus Italian accent. I looked up Roger Ebert’s review of the film from 1990 and he said this about Venice as the film’s location:
    “There is always the sense there of a corner not turned, a passage left unexplored, a lost building, a hidden place where unspeakable practices take place. The city is so old, so twisted in upon itself, that it has not been tamed and aired and sanitized.”
    They don’t make ’em like Roger everyone’s a, including me I guess.
    Part of Moonraker was filmed in Venice too, so maybe the Venetians have an affinity for Jaws..the Bond villain that is.
    More recently, we’ve see the city in “The Italian Job”, which was quite good, and “Just Married”, an Ashton Kutcher movie that even Venice couldn’t save.
    Have fun and keep shooting!

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