Thursday, April 20, 2017

VENICE 2017: The Chimneys

How about something none of us expected!  I guess when you're always looking up for weathervanes...but don't find're happy to notice what IS there.

So I collected them!

How can you not be mesmerized!

Almost as elegant as any ornamental tower.

Don't you love the tiny roofs?

These were at the end of our wee canal near our B&B.
They remind me of trumpets tooting their horns.

I know.  Silly me.  But I had to collect something!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

VENICE 2017: The Gondolas and Gondoliers

There's just waaaaaaaay too much to show-n-tell about Venice (and Verona) without tackling it willy-nilly, if you don't mind, going with whatever strikes my fancy in the moment.

In this case, it's the gondolas and gondoliers.  Since we saw them every day in Venice, it makes sense to make a separate post of just them, to give them context.

First of all, our mode of transportation throughout the week was by vaporetto/waterbus.
At €60 each for 7 days, we could hop on-n-off at any time, anywhere.
That's when we saw most of the gondoliering in action...passing them while on the vaporettos.

We're talking about on the Grand Canal, of course.
It's 4 km long and can handle a lot of gondolas.

You'd expect certain landmarks, like the Piazza San Marco, being the gondola hubs.
The gondoliers thrive on tourist attention at such places.

It's hard to miss them.

But they're also at lesser-known stops...

lying in wait.

I suppose it's like taking care of one's car?

Except for when it rains and you have no customers.
But you still have to protect your asset!

The maneuvering comes with practice, of course.
Practice makes perfect?

Speaking of which, traffic can be a challenge, even if you're talking only about the gondolas.
But of course, the gondolas have to share the Grand Canal with everyone. 

On our walk of the Accademia area we just happened upon the squero/gondola boatyard,
next to the Church of San Trovaso, the only place where gondolas are now made and repaired.
In Venice's heyday, 16th century, there were 10,000 elegant gondolas plying its waters.
Today there are 350-ish, from a profession passed on from father to son.

And daughter?  We also happened upon this female gondolier,
one of two official female gondoliers in Venice now, she said.
To become a gondolier, you have to be licensed, passing theory and practice exams.
It's considered a high honor.

Someone asked us the other day if we did anything romantic while in Venice.
In a past life, I did, in fact, have a gondola night.
But Astrid and I had no inclination to treat ourselves.  Just call us cheap (at €80/30 min.)?
Or maybe it's just that we really did have more fun watching...instead of being watched!

[In case you want to know more about gondolas and gondoliers, you can read it here.]

Thursday, April 13, 2017

VENICE 2017: The San Simeone Piccolo Crypt

Here's your chance to connect some dots!  HA!

Astrid and I knew we were traveling by train from Venice to Verona on Friday, March 31, a week after we arrived in Italy.  And because we don't like travel "surprises," we decided to make a dry-run to the train station the day before (since we'd be dragging our suitcases)...and buy our tickets.

Here's the trusty map again to give the lay of the land:
The red X marks our B&B; the red circle marks the crypt in the church across from the train station.
It was an easy 10-15 min. walk from our Cannaregio district to the Santa Croce district.

The train station on the Grand Canal is the point of entry for most visitors to Venice from the mainland.
If your back is to the train station, you look straight across to the San Simeone Piccolo church.
Completed in 1738, it's one of the last churches built in Venice,
and is the only church in Venice where the Mass is still celebrated daily in Latin.

But speaking of the train station, which is why we were there, we did figure things out.
Notice the dome of the church from the tracks, seen from behind the station.

 With our train business done, we were able to concentrate on the church directly opposite us.
We had no clue about it and just decided, on the spur of the moment, to check it out.
And OMG, are we ever glad we did because we believe it's one of Venice's best-kept secrets.
(Crossing the bridge to this side of the canal, you can look back and see the train station., top-left.)

A sign said no photos were allowed in the church but I managed to sneak in a couple of the nave.
The bottom images were below the nave on the way to the crypt...
whose passage was pointed out to us by a kind church keeper, for €2 per person.

Equipped with flashlights, included in the price, we entered the crypt, alone.
Later online we discovered the crypt is laid out in an octagonal shape, with 21 small chapels,
8 of which are still walled up and unexplored.
The altar stands in the center and meets you immediately upon entering.

But talk about feeling like we were in a maze of blind alleys!
The lights you see ahead in some of the images are from Astrid's flashlight.
We both ended up going our own way, believe it or not, without it feeling eerie.

It's hard to describe such a place, but surely the images speak for themselves.
It was a damp and cool space but, surprisingly, not musty.  We could see our breath.

I actually had the feeling some of the handiwork had just been painted yesterday.

The parts that looked macabre actually made us laugh.
How is that possible...but we both felt the same way, like someone was having fun.

There was even a vase of flowers (bottom-left) which I wish now I had inspected.

And at the very end, it was even ethereal.
Don't you wish these walls (and ceilings) could talk!

Interestingly, this crypt was not mentioned once in our two travel books.
Nor can you find much of anything about it online's still a bit of a secret.
Don't you wonder why?

As we left the church and turned right, we saw our B&B landmark churches in the distance.
It was time to head home for lunch...across the street from our B&B.

Lasagna, seafood spaghetti, schnitzel, and grilled salmon, all shared...with beer.
It was our last meal out in Venice!

The method to my madness in choosing first the Verona cemetery and now this Venice crypt,
is because of Holy Week...the celebration of death and resurrection.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

VERONA 2017: The Cemetery

The big challenge after every trip like this is where to start!  Usually it makes sense to start at the beginning and walk through the trip as it happened.  But this time, in the context of Holy Week, I find it appropriate to start at the end of our Venice/Verona trip with the cemetery.  Besides, it's also fresh in my mind.

Verona is a city on the Adige river in the Veneto region of Italy.
Our B&B was just outside the walls of the inner city, with foundations going back to Roman times.
In the far-off distance we could see the alps (top-right), known as the Dolomites.
We crossed the Aleardi bridge and looked back at the Navi bridge on our way to the cemetery.

The circled spot in red is the cemetery.

At the entrance to the cemetery are two lions:  a Tear and a Smile.
So appropriate for a cemetery, we both thought.

Because the sun wasn't shining on the entrance side (middle-left and center) then,
it wasn't until we went through the colonnades that we saw the expanse of the place in sunlight.

And I mean through the colonnades!
Even there, in the broad spaces, were grave stones out on the open floor.

That's where we saw what I'm calling Family Trees.
Have you seen anything like it in a cemetery?

Look at how creative they are, up close and personal.
With 8 kids in my family of origin, I can just imagine the Hart Family Tree!

Many of the grave sites had cameo portraits displayed in one way or another.

While still inside, walking downstairs and along the corridors, we saw the wall tombs.
A nearby chapel was bright and accommodating.

Roman Catholics don't cremate their dead, so the stone plaques fronted coffins along the wall.
The boy (top-left) barely reached his 5th birthday; the girl (bottom-right) reached her 1st.

Once outside, there were plots for the nuns and the soldiers...and the children.

But it was the section of the tombs/mausoleums that took our breath away.

Who needs a family tree when you can have a house/castle, right?!
(Notice the scale with Astrid in the top-left image.)
They say you can't take it with you, but...did they get the memo?

It was like a mini-town, walking around and finding our way.

If you couldn't afford a mausoleum, maybe you could afford a large statue?

I'm sure each one has its own story.

Don't you wonder?

Those protected inside or along the colonnade were covered in years of dirt/dust.
We wondered if cleaning them was futile because of exposure to the winds of time?

So many lives.  So many stories.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

As we walked back to our B&B, we ate the "last supper" out of our Venice/Verona trip,
reminding us again of how much we learn about a people and culture by their cemeteries...
and their food!

It's a reminder, while we are alive, to EAT PRAY LOVE.