Located just off of a small but active piazza is this charming little boutique hotel San Samuele. The first thing to notice is the unusual entry. Once an open courtyard, the antique well stands center. The entry is charming and artistic and smells delicious.
The friendly staff serve coffee every morning and answer our many questions with charm, humor and expertise. We enjoyed our week here so much it was difficult to leave.
Venice to Roma on a speed train through the beautiful Italian countryside (even at 200 MPH)
Why not start with a tour of the Colleso at night complete with an entrance to the underground where the animals were kept and Gladiators walked.
We are standing on the reconstructed stage. There are only about 20 of us and it is quiet. No other tourists can get in until we leave. Our guide is an archeologist who is still digging below and she shows us with fresh excitement! Looking up at the stands one can hear the roar of the crowd, see the blood on the stage that seeps through the wood to the waiting Gladiators below, hear the roar of the lions… Well maybe after the guy next to me takes his selfie… OK back to the Romans (in my mind). Time to go underground…
The wood above is the new stage platform finished this year. It is still easy to imagine the terror of this dark place as a Gladiator (the real story not the movie version). Our guide was extremely descriptive as she had personally unearthed many relics below where we are standing. She told us of 50 lions against just a few men, the blood of the kills dripping through the wood floor, the smell of the animals, humans, death. We saw where the water was flooded in and drained out for live ship battles. She also explained that they have been trying to add another metro line for 30 years but every time they dig they find more artifacts! A lot of the exhibitions and museums have been revealed since 1998.
Grand palaces with their marble facades pillaged long ago have been excavated. For the past 30 years Rome has been trying to put in the 3rd Metro line. Each shovel full reveals more treasures to our delight as tourists.
The thing about Venice is creativity. When Atilla the Hun drove the people off of the mainland, they found a way to make do in the swamp. Then they made the most unique and beautiful city in the world.Below is a map of Venetia. The thing about Venice is that the map looks like a fish.
The thing about Venice is you might see a pirate. On an I phone.
Or signs that make me laugh. “Dogana, I fell down.”
Or wonder why there aren’t any cats since there are so many birds and then find them in a creepy alley late at night.
The thing about Venice is that they perfected rainwater collection centuries ago.
The wells are located in courtyards of buildings and are cisterns to collect rainwater. They are still used in some places and are not part of the waterway system
The thing about Venice is there are stories that Venice is sinking. However there has always been flooding during high tides. This is the beginning of high tide at Plazzo San Marco. Later in the darkness we saw it actually running like a river.
The waterways open to the tidal system and are “flushed” daily. The steps going down to the canals often disappear.
The thing about Venice, and perhaps most impressive to me, is how they perform the construction and renovation. Below are men delivering drywall to a job site which is down a few alleys from their location.
Everything is done by boat/foot/hand/cart. No matter how large or small, construction workers push carts of materials through the narrow passageways to get to their projects. We saw a lot of use of pullys and ropes. We also marveled at how careful they are to preserve not only the detail of the buildings but also the flow of the tourists. The picture above is on a busy shopping street.
The thing about Venice is the music. There are musicians playing everywhere. In restaurants, on the street. The music museum was beautiful. Some of the instruments they have on display below;
The thing about Venice and my favorite, the FOOD! I highly recommend to meander the back alleys to where we saw a lot of local people eating. Didn’t have a bad meal the entire week. There is an island across the Grand Canal that the locals call the Vegetable Island. Most of their produce comes across the Grand Canal from there and is amazingly fresh.
The thing about Venice is that the boats are works of art. Like human faces, similar but not the same.Below is a boat making shop we found. If you look closely you can see the different parts of gondolas.
This door was open so I went in and found where they store some of the boats. Open any unlocked door (especially is no one is around!)
The thing about Venice is that living without cars, car sounds or smells for a week was relaxing. Venice relies on the bells. All night and until about 9am it is quiet. Once the bells ring the town noise begin. Footsteps, talking, clinking of dishes, children laughing, a town waking without mechanics. We walked at least 10 miles a day and LOVED IT!
The boats took us where we needed to go when we needed to cross. Lots of selfie sticks and the boats usually looked like this:
Twenty minutes from Venice by water taxi lies Murano Island and just a short ride from Murano is Burano. Murano is famous for it’s glass and Burano for lace making.
The trip did not disappoint. Through the channel by the “fish tail” side of Venice we bounced through the channel on a water taxi. Once there we were given a quick demonstration then we could explore the island. We weren’t supposed to take pictures -so here are some pictures. (I took these before they stopped us). The shop we weren’t allowed to take pictures of was three floors of the most beautiful glass I have ever seen.
There was one piece I fell in love with. It was 9,000 Euro so it is still on their shelf. It was made by a 45 year old Maestro who is a decedent of a glass family tradition dating back to the 1600’s. I would love to have shown you but NO Pictures. I will dream about it as I tried to memorize the color and how the light behaved through the glass. G of course was ready to move on so on we went.
Down the walkway there was an interesting tall brick tower, oh and this big blue glass thing…
I don’t like it but hey it’s big, blue and all blown so there’s that.
On to Burano. WOW what a place. It once was a thriving fishing village and while the women waited for their fishermen to return, they perfected a lace making technique. It was beautiful but sadly a dying art. The old woman giving the demonstration started making lace when she was 8 yrs. old. The items weren’t my taste but I can see the attraction. The real gem to me was the village itself:
The fishing and lacemaking industries are no longer so a lot of the village is up for sale. Here is a real fixer-upper:
Since fishing and lace making are both a dying profession, the islanders rely a lot on the tourists. However, we noticed that when the church bells rang at 6 pm EVERYBODY closes up shop as fast as they can. G bought a coffee at 6:05 which apparently was very inconvenient to the 3 generation “tourist bar”located in a small stand that was next to the boat. We thanked then heartily, well, then we saw it.
Yep, this is coffee served in what can only be described as a communion cup. (He hasn’t taken a sip yet)
OF COURSE they didn’t want to dirty up their machine for a teaspoon of coffee. Made perfect sense.
Burano is also famous for their leaning tower, Not the famous tower of Pisa. Nope, it’s the not so famous leaning tower of Burano. Since I forgot to take a picture of it, here are some pictures of their ambulance and police boats.
Back across the choppy seas to our Venice home. Both islands are worth the trip and have their own personalities. Well worth the visit.We used Viator to book.
It is estimated that 20,000 people visit the Islands of Venice for the day from the mainland. They take tours and see the sights which is beautiful of course, but Venice is so much more than it’s famous gondolas and canals. There are too many museums to see in one week. Too many restaurants, buildings,waterways, churches & the list goes on.
I just wish I could send you the smell of the entry to our Hotel courtyard complete with the old well. Only way to describe it is ancient wet limestone that smell like you just pulled them from the bottom of the sea, rubbed 100 years of cooking smells in them, and fresh flowers. It is a wonderful earthy smell unlike any other in the world. We stood here many times just deep breathing trying to make a memory.
Water gathers around the drain on the limestone floor near the well., The marble stairs are to the right at the end of the room. An old entry courtyard is now the interior. How many years I don’t know.
Once away from the crowds we slow down. Feel the cobbled streets under our feet, touch the crumbling walls, squint at the sunlight that peeks through open passages. The city is quiet until the bells ring at 9 am sharp. Suddenly the street below come alive. Shops open, daily life begins. Voices fill the streets. Tours arrive from the mainland a little later. We have the morning to ourselves with those of us staying in town.
We take breakfast on the Plaza San Marcos. Chamber music plays at each little sidewalk cafe, taking turns to ensure the square is never without a soundtrack. Only the sound of the music, footsteps, birds and each other can be heard.
Time to explore and get lost in Venice once again.
We soak it in, feel the rhythm of the city. Its a short walk from the higher end shops to the daily life of the Venetians.
Finding textures and beauty everywhere like the mosaic flooring below.
We make a habit of looking up. It is interesting what one can find by looking up!
Looking up paid off as we discovered a rooftop patio on a hotel that welcomes visitors to take a beer or lunch and enjoy. Below is the view over the rooftops of the island.
Sea breeze and warm sun while watching the busy waterways below.
In the evening the day trippers are gone and the pace slows again. Time to enjoy what can only be described as MAGICAl…
Twenty thousand people daily and Venice returns to what it was centuries ago. So many faces, so many cultures visiting. I look in their faces and sometimes I see the same look I had when I was 19 years old. The knowing that one will return someday…
This is my favorite place in the world. We took the Alilaguna (fancy word for boat bus) to a dock near the hotel and tried to follow the directions on the map. Tried. We were lost for a while. A man with a wheelbarrow working on a building saw us pass for about the fifth time and took pity on us. In only Italian he directed us to the hotel. (A door we passed several times.)
They were working on this building as well. The white door leads to the original house, the round thing is a stone well. The poles are scaffolding while they work on the floors above.
Settled in and then meandered down to the Grand Canal….
Following our host Tatiana’s advise we headed out to an outdoor restaurant on the plaza. The waiter was so abrupt and guessed/told G exactly what he was going to have. After looking at the menu, well, he was right. We quickly caught on to his sense of humor and the bantering began. Soon the local construction worker, waiter, shop keepers all recognize us with a warm smile and hello.Below we are sitting at a table on one of the squares watching the people, enjoying beer and wine for me, and relaxing.
Each shop is artistic and beautiful. I asked the shopkeeper putting together a wooden Medusa if I could take his picture. In a loud gruff voice he said “ONE PICTURE ONLY!”
There are many specialty shops that are as amazing to explore as museums. There are open air fish markets, vegetable stands, homemade toys, masks, and of course closer to St Marks Square lots of designer stores. Getting lost isn’t so bad now as we can eventually make it back. Every turn there is something to explore. Chao for now…