Dani and I eventually made our way to the information center and picked up a map, which assisted us in finding our way to the famous Rialto Bridge and market. On our way we both stopped and each snagged a stromboli from a street vendor. There is this kind of meat in Europe, unlike anything I’ve ever had before in America and I love it. The taste lies somewhere in between bacon and salami, but it is just jam-packed with flavor. Anyways, that meat (which might be serrano, but I’m not positive) was extra delicious coming from a street vendor in Italy. At the Rialto market we walked along fruit stand after fruit stand until we found ourselves standing along the fish part of the market. I think it’s a good thing I have a strong stomach, because the smell of the fish was so stringent I struggled to refrain from gagging (and I actually like fish). Come to think of it, there were certain corners by certain bridges throughout Venice that really reeked of fish. Needless to say, Dani and I walked hurriedly past these areas. On our way back through the market we each bought a piece of fruit and scouted an open spot to sit and eat.
|Dani and Me Eating our Fruit|
I know it may seem weird to talk up a piece of fruit, but I have to. Before coming to Europe I never took the time to sit and think about something as simple as an apple. As we sat and watched some market workers go about their normal day loading things off the island onto their boat and noticed the gondolas and water taxis going by, I enjoyed the best apple I’ve ever tasted. The funny thing is, I don’t think there’s a single apple tree on the main island.
After our fruit was gone (and we bought a kilo of clementines for later (because they were just as good as my apple – if not better)), we made our way to the vaporetto to head to a church I had my eye on. Now, Dani and I’d noticed a few homeless people laying on stairs with cups in their hands asking for money. I’d even read that Venice had its fair share of pickpocketers and beggars. I really do try to be aware of my surroundings, but honestly sometimes, especially when you’re really tall, it’s a lot easier to look over/past/through people you don’t know or you know you don’t want to engage in conversation with. Regardless, I mistakenly took out my wallet to grab my vaporetto pass, only to be immediately harassed by a homeless woman. I didn’t want to be mean, but I was really taken aback when she started speaking really fast Italian at me, and when I said “No” and tried to move away from her, grabbed at my arm. I was really glad Dani was with me in that moment, because although I know I can take care of myself, it was nice when Dani came to my aid and said a much sturdier “No” than the one I could get out. After that incident, I kept my vaporetto pass in my pocket and out of my wallet for the remainder of the trip.
|Marble Floor in Basilica Della Salute|
Anyways, we made it to Dorsoduro where the church I wanted to see was, and after walking all the way around the little island we finally figured out how to enter the Basilica Della Salute (or Santa Maria Della Salute or Basilica of St. Mary of Health, pick whichever name you like the most). Baldassare Longhena built the Basilica Della Salute in 1681 in honor of the Virgin Mary. The church was built with the hope that the plague, which was devastating the city of Venice and its surrounding lagoons, killing over 46,000 people (1/3 of the population of Venice at the time), would pass. The inside had beautiful altars, mosaics, and a gorgeous red and white geometric marble floor that we both got to walk on.
Oh! I almost forgot. While trying to figure out how to enter the Basilica Della Salute, we stumbled across this little art museum. There were two things that really struck me about this museum. The first was this box of water that had a projector above it showing a clip of people (reflected in the water) moving buckets around in a cave and then climbing into a hole/water well (this sounds bizarre trying to explain). The middle of the box of water, where the hole/water well was, was rippling. I was completely dumbfounded when I looked up and didn’t see a bucket or anything dripping into the water. If I were that water box’s creator, I would just sit next to it all day counting how many people looked up stupefied. At least I didn’t feel overly gullible because Dani said she looked up to see what was making it ripple too. The second thing was another piece of “art” I saw. I am purposely putting quotes around the word art because it literally looked like a beat up pillow. I’m sorry, but a pillow with a rip in it IS NOT ART. If that’s art, I’ve got a pair of jeans they can put on display.
After our excursion to Dorsoduro, we decided to head back to San Marco Square to go up in the bell tower. Oddly enough, once we got up there, it wasn’t as high as I thought it was going to be, which was kind of disappointing. Looking down at the square reminded me of the scene in The Hunchback of Notre Dame where Quasimodo watches everyone hustling and bustling about below him. It wasn’t necessarily as busy as Time Square gets, but it was pretty close; and I’ll tell you what – Europeans think they own the streets of Venice comparably to how New Yorkers think they own The City. When we looked out from a different part of the bell tower we could see the roofs of all the city’s buildings – but shockingly – no canals (well, other than the Grand Canal)! The canals are so small and the buildings built up so high and close to each other that from an aerial view you would never even know that complete pathways are blocked off by the small canals; it just looked just like a regular city from above.
After successfully descending from the bell tower we headed into Basilica di San Marco to check out the mosaics. The whole inside of the church was covered in images from stories of the Old and New Testament. I was particularly mesmerized with the mosaics of the Washing of the Feet and Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (it is Lent, after all). I found it interesting how there were numerous sanctuary lamps to the right of the altar, which caught my attention because we have one in my church at home, and could only remember seeing one in the Cathedral of Notre Dame too. So much of the cathedral was made of marble, and outside there was this gorgeous marble wall of all different colors and patterns, which was quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s amazing to think about how people built these types of architectures in their respective time periods, knowing that they didn’t have the types of tools or resources that we have today. In general, I think that is one of the most incredible things about Europe – taking a second to look at a sculpture, gargoyle, or a statue and thinking about how much work, talent, and time went into creating the trimmings that really accentuate the main dishes of European architecture.
|Basilica di San Marco Marble|
After getting a little lost again (ha! Dani was still leading – I think), we decided on a little restaurant along one of the many canals. We both ordered Bellini’s and a delicious pesto ravioli dish, and had a private dinner in the restaurant’s back dining room. On our way out, Dani asked our waiter if he could point us in the right direction to get to Campo Santa Margherita. Our waiter was incredibly helpful, speaking broken English with an adorable accent and becoming increasingly excited in recommending a bar where there would be loud music and (based on his enthusiasm) a good time just waiting for us!
As we headed out the door, map in our hand and a tiny piece of paper with the letters L – R – and a picture of a couple bridges on it, we were determined to find the little nightlife there was to discover in Venice. Within minutes of our walk I noticed some rain drops on the ground (up until this point I had been ecstatic about the weather being so good). Shortly after it starting raining, and I snuck under a doorway while Dani fumbled trying to open her umbrella. Squeezing under the umbrella together, we searched for the bar our helpful waiter had mentioned. Since I’d already taken a spill, the ground was wet and slippery, and we were both in dress boots, we vowed not to sprint regardless of the weather. Naturally, as we turned a corner and saw a bar with neon lights about 100 feet in front of us, the rain turned into a downpour; we disregarded our vows and ran into the bar immediately to our right, taking shelter from the storm.