Overall, a couple lazy days, with some time to do some work on Splody.
I do a little exploring on my first full day in Venice, deciding to head over to a church which has a flooded crypt you can tour. On my way, I pass through Campo di San Marco (“St. Mark’s Square”), the biggest tourist hub in Venice. It is full of tourists so I run the other way, but not until after grabbing a shot of the front of Basilica di San Marco.
As I’m walking around, I glance into a tobacco store, wondering if that’s what I think it is. Sure enough, this store sells cigarettes, tobacco, pipes, tourist maps, Lego, and… Warhammer minis. I guess the Venetian residents who play Warhammer have to get them from somewhere!
I arrive at San Zaccaria, named in honor of the father of John the Baptist. It is not a particularly impressive church on the outside, but magnificent on the inside. It is, however, mostly unlit, so photos do not come out particularly well. Entombed in the church are the remains of two saints, Saint Zachariah, and another I did not recognize the name of.
I then walk down some little stairs to the crypt, which is slightly flooded, but has a raised pathway to walk on. It is unclear who, if anyone, is entombed down here, as there is a distinct lack of sarcophagi, but it still quite an interesting place to experience.
I wander a bit more, taking in the views, heading towards where TripAdvisor tells me is a restaurant with some of the best lasagna in Venice, and is currently open for lunch, but Google says might be closed. Google was correct. Around the corner, however, I find a place that, through a slightly deceptive sign, advertises it has FREE WiFi, great PIZZA. I go in there instead, and have probably the best lasagna I’ve ever had in my life. The WiFi is also good. Since my hotel room has no functioning WiFi, I’m on the lookout for interesting places to get some work done.
This evening I decide to check out Campo di San Marco at night, which I’ve read is an interesting experience. There are a number of cafes in the square which employ musicians (seems they each had 4 musicians, generally a violinist, cellist or bassist, pianist, and someone playing an acordian) which battle it out by taking turns playing a piece or two as the crowd moves around the square focusing on whichever group is playing. It is here that I again meet the couple from Colorado whom I met on the train to Zermatt a few days earlier. They entered Venice a day before me, and gave me the scoop on what they’d enjoyed most, highly recommending the free Rick Steves’ audio tours. We hang out and enjoy the live music. The square is pretty empty, being a weekday in the off season, but the music is good.
The next day I decide to find a cafe by the grand canal to have lunch in and get some work done outside, however it is a beautiful, sunny day, and it quickly gets too hot (and too bright to see my screen), so I retreat back to my hotel to work from my room instead.
I decide I would like to take a boat ride down the Grand Canal and listen to an audio tour as I go, however my headset jack on phone has given out, it constantly disconnects if I move at all, which of course causes my phone to stop playing whatever it was playing, as well as skipping. Not ideal for an audio tour, especially not the walking tours I’d like to do later. I decide that a Bluetooth headset would be the easiest solution (should provide the same functionality without needing the physical connection that has gone bad), and I spend quite a while on Amazon.com and Amazon.it only to find that, due to some regulations about shipping anything toxic (e.g. electronics) to the Italian Islands, no one could deliver me a headset closer than about an hour of trains/buses away from where I am now, and I don’t think spending 2 hours to go to and from the nearest mainland post office would be a good use of my time. I find a phone store in Venice on Google Maps that looks promising, set out for that, take a wrong turn, end up on some neat little street that’s a couple rows of small shops, and stumble upon a closer phone store, which happens to have a cheap Bluetooth headset for sale. Success!
After some fiddling with Android apps to convince my phone that I really do want my media playback to get redirected to this cheap monaural headset, I set off to ride a vaporetto along the Grand Canal of Venice. As I’m walking, the regular afternoon storm comes through, but today drops a bit more than a sprinkle of rain and includes a little bit of thunder and lightning. It’s quite nice and refreshing and lets up by the time the vaporetto picks me up. The boat ride and audio tour are both fantastic. I see what is truly the front of all of the significant buildings in Venice. Before additional bridges were built, large ships used to come through the canal so all of the first floors of the buildings were essentially loading docks and storage. Interestingly the top floors were were the servants lived. We see a lot of private gondolas bringing tourists around, but I’m just on the cheap “public bus”, however I have a good seat and a good view =).
Apparently there is significant regulation such that no changes of any kind can be made to the buildings along the canal, and most buildings in Venice, and it has been this way for a long time. So, as the audio tour put it, I get to travel through and look at the best preserved medieval city in Europe, as it slowly rots away. Due to expenses and the fact that any home improvement requires going through giant amounts of red tape, there are very view actual residents of Venice, and the number is decreasing rapidly, so it’s kind of turning into a giant, floating, rotting theme park.
The boat ride and tour finishes near Campo di San Marco, where the canal connects to the relatively open waters of the lagoon around Venice. This is also where the beautiful church of Santa Maria della Salute (Mary of Good Health) is located. It’s name is because it was built in celebration of Venice being “spared” (only 1/3rd of the populate was killed) from the plague in the 1630s.