Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Venice, Days 12-14

I’ve really had a nice time in Venice. The city is incredibly charming and beautiful, despite the reluctance of the locals to accept the fact that their livelihood depends on the fat, obnoxious American tourists that flood the city. I purchased a three day Vaporetto pass (their metro system is actual boats that go up and down the canals) so I’ve had the flexibility to hop on and off the boats at will to see everything. I’m staying in a hostel/camping village Ca d’Oro, which is about a 30 minute shuttle from the city and boasts a large number of living options. You can park your own motor home, rent a tent, rent a three bed cabin (that’s what I’m doing), pitch your own tent, or rent a luxury cabin with a kitchen that sleeps four people. I only had one roommate the first two nights, Ashley, an Aussie. We immediately hit it off and set out to see the sights together yesterday.

We took the Vaporetto all the way down to San Marco square and toured the Museum Correr, St. Mark’s Basillica, and the Doge’s Palace. The Basillica was probably my favorite – it was lavishly decorated with gold everywhere. The Doge(Duke)’s palace was also very ornate – at least the part the duke himself inhabited. The palace also contained prisons which were not quite as fabulous. It’s strange to think that an important person would have the local riff-raff living under the same roof as him – that would never happen in the White House!

Rialto Bridge:
Everything has to get shipped in!

For lunch, we caught a bit of the fruit market before it closed shop and a little bite-sized Italian ham sandwich from a little shop. We made it our mission the rest of the afternoon to get lost on the side streets of Venice. I read about a local wine shop off of Rialto bridge where you can bring in your own plastic bottle and they’ll fill you up with a liter of wine for only 2.4 Euros! Being the wino I am, I had to check it out. The place was called Osteria Alla Botte, right off of Campo San Bartolomeo. I’d highly recommend it, the wine was fantastic. I enjoyed it so much I ended up buying two bottles – even though the 8 euro price tag (still cheap in the states) was pricey for wine in Italy.

Enjoying our bottled wine:

The owner of the wine shop then recommended we check out Tratorria Pizzeria Nono Risorto to sample some of the best pizza in Venice. It is a fairly non-touristy place, although it was mentioned in the Rick Steve’s book so the word may be getting out. It’s located just near the fish market. Ashley and I each ordered a pizza and then split them, along with a half-liter of Prosecco. We managed to clean our plates.

A little too much prosecco!

Like I said....too much prosecco! Balloon courtesy of McDonalds:

Then, giddy on our wine and prosecco, we decided our next mission would be to find the best gelato in Venice. We asked a waiter and he pointed us on our way. We got almost there, but then got distracted by two girls promoting the local casino. They gave us free drink and entry coupons to the casino and ushered us in. Inside, we had to show our ID’s and have official security photos taken so they could keep an eye on us as we gambled the night away.

We immediately cashed in the drink tickets and then strolled around watching the fat-cat high rollers better $5,000 a go in roulette.

We decided the slot machines were more our speed, so Ashley put 10 euros in one to test her luck. Alas, we walked out 10 euros in the red – I don’t enjoy the uncertainty of gambling, so I didn’t even want to try. To top the night off, we got a free shuttle boat home from the casino – would you expect anything less? As the only two girls in the casino (except a questionable woman with lumberjack boots and a plaid fleece jacket) he security guys also loved us and begged us not to leave, but we kissed them on the cheeks and promised we’d return soon. All-in-all one of those experiences that you just can’t get unless you stray from the normal tourist path.

Ashley left for Rome this morning, so I headed out to Moreno Island to see the glass blowing. The water taxi ride there is free, as is the tour, but they couple it with a high-pressure sales pitch to get you to buy glass. What they don’t tell you is that you don’t get to take the taxi back to the mainland and you are left to your own devices to take public transport home. Watching the glass being made was fascinating – it’s quite an art – but I didn’t buy anything because I figured I’d manage to break it before I got home.

Making a vase:

I spent the afternoon lounging by the pool at the camping village. 1 ½ days is enough to see Venice, so I decided to relax and enjoy the sun. Tomorrow I’m headed to Rome instead of Bologna, but that’s another post for another day.

"Camping" in Venice!

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