I guess it is official: Venice is sinking. Although this artist may not have the solution, the Venetians are working on it. Venice is made up of hundreds of islands, 400 bridges, 2,000 alleys, and 55,000 residents in the old city. Whatever is being transported on paved roads in other big cities is being moved around here on boats, barges, gondolas, and other floating rigs. We saw a refrigerator in a small boat floating by, a DHL boat making a delivery, and a garbage barge overflowing with construction material. At the end of this post, you can click on the VAPORETTO VIDEO to take a ride on the Grand Canal with us.
It was nice to revisit Florence, much like catching up with an old friend to share some more of life. Once again, good weather makes a big difference. Arrival into town by train was uneventful. A 15-minute walk got us to our new place, a fantastic apartment, fully equipped, and in a great location. The famous Ponte Vecchio was only a half-mile stroll and we walked everywhere else, with no need for local transportation.
Sunday morning, we stumbled upon a fun and busy outdoor market in the Piazza de Santo Spirito Basilica. As with so many other structures in Florence, this basilica was designed by one of the biggies, Brunelleschi. The city feels like an architectural canvas; every corner you turn, a new masterpiece lures you in for a closer look.
We spent a few hours being awed in the Pitti Palace. The rooms are as impressive as the artwork hanging on the walls. Right at the start of our visit in the palace is when we were pushed aside by a pack of rogue nuns. I have to admit, I was somewhat startled by their unecclesiastical behavior. My highly-held view of the Catholic church was further tarnished later when I was shocked to see them taking SELFIES in front of various artworks! I’m not sure if this would be classified as a venal or mortal sin. I’ll leave it up to God how he wants to handle these wayward sisters.
We visited other impressive sights, sans nuns.
Piazza S.S. Annunziata is considered the most Renaissance square in Florence. This 15th century, three building structure is made up of a church, hospital and orphanage. The Hospital of the Innocents received unwanted newborns. If the baby could fit through the window grate, he or she was taken. Looking up above the columns of the building you can see painted, terracotta pictures of babies, showing how to best wrap an infant in cloth.
The Bargello Museum is dedicated mostly to sculptures. Incredibly beautiful pieces from such artists as Donatello, Michelangelo, Cellini, Verrocchio, and Giambologna simple lay about.
We had a special treat one evening. We walked the 200 yards above Piazzale Michelangelo to San Miniato Church for evening vespers. We were rewarded for our long, uphill hike. The first reward was a clear, hilltop view of ancient Florence in all her glory on the banks of the Arno River. The second was listening to the monks chant the evening vespers. Once again, we were taken out of time and place and entered into something much bigger than ourselves. Just a great evening.
Padua has been a pleasant surprise for us. We decided to stay here for a week to use it as a daytripping hub and to relax a bit. Our hosts, Luigi and Loretta, picked us up from the train station and drove us to our new digs. Luigi insisted that I sit in the front with him, so Marsha and Loretta sat in the back. There was a lot of talking going on but not as much comprehension. I think we understood about 15%, but it was very enthusiastically delivered. There was much smiling and nodding on both sides. Our hosts showed us how everything worked in the apartment and gave us a binder of information for their beloved city. Great hosts.
Padua is an energetic university town. Galileo, Copernicus, and Dante were a part of this university. Being a university town … there are university students … students who graduate … graduates who celebrate … and friends who join in the celebration with naughty songs, posters on trees, and ‘forced’ alcohol consumption. (The bottle is actually taped to their hands) This all takes place in a very public park. During one of our walkabouts, we heard some music and blundered into one of these celebrations. ‘Those kids!’
We have thoroughly enjoyed the many outdoor markets that change daily. The biggest one happens on Saturday at the Prato della Valle, the huge, main park, circled by water, and just south of the old city. Everything from general household items, to food, to clothes, and various trinkets can be found here. This is a true local event with nary a tourist in sight.
The most revered sight in Padua is the Scrovegni Chapel. We had to sign up for a 15-minute viewing. Everything is very controlled in order to preserve this UNESCO sight from deterioration. We started out in an anteroom to watch a 15-minute video then entered this small but overwhelming chapel. In 1303 Scrovegni hired Giotto to cover the interior with frescos. He did. Just beautiful.
Other sights we enjoyed: Duomo and Baptistery, Civic Museums, Palazzo Zuckermann, and Santa Giustina Abbey.
All these historical structures are impressive and add to our understanding of history. But we found something really noteworthy on the same block as our apartment. While checking out the neighborhood we saw work being done on what we thought was a brewery. With all the building materials lying about, we didn’t hold much hope for it opening while we were here. Much to our surprise, after walking home one evening we poked our head around the corner. A sign was up and it was open … the first day. We walked in and talked with the owner, who spoke very good English. We walked out with a liter of freshly tapped Prosecco in a plastic bottle … for €3.75. And it was good Prosecco.
Our first day trip was to VENICE. This is our 2nd time to enjoy this magical, watery city. Our first trip was in 2003, when we took the overnight train from Rome. I cover this very eventful arrival in my book, What Do You Mean We Didn’t Save the World? This arrival was waaaaay calmer. We purchased a combo pass for unlimited vaporetto rides and some sights. It was a great day, although greyish skies made for rather dull photography.
The Duomo interior is slathered in gold … everywhere. I would have loved the opportunity to wander inside without crowds, just to look at the amazing mosaic floors. Every few feet there are different, beautifully designed mosaics.
The Doge’s Palace is a must-see. It was just as impressive as we remembered.
The legend behind the Bridge of Sighs comes from when prisoners were found guilty and immediately taken from the court to the prison, which was connected by a bridge. As the prisoners looked out through the stone grate to catch their last glimpse of Venice, they sighed with heartbreak. I’ve included some images below to help tell this story.
We took another vaporetto ride to the island church of San Giorgio Maggiore and then to the island of Murano, famous for the glass blowing art. Fun fact: Murano became the glass blowing island because the factories kept burning down buildings in Venice. Solution: you get your own island.
We ended our stay by taking a vaporetto back to the train station. It was packed. Marsha found a single seat inside and I wound up outside, in the ‘back of the bus’ with six Italian guys singing and checking out girls along the way. Great ending to a great day as I listened to unfamiliar songs and watched boats speeding by.
We have a few more days here in Padua with a day trip to Verona. Our next stop will be a return to Cinque Terre, one of our all-time favorite areas. Although we have read that the trails between the 5 lands are closed, we have heard from those who have been there recently that there is no problem. So we will see how it works out.
CLICK the image below to take a 2 ½ minute VAPORETTO VIDEO ride on the GRAND CANAL.
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We look forward to hearing from you.
Preston & Marsha
Don’t Retire: Reload – Groovin’ on the Flip Side
Click the image below to take a 2 ½ minute VAPORETTO VIDEO ride on the GRAND CANAL.