"" Writer's Wanderings: 18 Days Through Europe in an Audi - Venice, Italy

Friday, October 29, 2010

18 Days Through Europe in an Audi - Venice, Italy

[Summer, 2004

Our last look at the alps was obscured by fog and rain as we drove from Salzburg into Italy but we knew when we crossed the border. Everything became frenzied and highway signs became confusing again. We arrived safely in Venice and checked into the Best Western Hotel Bologna. The hotel was directly across the street from the train station where we boarded a train for the 10 minute ride to historic Venice. That sounded easy. It wasn't. This was Italy.

At the train station there was no easy way to find which platform was loading to go to "Venezia" and no one easily accessible to ask. After standing in a long line for the information room which opened to only one person at a time, we finally got some insight into where we needed to go and managed to get on the right train.

Disembarking, we found the Vaporettos (water taxis) in front of the station. We opted to take #1 to St. Mark's Square, knowing it made more stops along the way but we would have more time to look around. Somehow we got on the one that took us around the opposite direction we wanted to go but we still ended up at St. Mark's. We arrived at the square amidst gray skies and drizzle. I looked around me at the old buildings that looked dirty and crusty and wondered how anyone could think this was such a beautiful place.

We wandered down crowded side streets looking for a place to eat. The dreariness of the weather contributed to the feeling of oppressive passageways filled with people jostling each other to keep out of the rain. I immediately began wondering if I was going to enjoy this place at all.

A few gondoliers called out to us to take a ride through the small canals running between the buildings. They weren't getting much response from the weather beaten crowd. Finding a restaurant in a small courtyard, we gratefully ducked under the overhang to find a seat. Our dinner was unremarkable (and expensive) but it was fun to sit and watch the crowds go by. The rain stopped just before we were ready to venture out again and we made our way back to the square.

St. Mark's Square is a huge area bordered by St. Mark's basilica and the old and new Procuraties. The old were built originally for the St. Mark's attorneys. The Doge Palace sits next to St. Mark's Basilica. And the famous Bell Tower rises above it all. The bottom of the Procuraties are filled with cafes, restaurants, and shops. There are four or five cafes that have a huge area of little tables set up in the square where you can sit and listen to live music being played. As we pondered what to do, the sun broke through the clouds and the front of the basilica was illuminated. The golden tiles glittered in the late evening sun and the building began to look fresh and clean as the water evaporated from the facade. Ah, so this is why people come here, I thought, as the sky above became blue and a slight breeze freshened the air.

We decided on a cappuccino at a table near the string ensemble that was playing beautiful music. So enchanted were we that we never stopped to look at the prices on the menu. We sipped our delicious brews, enjoyed the view and the atmosphere. Then the bill came. When we converted Euros to dollars it worked out to be $15 a cup. We didn't notice the cover charge on the menu. We probably could have ordered something to go along with the cappuccinos and gotten a better value. But then, this was Venice, the heart of the historical area and we had just watched the sunset and been entertained by wonderful musicians. We swallowed our shock, laughed a little, and took a picture of the bill for posterity.

Finding the train platform again to head back to our hotel was frustrating but we managed to find a couple of women who understood English and helped us out. It had been a lovely evening and now I was looking forward to the next day.

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