aqua fortis

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Venice and Other Distractions...Part I

I've been wanting to post for a while, but ever since we've been back, the shit has hit the fan in terms of work, getting caught up, household construction, family fun time, etc. My back currently aches from helping Rob grout tile in the new bathroom in the addition (I was the water-bucket hauler--and I seriously tested the limits of my upper-body strength with each load, of which there were at least 15). But I finally feel like I've made some progress work-wise and can therefore justify some blogging time. Oh--did I mention the 25+ (and growing) pile of books sitting on my office floor waiting to be read and judged? I'm having this horrible fear that I'm not going to agree with what anyone else likes. So far, of the 9 titles posted to the short list, only one is also on my personal list of favorites. Granted, I haven't yet read a lot of the titles people have posted, so I can't actually say I won't agree once I get there. Anyway. Here are some impressions of our Italy trip, in no particular order:

  • Bridges. Venice struck me for its myriad of little footbridges just as much as for its canals. Wooden footbridges, concrete footbridges, footbridges with wheelchair ramps in the tourist area near San Marco, footbridges with no ramps that we had to haul extremely heavy luggage up and over, young parents hauling their kids' strollers up and down footbridge steps, tourists taking pictures of the most insignificant of canals from the tops of the bridges. The Ponte dei Pugni, or Bridge of Fists, where young noblemen used to fight and throw each other off into the canal, marked with footprints set in the concrete where combatants are supposed to start off. The Ponte Accademia, a wooden lattice arching over the Grand Canal and affording almost unreal, Disneyland-like views of the cityscape.
  • Roman stuff. I love going to see Roman historical sites, just as I like going to see ruined castles. What can I say? I like wandering around the remains of history. Verona was a fantastic (and unplanned) surprise in that regard--for one thing, they have the third-largest Roman arena complete with gates where the gladiators and beasts used to be released. And it's still in use today for operas and performances. There was also a Roman amphitheatre and a reconstructed bridge over the river. I'm always amazed by how the Romans really built to last.
  • Not quite enough alone time. This was but a minor note of dissatisfaction, but traveling with the in-laws didn't quite give Rob and I enough time on our own. His parents aren't experienced overseas travelers--China was their first trip abroad, and that was an almost completely guided event with pre-set daily itineraries and tour guides for each city. For Italy--Rob and I were the tour guides. We set the itinerary, except for one guided tour we took in Milan. And Venice is a little confusing to get around at first, so they were content to let us take the lead and just kind of follow along. Which was fine...but resulted in only about half a day that we actually had to ourselves. Not as much of a romantic trip as you'd expect from Venice.
  • Da Vinci's The Last Supper. It's in terrible shape. I'm glad we saw it (it's in Milan, and that's why we bought the guided tour--it was the only way we were able to get tickets to see it). You go in through what is essentially a series of airlocks, keeping the room climate-controlled, and enter the former refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, and there it is on one wall of the rectangular room. It was much bigger than I'd pictured (sort of like the Mona Lisa tends to be smaller than people imagine) and parts of it are what I'd call nearly obliterated by time and wear and overly-zealous restorations of the past. I'm glad we saw it before it fades even more, because it really is an incredible masterwork of its time.
  • The Euro. The dollar. GAAAAH! We are po' now.

To be continued...


Ordovicius said...

Lots of cats in Venice, at least on the quiet streets where no tourists go. Or inlaws.