Saturday, June 14, 2014

Step Up to the Throne

The unisex toilette in a coffee shop on the island of Lido, Venice's natural breakwater.

It's 5 feet from floor to ceiling at the top level.

Some Padding, Please

The seats in Terminal H (for hell?) are designed for butt torture.

This area definitely has a temporary feel to it.  Or perhaps funding was tight during the most recent remodeling and expansion project.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bridge of Sighs Spans Gondola Alley

Support System

At the Church of the Gesulti, Venice.

A Visit to the Adriatic Sea

Which takes little effort in Venice.

We rode the vaporetto to Lido, an oblong island that serves as a natural breakwater for Venice.  It's about a half-hour trip from where we're staying.  (We've been making extensive use of our Hellovenezia passes, which has been a great way to escape the 80,000-strong Venice crowds.)

And once the crowds thinned out after the St Mark's Square stop, we were able to claim three seats in the open-air area at the back of the boat.

And watch the Venice skyline recede a bit.

After three days in Venice, Lido provided a slight culture shock -- the getting used to automobile traffic again.

The beach itself was nothing to write home about, but here I am doing so anyway.

I'll leave this last item to your imagination.  As we walked along the shore, an 80-year-old (maybe closer to 90) bikini-clad woman dropped her cane onto the beach and made her way to the water's edge with the assistance of a younger woman, perhaps her daughter or caretaker.  

It appears that they don't sell any one-piece bathing suits in this part of the world.

Looking out to sea

Venice's Rialto Bridge at Night

The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of four bridges that span the Grand Canal.  It was constructed between 1588 and 1591.

If you consider the fact that an average of 80,000 people visit Venice each day -- it's a popular cruise ship destination -- then it's likely that this is one of the hundreds of thousands of photos taken of this bridge yesterday.  

On the beaten path, Venice is a retail Disneyland.  Off the beaten path, it's a very different place.

What Mean You?

Translation:  Don't throw paper towels into the toilet.

The Wall Paintings of Venice's San Zaccaria's Church

San Zaccaria is dedicated to the father of John the Baptist, St. Zacharias.  It's located a short walk from St. Mark's Square.  Construction took place from 1458 to 1515.  

I was particularly impressed with the paintings that cover the walls of the interior, and how the sun dappled a portion of the south wall during our brief visit.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

No, it's not another Medieval Manhattan

It's the industrial area of mainland Venice known as Porta Marghera.

It takes up a big stretch of the horizon line.

Into the Light

Or just.......Off the Beaten Path.

The Canals, Colorful Houses, and Leaning Tower of Burano

Burano is a tiny island -- a series of 4 islands connected by bridges, actually -- located 4 miles north/northwest of Venice.  For budget travelers like us, that makes it a 40-minute, one-way ride by vaporetto (bus-boat).

According to Wikipedia, the population go Burano is 2800.  While strolling around the island, we guessed less than 1,000.

On some of the shabbier-looking streets, not shared with you here, some of the houses look long unoccupied and "VENDESI", for sale, signs are commonly seen.

For the most part, it's a charming place to escape the crowds of Venice.  (And as to why the tower leans, I'm still looking for a definitive answer.)

Why the use of bold colors?  According to one source I found, there's a legend that fisherman found them useful for finding their way home in the fog.  But then sometimes legend is synonymous with fish story.

Not Very Fine Venetian Dining

Rated 2.5 out of 5.0 on TripAdvisor.  

Ranked #945 of 1,188 restaurants in Venice.  (Just 7 reviews.)

A nearby McDonald's was quite busy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tourists in Pisa Doing That Thing They Do

Hands up!

A little more to the right.

But not Edmundo.

Not impressed with Pisa.  Without the Leaning Tower, this place would be Nowheresville.

Waiter, there's something growing out of my wine glass

St. Mark's Square, Venice, Italy 

If Your Shoulders are Bare and Your Thighs are Bare, You Can't Enter This Murano Church

San Pietro Martire

Murano is off the beaten path.  It's known for its glassware, which, from my observation today, appeals to an older demographic, one that dresses modestly.

First Views of Venice

We rode the train, a 2-hour trip, from Florence to Venice yesterday.  Much of the first half hour resembled a subway ride as the train route tunneled through mountains.  A good time to "rest the eyes".

Gondola rides start at 80 euros, according to my good pal Rick Steves, and the price goes up significantly in the evening.  Our host at the Florence B&B warned us of a recent scam where gondoliers attempted to charge gullible, perhaps desperate, tourists 300 euros.  Actually, 80 is probably enough to make me laugh and walk away. 

Doge Palace

Yesterday was a transition day, so we just walked around, got our bearings.  The landmark signage is generally good, but even with a map, it took us some time to get ourselves oriented.

Pigeons, lots of pigeons. (Dang, I thought I had rotated this photo.  Once it's published in the iPad Blogger app, it's too much trouble to undo.)

View of the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge.

View if the Grand Canal from the Scalzi Bridge

Masks and trinkets

The Shadows Know: Eating Well In Italy

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Worst Rick Steves General Travel Advice Ever

It is not good to wear shorts in Italy, except for going to the beach.  

You will not be able to enter a lot of churches with bare legs -- and /or shoulders, too, for that matter.

At the Siena Cathedral, women -- and men -- are given this gauzy item to cover their bare shoulders.  And along with at least a hundred other tourists inside the Cathdral during our visit, I wearing shorts.  Nobody said "boo".

Does Rick's staff do all of their research remotely?

It's 2014, and from my observations during 10 days in Italy, shorts are very popular attire.  I wish I had packed more pairs than I did, especially with the temperatures in the 90s this week. 

Although not as common as in other locations, you'll find people wearing shorts in the long lines leading to the entrance of St. Peter's Basilica.  We didn't see anyone so attired being turned away, but from everything I've read, St. Peter's strictly enforces its dress code.  Otherwise, the churches we visited were accommodating as long as visitors weren't exposing too much skin, e.g., wearing short shorts, bikini tops.  And so far, we've encountered no "sagmeisters" in Italy.

So...did the guy, standing just to the right of bottom center in the photo below pass muster?

Monday, June 9, 2014

San Gimignano, Italy: "Medieval Manhattan"

JoAnna, Eddie, and I took a bus tour today.  The itinerary included Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, and an organic farm where we were served lunch, with a different locally-produced wine provided with each course, at which point the 40 passengers became close friends.  

Ironically, doing a bus tour was Eddie's idea.  I thought we might end up spending the day with a bunch of geezers.  Not the case at all.  (Yes, I'm well aware of the adage about living in a glass house.)  

San Gimignano is one of the best examples of the preservation of a walled medieval town.  Nevertheless, it has something of a Disney atmosphere to it.  The narrow main streets and town square are lined with restaurants, gelaterias, specialty stores, and souvenir shops.  The town clearly caters to bus tour groups, I.e., the restaurants aren't that busy, but the gelato places are mobbed.

The area was first settled in the 3rd century B.C.  Starting around the 5th century A.D., it became a "rest stop" for pilgrims traveling to Rome.  San Gimignano flourished until the Black Plague killed more than half of its residents, many of whom lived in the 72 tower houses that had been constructed there.

The views from the top of one of the 15 or so remaining tower houses, the Great Tower, are breath-taking.

Busman's Holiday II: Libreria Piccolo, Duomo, Siena Italy

The Libreria Piccolominea is located in a small room in the Siena Cathedral (Duomo).  The imposing church, inside and out, was constructed between the years 1215 and 1263.

The room contains a collection of choir books.

Example 1

Example 2

And these eye-popping frescoes, painted by Bernadino di Betto.

The ceiling was painted by Pinturicchio.

A combination of the 2.