Last week held another Italian adventure … Venice! About 3 hours by train from our apartment in Bolzano, we decided a mini-trip to glorious Venice was a must. Off we went for three days to see the sights and sounds of this elegantly decaying lady of northern Italy. And she did not disappoint.
With thousands of tourists from all over the world streaming into Venice every day (including George Clooney and his new bride!) it’s a sensory overload compared to quiet, laid-back Bolzano. After getting over the initial crush of bodies on our first water taxi ride up the Grand Canal (I don’t like crowds and usually avoid them as much as possible) and locating the little boutique hotel where we were staying, Venice became a joy to explore.
With map in hand, we navigated the tangled streets opening into wide piazzas. Around every corner were surprises and what we used to call “a Kodak moment”. Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square) was exactly how it looks in photos: expansive views, regal architecture and filled with people from all over the world. And yes, the bell tower in this photo is leaning precariously! This is a relatively new structure since the original “campanile” collapsed in 1902.
We wandered through cobbled streets connected by little bridges crisscrossing willy-nilly while gondolieri in their striped shirts navigated the slender black boats in the canal below. Tiny specialty shops operated out of every available niche, while richly decorated designer stores made for interesting window shopping.
Day 2 brought rain – a blessing in disguise as the crowds were less and it was much easier to see the sights. We had come prepared with umbrella and rain jackets. I was singing in the rain that day as Venice was a memorizing, watery reflection of beauty. Michael and I whiled the morning hours away at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, enjoying the modern masters that graced the lovely villa, once home to the heiress.
After a light “pranzo” (lunch) we climbed the steep stairs to the top of San Marco Basilica. There we could see the complete interior of the massive Gothic structure from the balcony, walk through a thousand years of church history in the museum and climb out onto the roof to gaze at the square below. It was a very good day!
I left with many photos and memories, and just a taste of historic Venice.
As we boarded our train for the trip back to our adopted home in Bolzano, I wondered if my ancestors ever made it to this island wonderland. Before the automobile, it probably took two days of travel by horse and carriage down river valleys and over mountain passes to reach the shore. Then a ferry ride to finally arrive at the city. I don’t know if they ever travelled east of their mountain home and gazed upon beautiful Venice.
But I do know that they were courageous people who made a difficult decision to travel west, to a strange country. Between the 1870’s through the 1920’s, many Tyroleans made their way over the Alps to the south of France where they boarded a crowded ship bound for a new country. They may not have seen the treasures of Venice, but they did create their own fortunes in America.