Venice. Thursday 13 June 2013
After an early breakfast by the pool (I do like eating al fresco) we gathered in the lounge for our first on board lecture. The talk was given by Prof Gregory Rowland, who is English, and lectures in American poetry at the university here in Venice. He has lived here for many years, and was an excellent speaker, filling us in on the history of Venice and some of the challenges facing the city today. The biggest problem, he says, is the dropping population – in the last 50 years or so the population has fallen, to less than 60,000, from over 200,000. It’s just too expensive for locals to live here.
After the talk we assembled for our first organised shore excursion, titled “Venice Highlights”. We are divided into colour groups (we are Orange) for the duration of the cruise, and we dutifully followed the orange sign off the ship to a bus which took us to a charter boat to transport us to San Marco. We carry credit cards which are our room key, but also serve to pay for items on board, and as a security check – we get swiped on & off the ship, and go through security every time we board (bags X-rayed, metal detectors, passport check, the whole shebang). Tedious but reassuring!
We use a system they call Quiet Vox for the tours – we each carry little receivers to listen to the guide. No annoying shouting, and you can wander away from the group to take photos and still hear the guide. They use local guides, and ours, Alviso, was very good. As we walked he filled us in on aspects of Venetian life, history and culture. We toured the Doge’s Palace admiring the stunning decorations and learning about the system of government under the Republic of Venice. No photos were allowed, but I managed to sneak a few by holding my camera and pointing randomly!
We had some free time then (I think the tour should probably have been called “The Doges Palace Tour”) so Dad & I headed up to the top of the Campanile for some views of Venice. Fortunately there is a lift! It is the highest structure in Venice and the views are impressive.
At 2 o’clock Dad headed back to the ship on the charter boat, but they were offering later rides as well so I stayed in town. I caught up with some good friends from Sydney, Mark & Denise & their daughter Bella, who happened to be here – it was fun to hang out in Venice with them! We window shopped for a while in the very expensive but oh-so-classy shops around St Mark’s Square and then randomly strolled along some back alleys – the only way to see Venice! We had lunch at a little out of the way bistro where the menu was in Russian (as well as Italian) and they introduced me to Pizza al Tonno (Tuna Pizza – don’t scoff – it was surprisingly delicious). More window shopping (and a little actual shopping – I blame Denise!) and then it was time for me to catch the last boat back to the ship at 4. (To my shame I took no photos of M,D & B)
I barely had time to freshen up back on board before an early dinner (I had grilled salmon – delish). We ate early because we were heading back to Basilica di San Marco for an exclusive after hours tour. It was kind of exclusive – only the 240 of us from the ship were there – but it’s a pretty big church so it was fine. What was exclusive and very exciting for me, was they we were allowed to take photos inside, which is usually forbidden. And they turned on special spotlights which illuminated the huge golden mosaics so beautifully it really did shine like jewels – it literally brought a tear to my eye it was so beautiful. Imagine a huge building capped with 5 great domes, every inch of it covered in golden sparkling light. No matter what you think of the subject matter, you have to be impressed by the workmanship and craft of these long ago artists. I took lots of photos and then some more!
It was a long hot tiring day, I have to admit, but I wouldn’t have missed a moment of it! We found out there’s a vaporetto strike tomorrow, so getting around on our own will be a little tricky. I think I might take it easy and save my energy for the afternoon tour.
One last photo: