Saturday, September 26, 2009

Italy (Day 3) - Venice

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After checking out the Crowne Plaza Venice East hotel, my wife and I boarded the bus for a short ride to Tronchetto Pier, taking a private motorboat to San Marco in Venice.

While waiting for our motorboat to depart, we had a quick stroll at those souvenirs stalls looking anything that was suitable to buy later since we had limited time on a guided tour. This was one of the stalls selling printed apron. Yeah, I know the length of that ‘object’ looked like mine, no need to tell the whole world, ROFL.

My wife would regret if she did not snap a photo with these two gorgeous motorboat drivers. So which one looked better?

Some of the shots taken from the motorboat

After 20 minutes ride, we finally reached Venice, the City of Water. Behind was the motorboat we took.

As we walked toward the St Mark’s Square or Piazza San Marco, there were many open-air cafes and stalls along the Venice waterfront facing the lagoon. The weather was cooling and it’s very nice to take a slow stroll here. Wish I could be here a little bit longer.

One of the statues along the way

We bumped into one of the famous bridges in Venice, Bridge of Sighs. The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars. The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts would SIGH at their final view of beautiful Venice out the window before being taken down to their cells.

When we reached at the St Mark’s Square, the view was spectacular. It’s the main square in Venice and extremely popular with tourists and pigeons. The Procuratie are three connected buildings on St Mark’s Square where the Procuratie Nuove on the left, the Napoleonic Wing ahead and the Procuratie Vecchie to the right.

Most of the ground floor of the Procuraties is occupied by cafes.

St Mark’s Clocktower is a clock tower next to Procuratie Vecchie in the square. It also aid to sailors on the Grand Canal when they depart on a voyage. The highest floor has two bronze figures stand on top, looks like it going to ring the bell. Below it is the Lion of St Mark against the night sky with stars.

Entrance to the St Mark’s Campanile, a bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica. It’s the most recognizable icons for Venice. The queue inside was long, so I did not enter.

Opposite the Campanile is the St Mark’s Basilica, the famous cathedral church of Venice. There were time slot if you want to enter the church. And again, due to limited time we have, we did not enter the church. We managed to see the interior from the central door of the church. What a waste.

The central door, the Roman art carving was made from mosaic.

The four Tetrarchs at the south-west corner of the Basilica building. Try to notice the missing foot of the right figure which been replaced with a normal cement. The missing foot was discovered in Istanbul.

Next to the Basilica is the Doge’s Palace, a gothic palace in Venice. The palace was the residence for the Doge of Venice. Doge was the chief magistrate and they normally ruled for life. The last doge was until 1797. The Bridge of Sighs is located next to this palace. This building is currently preserved as a museum.

Pavement of the Doge’s Palace. Sorry if some of you feel like puking seeing our typical Asian pose, haha.

After admiring all the buildings in St Mark’s Square, we went to the Vecchia Murano Glass Factory as part of the tour itinerary. We were also managed to witness the glass blowing demonstration. Afterward, of course, there were opportunities to buy their Murano glass souvenirs which are quite pricey. The showroom is lovely and impressive but the pressure from the staffs was extreme. They also assist to ship your purchased items by DHL. It’s okay; I’m not a good fan of Murano glass, so I can skip it.

When in Venice, the trip would not be complete without a gondola ride across the Grand Canal. For budget traveler like me, it’s better to gather a group together and split the cost. Most gondolas can fit 6-7 people. We managed to get another 4 friends and the gondola ride cost us around Euro 80 (depending on your bargaining skill), which was a good price to pay (around Euro 27 for 2 people) that can make it an affordable experience, even though it’s no longer romantic with such a crowd.

Our friendly gondolier

During the ride on the Grand Canal, we would cross few bridges.

A local legend says that lovers will be assured eternal love if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the bridge. I did not post my photo with my wife due to privacy.

As for the spectators on the bridges, we just have to try to pretend there were not there, haha.

It’s quite scary when the gondola was on the open sea and kept swaying left and right, felt not so secure, but the gondolier did a good job balancing the gondola.

Since we still have around one hour before lunch time, we explored Venice by walking along the canal and bridges.

How am I going to pay my bill if I want to purchase from this hanging store?

Gondoliers waiting to pick up their customer

This figure is made of Murano glass.

A taste of gelato cost at Euro 2.

After we had the breathtaking view of Venice, we headed to a nearby Italian restaurant for lunch. One of the highlight is the Italian dessert called Pannacotta. It’s made by simmering together with cream, milk and sugar, mixing this with gelatin, and letting it cool until ready to eat. I wanted to have another portion, too bad it’s limited.

Then we took the motorboat back to the pier and have around 10-20 minutes hunting for souvenirs at the stalls. We bought a Jester hat for my son, Aiden, cost at Euro 5 after some intense bargaining.

We were rushed to board the bus to Prato by our tour guide else we might stuck in the jam and not able to make it for dinner. The journey took around 3 hours. We checked-in to a comfortable four star hotel, Art Hotel Museo with beautiful surrounding areas. The hotel interior looks very artistic with lots of abstract paintings.

There were art sculptures and art museum opposites the hotel. Too bad the art museum was under renovation.

There’s nothing much activities/attractions nearby during the night, so we decided to cross the busy road to McDonald outlet to kill time but it was packed with hungry patrons. So we walked back to the hotel lobby and chit-chat, gossip till no topics to talk about, then we went back to our room and had a good rest.

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