Venice…The Corn Maze of Italy!

Yesterday (Friday 18th) was our big day to travel by train to Venice. It is about a one hour train ride from Sacile to Venice. Getting to the train, well that’s another story! Let me explain. A couple of days ago, we did a dry run to the train station. We ran into a construction detour and finally made the dry run to the station. On the way back, we ran into another detour on the detour route, apparently there was an accident or fire as two firemen were blocking the turn off. On the day of our departure, we again ran into still another detour, but were successful in making it to the station on time. We got our tickets at the news stand and then had a slight problem getting them validated in the machine. You have insert to the left and, after screwing up, insert with the pale arrow, nearly invisible, pointing in. Now after all of that, we discovered from another English speaking passenger, that we could catch the 7:52 “Express” with only four stops!

Another surprise was the number of school kids that ride the train to a couple of stops down the rail. This train is a high speed train! When another train is going in the other direction, at the moment the lead engine bisect, there’s a noticeable bang, much like a jet breaking the sound barrier. I must also point out that the train is extremely quiet with none of the clack, clack of the wheels rolling over the rails. The trains run on overhead electricity makes them even more quiet. The seats face each other making it easier to converse, if you’re sitting with another couple. We weren’t so fortunate as the train is jammed packed! We were lucky, at least to get seats! When arriving in Venice, at the station, one can’t help notice that there are 15 tracks that dead end into the station. These trains are several hundred feet long. That tells you that there’s a lot of people going and coming into this city.

The journey begins walking into the station and start noticing many, many Nationalities from all over the world! The next noticeable difference is the tobacco smell! Walking out the front of the station, one finds a new world staring at the “Grand Canal” much like looking at a busy main street, only with every kind of boat instead of cars and trucks! Did I mention people? Wow, much like New York with hundreds of people walking in many directions along the Grand Canal. Soon, we were swamped with vendors, from souvenirs to food. Our plan was to get away from the army of people and get a pastry and Cappuccino. It actually to some time walking before the crowds started to dissipate. Ah… finally, that pastry and the famous Cappuccino hit the spot!

Joan had a city map and let me tell you, that Venice is much like a “Corn Maze” . No streets go into a straight line. Some go into a square, may be 100’ by 100’, others are even smaller. Some streets are marked, some are not! Some streets are 30 feet wide and some are literally 3 feet wide. When we were here several years ago, our tour guide said not to wonder too far and he was absolutely right. It is a wonderful experience to walk around Venice, but it is very, very easy to be disoriented going around three and four story old buildings that look similar. What an experience! I loved it!

Photography in Venice: There’s unlimited composition possibilities! A photographer is always looking for composition. Venice, a photographer’s paradise, has unlimited possibilities and so, I took hundreds of photos! From houses, to people, to gondolas, to everything else you can imagine. I’m not the only one who feels that way, as everywhere you turn someone has a camera. Locals in Venice are probably photographed more than anyone else in the world. It is such an unusual place, uncommon to most of the rest of the world. There are cobbled stone streets, but water canals bisect every section of the city. I’m told this ideology was to protect the city from invasion. In any event, it is a city that I love to keep my finger on the camera trigger constantly.

With our Cappuccino break over, our plan was to head in the direction of the hospital, where Sam and Joan’s friends and former landlords live. Laura, is a traveling nurse and at the moment, has her hands full taking care of her elderly mother and father. She is also taking care of her mother in-law who is in hospice.

Sam has a very good sense of direction and even with that and a map, we struggled to get into the neighborhood. Once we made it to the “Cannale delle Sacche”, Sam got his bearings and easily found the hospital, a marker close to Laura’s parents home. Speaking of usual Venice anomalies… How does a city of this size get to people who need emergency care? Of course, it is with an ambulance. The only difference is that they are boat ambulances. How does one pickup trash? Well, you guessed it, but the difference here is that men with small carts wheel around the streets and collect the trash and then meet the “trash boat” at a certain spots in the canal. Food deliveries are handled in the same reverse manner.

Back to our walk to Laura’s parents home. Walking down Fundament Nuove, Sam pointed out an island across the Cannale which was St Michele Cimitero (cemetery). Arriving at the hospital square, we gazed at all of the building architecture and people. Helen and I entered a large church to get a glimpse and as with most churches around here, it was spectacular!

From the square, it was just a few hundred feet to Lara’s parents home. While walkin
g down the narrow street, Laura spotted us. She was expecting us as we had called her earlier. She had been to the market. All of the residential doors are always locked. We were buzzed in by here parents on the second floor. Ironically, no residential dwellings are on the first floor. This is due to an occasional high tide and water seepage. It was a nice reunion for Sam and Joan. We also felt glad to be able to meet and to talk to native Italians. Laura spoke very well in a broken English and was a good translator for her mom and dad (Angelina and Tony)

After our visit and goodbyes, it was time to hit the cobble stone again. A little corner deli caught our eye and lunch was in order. Our plan from here was to walk towards the famous Rialto bridge over the Grande Canal. You just can’t walk in a straight line! Someone had to put a building smack darn in the middle and you’d think you’d just could walk around and continue, but on the other side, the alleys or streets go into a totally different direction. You’ve got to “Love Adventure” and I do! So, after walking and walking, we wound up at “Plaza de Saint Marco” and never came close to the Rialto Bridge, but that’s ok… because, we’ve seen the bridge on a previous tour. At the plaza, which is huge, thousands of people were also gazing at the beauty and grander of the Basilica of St Marco and the very tall tower.

We watched as kids were feeding pigeons. A big thing was to have the pigeons on your arms while some family member took a photo. Joan wanted to hear the bells ring at half pass the hour, but for some reason they didn’t. Leaving the square, Joan spotted the statue of “Punta de Salute” across the “Canale della Giudecca”. She wanted to have more of a quiet time and relax, which to all of us wasn’t a bad idea. To get to the point across the waterway, we walked along the canal until we found a bridge to cross. The canal here is very wide and we walked a long distance through a lot of back streets until we finally arrived at a bridge. By now, we had walked for several miles. A note here: Total walking miles for the day was 9 miles according to my FitBit pedometer!

From the bridge to the point was considerably short walking time, because of a more direct route available to us. I must say that walking wasn’t a bad thing. We got to see a lot of Venice that most people don’t even come close to seeing. Arriving at the “Punta d Salute”, Joan noted that a statue wasn’t there anymore. Sam and Joan sat on the steps of “Saint Maria della Salute” Basilica, while Helen and I walked into the basilica and admired the beautiful church. Some of these churches you have to pay to visit, but this one was free. There was actually a mass that was starting, but of course in Italian. Moving along the circular interior of the church, I took more photos, of course without a flash.

Walking towards the Stazione (Railroad Station), we had a little time to look up Lara’s husband’s business, who is a Dental Technician. He was still at work when we rang the door bell, Giorgio answered the door and we quickly had a chance to say hello. Next, on the agenda, was dinner. By Venice standards, it was too early to have dinner at most restaurants. This gave us little choices. The restaurant that we chose looked charming, but the food was not up to par. Sam and I had spaghetti which was the equivalent of “canned spaghetti” with a gourmet city price! This was the only not perfect experience in Venice.

All day long, I kept thinking off and on about our return train trip to Sacile. How would we find the right train? Thirteen tracks to choose from! How would we know when to get at the right station? Well, here is the answer: The train departure leader board didn’t show Sacile, problem solved by asking a cleanup worker. He said, “You have to read the fine print’, “track 13”. How to get off, answer; Talk to passengers and listen carefully to the on board train public address which does say it in English! It was a long day, but a satisfying journey. We may go to Venice again before our departure from Italy.

That is what we saw and did!

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