Our bus brings us to the parking island where we take a speed boat via the waterways to St. Mark's square. And once we step into the island, everything is different. No cars there, just gondolas or boats. Thousands of bridges over water are seen in the island. It almost feels like you are in dreamland, maybe because we've seen the replica in Las Vegas and Macau, LOL. But nothing beats the real thing. A replica will always have signs of being artificial, while the real thing is defined by the daily wear and tear that shapes its character.
Our first glimpse of Venezia was during the nighttime when we first arrived. Our bus ride from Assisi to Venice was about three hours. It was the usual foggy weather, till we realized visibility has dropped and it's because it was actually snowing and it was getting stronger. It was a precious moment of white Christmas, and even if I've seen other white Christmases in the past, nothing beats fresh snowfall and glimpses of snow flakes flying outside your window. Imagine the excitement as we are all not used to seeing snow. Ironically, some of our tour mates were in turn amused at our excitement.
We stopped by a roadside stop to get some sandwiches and coffee, somewhere in Bologna. And I wondered it this place had anything to do with the Bologna ham. Well it does, it's known for Mortadela, which is the original Bologna sausage ham. It is also the name for which the Spaghetti and Bolognese Sauce came from, although here, they simply call that Ragu sauce.
Before we got into Venice, we passed by Imola, which is known for the Grand Prix, and near this area is a place called Maranello where the famous Ferrari cars are made. Unfortunately, we have not seen any Ferrari cars on the road during this trip. Along the way, you can also see some wineries. I learned that the Prosecco grapes are used for making wine, Prosecco being the champagne of Italy.
So finally, we arrive in Venice and we are brought straight to the dock, where we would catch our gondolas. It was dark by the time we got there, which is a very good way to experience the romance of Venice. Six to a gondola for us, and a bottle of champagne also to warm us up on that cold winter night out on the waters of Venice. Our route was in the inner waterways of Venice, and it brings us through the Grand Canal. The buildings along the waterways were old and provided us a haunting feeling, as we quietly floated through the water. Add in the gondoliers and the serenade, it completes the whole ambiance of Venice. We saw churches, restaurants, and even five star hotels, plus of course, the parked gondolas and boats on the sides. Speed boats also ply the same routes, so our gondolas get to rock quite roughly at times. I wouldn't want to fall into the water. Venice in the last few years have been known for their smelly canals, which disappointed visitors looking for a romantic evening. Good thing, the canals didn't smell the night we were there, and we had a great time. We arrived at another dock, and soon emerged into a small abandoned alley which was also under construction, probably with some restoration going on. People still seem to live upstairs still and the noise made by our group had probably awaken them as we saw the lights turn on in one of the rooms upstairs. But they seem to be used to it. Along the alley, you can see some ramps about two feet high, these are ramps used when the water is too high and Venice becomes flooded. I am amazed at how that is part of their everyday life. And it's not only the alleyways but the water must go inside their homes and stores which have a first floor. I searched the internet for some photos, and yes, it's how I imagined it to be, St Mark's Square under water and people walking in it, arches and doorways halfway flooded, chairs and tables halfway on the water, and even people buying food inside a flooded supermarket, all seem to be a normal day to them. We ended our visit that night walking through the alleyways that were all filled with stores, including brand name stores. There were also specialty stores, of which one of the funny shaped clocks caught my eye. I later went back to get myself one for my room at home. There were also a lot of Venetian masks for sale, which were very pretty. Folks in our group did get a couple of them for souvenirs.
We had our last look at Venice on our boat ride back to the mainland which was where our hotel is located. The views were wonderful but the wind was extremely chilly. For photographers like us, we braved the weather hoping to capture the memories of Venice that we will sorely miss.
Then it was time to head to the docks for our next excursion, a visit to Burano island, tagged as a photographer's paradise. We met up with the rest of the group which appeared with some black shopping bags from Murano. And so, we got on the boat again, and headed for Burano, an island sitting miles outside of the fish-shaped Venice.
Prior to that, while the rest of the group went to the lace shop, my niece and I ducked out to take photographs. After all, this is a photographer's paradise. We headed to the area near the water and found a small waterway leading to other areas of the island. It was one of the famous spots for capturing photographs of those color houses along the waterways of Burano. The difference here, as pointed out by our tour guide, was that here, the boats are owned by the residents, while in Venice, most of the boats are public transports, like the gondolas, speed boats, ferries, etc. We even saw one boat with the Japanese Hello Kitty sign, then later as we walked along the waterway, saw another house whose main door had a Hello Kitty sign as well. Hello Kitty seems to be popular in Italy, as we later found some more of these along Italy. Interesting :-) Another interesting sight we saw were huge fat jugs of wine covered in straw baskets on the boats. I guess this is why the fishermen get drunk after a night out at sea.
At the boatride back to Venice, we experienced a wonderful sunset. We headed up to the deck where the boat navigator was, and got a full 360 degree view around us. I got to practice my silhouette shots here, and just simply sit and enjoy the magical horizon as the sun goes to rest for the night (or at least does it rounds to light up the other side of the world).
After Burano, we headed back to Venice through Piazza San Marco, and we had some more time to do some last minute shopping. Before that, we all headed back to Piazza San Marco to take photographs of the group at the Piazza. I then headed back to the square selling the funny clocks and got mine. The rest of the group also got some small trinkets and others went for a pee break. Then it was time to head back to the docks. This time, we followed a short-cut, bypassing St. Mark's Square, but as expected, the signs were very scarce this way and you would sometimes just see a hand-written sign on the wall. We eventually got there. Despite the tight schedule, my niece managed to pass by to get the Venetian masks at the square.
After all, it was time to say goodbye to this magical island we call Venezia...