Venice – The Wet Wonderland

It is pouring in Venice, and I love and hate the weather. At times it’s a blast – wading through the San Marco Piazza, diving under canopies during the drenching downpours, mist and lightning over the lagoon, and the game of bumper umbrellas with the locals and tourists (locals are currently the winning team – I’ve never seen people navigate an alley only big enough for one person so ably enmasse before!) Then there are the moments I want to cry and crawl into my nice warm bed at home – when my feet begin to actually feel like the shriveled grapes they’re turning into, when a clueless tourist hits me in the head with an umbrella, when all the tourists around me are complaining.

On the whole, I think I rather like Venice in the rain. This is how Venetians live for 9 months of the year. I woke up super early this morning (my internal clock is all off) and just wandered the backstreets. I witnessed flocks of children meander to school without umbrellas and oblivious to the wet. Gondolas parked enmasse, still waiting for the tourists to awaken. Local boats plying the narrow canals with beer, wine, food, supplies for the local businesses. Everyone on their way to work. And a soft mist hanging over the church San Giorgio Maggiore across the water.

You can quickly spot the difference between a Venetian and a tourist. The tourists huddle under cover and in doorways, complain bitterly in a cacophony of languages, or regress to childhood by kicking off their shoes and wading barefoot through the flooded piazzas. (Something tells me that’s really not a good hygienic idea!) The locals walk briskly, umbrella whipping in the wind, feet safely dry inside big galoshes. I don’t have galoshes, but I do come from Portland, Oregon, so I’m trying to follow the Venetian way and just deal with the rain. My shoes may not dry for a week, but I’m seeing Venice!

The highlights of my sightseeing so far…Hands down the church across the Guidecca Canal from central Venice, called San Giorgio Maggiore. While most of Venice’s churches are overwhelming in their glitzy Baroque decor, this one is quiet, majestic, and simple. It was designed by Palladio, a great Renaissance architect who believed all architecture should be based on rational math and proportions. The dome is perfectly inscribed inside two intersecting rectangles. Palladio has influenced Western architecture for centuries, including many of the buildings in Washington D.C., as well as Jefferson’s Monticello. The inside is lit only by light coming in through the clerestory and the candles. It’s dim, still, and I was the only one there. I just sat there and soaked in the stillness – renewing to the soul.

I’ve also seen the famous San Marco Piazza, and it is huge. I cannot even begin to describe the scale. At one end is the San Marco Basilica. I waded through the acqua alta (floods) to step inside and marveled at the glittering wonder of its vast mosaics. The walls, ceilings, domes, every inch are covered in detailed mosaics, the images pieced together with tiny little pieces of tile. At times, the ceiling seems ethereal and glows.

I also explored the Doge’s Palazzo (palace). The doge was the ruler of Venice, and at the height of Venetian power, the doge controlled a vast sea trade network in the Mediterranean. Thus the palace is sumptuous – Baroque emotion translated through architecture and art. Huge Italian masterpieces, gold, mosaics, beautiful woods, just stunning and very intimidating (which was the point!) Attached are the prisons, where the government sent their political prisoners. Dank, smelly, cramped – not pleasant. Today’s weather really added to the experience as water trickled into certain areas of the prisons.

The other highlight? Food! I found the best little rosticceria near the Rialto markets. It’s tucked in a small lane, and resembles a traditional American diner from the 1940s. The staff is a bit surly, but that turned out to be a facade of efficiency, as once I began asking questions, they opened right up. I learned all about why Venetians think Italian food is so good – simple, fresh, quality ingredients. And they have hundreds of varieties of tomatoes! I had a simple spaghetti with fresh parmesan, which I know sounds boring, but this was unlike any spaghetti I’ve ever had! Along with a glass of wine, all came to about 7 euros. AMAZING value! To give you some perspective on that, most restaurant meals here would cost at least 20 euros, about $30.

Writing about food is making me hungary – time to hunt for another Italian meal! Tomorrow I savor one more Venetian morning, and then it’s off to Slovenia.

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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6 Responses to Venice – The Wet Wonderland

  1. Natalie says:

    Venice sounds awesome, Karina!! I’m happy to hear you arrived safely and are having such a beautiful time there! What is the name of the diner you went to? I am making notes for when I go to Italy this spring!

    • chronictraveler says:

      It’s a little hard to find, tucked into a side street next to the Campo San Bartolomeo, near the Rialto Bridge. There is a statue, face the same way he is, then turn left ad it’s in one of those side streets. Called Rosticceria San Bartolomeo.

  2. Pam Kulas says:

    Glad you arrived safely. As we are reading about Venice in the TO, we are all trying to figure out how and when we can all make a trip to Venice before we get too old!!!!!

  3. Barb W says:

    So very jealous!!! One of my favorite cities in the world. Been there twice, always sunny and dry. Of course that was 40 years ago. Do you still have to wear veils or scarves into the churches and have your shoulders covered?

    Stay healthy and have a great time.
    Barb

    • chronictraveler says:

      Actually, you just have to have your shoulders and knees covered – no shorts or tank tops allowed. And silence as you walk through.

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