Italy
Sestière di San Polo

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51 travelers at this place:

  • Day210

    Day 211: Exploring Venice

    September 13, 2017 in Italy

    Off we go - time to explore one of the world's most interesting and exciting cities! Left fairly early, grabbed a quick Italian breakfast of a cornetti and espresso from a cafe downstairs, then walked the 20 minutes or so down to St Mark's. We got there around 9:45 and it was moderately quiet, though the queue to access the basilica was enormous already. Dressed in shorts and armed with a dog, we harboured no thoughts of even trying to get in, so we just admired from the outside.

    Did some filming as Venice is a world heritage site (of course), then commenced wandering. Checked out the Doge's Palace and the nearby Bridge of Sighs. Even after 20-30 minutes of looking here and heading back past St Mark's, it was noticeable how much more crowded it had gotten. All the comically overpriced cafes on the square were all still empty though, which was nice to see.

    Wandered along the waterfront back to the west, admiring Santa Maria della Salute from across the grand canal. This enormous church was built "for good health" after a plague in the 16th century killed off some 80,000 Venetians if you can believe that. Wandered some backstreets here, then headed back roughly towards St Mark's.

    More filming of various bits and pieces, particularly the canals criss-crossing the city. It's just so unusual (obviously), but still really interesting. The city was originally built on islands, though they've long since disappeared. All over the place you can see stacks of metal and wood objects, which sort of look like stacked chairs but aren't. Our host told us these are walkways for when the aqua alta (high tide) hits - apparently there's a siren that goes off and you then have about 3 hours to find higher ground. Still happens quite a bit, though generally in November and December ie the rainier times of the year.

    Wandered around the St Mark's district and eventually ended up back near the Rialto Bridge, which we crossed over again while dodging hordes of people. Had a quick look at "Marco Polo's House", although aside from a plaque there isn't really anything to see. I'd been given a few recommendations for food places in the San Polo district (just north of the Rialto bridge), so we found one of those and settled for lunch. We both had pizzas and a good chat with an American couple sitting next to us.

    Lots of people chatting to us here (usually about Schnitzel who was coping very well with the water, bridges and crowds), and since everyone is a tourist it's a good bet they'll speak English. Seems mostly American, followed by English and Australians. Far fewer Chinese than I was expecting as well, though they're definitely around!

    Found a fantastic gelato shop after lunch were we both had excellent purchases, then continued wandering. Headed back across the Rialto to the north side of the grand canal, and eventually made our way to the Jewish ghetto. This was one of the earliest Jewish ghettos in Europe, and although Venice was accepting of Jews who had been expelled from other places like Spain, they were forced to live in squalid conditions, locked in at night and made to pay for the guards keeping them in. Sadly during WW2 all of them were sent off to the concentration camps, and only eight (8!!) survived.

    Fairly tired and late afternoon, we made our way back to the apartment building via a supermarket where we purchased supplies for the evening. Since our building came with a small terrace facing the grand canal, we plonked our seats down and settled in for the evening, watching boats go back and forth and the shadows lengthen. Sipped our wine, munched on our bread, cheese and prosciutto and watched the world go by. Very enjoyable, though eventually it got cold and we retreated upstairs, very tired.

    Happy with what we'd achieved, but looking forward to another day tomorrow!
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  • Day23

    It's now 6.23am. Grace and I took the Alilaguna (airport waterbus) to get the girls from the airport yesterday afternoon. Before that, we made sure that we had breakfast for our jet lagged girls who would wake at 4am (11am Perth time), hungry. Now, both of us are wide awake, and our supposed jet lagged girls are fast asleep. We did keep them awake till 8.30pm (3.30am Perth time) last night although Kai was falling asleep waiting for dinner at Cantina Do Spade. This lovely eatery does not charge the 12% service charge or €4 seating fee as mentioned in the previous post. It was recommended to us by a gorgeous young lady sitting at the table next to us in Bologna. It was also a place our accommodation host in Venice marked on our map. With 2 recommendations, it loved up to expectations. We tried white polenta there for the first time. Nothing like yellow polenta, it's like what what white fluffy clouds would taste like, ethereal.Read more

  • Day21

    Venice

    December 3, 2017 in Italy

    Venice

    "Now. The rubbish" said our Airbnb host when we checked in.
    "We know. We take it to the street corner" said the seasoned travelers that we are.
    "Ahh.. Not street corner. Rubbish goes to a boat"
    Of course. We're in Venice. Everything goes in a boat. People, parcels, freight, and rubbish. There is even an ambulance boat.

    Venice is as beautiful, charming and atmospheric as it's claimed. It is not as dirty as we were warned, and the canals are not stinky. Venetians are more aloof, and not helpful. Athough they will give information and directions, they will not go out of their way. There is an abruptness in their manner that can be mistaken for arrogance or rudeness. I'm not sure if they are actually so. I think that it is just having to cope with the challenges of their everyday lives. For a start, twice in 24 hours, the tide rises, and very often it causes a flood. Our walking tour group were horrified at the thought of being flooded quite so regularly, but the guide brushed it off as just another day in Venice. Doorways on the ground floor are fitted with special metal sheets that slot in front of the door, and pumps are activated when water levels rise, and walking platforms are always on hand in case the path in flooded.

    Venice is expensive. Restaurants have a 12% service charge and €4 per head seating fee (coperto). Our experiences in the other towns was a flat €2-€4 coperto per head with no extra service fee. One way to get around that is to have cicchettis standing at the bar, or at the counter. Cicchettis are little tapas like food. There are displayed and one just points to yummy stuffed squids, fried anchovies, fish and meat balls, etc. Everthing is costly. Many churches even charge an entrance fee of €4, and then one still has to put that €2 in the machine to light the artworks. We got around this by going just before mass times when the entrance is free and some of the church is lit. This has to be timed just so if we don't want to stay for mass, but just want a quick walk around the church and surreptitiously exit before mass starts. We have sometimes entered quietly mid mass, but then we feel committed to stay till the end of mass, and do the quick walk around after. However busy or noisy the outside is, it's always quiet, and there's a stillness once the door of the church is shut behind you. So we soak in that for the rest of mass. In Bologna, there was a lovely solo by a Benedictine monk during communion, and it was heavenly.

    We were fortunate to be here in Venice on the first Sunday of the month when there is free entry to the Galleria Academia, the art gallery. We also chanced upon a free organ and choral concert at one of the churches after our 4.5 hour walking tour. These free (by donation) walking tours are a wonderful introduction to any city or town. We have done many in Spain, Australia, and now Italy, and have thoroughly enjoyed, and been informed by, every single one.

    Venice. It's really captured my heart. I love the windy streets, I love crossing the hundreds of bridges, I love the getting lost amongst it all, I love that I have a few more days here.
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  • Day16

    Rain on New Year's Day

    January 1 in Italy

    Despite our best efforts, Joe has come down with a little cold. He decided to go back to bed after breakfast, giving me two hours to walk around our neighborhood and get a little exercise. I made it up to see the Calatrava bridge (WHOSE idea was it to put a Calatrava bridge over the Grand Canal?), found a few more churches and nice piazzas, and just as my time was running out it began to rain. I am sure I was wandering in circles, but by following the signs to one end (train station and bus station) or the other end (Rialto and San Marco), I was always able to make it back to my little spot in the middle. I saw a fair number of people using their phones, but I think it is more fun to follow the signs, especially since I had no real destination in mind.

    We decided to spend the day in two museums that had unexpectedly opened on New Year's Day. One, the Modern Art Museum, had a painting by one of my all time favorites, Sorolla. That alone was worth the visit. Picasso, Miro, Calder, Max Lieberman, Klimt, Andy Warhol, Chagall and a few others you'd recognize also had paintings there. Lunch in the museum café was fine if not exceptional, and then we got a vaporetto down to a Doge palace open for visits, Ca Rezzonico. Though the building was much older, they had restored its furnishings and interior decoration to the 18th century style and it was quite grand. Lovely views right over the Grand Canal, those doges and their families had it pretty nice.

    The rain was still coming down a bit, so we decided to head back to the hotel so Joe could get another nap before dinner. I brought my cold-eze and Airborne, so he hopes to nip it in the bud. While he sleeps, I will try to figure out how we will get out to two islands tomorrow, Murano and Torcello, both of which have ancient churches. Murano is also the site of all the famous glass making, and a glass making museum, but I doubt we will be buying too many 45 euro glasses. Though some of them are very pretty! Dinner in a few hours back at a place where we ate a few nights ago. The waitress told us they were one of the few in the area that would be open for dinner on January 1, so we went ahead and made a reservation then.

    Only two more days, can't believe it!
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  • Day13

    Arrived in Venice

    December 29, 2017 in Italy

    We arrived around noon on the train from Bologna and decided to take the vaporetto to our hotel instead of trying to navigate all those bridges and stone streets with the carry-ons. I think anyone who arrives in Venice for the first time must have a reaction like mine -- jaw drops and you are awestruck.

    We were lucky to snag a table near our hotel at Zucca for a delicious lunch. Joe's tagliatelle with gorgonzola, walnuts and pears was yummy. We made dinner reservations there for Jan. 2 at the only opening they had for the next week. Then we walked to San Marco to see the main square and get our bearings. It's about a 20 minute walk from our hotel and we were happy to see that even though reading a map is pointless, there are lots of signs pointing you to Rialto Bridge, San Marco, Train Station, or Piazza Roma. So with a little bit of a sense of direction it actually isn’t as hard to navigate as I thought it would be.

    Several hours walking around, and we knew we would have no trouble filling the days here. The crowds are pretty huge so I can’t imagine what high season is like. Traffic jams of gondolas in the canals!
    People shoulder to shoulder on the Rialto Bridge! But I understand why.

    I don't want to overdo it with the superlatives, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
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  • Day14

    San Marco

    December 30, 2017 in Italy

    Our first full day in Venice, we decided to bite the bullet and shell out the 120 euros for a vaporetto pass for the two of us. This way we can hop on and off whenever we make our way to the Grand Canal after walking around a neighborhood or visiting a church or museum. We are apparently not the only people with that idea. At 6 pm tonight, the crowds on the vaporetto were crushing -- so much for the idea that you should use a vaporetto trip as a way to enjoy the sights along the canal! I think that getting off at a stop, enjoying the views, walking around the neighborhood and having a cappuchino is the better alternative. Think of your trips on the vaporetto as a necessary evil, you are unlikely to find a way to enjoy the Grand Canal while in transit. And as I have said before, if this is off-season, what can high season possibly be like?!

    But in spite of that, it is an inescapable truth that Venice is a gorgeous city. We visited the Doge's Palace and the Cathedral today, both spectacular. And in the afternoon we walked and walked through old streets to visit the beautiful church of Santa Maria Gloriosa del Frari. Two of my favorite paintings so far were in there, one a Titian (who is also buried here) and the other a 14th century Madonna. Another great dinner, also close to our relatively untouristy neighborhood near San Stae.
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  • Day18

    For our last day, we decided to visit a couple of museums and churches in different parts of town. That means we spent our last day doing pretty much what we have done on the other days -- riding on the vaporetto and walking through the neighborhoods. The Palazzo Mocenigo was our starting place. An 18th century palace preserved with original furnishings and a beautiful collection of 18th century male vests, embroidered of silk, linen, and lace. Wow.

    Then to the Guggenheim, lots to see and great views over the canal. I even saw a Jackson Pollock painting that I liked! After lunch, we navigated our way around to see a couple more churches. My favorite was San Nicolo di Mendicoli, kind of tucked away in a remote corner but we found it.

    Back to San Marco Square for one more walk around (still stupefied by the huge crowds) and then had a hot chocolate and sweet for twice what we spent on lunch in a cafe in the square. But where else can you listen to a piano player, eat a canolo, and look out the window and see the Doge's Palace? We have a reservation for one last Italian dinner in a recommended trattoria near the hotel. Tomorrow morning at 5 am we will be in a water taxi heading to the airport.

    Home sweet home beckons. I was glad to see that the temps have risen a bit. High tomorrow of 8 F (-13 C) with a low of -7 (-22 C). Always sounds so much colder in centigrade!
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  • Day15

    Happy New Year from Venice!!

    December 31, 2017 in Italy

    Today was absolutely my favorite kind of tourist day. The sun was shining in the morning and the vaporetto was not at all crowded, so we had a Grand Canal ride with great weather and great views. Then we took another across the lagoon to San Giorgi, a church designed by Palladio (the Italian architect whose name has been given to McMansion designers' favorite type of window). Amazing views from the bell tower.

    Then an hour or so walking in the main square area, and realizing how lucky we are that our hotel is not in this part of town. We are in San Stae, well located between the train station and the Rialto/San Marco area. Still lots of tourists, but nothing like the crowds closer in town.

    After a decent lunch in a little trattoria (when in tourist landia it pays to raise your budget a little and go for a white tablecloth place), we got back on the vaporetto and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the neighborhood named Canareggio. No more than 4 tourists on any bridge we crossed! In fact there were lots of streets adjacent to canals where we saw no gondolas, no trinket shops, nothing but regular people with their laundry hanging from the line outside. We saw a couple of beautiful churches, two in particular, both named after Mary, both gothic but radically different styles. We saw Tintoretto's house, and the churches had lots of Tintoretto and Titian paintings, so even though we didn't go to any art museums today we had our fair share of art.

    Surprising factoid of the day -- We went to the first Jewish ghetto and learned that the name comes from the Italian word for forge, because the Jews here were forced to live in an area of Canareggio that was the site of an old Italian forge.

    Well, tonight is New Year's Eve. We were kind of on the fence about braving the crowds to go down to the square for fireworks, but then our hotel owner gave us his opinion about the crowds and the fact that it will take hours to walk back in the throngs. And then to top things off, we saw the weather forecast is showing possible rain. So after Joe "rests his feet" (code for "takes a short nap") we will go see if there is any food to be had in any place in our neighborhood. If not, we have a bag of clementines and a bar of chocolate, which will hold us till tomorrow if need be.

    Happy New Year to all!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Sestière di San Polo, Sestiere di San Polo

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