Italia: Endeavour Language Teacher Fellowship


Monday, January 16, 2006

Venice: gateway to the Orient

January 15th: Gondolas, palaces and much to look at in only six hours! Another early start, a quick shower and yet another battle with the hairdryer in the room which looks a lot like a vacuum cleaner which works in reverse. Twenty minutes later, hair finally dried, it was downstairs for a very quick breakfast. We caught our bus outside the castello at 8:00. Nonna was actually there on time but Carmelina was late telling Adrian as she got on the bus that she had "decided to join her club." Then it was a three hour bus trip to Venice.

Upon arrival there were caught a water taxi across to the main city centre. Today I spent the day with Rosanna, Belinda, Maria, Fiona and Rosemary. Rosanna had a strategic plan of attack for the six hours we had there. Venice is certainly a beautiful city. I didn't know where to look first...up, down, left or right. Tall towers and duomos loomed everywhere and then there were the breath-taking watery scenes. Rosemary and I had our cameras out snapping away as soon as we put our feet on dry land. A toilet stop was our main priority however. We finally found a McDonalds(yes, they have taken over the world) and could then relax.

After a quick withdrawl at a bancomat first stop was the Doge's Palace(Palazzo Ducale) which was impressive. This was the official residence of each Venetian ruler(doge) and was founded in the 9th century. It was also the seat of the republic's government, housed bureaucrats and contained the prisons. After we put our backpacks in the bagroom we spent two and a half hours there looking at the luxury of the time and feeling the coldness, dampness and despair of the prisions which were deep beneath the palace. The torture chamber was a place where suspects were hung from their wrists from a cord in the centre of the room. The Sala del Maggior was a magnificent hall where the council members met. It wasn't hard to imagine up to 1700 of them in that area. The hall is lined with gigantic paintings depicting battle scenes of the times and Tintoretto's huge Paradise fills the end wall. I think this is one of the largest paintings in the world. We took quite a few photos on the Giant's Staircase looking out past Mars' posterior. I was also impressed by the bocca di leone(lion's mouth) which was used to post secret denunciations. This is the second photo above. Maybe we need one at Hotel Giardino!

At 1:30 we met with Antonella as arranged earlier that morning and six of us took a forty-five minute ride in a gondola; an experience not to be missed and well worth the twenty Euros. With six in the gondola the guide would ocassionally use his foot to push off a wall here and there just to keep up the momentum. Apparently the gondoa has been a part of Venice since the 11th century. With its slim hull and flat underside it is just perfect to navigate the narrow and shallow canals.

It was then time for a quick stand up snack, un panino con formaggio and a coffee. We then set off for the markets in the Rialto area. The Rialto takes its name from rio alto meaning high bank and was one of the first areas of Venivce to be inhabited. We found some exquisite little shops selling jewellery, the majority made out of glass and spent up pretty big time on small gifts for friends and relations. I also took the opportunity to photograph masks in shop windows and around the markets as I am going to have some mask-making sessions with my students this year. I bought a small one to take back with me as an example to show the students. Rosemary found an interestng leather one. Goretti and Adriana bought very lavish handmade ones. As it grew dark we all met near the water taxi were ferried across the waters and caught our bus as planned at 7:00. Three hours later we were back "home" at the hotel.

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