……. all of a sudden here was ‘the bridge with no parapet’. Worth seeing, but a minute later there were about ten people on there having their photos taken…….Looking at our map we saw we were fairly near the Rialto Bridge and so we headed there with the thought of using our vaporetto tickets some more. After a quick think we caught a vaporetto going to Murano island, famous of course for its glass…..We went under the Rialto….and were soon on our way up the Grand Canal again….a lovely relaxing ride over the lagoon, and we were there.What a contrast to Venice. No hoards of people. No clicking cameras. Just a smattering of ordinary people who actually live here. Yes there were a number of glass shops and I am sure Murano does get busy. But not when we were there, thank goodness.The church’s plain facade and stark isolated bell tower belied the face it presented to the canal…..and there were some lovely features inside, including the floors……and naturally some glass work……there were even ordinary shops…..and rows of ‘ordinary’ houses….Feeling thirsty just before we were to catch our return boat, and unable to find a local bar or cafe, we popped into a boutique hotel which had just recently opened…. we were on our own.It was really very pleasant, and the view………We returned a slightly different way across the lagoon and this took us past the cemetery on San Michele island… in fact the whole island is only occupied by churches and by long ranks of tombs. Fascinating.We disembarked at the station where we were a little early, but the evening light was fantastic….and rather than join the policeman and his girlfriend at the station bar, we took our drinks outside with a bag of crisps and sat on the steps…..until the turning on of the lights notified us of our train….Back in Verona, the evening mood walking through the streets for home was delightful….and in Verona as in Milan we were always seeing stylish new shops……here a quirky display from an optician. For some reason F. told me Verona is famous for its opticians and eye-testing……..The next day, our last, we were due to catch a bus to Lake Garda a short distance away, but we were awakened to an enormous storm (lots and lots of thunder and lightning). It lasted all day and led to us staying in and playing a new and enjoyable game, given to us by our daughter, lots and lots of times (Bananagrams). The weather abated for the evening and we had a last stroll around Verona, calling at a locals bar for a last drink or two….On the day of our leaving we popped around the corner to the cake shop we had only just discovered for breakfast, again with lots of locals who nearly always stand….and after a last shop at the grocers for a bottle of Limoncello and some olive oil..we made our way to the bus stop by the river, passing a very busy artists school…to arrive eventually in plenty of time at the airport – this time Bergamo – which as you can see is quite scenic itself. What a magnificent trip.
After a quick cup of coffee next morning we caught the bus to the station and then the Italo train to Venice (all booked at home on Trainline). I still can’t get over the amazing sight that greets you on coming out of the station concourse. You are immediately in the heart of Venice and its canals. Right there. At the start of the Grand Canal. It’s like stepping onto a film set. Incredible.We knew that the water taxis – the famous vaporetti – would be nearby. They were right outside.We grabbed a day ticket each (12 Euros) and what a bargain that proved to be. It was worth it for the trip into the centre alone. The boat went more or less the whole length of the Grand Canal stopping along the way. What a journey. Click after click went my mobile.And what I couldn’t get over was how busy the waterways were. Particularly with goods traffic. Everything from dredgers with their miasmatic loads to DHL boats (imagine) to fruit and veg boats. I really hadn’t appreciated that this was how it would be.I understand that gondoliers get around £95,000 a year……..but they still can’t afford to live in Venice itself…….
But the architecture was something else. We all know the problems of Venice – the stupidly large cruise ships, the conversion of old buildings to hotels, flats, Airbnb, the loss of residents to tourism. According to Bloomberg ‘The city’s population basically peaked in the 1500s, and though it rallied again to near 16th century levels in the 1970s, today there are just one third as many Venetians as 50 years ago.’ Less than 50,000 residents compared to over 20 million visitors each year, of which over half are day trippers (just like us). It’s all a disaster. Basically the place is a museum. But what a museum! All too soon our journey was over and we disembarked at the Piazza San Marco. Because we were here for such a short time we had no intention of actually going inside places (just as in Milan). That would have been pointless to try. Instead we wanted to ‘feel’ Venice. So, we enjoyed the sheer size and splendour of the Doge’s Palace…..the Piazza itself (Napoleon called it the drawing room of Europe)……and of course the Basilica….as well as the Renaissance-style clock tower…However fairly quickly and decisively we headed off down the nearest street in order to escape the tourists….(sorry, I should say the other tourists)….That escape never came. We walked 30,000 steps that day, (according to my app about 12 miles, but say 8 or 9 miles), and we never got rid of other tourists. They were literally everywhere. And not only tourists, but tourists’ shops. Like Blackpool in the 50’s. Well not quite.But you could have 200 million visitors a year let alone 20 million, and you still wouldn’t take away the beauty, the specialness of the city…..around every corner, and I do mean every corner, a wonderful view……We were heading for the district of Castello to visit a special bookshop. But we just headed in a general direction, not concerned whether we got lost…..which we did frequently…and eventually we were there……the Libreria Acqua Alta. In this unique shop, which has been called one of the most beautiful in the world, and is certainly one if not the quirkiest, books are stored and on display in gondolas, canoes, and bathtubs. Books are even turned into furniture and architecture themselves! Books that got ruined by high water, or acqua alta have not been thrown away, but have been used instead to become decorative features, walls or even the steps of a book staircase that gives wonderful views over the canal. It is unbelievable. Especially to a couple of people like ourselves who owned two very nice bookshops. The guy who owns this has turned a problem into an opportunity in a very big way indeed.We sat fascinated by the loop of film which shows the shop actually under water……and as for the full-size gondola in the middle of the shop……Incroyable!Unless we had seen it we wouldn’t have believed it, but lunch called…..and we resumed our magical footstepsand we were so lucky to find what on this day was probably the quietest piazza in the whole of Venice…….we had yet another ‘special’ birthday lunch here at Osteria Boccadero (I was doing so well with this birthday….). It was really really nice. And my squid ink seafood linguini was delicious…….Suitably rested and refreshed we only had one more ‘objective’ (good to have objectives) on this day, and that was to see the ‘bridge with no parapet’. This involved a walk along the lagoon side of Venice along a lovely promenade, then cutting back towards the Grand Canal…..