We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

365 days of Venice - Campo San Maurizio

Here's a typical everyday scene in Venice-- a local produce stand in Campo San Maurizio. Even though this campo is located on an easy walking route between San Marco and the Accademia, it's one of those litle places that is not overrun with tourists. That's why I love it so much. Here is everyday Venice, at it's best.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

365 days of Venice - sneaking a photo in

The holidays have kept me more busy than I had hoped- I find I am behind in my posts. If I don't sneak this one in here, I will really be behind on my goal of 365 photos of Venice. So- a day or so late, here's one more...


High Water, or Aqua Alta, is when the lagoon water level is higher than the level of the land, forcing water onto the city streets ( calles ), campos and piazzas. All around Venice you will see these elevated platforms, which are laid down in preparation of high water so people can navigate around without getting wet.

If you are a tourist should you worry about Aqua Alta? No, please don't be. In fact, look forward to it. If you should happen to be in the city on a day when high water does hit, embrace it. It's something so unique to Venice, consider yourself lucky to have been there to see it for yourself!

High boots, called "Wellies" are typically available in an apartment if you have rented one there, and disposable boots are sold by street vendors on days when there is high water. You'll see all sorts of makeshift accomodations, like plastic bags over shoes. The raised platforms to walk on will keep you dry,so get out and enjoy Venice.

365 days of Venice- in Castello

Castello is one of the six Siesteres ( districts) of Venice. It's boundaries run from just beyond the bridge of Sighs to the western tip of Venice. It's here you will find the Arsenale, the Biennale, San Zaccharia church, Campo Maria Formosa, Marco Polo's home, the Giardini, and Via Garibaldi, to name just a few of it's highlights.

If you wander down towards the Giardini, you will find Via Garibaldi, pictured above. Most tourists stop walking way before they ever get this far into Castello, but it's here where you will find the locals out and about. This is a great example of backstreet Venice - one of the areas you should seek if you want to find the real Venice.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

365 days of Venice- to the Airport, please

One of the three possible ways to and from Marco Polo airport is to go by this boat, the Alilaguna. Your choices are private water taxi, bus to Piazzale Roma or this direct boat, the Alilaguna.

For about 12 dollars, you are transported to the most romantic city in the world in about 25 minutes. Not too bad. If it's your first visit to Venice, you will be so excited to be on the lagoon. Trust me, you will be excited. You can't help it. You've read and researched preparing for this trip, you know from pictures what things look like, and now you are finally here. And can't wait for the trip from the airport to be over.

All you see is water at first, and you are impatient for your first sight of the city. Finally, you begin to see something recognizable.... the Campanile at St. Marks Square and the Doges Palace coming into view. For me, there is no better way to arrive here than this. The water approach to the city on the Alilaguna.

365 days of Venice- picture for a missed day...

A view from the bridge.. the Accademia Bridge, that is.

This is taken standing on the bridge, looking up the Canal ( hmmm, is that up or down? Not really sure) towards the Rialto bridge. In this picture you can see up the canal to the point where it makes a large bend to the right. That's the first bend in the "S" shape the Grand Canal makes.

It's a glorious view, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!!!

We wish you all peace, joy and love this holiday season.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

365 days of Venice- on a back canal

Here's one of those scenes you come on quite accidentally while roaming the streets of Venice. Out of no where, you see this absolutely gorgeous sight. No people, just sunlight on the canal, and a beautiful gondola. You can't help but stop to look and savor the moment.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

365 days of Venice - Daily transportation

Venice has no driveable roads, so the only way to get around is by water or walking. There are only a few methods of transportation available. Private water taxis are expensive, but they are convenient. Most every day travel is done via the Vaporetto, or water bus.

You must have a ticket validated before you get on board the vaporetto. If you do not have a ticket before boarding, and have not asked the attendant on the boat to purchase a ticket, the fine is fairly steep for riding without a ticket. Purchase your ticket at the station before getting on. You can get a ticket for one ride good during a 24 hr period, or you can purchase an unlimited ticket good for 3, 5 or 7 days. Venetian residents may by a monthly ticket, good for unlimited rides in that month.

Each Vaporetto line is numbered and the routes are published. The #1 , probably the most popular line, runs up and down the Grand Canal. If you are getting on a vaporetto, check at the station to be sure you know which direction you need to travel in, and take notice of the route information on each dock. This will show you the direction the boat will be traveling in, the stops it makes along the way, and the times you can expect the boat at each station stop.

One of my must do's in Venice is a ride up and down the Grand Canal on the #1, sitting as close to the front of the bow as possible. I love this ride during the day and also at night.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

365 days of Venice - Gondola's!!

Gondola Facts:

Each one of the six metal sections of the metal front piece (called the "ferro" seen in this photo) represents one of the siesteres of Venice.

A gondola is 35 feet long, 5 feet wide and weighs 600 kg.

The degree of curvature of the boat is based on the weight of the gondolier.

It takes 2 months to build a gondola.

All gondolas must be painted black.

Gondolas have 6 coats of paint on them.

A gondola costs between 30,000 -65,000 Euros, depending on the additional options selected , for example cup holders.

The oarlock, called the forcula, is often considered a work of art, as each one is carved or sculpted specifically for the gondolier.

Each gondola is built using 8 different kinds of wood.

Gondolas in olden days also had a removable cabin or "felse" used to protect passengers from bad weather.

Every 40 days a gondola must get a new coat of varnish to protect it from marine growth in the lagoon.

A gondola typically lasts 15 years. It can be refurbished only once.

There are about 400 gondolas operated by the Venice Gondola Association.

When a licensed gondolier passes away, his license is passed down to his family.

Each year only 3-4 new gondolier licenses are issued. The entrance exam to become a gondolier is very rigorous and requires extensive training prior to the exam.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

365 days of Venice - off the beaten path

Don't need words here, just enjoy the view.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Living the dream --- back to the Italian consulate

We have yet another visit to the Italian consulate scheduled for tomorrow morning. Wish us luck. This trip should be alittle bit different, and I'm hoping for a more positive outcome. What's different? A) we aren't going all the way to Philadelphia. After making a call to the local consulate office here in Baltimore last week, I was informed that we can drop off paperwork here instead. What a relief! B) We are applying for our Visas. All of the last trips have been related to dual citizenship paperwork. The consulate has now recommended that I take the citizenship application and documentation to Italy and handle that process over there. They tell me it will take much less time, probably only a few weeks. In light of that, we will need to have Visas, at least Mike will.

We are very hopeful that tomorrow will be a much less painful time at the Italian Consulate. Please say a few prayers for us.

365 days of Venice -- St. Marks Basilica

This place takes my breath away. It did the first time I saw it, it does every time I see it, without fail. That it inspires such a reaction from me astounds me. What gets to me most is the mosaic work on both the inside and outside. From far away, you see magnificent pieces of art, and when you are up close, you see millions of quarter inch square tiles pieced together into this tapestry of unparallelled beauty. There was such talent, artistry, and dedication put into the making of these mosaics. How did anyone dream these up, I have no idea. It's just plain awesome. Awesome.

On a typical day tourists line up to gain entrance to the Basilica. My recommendation is get up early to beat the lines. Being inside the church without the huge crowds is worth the effort. St. Mark's is definitely on the Venice must-see list. After touring the inside, go upstairs so you can walk out onto the loggia for a breathtaking view of the Piazza, the Doges Palace, the Campanile and the lagoon.

I was proposed to right here in St. Mark's square at midnight a few years ago, so you can see why this spot is special to me!

Monday, December 17, 2007

365 days of Venice-- finding a treasure

Santa Maria dei Miracoli is an absolute treasure in Venice. Located on the east side of Cannaregio, far off the tourist path in Campo Santa Maria Nuova is this church, often referred to a "jewel of the Renaissance". Not only is this church stunningly beautiful inside and out, but it is tucked in a little campo that is a terrific place to just sit and relax with a cup of coffee or glass of wine.

Definitely put this treasure on your list of places to find.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

365 days of Venice - The Rialto Market

On my list of top 10 things to see in Venice is the Rialto market. Get up early in the morning and walk to the market to see the most incredible display of produce and fish you will ever see. This is one of the best markets you'll find in Italy.

The first time I went to the Rialto Market we were in Venice for 12 days, staying in a hotel. We couldnt buy anything other than some fruit to eat that day, but I couldnt help but wish to shop there for food I could cook for myself. How could you not want to cook when you are surrounded by the abundance of unbelieveable produce you see here??

The next year I got my wish. I stayed for 3 weeks in an apartment in Castello and was able to walk to the Rialto most mornings to shop. I'd try to learn the Italian names for the things I wanted to buy, then I could ask for what I needed and try to have a conversation wtih the produce vendors. One morning when I needed some sage, I stumbled over the name. The woman in the stall came around to the outside and gave me a little Italian lesson. She took the time to point to each herb and teach me the name, then gave me the sage and basil that I needed for free, with a smile and a wave of her hand. This is one of my best memories of our visits to Venice.

One thing you must remember, not only at the Rialto market but in all markets in Italy--- don't touch the produce!!! You must ask the vendor for what you want, and they will select the best items for you.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

365 days of Venice- the origin of Barber Poles

Here's my pick of the day-- and I don't even know what these are called, but they remind me of barber poles. Now it will bug me and I will have to go do some research. Are they water poles? Does anyone know the answer??

These are a very common Venice sight. Some are more elaborate than others, each palazzo seems to have chosen their own personalized color scheme. As you ride up and down the canals you will see all sorts of lovely color combinations. Some poles are more ornate than others having some gold decorations at the top. And then there are the poles that have no brightly colored stripes, no carved top piece. Only plain wood pilings. Oddly enough, those to me are just as beautiful.

These poles are another of Venice's symbols. And just like the other sights I have posted here, there are so many varieties you can keep busy looking all day long and never get tired of the view.

So as you can see, my list of Venice favorite sights is growing: windows, the poles, gondoliers, directional signs. Wonder what tomorrow's will be ??

Friday, December 14, 2007

365 days of Venice - The City of Romance

I remember the day I took this photo. I was on the #1 vaporetto headed down the Grand Canal going back to the hotel. I looked up and was lucky enough to catch this scene. To me it was just a perfect image.

Couples come from all over the world to be married in Venice- and I know why. The city of romance is only one of Venice's many nicknames, but it is certainly appropriate. There is an air of romance here, you can feel it in your bones. There is no way to pinpoint what it is exactly, but it's there.

Maybe it's knowing that Casanova made his home here. Maybe it's the music that always seems to be in the air. Vivaldi is always playing from somewhere in the background. Maybe it's always seeing couples snuggled together in a gondola. Whatever it is, it's inevitable that you feel it. You cannot avoid it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

365 days of Venice --- Finding your way

Here's today's photo selection......

Getting lost in Venice is highly recommended. You never know what wonderous sight is around the corner, and you would never have discovered it if you hadn't gotten a bit lost. And how does one get lost? Just keep walking. Don't pay attention to your map too closely. Walk in the opposite direction that the crowds are going. Dare to be adventurous! One can never get too lost in Venice. Someone had the ingenious idea to post signs to help us find our way back. Like the one in this picture pointing the way to the nearest Vaporetto stop. Funny they knew we'd need the assistance. And in this particular spot, you are way off the beaten path and totally in need of that push in the right direction. I walked under this archway, ran into the wall and without that sign, wouldn't have known which way to go.

Whenever you can't figure out which way to go, just seek out the nearest building and look up to the top of the first floor, on the corner. There you will see one, or possibly more signs, pointing you in the direction of a major landmark like St. Marks or Rialto or Accademia. This will either help orient you on your map again, or just allow you to keep walking in the general direction you choose, eventually you will arrive where you need to be. It's really quite simple, and so helpful.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

365 days of Venice -- Venetian blinds!!!!

I have a long list of things I love about Venice. Windows are definitely near the top of that list. I simply cannot get enough of the windows in Venice. Honestly, I could post 365 pics of windows from our photo collection and still have more left.

Windows come in all sizes and shapes. Most of the time they are shuttered closed. When I see that I wonder who might be behind them. What kind of life goes on behind the shutters. The ones in this pic are particularly beautiful to me. I love the shape of them. But, these are not the kind you would find in a typical Venetian's house. These are on a palazzo on the Grand Canal.

Does anyone remember Venetian blinds? Look carefully---these are on the OUTSIDE of the window!!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

365 days of Venice --- Day 1

As I was going through pictures tonight, I realized we have thousands of pics of Venice and I should be sharing them. Showing a different one each day would be fun. And even more fun for me to select the perfect one to post every day. Looking at them allows me to relive the moment also, and I can't think of a better way for me to spend 5 minutes or so every day. So here goes........
If I were to pick a title for this one, I'd call it "Gondola Guys"

If you have never been to Venice before, let me just say that this is a very common sight. One I never tire of. Just as I will never tire of hearing the gondoliers calling out "Gondola, Gondole".
( That's "Gondola, Goldolas" in English ) The gondoliers in this picture are right in front of St. Marks and the Doges Palace. The gondoliers hang out at gondola stations waiting on customers. Trust me, there is no shortage of tourists wanting their gondola experience.

A gondola ride costs approximately 80-120 Euros for up to 6 people in the gondola. The price varies by a) length of the ride b) time of day and c) location of the gondola. The closer to St. Marks or the Rialto, the higher the price. Nighttime is more than daytime, and a ride of between 35-40 min is on the lower end, 60 minutes being on the higher end of the scale.

I am often asked if a gondola ride can be skipped. Heaven forbid, NO! Don't miss this! Skimp on food one day if you must, but don't miss a gondola ride. You see Venice from an entirely different perspective. You are transported to another place and time. It's quiet, it's serene, it's magical, its romantic, it's Venice!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Living the dream- Sending Sam and Leo ( our dogs) to Italy

The move to Venice is about a month away, and I have been diligently ticking off items on the Extrication plan- well, let's face it, it's a giant To-Do List. One of the most pressing items left on the list is to work out how we will get our dogs Sam and Leopold shipped over. Everyone asks us if we will leave them here. NO WAY! These are our boys, no matter what herculean effort is necessary, they are making this move with us. But- I want the move to be as easy on them as possible. Sam is going on 12 yrs old-- he's the old man of the family. I need them to be handled with care and I need them to arrive safely.

Like almost every other item I've had to tackle, there has been a lot of information to plow through about how to transport animals, and subsequently a lot of decisions to make. Almost overwhelming. I've gotten through what appears to be the information gathering stage. I have one more phone call to Lufthansa to check out their policies. After that, I think we can make the decisions necessary.

First of all, we needed to learn the requirements for bringing the dogs into the country. The necessary documents have to be presented to the Italian consulate before we can take them. The dogs need to be micro chipped by our vet, and also the vet must complete a certification indicating the dogs are in good health and all inoculations are up to date.

Decisions about how to fly them over include a) fly them as excess baggage on the same flight we are on, b)fly them as unaccompanied cargo on a different flight, or c) obtain a transport service who will move the dogs from home to destination for us, and also handle the necessary paper work.

Obviously our preference would be to have them on the same flight with us. There's a huge level of comfort for us knowing that they will be with us the whole way. There's also a huge amount of nervousness about how they will do down in the cargo hold. We are learning that there are pet friendly airlines who will take care of things like walking them during flight layovers and making sure they are fed. Then there are other airlines who just make sure they are loaded onto the plane and that's it. Also, we are flying in January, and many airlines will not fly the dogs if the temperature outside is below 45 degrees. I can totally understand that. And that also creates a dilemma--- what if, on the day we have tickets for the temp drops below that? We can fly but the dogs have to be left behind. In the immortal words of Pietro Paprizzio (from my favorite Casanova movie)--- "Oh, Calamity!!"

When we have this one figured out ( soon !!), I'll post the results. And for sure I will post a picture of Sam and Leopold arriving in Venice. That will be a happy day for all of us!