Sunday, 7 October 2018

Italy Prima Parte: Water, Water Everywhere

I'm sitting in our B&B room in Agerola, high above Amalfi, as I write this morning, looking out at the clouds that sit on the terrace, with the windows wide open desperately hoping that the underwear and socks and tee shirts we washed by hand yesterday morning will somehow dry. Ha. Faint hope, I think. 

View of the Amalfi coast from Agerola
View of Amalfi taken as we walked the steps down from Agerola
Yesterday we hung them on the outdoor dryer on the terrace and made our way down to Amalfi on foot, in sunshine and heat. That's the view of Amalfi, above, about halfway down. We returned in clouds and rain, to our laundry as wet as when we left. With some weilding of the hairdryer, and a few hours in the window, I remain hopeful that I won't have to enact Hubby's canoe camping solution. (i.e. letting body heat dry them.) Ick. It may work in a pinch in the middle of Algonquin Park, but I've no desire to wriggle my way to Positano tomorrow in wet underwear. Okay. Maybe that's too much information?  

Anyhoo, Hubby has gone walk-about in the rain this morning, and I'm having a lazy morning to myself. The first since we landed in Venice two weeks ago. 

Ah, Venice. Venice was wonderful. Water, lots of water, and crowds, and emptiness. But, let me explain. 

We didn't actually stay in Venice, but on the smaller island of Murano, where the traditional glass makers live. We loved it there. Our room in our small B&B hotel had a balcony overlooking the canal from which we watched the boats chug by early each morning, delivering everything from toilet paper and bottled water to vegetables and wine to the various shops and restaurants. Murano was right up our canal, so to speak. Beautiful, quiet, and practically empty after 6 pm. That's the view from our balcony below.

Afternoon view from our room at the Murano Palace
Afternoon view from our room at the Murano Palace
I will say that on the first night the emptiness took us by surprise. We napped late in the afternoon, thinking we'd arise and, in an hour or so, join the laughing and chatting people enjoying an aperitif in the sidewalk cafes below our windows. Ha. When we finally made our way downstairs, we were shocked that everything was shut, locked up tighter than a drum. "What the...?"  Our host Cesare had said that Murano was very quiet in the evening, but we didn't expect it to be dead. "Never mind," we said, "We'll find something open." And we did. We ate in a different restaurant each night, had some very good meals, and each evening enjoyed a beautiful, almost ethereal, stroll back to our room at the Murano Palace. With the streets to ourselves, the light of a full moon reflecting on the canals, and the occasional church bell, I kid you not, it was so lovely I thought I might be dreaming. 

Moonlight on the canal in Murano
Moonlight on the canal in Murano
The next day we took the water bus to Venice. Wow. The crowds were overwhelming. And a bit off-putting. We booked a "skip-the-line" ticket to tour Basilica San Marco, and almost didn't make it on time. Because of high tides and strong winds, the square was ankle deep in water. We tried skirting the water only to encounter crowds of other tourists trying to do the same thing. So there was nothing for it but to pull off our sneakers and socks, roll up our pants, and wade. Funny how facing adversity together (or inconvenience, I should say) can make people convivial, isn't it? The other waders we met laughed at us, and we at them, and at the more squeamish who were trying to sidle along the edges and not get wet. By the time we made it to the end of the square, the boards had been set up and we waited patiently in line to shuffle along them, trying to stare down those who tried to butt into line. What is it about some people who think that lines are not for them? Hubby calls it "obliviousness," this inability to understand that we're all affected by whatever is happening. I call it the "but it's me" trait. The idea that some people know there are rules and queues, and still think "but it's me and I have to be somewhere important." I love the attitude of these wedding guests, below, who were still laughing as they waded.

Wading wedding guests in Saint Mark's Square
Wading wedding guests in Saint Mark's Square
Inside Saint Mark's we rented audio guides, which didn't work properly. Why does this always happen to us? So we simply wandered and looked. Later we found a small cafe for lunch, after briefly sitting down in another one, checking the prices, and leaving once Hubby had recovered from his near coronary. It was much more to our liking to sit in a cheap cafe in a side street, eat pasta, and watch the people. We saw one bride and groom, with a sweet little girl in her own pink wedding finery, arrive at the gondola stop, wait, and, after checking their map, decide that they were in the wrong place and hurry away. You can see them consulting their map in the shot below, with just a glimpse of the little girl in pink between them. I do hope they found where they were supposed to be. 

Bride and groom consulting their map in Venice.
Bride and groom consulting their map in Venice.
Later we took an interesting walking tour of the small streets and piazzas, and then squeezed into a very crowded water bus back to Murano. Once there, we breathed a sigh of relief that we'd decided to book into the Murano Palace. Away from the crowds. And the lines. Venice is amazing. Other worldly. But I cannot say the we exactly enjoyed our day there. On our final day, instead of returning to Venice as planned, we took the boat to Burano, watched a traditional lacemaker, chatted to a lady in a shop about the challenges of trying to keep this ancient art alive, strolled, and soaked up the ambiance. I'm glad that our last day was lovely, and not fraught with jostling crowds. I want the memory of pink houses in the sunshine, lapping water, and bobbing gondolas to be what remains in my mind when I think of Venice. 

Lovely quiet Burano with its colourful houses
Lovely quiet Burano.

colorful houses, and woman smiling on Burano Island, Venice
Matching my scarf to Burano colours
Since Venice, we've been in Florence, toodled through mountain passes and open "campos," and are now on the Amalfi Coast. I've much more to say about Italy (quel surprise) but time and sketchy internet signals may interfere. We've a little over a week to go before we head back to Canada, and my ramblings and philosophizing may have to wait until I'm ensconced in my little den back home. I will say I have developed a great love of church bells. Especially of the tinny, clanging variety. Hubby has said more than once that he thinks I've enough atmospheric videos of town squares at dusk with ringing bells in the background. The shot below is of the old town of Vieste where we had one of our best ever dinner experiences. But more on that later.

street lights, ancient stone stairs and walls in Vieste, Italy
Dusk in Vieste. Trust me, there are Bells.
Right now, as I'm writing, I can hear the little bell in the square here in Agerola; "the clock upbraids me with a waste of time" as Olivia says in Twelfth Night. The rain has stopped. Maybe my clothes are dry. And Hubby awaits. After all, I can't sit all day long, now can I? 

There's much more to come on Italy anon.  But for now, arrivederci, amici miei




Linking up this week with Thursday Favourite Things and Saturday Share Link-up.

12 comments:

  1. Ciao...what lovely memories you will have of the beautiful country of Italy. Venice is crowded and luckily we expected that during our time there and were mentally prepared for the overabundance of people and the high prices...like you I much preferred the quieter spots of Murano and Burano. Florence and the Amalfi Coast are two other very favourite locations for history and the views respectively...lovely vistas to enjoy and photograph. It appears that your travel wardrobe is serving you well as you look very well put together and comfortable to boot! I look forward to hearing more of your Italian adventures once you are back in your Canadian den. Godetevi le vostre vacanze...Cheers, Alayne

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  2. A lovely post -- we felt the same way about Venice, although at least the little house we stayed in was on one of the more out-of-the-way canals and quieted right down at night. Staying on Murano sounds even better!
    Crossing my fingers for you that you have some dry clothes tomorrow. . .

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  3. The travel Gods were with me on my stays in Venice. I encountered none of the commonly stated problems of overcrowding or high waters. I share your love of church bells. One travel memory I cannot erase is laying in bed, windows open in a decidedly non fancy left bank hotel in Paris listening to church bells. It soothes me. I hope the rest of your trip both soothes and excites you.

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  4. Your travel experiences sound wonderful except for the wearing of damp clothes. It amazes me that you have been able to find the time to let all of us readers know of your perambulations.

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  5. I am rather wary of Venice but I must say that Murano looks like a place to visit. And - people who will not queue. It can ruin my day. I become rather terse. Hope the clothes dried properly.

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  6. I've seen Venice both in mid-winter with not a soul in sight and the vaporetto cancelled by fog.
    And at Easter seething with a mass of people.

    In my just read pile was one about Murano and the glassblowers.

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  7. What a beautiful post! Your pictures are wonderful. As someone who has never been, I like hearing your advice about avoiding the crowds and taking in other areas. -Jenn

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  8. thank you for bringing back some very happy memories of venice.... and murano. i was there when there was an aqua alta and i remember the fun of wading through san marco

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  9. Glad you are enjoying your Italian experience. We have been to Venice three times but doubt we will be back. The large cruise ships coming into the Lido are increasing the number of daily visitors to epic proportions. It's the continuing "Disneyfication" of old European city's into playgrounds for tourists.There are many places in Europe now which are becoming "No Go" as tourism gets out of control. Think Barcelona and the protests marches of the locals there last year against tourists, who are their very living, but who have made their daily live's unbearable. Rome has also fallen victim to the same problem as has Prague. It's a huge problem and sadly is having a huge negative effect these beautiful old cities who are groaning under the weight of all the visitors. Glad you found Murano more to your taste.

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  10. Sue, I recognize that very bridge where the wedding party is standing ... and in July I had lunch at the same restaurant y'all ate below the bridge. GREAT pizza. And yes, very reasonable prices. Good service and at least one gorgeous waiter!

    The peace of Murano and Burano look so very lovely at night. But I do love Venezia itself so very much! Sometimes it's the company, the season, the weather, or random encounters that make me fall in love with a place or fail to adore it completely. For me, wandering the streets of Venice in early morning when St. Mark's is completely empty except for pigeons and a few sweepers, or at midnight when the crowds have thinned and lovers walk back to their hotels, leaning against each other, or at sunset on the Grand Canal when a fireworks sunset does battle with a rainstorm moving in from the sea -- it's about as good as life offers. Centuries blur and the pleasures of all ages of life blend into bliss ... or maybe it's the influence of Harry's martinis and Amarone. :)

    In any event, in Italy I'm Pollyanna -- happy to be wherever I've been deposited.

    Cannot wait to hear all your Italian debriefings whenever you're ready to share them.

    Ann in Missouri

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  11. Lovely photos
    I hope that you are enjoying in Italy (even Acqua Alta is a part of it's charm-an adventure and homage to Commissario Brunetti). There was a lot of rain even on my side of Adriatic
    Murano and Burano are so lovely,what a good choice for a stay ( I went to my seaside place for a wedding last weekend and have met less than ten people on the street on the first evening)
    Can't wait for the whole story
    Dottoressa

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  12. I have never been to Venice. Husband says we are going next year....but the crowds really do deter us. Have been to the Venetian Plain to see the Palladian Villas and that was lovely (granted, we were with Italian friends so that made it all very easy.) I simply do NOT do crowds, or lines. But your pictures, and Murano, look just so lovely. As for Amalfi and Positano and that entire magnificent coast...well, someday soon I must make it there. For now, it will be England and London as that is where daughter has moved!

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All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.