Monday, 5 October 2015


7th Sept 2015

St. Mark's Square, Bell Tower, Doges' Palace and Bridge of Sighs taken from the Bell Tower of the Chiesa di St. Giorgio Maggiore.

Today we were to be be taken by a 'private' vaporetto from the railway station to some outlying islands. All aboard and off south and then east along the Guidecca canal running along the south of the city. Guidecca (pronounced 'Jewdecca') is a mile long island which, in olden days, was the focal point of Jewish business and residence. On the eastern end is a small island which houses the grand Chiesa (church) di St. Giorgio Maggiore; he of slaying dragons fame.

Left: On the bridge of our vaporetto.

We passed the new port which normally has at least half a dozen mammoth cruise liners at anchor (as per right). It is a 'must' stop for all intrepid, and often Japanese, cruising tourists. These ships are responsible for doing untold damage to the local environment, but the place can't do without the money they bring in.

Left: The little island off the east tip of Giudecca and the Church of St. Giorgio Maggiore. A bit blurred because the spray up top meant I took the pic from downstairs through a dirty window.

The top of the bell tower provides a good vantage point to view the main island to the north. No climbing stairs; it has a lift. 

View to the north as at head of page. To the south is another little island on which is located the famous, and outlandishly expensive, Hotel Cipriani (right). Wasn't that the place much featured in the news as the venue for George Clooney's wedding reception?

Left: To the west, the island of Giudecca and, on the far skyline, the town of Mestre.

To be honest, as a professional philistine, I'm not really turned on by the interiors of these imposing and elaborately built grand churches. They all look much of a muchness to me, inside, with towering ceilings, ostentatious and rather 'gloomy' paintings around the walls (probably by Titian or Tintoretto or some such) ranks of uncomfortable pews and silent milling tourists. The outsides of the buildings is what grabs the eye.

Onwards we chugged for the 40 minute trip up to the island of Morano. This is located north of the 'fishes tail' of the main island. As a matter of interest there are 118 islands surrounding the main one. Anyway, Morano is famous for it's manufacture of glass.

We were taken to one of the many 'furnaces'; Ferro Lazzarini. 

...where we were given a demo on how the glass ornaments are made. Quite impressive really. The glass 'blower' made a multi-coloured vase, then an elaborate multi-coloured ornament of a horse in front of our eyes all in the space of 10 minutes. The glassmaker's apprenticeship lasts about 12 years and the portly chap who gave our demo had worked there for 40. Not surprisingly, considering the work involved in stiflingly hot, uncomfortable and unhealthy conditions, they are running out of apprentices. The industry is slowly dying.
We were not allowed to take photos of the goods on sale in the factory shop; some of which were incredibly elaborate, such as coffee sets costing up to $12,000. I bought a cheap 'horse' for $20. They will post any large expensive purchase to you in what they described as "totally protective packaging". I wonder if that really would stand up to the attentions of the British Post Office 'grab, throw and stamp' treatment. 

The Morano technique for shaping and, especially, colouring of the glass is a closely guarded trade secret. I gathered that the red colouring is the most expensive as it involves adding powdered gold. In medieval days, a glassblower was not allowed to leave the employ of the factory in case he divulged the secret procedures to the opposition. If he did, and was caught, he was executed. That seems to me a pretty good incentive to maintain a loyal and trustworthy workforce. 

Next port of call was the neighbouring island of Borano. This place is famous for it's colourful houses (right) and the manufacture of lace and, of course, tourists.

Left: One of the many shops selling lace. Most of this is still made by old ladies slaving away on some of the more intricate pieces for years at time. This is reflected in the price. Very impressive, I'm sure, but I am not that interested in buying lace. I went for a good lunch instead. These islands do exceptionally delicious seafood menus.

On back to the main island vaporetto station near the entrance to St. Marks Square. On the corner here is Harry's Bar (right), famous for it's trade-mark drink, the Bellini. A fairly innocuous looking place on the outside. 

Left: Inside the small bar. Quite unassuming and definitely more to my taste than all those boring grandiose churches.

I only noticed later that taking photos was 'discouraged' (on bottom of menu, right). Nobody seemed to mind, and the staff were absolutely charming....and Italian. 

Left: ....and my Bellini. Cheap at 16.50 Euros. As you probably know,  it is a simple cocktail of peach juice and prosecco. Not bad, but a bit sweet and 'tarty' for my taste. A girly drink really, but I felt I had to give it a go. It came with a (gratis) dish of olives which were delicious and preferable to the drink.

Right: A rather glum looking gondolier, but at least he was correctly turned out. Maybe he was touting for business, or just having a break.......

....or maybe contemplating the result of his leaky gondola nearby. I can imagine him shouting in alarm to a couple of passengers "no toucha that plug!", before they abandoned ship.

We passed this 'yacht', the Octopus (right), which is a little toy owned by Paul Allen the co-founder of MicroSoft. I expect he was popping in for a spot of gondoliering.

'Trending' on sale (by immigrants) in every street, piazza and campo in Florence and Venice, and probably every Tuscan tourist town, were 'selfie sticks' (I would have thought everyone would have one of these ridiculous things by now...other than me) and these toys (left). They flatten when thrown onto the ground, like a fried egg, then regain their shape. I actually bought one (1 euro, haggled down from 2). I tried it when I got back to the hotel. It simply exploded on the floor and made a filthy wet mess. I had been sold a dud. No guarantee issued unfortunately.

I passed this chap playing water filled 'musical' wine glasses. He was absolutely brilliant! I stayed to listen to a series of complex and tuneful 'classical' renditions. Such talent found in odd places.

...and these 'beggars' (left). At least they were being honest.

A quick visit into the Hotel Danieli (foyer right) which is only slightly cheaper than the Cipriani. It sits on the waterfront just along from the Bridge of Sighs. A gin and tonic costs 18.50 Euros. It seemed most of the guests were of the wealthy bejewelled American widow type.........

.......or very scruffily dressed, and presumably rich 'blokes'. I suspect they were Russian (left).
It really does lower the tone a bit when these sort of people can't be bothered to dress even semi-respectably in what are very grand surroundings but, I suppose, they pay mega-bucks and can do what they like.

There is a very pleasant roof-top restaurant with great views over the if you have a few hundred Euros to blow, that might suit you nicely. 

Right: Chiesa della Salute; another imposing cathedral on the south side of the entrance to the Grand canal in the Dorsoduro district. 

...behind which is a jolly good eatery on the waterfront called Restaurant Lineadombra (left). I decided to have supper there. As with most Venetian restaurants, the staff were amazingly charming and helpful. The menu prices were quite reasonable and it had a vast wine list. I thought a bottle of wine, a Chateau Margaux, at 1,650 Euros was a bit pricey until the wine waiter pointed out a bottle of Romani Conti which cost 25,000 Euros!....and lots in between. I asked who would possibly pay for this and was told "Russians".  My glass of decent vino cost 7 Euros, so they catered for all. Anyway, if you are passing that way, strongly recommended. 

Back by vaporetto and bus to Mestre. We have a 'free' day tomorrow so will try a bit more touristing. 

1 comment:

  1. It's means it is. Surprised they didn't tell you that at Uppingham