Sunday, August 3, 2014

Vaporettos and the Glass Island of Venezia

Sunday morning breakfast in the Hotel Principe was a big deal. Everyone was dressed nicely like they had just come from church, which most probably had. It was more like brunch with groups of friends and families speaking Venetian Italian, eating and sipping prosecco. My kind of day but I didn't partake in the bubbly. The buffet was bountiful as there were many people, not all hotel guests, dining this morning and I without my camera. Oh well, you will just have to imagine the large bowls of fresh fruit, many beautiful pasticcini, pane as well as uova cooked to order and proscuitto coto, formaggio, yogurt, cereali. The cappucinos were abundant as well.
We made plans to hop on a Vaporetto (water bus) and do some sightseeing around the Grand Canal and beyond.  After crossing the Rialto Bridge we made our way to what is usually a bustling Farmer's market but today being Sunday was pretty much closed up. There was evidence of vendors so they must have been there at the crack of dawn.
The only way to really get around besides walking is by Vaporettos, Gondolas or Water Taxis. The latter two are pricey. We love local transporation so off we went to find the "bus stop". The Italians are so organized when it comes to purchasing tickets but you have to know the rules or you could end up with a huge fine or worse yet jail time for failing to pay the fares. So we found the ACTV machine and purchased day pass bigliettos and figured out where to stand and waited. But wait, Nate suddenly remembered we had to scan the ticket before going on board or face the above penalties. Whew! Got that mastered. You have to do this each time before you embark on the vaporetto. Here is a good sight explaining the ways to get around and how to in Venice .

Backside of the Vaporetto not a casino

One of the rare Gondolas that we saw with passengers
Water Taxi. Beauty wooden boats, all of them

A Sailor guided us over the plank onto the deck of the boat. It was a little blustery but we opted to stand outside to see as much as we could.
Our first stop was Piazza San Marco and the Basilica di San Marco. As we stood straining our necks upward to view the Campanile di San Marco ( Bell tower) and admire the Italo-Byzantine architecture of the Basilica, a pigeon decided to drop it's load on my only warm black rainproof jacket. What a mess. I found a bathroom and managed to clean it off. I guess that is supposed to be good luck? Don't think so. Anyway we wandered around the square checking out the Doges Palace where various souvenir vendors had set up their stands. We then went into the Basilica and their gift shop and made our way around the huge square. This is the largest and only Piazza of Venezia. All other squares are called "Campi" or camps.
Campanile di San Marco-Bell Tower
St. Mark overlooks the Piazza in all his gilded glory
Quite a few shops were open selling beautiful jewelry and glass art. We ducked into one that sold leather purses, shoes and clothing. I found a really neat purse. Thinking it was going to be super expensive I browsed around some more before asking the sales person how much it was. It turns out that I could afford it and after a bit of haggling, new purse!!
Italian leather, made in Italy and only 35eu

It was Sunday and I wanted a Prosecco. It didn't take much to convince the others what a great idea that was. The famous Harry's Bar where Ernest Hemingway supposedly hung out was somewhere in the vicinity but it eluded us. Finally we settled on a little bar and got comfortable before ordering. ( translation: we used the bagnos).
Our next stop was Murano, "the Glass Island" of Venice. It was out in the Lagoon.  We walked toward the Vaporetto stop and lo and behold there I was standing right in front of Harry's Bar. It certainly is inconspicuous! I popped inside to look at the $25. drinks people were imbibing in plus the decor and other touristy things. It looked like a place I could be very comfortable in if I ever win the lottery.
Easy to miss this landmark- Harry's Bar
The doors are etched with the name.
The vaporetto took us out of the Grand Canal and around the tip of Comune di Venezia into the large Venetian Lagoon. We passed Burano whose claim to fame is the Lace Museum and brightly colored homes. At last we arrived at our destination, Murano Island the famous Glass Island.
There are many artists throughout Venice but the glass blowers were sent to this island many years ago so they wouldn't burn down the mainland's wooden structures. Once on the island the craftsman weren't allowed to leave. So, for instance, if glass blower extraordinaire Giovanni wanted to take his craft elsewhere he could have his hands cut off or be assassinated by secret police. On the bright side they were held in very high regard and free from prosecution. Heck they were even allowed to carry swords and their offspring could marry into noble families. Needless to say they generated much income for Venice with demand for glass mirrors and delicate beautiful objects from around the world.

Our first impression after disembarking was one of solitude. It was Sunday for sure.
Lazy chilly Sunday afternoon, waiting for the laundry to dry
Sunday must be Laundry day and we were looking for glass shops!

Only a handful of shops were open, the museum was closed because it was Sunday and Winter time. No problem. It was hard to choose what to buy that we could afford and carry home. For my girlfriends I found beautiful little fish, a glass fish wine stopper, strings of glass beads and for me a cool glass lamp shade that looked so beachy that everyone agreed it belonged over my kitchen sink. The shop owner packed it up securely as I had to carry it home.

My Murano glass shade with typical "milleflore"embedded

On the way back to the water bus stop I found the equivalent of "seaglass" on the terracotta tiled streets. Free souvenirs!

Now we were hungry.  There weren't many restaurants open but we found Trattoria al Corallo. The sign said " Specialita Pesce" and there was an array of fresh fish and shellfish on display as we walked in. Plus it smelled so good, always a good sign. (The website I linked is in Italian but look at the pictures if you feel like it).  Trattoria al Corallo alludes to a family owned "corral" and the dining room is decorated like a western saloon. There were pictures of the wild west days of California as depicted in movies with popular stars, John Wayne, Ronald Regan, Audie Murphy, Roy Rogers and Trigger and other cowboy pictures also on the walls. It felt like home!
I ordered the seafood antipasti of fresh scallops in their shells, gamboroni ( which are large shrimp sort of like little lobsters), mussels, periwinkles, fresh anchovies, clams and what I think was sea urchin roe. Heavenly!!! Of course we had our requisite bottle of vino. I barely remembered to take this pic so didn't capture the other plates but I am pretty sure Vilia had a really good soup, Mike had prawns, which he loved and soup and Nate a seafood pasta.
Each component was well seasoned and very fresh

Time to head back to the Comune di Venezia.   We had quite a bit of time to kill so we stepped inside a little osteria and had more wine that came with one of their "spizziccare", little snacks. The one that stood out was a slice of bread shaped like an inverted pyramid stuffed with a hard boiled egg. Mike was alll over that one being a big fan of hard boiled eggs.
As we hopped onto the vaporetto all we could say is "I wish we had more time to spend here".
Arrivederci! Murano

That evening we wandered around and found a funky trattoria that featured hamburgers. It was run by an Asian couple and very busy. This is a word of advice. Do not order hamburgers in Venice period.
Looked okay, tasted horrible.