We are just back from our non-honeymoon in Italy. 12 days, and it was… glorious!
Italy is everything you imagine on those occasional Olive Garden nights sitting across from your love at a candlelight table, slurping spaghetti & meatballs, Frank Sinatra softly crooning in the background. (Except there is no such thing as complimentary breadsticks and salad). Also we never heard any Frank… Maybe it’s just hearing Italian on the lips of people as they pass you on the streets. Such a lovely and musical language even when they’re complaining to each other. Or maybe it’s because you are actually encouraged to eat pasta every day, or pizza. No carbs? No italian. Or maybe that you can find a tasty cup of coffee for just one euro on pretty much every corner…Glorious!
Our first stop was in Verona, which has an outdoor amphitheater that is similar in structure to that of Rome’s Colosseum, although smaller and not partially…decayed. Verona’s Opera company hosts live shows during the warmer months of the year. Unlike our last opera experience (Orlando Furioso anyone?), we actually enjoyed this show (AIDA!) and made it about half way through it before the squirming got the best of us and we decided to leave. I mean, the full show is 4 hours long, can you really blame us for not staying the whole time? 🙂
The next day we went to Venice. After seeing it, I find it hard to imagine that anyone spends more than 2 nights in Venice. Not because it’s ugly. Because it’s not ugly, its lovely, and the whole sinking city on the water thing holds a sort of morbid romantic lure. But really, it’s incredibly expensive and completely overrun by tourists. I know, I know, I am a tourist. But it’s hard to get a true feel for a place when you can’t get a sense of the way real people live there.
One thing we learned about Venice, is it was the home of world’s first ‘ghetto’. The Jews were allowed to live in only one section of the city, the foundries. The Venetian word for foundries is ‘getti’ over time with the accent the word developed into ‘ghetto’. Anyway, the Jewish Ghetto is completely surrounded by water. The city installed a curfew for the Jews, and the bridges were heavily guarded throughout the night. Until Napoleon the conqueror came to town. He lifted not only the curfew but decreed the end of the Jewish segregation.
Interesting news regarding the whole ‘Venice is a city slowly yet surely sinking’ thing: A project cleverly titled the Moses Project has been underway for the last several years. In it they have invested billions of euros in research and construct materials for a way to prevent the city from sinking further. A few weeks before we arrived to Venice the city mayor and apparently the entire city council was arrested on charges of corruption. Reportedly they had been skimming money, making bribes and had made contracts with companies for production materials that were not even water resistant!?! Sadly, corruption is very much a problem in beautiful Italy. We spent only one night in Venice, but we did the one cliche-ed thing of absolute importance. We spent a ridiculous amount of money in order to experience a “romantic” ride on a gondola.
I guess at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas the gondolier’s sing to you, but that doesn’t happen here. I don’t get what the big deal is about the gondolas. I suppose the appearance of the boats alone are a novelty, and the striped shirts that all the gondoliers wear. But really, it’s a lot like a canoe…. (is it ok that I said that?) It was interesting though to realize that boats on canals operate very much like cars on a highway. There are traffic jams from time to time, the drivers of boats yell and gesture to each other, and there are mirrors set up in various canal intersections to avoid an accidental collision in a blind spot. In addition to the mirrors they make a certain ‘ahooy’ call out at the intersections where there are now mirrors, announcing their presence. Mauricio thought that was pretty cool and continued to make that ‘ahooy’ call out repeatedly throughout our Italy trip probably for the sole purpose of it embarrassing me. 🙂
Venice has long been a celebrator of Carnival (in the states known as Mardi Gras). Shown in the image above is the typical popular male mask worn by the Venetians. Carnival was hugely popular in Venice, as typically Venice adhered to a very strict class hierarchy. The time of carnival was the one time rich man or poor man could hide their wealth/lack of wealth and do and go whatever/wherever they wanted without consequence.
After Venice we went to Florence. I will have to do a separate post all about Florence. But bottom line, it’s awesome. So go, go, go. For the love, if you have the opportunity, GO. It’s the birthplace of the renaissance!!!!
**also I uploaded more Verona and Venice photos on the Photo Gallery page**