Thursday, June 14, 2012

Around the World in 80 Bajillion Pictures: Part 5, Venice & Verona

You know what's interesting about Venice?  I don't think I ever saw a chick driving a boat.  I did see a few hunky shirtless guys in boats, but never with a lady behind the wheel.   Not sure if the ladies prefer to be chauffeured or if it's a social injustice we should all rise up against - Italy doesn't really strike me as an equality-of-the-sexes suffragette state, but what do I know?

What I do know?  I freaking love Venice.

We sailed into Venice on the Crown Princess, wildly snappy photos during the slow glide through town, and disembarked there.  Which could have been sad, but our next place to lay our heads was here:

... so no complaints. (We had a wrap around balcony with views of the Adriatic on one side and Venice from the other!  How insane is that?)

The Excelsior Resort on Lido was actually quite famous, back in the day.  Winston Churchill stayed there, along with an elite smattering of other political figures and movie stars.  It had cabanas along the beach and the kind of presence and grandeur that few newer places can achieve.

I would have loved to see it during it's heyday.  Back in the twenties and thirties, I bet it was the place to be seen.  I kind of wish it would come back to that.  That some movie star would tweet about the Excelsior with its fabulous blend of nostalgia and luxury, and suddenly all those private cabanas are filled and it's alive again.  It seems like most places that were once grand have been consumed by modernism and lost their personality, but Lido has retained its elegance and its charm.

If you're going to Venice, I highly recommend staying on Lido.  It's only a twenty minute water-taxi ride from the heart of Venice (and some hotels, like the Excelsior, have free private shuttles taking you to and from St. Mark's Square), it has a beach resort feel so you can get away from the mad, rushed tourism (and noise) of Venice and relax, and in most cases it's substantially cheaper than staying in comparable places in Venice itself.

Ah, lovely Venice.  Every time I go there, I remember how much I love it.  St. Mark's Square, the Basilica, the Campanile...

...the Doge's Palace...

...the Rialto, gondaliers singing and the glorious maze of paths leading up around and along the canals.  Midnight in Paris had put me in a twenties mindset and tempted me to go to Paris, but Cole Porter and Hemingway both lived in Venice too and to me it has always been the more romantic, more inspiring city.

If only it didn't cost a mint to live there...  and if only it weren't slowly sinking into the sea... other than those tiny little obstacles?  Perfection.
We visited Murano to watch a master sculpt glass...

Grabbed lunch in lovely Burano (where my mixed fish plate came complete with eyes! - much to my aunt's horror and my delight...)

And I fell in love with the Music Museum.

My aunt flew home from Venice and I was once again on my own, with a week left in Europe and plans to head inland.  And thanks to a certain Bard of Avon, I couldn't resist a little stop in fair Verona...

I didn't quite know what to expect of Verona.  I feel it is often overshadowed by other cities in Italy.  You hear talk of Venice, of Rome and Florence and Naples and Milan.  By the time people make their way down the list to Verona, they've lost their voices from talking so much about the other cities, but it's truly lovely and I would recommend it to anyone visiting northern Italy.  The river wraps around the old part of the city like a U and there are these lovely hills beyond it.  A castle, a roman amphitheatre (right in the middle of the town square), gorgeous churches, Juliet balconies everywhere, and this gorgeous garden (like a miniature Boboli).  It's small, but Verona packs a lot of personality into its limited acreage.

And then, of course, there is the Shakespeare connection.  The setting of the Bard's most famous play - and the movie Letters to Juliet.  You can go to Juliet's house, Romeo's house, and Juliet's tomb... which, okay, I find a little weird.  Because, it's not like going to Picasso's house in Paris.  Juliet never actually lived there, because Juliet was, shockingly, fictional.  So how does this fictional, non-corporeal character have a tomb?  She never had a body!  She was an idea!  Words on a page.  But powerful words.  Words that have spawned a tomb and a house. 

And a movie/letter-writing-campaign...

And a gate of locks...

And a statue.

For the record, this picture was really hard to get because people kept jumping up to get their pictures taken whilst groping Juliet's boob.  I kid you not.  I can only assume that this is some sort of good luck ritual and not a let's-all-grope-the-dead-fourteen-year-old party.  So they grope the statue to... what?  Make them lucky in love?  Juliet was epically unlucky in love.  And was she really so wise that we should be writing her letters to appeal to her wisdom on matters of the heart?  She killed herself at fourteen because of a guy she'd known a week!  A guy who was madly in love with some other chick in Act One!  And we're raising that up as the pinnacle of romance?

You know, I kind of have to wonder if Romeo and Juliet was really ever intended to be taken as a romance.  If Shakespeare is rolling in his grave at the idea that what he initially wrote as a don't-have-feuds-or-your-idiot-children-will-kill-themselves-to-teach-you-a-lesson morality play has been twisted into the romance of the ages... for crush-happy fourteen-year-olds.  It's romantic, throwing yourself into love, but is it a romance?  (If that question makes sense to you, I love you.  You're awesome.)

Moral of the story:  I went to Juliet's house.  I stood on a balcony in Verona (and no one compared me to the moon, le sigh).  And then I explored lovely Verona until my feet ached.  And it was awesome.

Up next... the Tyrolean Alps of Austria and Bavaria.


Autumn Jordon said...

Oh, I want to be you just for a day. I love the pictures, especially those with you smiling. Thanks for posting, sis.

Anne Marie Becker said...

Gorgeous pictures, Vivi - looks so beautiful. Hope you're having a blast. :)

Vivi Andrews said...

They are incredible places. I highly recommend.

Autumn - If you're going to swap with me for a day, be sure you pick a travel day and not an I-am-a-crazy-stress-monkey-because-I'm-so-behind-on-my-writing-deadlines-after-all-that-travel day. ;)

Rita said...

Thanks for sharing. Your photos are so great it's like being there.

Bev Pettersen said...

Wow, Vivi, loving all your pics, and descriptions. Thanks for sharing. What a trip!