Venice, May 13 / May 21, 2011

Michael J. Ferguson

Journal Index


1  Introduction
2  Montréal to Venice, Fri. May. 13
3  Venice, Marco Polo Airport to Campaggio Fusina, Sat. May 14
4  Campaggio Fusina, Sun. May 15
5  Venice, Mon. May 16 to Wed. May 18
    5.1  Rios and Small Streets
    5.2  Leaning Steeples
    5.3  Churches - Chiesas
    5.4  Canal Grande
    5.5  Smaller Canals
    5.6  Palazzo Francetti
    5.7  Gran Teatro La Fenice
    5.8  Il Ghetto
    5.9  Masks
    5.10  Piazza San Marco
    5.11  Campos
    5.12  Major Bridges
    5.13  Small Bridges
    5.14  School Groups
    5.15  Gondolas
    5.16  Some Little Things
    5.17  Burano
6  Brenta Valley, Fri. May 20
7  Campaggio Fusina to Montréal, Sat. May 21
8  Maps

1  Introduction

This is my second visit to Venice. I was exceedingly fortunate to win a travel scholarship to Europe just after 1958. This was a miracle, and one of the best things that ever happened to me. There is no way that we could have afforded even a shoestring trip.

2  Montréal to Venice, Fri. May. 13

I rode to the airport in the early afternoon, and, nicely, the threatened rain held off until after I arrived. It was a pleasant and easy ride, with the only frustration being that a short piece of the bicycle path dead-ended and I had to backtrack.

I packed my bike, with a curious bicyclist asking where he could get the trailer. He had recently completed a ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles with his wife and two children. This was exceptionally courageous. This was Friday night and the airport was jammed. It took me about 40 minutes to get through security, and almost 30 minutes to checkin. However, I was prudent an had 5 hours before I left.

3  Venice, Marco Polo Airport to Campaggio Fusina, Sat. May 14

We arrived 45 minutes early, and both my bicycle and trailer came out very quickly on the oversize carousel. The immigration was almost wait free, so I was outside the terminal very quickly and reassembled everything. After a ride to Carrefour to provision, and buy camping Gaz, I continued on to the Campaggio Fusina, just across the lagoon from Venice. Unfortunately, Carrefour did not have an Camping Gaz but I discovered an Intersport in the same shopping center that did.

I arrived at Campaggio Fusina at about 7:00 pm and found a pleasant spot. I had hoped to find one overlooking the lagoon, but there was heavy construction that blocked the view.

4  Campaggio Fusina, Sun. May 15

Today it poured rain all day, so I stayed in the campaggio, and spent a soggy day reading. The rest of the week was beautiful bright sunshine.

5  Venice, Mon. May 16 to Wed. May 18

I had intended to ride into Venice but the ride is rather dreary, circle route around a huge industrial waste land on the west side of the lagoon.

It is this waste land that contributes to a light smog that continuously covers Venice and its lagoon. So instead of riding, I took the boat which was just a short walk from the campground. Bicycles, and roller skates are not allowed on most of the islands, including Venice itself.

This boat is a very popular way to get to Venice, because there is a huge, and relatively inexpensive parking area right beside it. Parking in Venice is both difficult, and very expensive.

Traffic in the lagoon is very rigidly controlled. Boats are constrained to extensively marked channels, that seem to be continuously being dredged. The channel markers, though, are in various states of disrepair, but still effective.

5.1  Rios and Small Streets

The major difference between a Rio and a Small Street is that I found it rather difficult to walk on a Rio.

5.2  Leaning Steeples

Italy is famous for its Leaning Tower of Pisa, but I must admit that the three steeples that I saw leaning were not mentioned in the guide books. Perhaps there is not enough lean.

5.3  Churches - Chiesas

This is only a small sample of the churches in Venice. Many were so crowded by the city that they were impossible to photograph.

5.4  Canal Grande

I wanted to walk the full length of the Canal Grande, but it very soon became obvious that this was impossible. There are only occasional sidewalks (canal walks?) beside the water so the only way to really see it is by boat. I bought a 24 hour boat pass, for 18 Euros, that allowed unlimited travel on the boats, or, as they are known, vaporettos, including the outer islands, but not Fusina, The 12 hour pass cost 16 Euros.

If it didn't really matter whether you went the full length of the canal, a touch of elegance in a gondola would do.

The Canal Grande is, as Mark Twain said, magical.

5.5  Smaller Canals

The Canal Cannaregio is really a main waterway rather than a small back street. It is, however, not the Canal Grande.

5.6  Palazzo Francetti

The Palazzo Cavelli Francetti is one of the many palazzos in Venice. Like most of the others, it has been converted into something public, the Instituto Veneto ol Scienze, Lettre ed Art. This means that it is possible, at certain times of the day to go inside. It has two entries, a gate just off the Campo S. Stefano, and very different face on the Canal Grande.

5.7  Gran Teatro La Fenice

The Gran Teatro La Fenice is both an opera house and music theatre. It is perhaps a little mystifying that it shares the the Campo San Fantin with the Scuola di San Fantin. This scuola was for training in the fine art of being a hangman.

5.8  Il Ghetto

The Ghetto in Venice was the very first in all of Western Europe. The word ghetto comes from geto which in an old Venetian dialect, meant mortar foundry.

Thus the Campo Ghetto Nuovo really refers to the campo near the new foundry.

The Campo Ghetto Nuovo has several vivid metal plaques memorializing the persecution of the Jews.

5.9  Masks

Carnival lasts for only about one week, but Carnival Masks seem to be big business. Presumably the all year sale is aimed at tourists, but there has to be a local market too.

Some are frankly only souvenirs.

5.10  Piazza San Marco

There is only one Piazza in Venice, and that is the Piazza San Marco. All the other squares are known as Campos.

The piazza itself is huge, dwarfing anything else in the city, and it seems much larger than I remember it in 1958,

One delight was the orchestra at the Café Florian,

There were, of course, many instances of I was there!

The two centre pieces of the piazza are the Basilica San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale or Doge's Palace.

The astronomical clock in the corner is a delight.

5.11  Campos

The Campos are the smaller squares all over town, They are not all small, and some like the Campo S. Stefano are actually quite large.

Just off the campo is the music conservatory.

The smaller Campos seemed to be largely deserted.

One problem of the I was there! pictures is that it is difficult for two people to take a picture of both of them together. I usually offer to take a picture for them. Since this is not Peru. people trust that you re not going to run off with there camera. Sometimes they insist on reciprocating the favour and take my picture.

5.12  Major Bridges

There are only three bridges across the Canal Grande. The most famous, and the largest is the Ponte Rialto.

One of the prettiest is the Ponte dell'Ácademia. It also has some of the most imaginative graffiti I have ever seen, engraved locks fastened to the steel railing.

The least interesting is the Ponte degli Scalzi near the train station.

Probably the most imaginative bridge in Venice is the new one for the monorail.

5.13  Small Bridges

The small bridges are the lifeblood of Venice. They allow you to get over small canals, and get in your front door so you don't have to climb out of a boat, something that is especially awkward while carrying packages. They are made of stone, wood, and, occasionally steel. These are relatively large, and are definitely not bicycle, wheel chair, or pram friendly.

The most interesting are the small wooden ones crossing into houses.

This last one requires that you duck to get under it.

5.14  School Groups

Venice, and the outer islands were over run with school groups.

5.15  Gondolas

Gondolas are, of course, the thing you think about when considering Venice. Although the most common are for tourists, they are also used for ordinary passengers and freight. The gondola station just off the Piazza San Marco had a long line waiting for a ride. I preferred to walk and watch.

Gondolas need repairs too.

5.16  Some Little Things

Are we lost?

A store just for gloves?

Some government offices are elegant.

Even in Venice, there is some fear of safety.

but not everywhere.

San Pietro di Castello is an isolated island at the far eastern end of the city.

5.17  Burano

In 1958, we visited Murano, especially to see its famed glass making. I must admit that I was under impressed so I decided to skip it this time and go to Burano, which for me was entirely new. The Michelin Green Guide said it was a delightful small version of Venice, with canals and brightly painted houses. It was indeed that, and crowded too.

6  Brenta Valley, Fri. May 20

After Venice seized the Brenta Valley from Padua, it became a favourite place for rich Venetians to build country villas. The valley was too long for me to ride very far so I visited three of the nearest. There were really four close ones, but I was unable to find the fourth. The Casa Foscari La Malcontenta is a World Heritage Site, but even so, is open only two days a week, neither of which were feasible for me. There is a boat tour of the villas of the Brenta Valley on the Il Burchiello which allows its guests access to the villas even when they are normally closed. I was at Casa Foscari La Malcontenta when a boat group, on a normally closed day found themselves locked inside the gates. This was not a lifetime incarceration. They rang the outside bell, and a custodial woman ran to let them out, and admonish me about coming in.

None of the villas were open when I arrived, and the Villa Widmann had a sign one their gate apologising.

Just across the Canal Brenta was the, also closed, Villa Valmarana.

The town of Malcontenta, or The Discontented is the first up the Canal Brenta from Campaggio Fusina. You have to wonder what the town publicity department was thinking when they chose the name. It is, in spite of its name, a pleasant looking town.

7  Campaggio Fusina to Montréal, Sat. May 21

My plane left at about 4:30pm, and I arrived at about 9:30am after a rather easy ride to the airport. I must admit that I was rather surprised to see a large billboard advertisement for Air Transat extolling the virtues of flying non-stop to Canada.

8  Maps

This is the link Google Earth Map of the trip.

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On 25 May 2011, 12:44.