THURSDAY 21st July 2005 Back to index

Beep-a-ti-beep, beep-a-ti-beep. Our tiny travel alarm woke us up at 8am with a cruel piercing shrill. I had set it just in case we overslept and missed breakfast. I had read that the buffet breakfast at this hotel was actually worth getting out of bed for!

An hour later we were sitting outside on Riva degli Schiavoni enjoying the best breakfast we've had in Italy. The coffee was strong and tasty, and a cornetto (croissant) and an apple pastry accompanied it. They had fresh fruit salad, cereals, sliced meats, fruit juices, but my favourite choice was the excellent selection of fresh cheeses; a large mound of Ricotta, a large block of Taleggio, and a bowlful of floating balls of Buffalo Mozzarella. You could help yourself, and I certainly did! I was like a mouse on the moon; in a cheesy paradise. I shoved them into a bread rolls and stuffed my face!

After a substantial breakfast we rolled out of the hotel and literally stepped opposite the exit to catch a number 82 vaporetto to the Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, directly across the basin. [Bacino di San Marco]

We bought a three day ticket for €22 each which becomes active from the moment you validate it in one of those ticket stamping machines. We now had unlimited travel on ACTV boats until 10:30am Sunday morning. It was a very reasonable price for that.

 

It only took a minute to cross over to the church island of San Giorgio Maggiore. 

We had to laugh as we entered the church when we read the sign reminding us that we were in a church and that "You are not allowed to behave indecently." !!

The interior wasn't anything striking but several of the artwork on the walls were noteworthy.

The Last Supper by Tintoretto is considered to be the best. [The image on the right is from the excellent Web Gallery of Art]

Another Venetian painter called Carpaccio contributed several other wall murals.

We wandered around the church and found it satisfyingly lacking in tourists. It certainly gave the church the serenity it deserved.

One reason for this was that everyone except for us probably knew that the campanile and cloisters were shut for repairs. Aaaaaargh!!

I was a little disappointed that the best view of Venice had eluded me, but as always it is a very good reason to return!

We left San Giorgio Maggiore by hopping onto the next 82 line vaporetto out of there. It's a very efficient service where one leaves every five minutes almost!

The vaporetto took us up the channel that separated the Guidecca island and the Dorsudoro area.

Il Redonico

We passed quite close to the 'Il Redentore' but decided not to pay it a visit, mainly because we'd missed the stop!

Four stops from San Giorgio we got off at Zaterre on the Dorsudoro side.

We had read many recommendations of a gelateria here called Nico's but we were unfortunately still full from breakfast to sample the gelato.

It was located on the side of the Canale della Guidecca looking over towards 'Il Redentore'. We'll try and return here on Sunday perhaps.

Up from Zaterre we turned along a narrow canal called Rio dei San Trovaso.

In the shadow of a church of the same saint we saw an uniquely Venetian boat yard where elderly craftsmen were repairing ageing gondolas.

We continued to stroll along countless narrow streets and canals vaguely gravitating towards the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

I had heard that there was a Jackson Pollock exhibition at the Guggenheim which was very much of interest to me. So much so that we postponed our visit to the Galleria D'Accademia until we had first seen the Pollock exhibition.

I'm glad we did as it did not disappoint me.

The permanent collection is housed in Peggy Guggenheim's former Venetian home, the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. It's situated on the Grand Canal but you access it from the back.

In what was once the guest bedroom several well known Pollock paintings were on display such as 'Alchemy', 'Moon Woman', 'Enchanted Forest' and 'Circumcision', which gave me a buzz to actually see them for real.

There's just something about the chaos in some of those paintings that is exciting, although it has been proven that a chimpanzee could have painted exactly the same thing!

The permanent collection continued in the kitchen, the dining room or the dressing room and housed several other artists such as Rothko, Dali, Kandinsky, Miro, Duchamp, and Picasso, all heavyweights of Cubism, Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism no less!

There were many by Max Ernst who whilst being a renowned artist in his own right was also married to Peggy Guggenheim.

Stepping outside onto the Grand Canal front confronted us with a strange bronze sculpture. This horse was being ridden by a very excited naked rider.

One could say that he was absolutely cock-a-hoop! It certainly brought a new meaning to "ride a cock horse"!

The sculptor was Marino Marini and the piece was obviously entitled "The Angel of the City"!?

We left Palazzo Venier dei Leoni and walked across the Nasher sculpture garden to the New Wing where the 'No Limits, Just Edges' exhibition was housed.

It concentrated on Pollock's work on paper including several sketches and various experimental combinations of paint type and paper types. The one that caught the attention was 'Gray and Red' which by no coincidence was chosen for the cover of the book that accompanied the exhibition.

Gray and Red by Jackson Pollock
My Pollock by Jim Pansy

They were more or less in chronological order and the early sketches bore no resemblance to what you would associate with Jackson Pollock.

Beneath each work was a small sign that said "Senzi Titolo - Unititled". I thought to myself "I've never heard of this 'Titolo' artist before?" Until I realised that 'senzi titolo' actually means 'untitled' in Italian!

(The painting on the left was by Jim Pansy.)

I must also admit to being guilty of standing in the middle of the exhibition and saying "What a load of Pollocks!" and finding it hilarious!

I'm glad I haven't lost that childish sense of humour!

It cost us €6 each to enter the Peggy Guggenheim collection which we thought was good value for the hour or so we spent strolling around the grounds.

We did spend a little bit more as I bought a few postcards in the obligatory shop, and we sat down at the cafe for an exquisite drink of Spremuta di Albicocca, a fresh Apricot fruit juice.

The word 'nectar' is often used to described some fruit juices and this was certainly worthy of that title.

Julie only had a diet coke because she wasn't feeling very well. She'd been suffering with bad stomach cramps on and off all week and we had put it down to anxiety, but it was worse than ever this morning.

We left Peggy's and walked down to the church of Santa Maria della Salute.

It is probably the most imposing of Venetian churches as it guards the entrance to the Grand Canal.

With no artwork to speak of and only dimly lit by natural daylight and a few candles it was quite a sombre interior.
We walked clockwise around the large floor area until a caretaker with a huge bunch of keys ushered us out; telling us it was now closed.

As he locked the door behind us we noticed a sign that said it was shut between 12pm and 5pm. It was now 12:30pm so he must have been late locking up.

We sat in the shade on the steps outside for a while before catching a vaporetto from the stop at Salute. We had intended on just sitting down at the back and ride up and down the Grand Canal but unfortunately the boat was packed so full that after having to stand up for three stops we jumped off at Ca'Rezzonico.

Breakfast had by now been digested and our stomachs were screaming out for a top up! I had read that in the Dorsudoro area the best place to find lunch is Campo Santa Margherita so that's where we went.

The route took us over a well known bridge called Ponte dei Pugni, or the Bridge of Fists. It spans the canal Rio de San Barnaba and the tale behind the name is that disputes were resolved on this bridge by bare knuckle fighting, with the looser ending up in the water!

We found Campo Santa Margherita and looked for a recommended place called 'Il Cafe', also known as the Red Cafe.

There were plenty of other bars and cafes in and around this square but there's a Red Cafe at Old Trafford, home of my beloved Manchester United Football Club, so it just had be 'Il Cafe'!

It turned out to be only a sandwich bar but we sat outside and had panini's. Whilst fine, they weren't as tasty as the one we had yesterday for lunch.

What they did come up trumps with however was a wonderful glass of beer called Morretti Rossa. I remember the taste of this brew from our visit to Florence. It has a decent 'real ale' flavour.

We sat and people watched for a while and noticed that a high proportion of passer bys were carrying huge slices of pizza. They were popping out of a tiny pizzeria on the square.

I was hypnotised by them and as soon as we paid our €10 for lunch I walked straight to the source of those fantastic looking wedges.

A huge slice of Artichoke Pizza was the tastiest food I'd eaten so far, and it only cost me €1.80.

We decided to head slowly back to the hotel for a siesta. Along the way we stocked up again in a supermarket bying the essential provisions like crisps, water and beer.

I only bought the beer because of its peculiar name; it was called Hell Bier! Finally; the evil of drink made apparent!

From Ca'Rezzonico, which incidentally was a museum that didn't interest us, we caught a vaporetto down the Accademia stop, which was a museum that did; but we decided that we'd save it for a rainy day. It was too beautiful a day to be shut inside!

We crossed the Grand Canal over the wooden Ponte D'Accademia and notice that it wasn't all wooden, but was mainly a strong iron bridge, just with a wooden jacket!

 

We stood halfway once again to admire that timeless view.

The walk back through Campo Stefano, and down the designer streets of Calle Larga XXII Marzo, and Salizda San Moise, passing the church, was really tiresome as they were incredibly busy.

When we entered the Piazza San Marco we were on our last legs and so we decided that we would just have recuperate in the notoriously expensive Cafe Florian.

We sat inside in the shade as we had had enough of the sun after the exertion of working our way down the designer street. I wasn't sure what to expect from this famous old cafe, but I suppose it lived up to its image. Ludicrously priced, awfuly dated decor, and surly waiters whizzing around like Sinatras on speed.

€5 for an espresso and €7.50 for 200ml Coca Cola Light was a joke but at least the music drifting in from the square outside where the cafe's resident string quartet (plus pianist) performed was astoundingly good.

We window shopped down the fancy jewellers along the colonnade but nothing caught Julie's eye like the rock she saw on the Ponte Vecchio! I breathed a little easier as we walked out through the Piazzetta towards the two columns, Colona de Marco and Todaro.

Public executions were held here so we were careful not to walk between them as the Venetians consider this to be bad luck!

We crossed over Ponte Puglia and for the first time joined the scrum of tourists all jostling for position to get a photograph of the Bridge of Sighs, aka Ponte di Sospiri.

Instead of pushing my way to the front, in the centre, I was more than content to take a photograph from the side, with the 'Drunkenness of Noah' in the foreground.

By 4pm we were back in our hotel room enjoying a well earned siesta.

We had reserved a table at Osteria La Zucca for 8:30pm this evening so shortly after 6pm we made our move up the Grand Canal on the numero uno vaporetto.

It wasn't so busy this evening so we sat down inside and admired the ornate palazzo's that passed our window.

One was covered in glorious golden frescoes, whilst several others had their flags out.

Most of the buildings however weren't palaces, but humble homes; perhaps a touch delapidated but in a prime location!

The boat took quite some time to travel up the canal but fortunately we weren't in any rush. In fact once we got off at San Stae and had walked down to La Zucca we were over an hour early.

We decided to spend that hour in pub! Not far from the restaurant, just around a couple of corners, there was a recommended bar called Taverna da Baffo.

So we continued on our trek, down through Campo San Giacamo dell'Orio where we stumbled across a festival taking place. There was a large crowd of locals enjoying a barbecue whilst listening to a Chuck Berry style band playing on stage.

We loitered for a while before moving on to find the Taverna da Baffo in a small square called Campo Sant'Agostin. This was a great little bar whose sole purpose was to facilitate drinking. Perfect!

There didn't seem to be too many of these in Venice.

It is apparently named after an 18th century poet, although the term poet is probably used loosely because he was renowned for writing saucy little ditties about the rounded arse of the female form, amongst other parts of her anatomy! Being a close friend of Casanova was his other claim to fame.

It was a great place to people watch. I noticed that most of the men were drinking this red liquid, with an olive keeping it company.

After a few glasses of Prosecco I asked the barmaid "Can I have one of what he's drinking?" and pointed to this guy who was propped up at the bar. She explained that it was called a spritz, and I could have a sweet or a bitter version. I've since learned that it was Campari in all but the name on the label.

So there I was, drinking Campari, with a sunken olive, and with an extended little finger, wearing an italian designer sweater that retailed at €150 (although I only paid €17) and actually feeling quite at home in doing so!

I wasn't too sure whether I should have been concerned or not? Well, it's not very rock'n roll is it?

We left the cosy pub to make our way back to the restaurant by 8:30pm. When we stepped outside we were shocked that the weather had taken a severe turn for the worse as a violent thunderstorm was cracking its fury directly above us. Lightning flashed and the entire Adriatic sea seemed to be pouring down, soaking us to our skins. Julie was petrified.

We arrived at La Zucca looking like drowned rats but at least in good spirits as we were looking forward to our evening meal. Things did not go according to plan however .....

With rain drops dripping off my nose onto their reservations book a staff member shrugged his shoulders and said, "Sorry, we have no one in your name".

"But I phoned yesterday." I protested "She said I had a beautiful name!"

He flicked a few pages in case we had been written into the wrong day but 'Colin' was nowhere to be seen. He scratched his head, and shrugged again, but didn't offer us a table. He couldn't, as they were full.

With raindrops dripping down the curve of my back I was starting to get a bit annoyed with his lack of assistance. I huffed and made other "pissed off" noises but he just stood there flicking pages and shrugging a lot.

I just had enough and blurted out "I write on the internet you know" waving my finger at him, " and the whole world will read about your stupidity"

"Wait, wait ..." he said and started flicking more frantically than before "You can share a table at 9pm"

I wasn't in the mood to compromise nor give them my custom but before I told him to shove his "sharing" suggestion up his shrugging little backside Julie escorted me off the premises and we sat outside in the pouring rain to consider his offer.

On reflection it was quite obvious what had happened. All the customers they had dining al fresco didn't want to be eating al dampo so they had to be relocated inside when the thunderstorm suddenly appeared. Our reservation must have been removed by corrector fluid as there was plenty of the white paint covering the reservation book.

So we agreed to refuse his offer of joining a table of six, and instead decided to return to the Taverna da Baffo, grab a small bar snack, and spend the money on alcohol instead!

What a splendid idea it turned out to be! We had a great time, and despite drinking more than we ought to, it turned out to be a cheap night!

When we left at 10pm the rain had subsided and the rumbling thunder had moved on.

As we walked back through Campo San Giacamo dell'Orio on our way back to La Zucca I just had to stop at a small take away pizzeria where I ate a slice of an aubergine pizza like I was experiencing it for the first time. The groans of ecstasy telegraphing my approval. Once again, like lunch, it's the best spent €1.80 of the vacation!

We walked back inside the Osteria La Zucca to give them a second chance. We had decided to try booking again and a different member of staff greeted us. We stood over the reservation book as he wrote the name 'Colin' down at 8pm on Saturday night.

Whilst waiting for the vaporetto from San Stae this warning sign, (on the left) reminding people not to try and jump on board, made us chuckle. What is it with alcohol that makes the trivial seem so hilarious?!

It was now pleasantly dry, and the back seats of the boat were free. So we sat down and were rewarded with a view of the illuminated Ponte di Rialto.

In truth though most of the Grand Canal was unlit and uninteresting in the dark. I don't know what I was expecting? Something like a Disneyland ride?

It was however very relaxing to sit on an uncrowded vaporetto cruising down the canal. It was a damn sight cheaper than a gondola but perhaps not quite so romantic!

We got off at San Zacaria directly opposite the 5 star Hotel Danielli. We peered in with envy through the windows and toyed with the idea of going inside for a drink at the bar with our Starwoods Preferred Guest discount card!
We didn't fall into the Danielli. We didn't even have a drink at the bar of the Londra Palace because in the taking of a photo of our hotel I inadvertently stepped into the lagoon and my cream linen trousers were transformed into soggy dirty dish cloths.

I squelched my way upstairs as Julie retrieved our room key from reception.

Time for bed Zebedee.

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