Saturday, June 14, 2014

Wandering Venice - Choir Tour Day 2


After a boat ride from the airport to Venice proper, we checked into our hotel rooms and quickly got ready for our first rehearsal.  After polishing up some details in the music, we were free for the rest of the evening. I had not had much sleep or food in a long time, but I can go for a very long time on coffee and some not-quite-infinite-but-close wellspring of internal energy when there are things to be done and I was eager to DO Venice. 

After a cappuccino and a small square of pizza on the go, I wandered around leisurely, unable to resist checking out every little narrow street, every little courtyard, every random side street that led straight into the canal or just a wall with a door that didn’t open.

I had a European GPS with me that didn’t have the Italy maps loaded properly, so I was on my own for navigation... and for those that know me, letting me lose in the complex streets of Venice is a recipe for getting lost after about three seconds. However, what better place to get lost? I had a map, and tried very hard to keep track of where north was, but it was often impossible.  There was a virtual geocache* nearby that I decided to try and find without a GPS. I google-mapped it and compared that to my paper map of Venice and much wandering and turns down blind alleys was done... it was so much fun, just exploring

that way and trying to navigate around the city.  Finally, after about 45 minutes, I decided to check down this one tiny dark street that looked very narrow and like it led to nowhere. Suddenly to my surprise I come out into this brightly lit courtyard with an incredible spiral staircase!  I had found it. Unfortunately there was a gate and it was closed for climbing but it was beautiful nonetheless.  A little piece of out-of-the way Venice I never would have otherwise seen.

Glass bead shop...not sure what these
 powders are for but I liked the colours

I love graffiti like this... especially the French addition
I continued walking around after this, not wanting to squander any daylight hours sitting inside a restaurant, even though I was getting hungry.  It was raining, but I didn’t want an umbrella or rain jacket as they were cumbersome, and a little rain never hurt anybody. It was actually nice, because it got rid of a lot of the tourists.
Piazza San Marco at midnight
I finally ended up near this little wine bar and decided it was a good place to finally stop.  A menu not in English is my bare minimum criteria for selecting a place to eat in a foreign country, and this place at least had that. 

It was also quiet and out of the way.  I had a lovely meal of pasta with shrimp and zuchinni, and a very good white wine recommended by the waitress to go with it. On my walk back to the hotel I stopped for some gelato and enjoyed the soft creamy texture as I went up and down bridges and down poorly lit alleys (it’s now 11pm) in an effort to find our hotel again.

The night was not over, however...

For you see, Italy was playing England that evening in the FIFA soccer world cup. Before I left, a coworker suggested it would be fun to watch an Italy soccer game with the locals, and I really wanted to try it. When would I ever get such an experience again, to be in Italy on a day they were playing such a major game?  I walked around the now nearly deserted streets of Venice at midnight, and soon found a small bar with a crowd of people outside.  All the Italians wearing their sports jerseys and smoking and drinking outside intimidated me a little, but I was determined and made my way through the crowd up to the bar to order a beer. They recommended a local beer that ended up being very delicious – it was a blonde, but had hints of stout and somehow a lovely hint of mango aftertaste.

watching the game...
I will point out that I am not a soccer fan. I am not usually a sports fan in any way. But sports are important to many people and they are an intricate part of culture just like music is, and I wanted to experience as many aspects of Italy as I could. And did I ever! Everyone was so passionate, singing the national anthem as loudly as they could when they game started, and constantly yelling, cheering, and singing for goals or good saves. The bar just erupted with everyone standing up and yelling after the two goals.  Even during replays of the same goal!  The passion in that tiny place was incredible and I was so glad to be immersed in it. It was also really funny to hear them yelling obvious insults at people on the TV and gesticulating ALL in unison even though I had no idea what they were saying; I could just tell by their tone of voice. I don't think I've ever paid so much attention to a sports game in my entire life...  I just got so caught up in their energy. Italy won 2-1.

I walked back to my hotel through the dark streets of Venice and settled down for a well-deserved sleep in preparation for singing at San Marco the next day and a totally different cultural experience.

*geocaching is a treasure hunting game where people use latitude/longitude coordinates to look for a small hidden container. A “virtual” one means you’re looking for an interesting permanent structure in the environment  - statue, particular part of a building, waterfall, etc.

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