Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Padua and Venice

Having missed the early Friday morning train from Santa Maria Novella station, we were able to secure booking on an 11:15 train which left at 12:30.  Thus we didn't have a lot of time in Padova before meeting our travelling companions for the 5:30 train to Venizia.  We did manage to get to the Cappella degli Scrovengni, the chapel the Scrovegni family built to atone for the sin of usury, in which they were heavily, and successfully, involved.   Giotto did the decoration of the interior, and what an effect is created to see an entire space covered by the works of a single artist.  No photos allowed, but here's a small public domain sample of what we saw there.  Out of concern for the condition of the frescoes, visitors are allowed to remain in the chapel only 20 minutes, which is hardly enough time to take it all in. 
Then we met our fellow travellers, Rita and Sandy, and boarded the train for the short jaunt into Venice.
What can one say about Venice that hasn't been said before a thousand times?  Perhaps my somewhat irreverent observation that it looked a lot like a Florida marina with architecture.  Not very witty, I'm afraid, but it's what came to mind.
In Venice we temporarily abandoned our quest for historic art and archtecture to hook up with the Sherlock Holmes Society of Italy organisation, which were hosting a "Sherlock and Shylock" get-together in Venice.  Our first contact with them was at a dinner Friday evening, which we managed to reach after settling in at our pensione.
Saturday I was able to meet a long desired goal of having a martini at Harry's Bar, the place just off St. Mark's square, where Hemingway, Orson Welles, and other famous types liked to hang out.  Hemngway's martini, I learned, was called a "Montgomery" after the British General, who, it is said, liked to enjoy a 15 to 1 troop superiority before going into battle.  I'm not sure the exact proportions of my drink were 15:1, but it was a very good martini.

That evening we were to meet up with the Sherlockians again in the Cannaregio section of Venice for an evening ride in old gondolas. Determined to be on time for this, we decided to dine in the Rio terra della Maddelena near our meeting place, and selected the Trattoria alla Maddelena; a mistake. This was the most mediocre and overpriced dinner we've had since coming to Italy: a true tourist trap.  The large screen TV in the back should have warned us off.  The only two patrons we saw in the place were a girl reading a book with a cup of coffee on her table, and a guy with a computer, similarly with coffee.  We did have the satisfaction of warning a couple of tourists off as we were leaving.

Meeting our group, we were led down a narrow street and
stepped back in time into a marvelous workshop devoted to preserving and restoring old gondolas.  Not a power saw in the place, but this gondola from the end of the 19th century was there. 

Then we were off in groups of six or eight Sherlockians in old boats (not as elegant as this one on the left) for a tour of Venice by night.

On Sunday, our last afternoon in Venice, we were scheduled to meet the members of the Society outside the Cafe Florian in St. Mark's square for a group photo. We were there on time, but nobody else showed, so we went into the Florian for lunch. The Cafe Florian: elegant,
 expensive,  delightful,
 like  much else in Venice. After
 a bit one of the Sherlockians we had met at the Friday dinner, Sebastien LePage, showed up, looking for the group as well.  Sebastien was a delightful luncheon companion, regaling us with tales which may or may not be true, such as the origin of the custom of clinking glasses of wine together.

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