I never did get around to telling you about the Venice bit of our Italian trip in October last year. I’m not sure which was the most magnificent, the sunset we saw on arrival at our hotel,
or the hotel itself. I’ve never stayed in a palace before, but the ‘San Clemente Palace’ hotel, on its own island in the Venice Lagoon, is the closest thing to staying in a real palace; so much marble, Italian furniture, and lovely Venetian mirrors and artwork everywhere. I loved it, and could have quite happily moved in permanently.
The island itself dates back to 1131, when a church was built there. The historic courtyards and grounds of the hotel date back to the late 17th century, when it was a Cameldolesi monastery. It even has its own chapel which is used for weddings,
It was right across the lagoon from Venice proper, and a speed boat taxi was available all the time to shuttle us back and forth as we wished.
Our first evening was so memorable, and we had a half hour motor launch “Magical Venice” tour of the Grand Canal and many of its side alleys, ending up in Piazza S. Marco. It was so peaceful, with just the lapping of the water and the purr of the motor, as we slowly sailed past all the apartments, restaurants and churches. Every so often, we would hear church bells ringing in the distance. So awesome, but unfortunately too dark for any decent photos.
Afterwards, the two of us found a small pavement cafe where we ordered pizza, a bottle of wine and a delicious Tiramisu to share. We later met up with the rest of the group at the “Chirggia Bar,” in the piazza, for drinks and music. I had to pinch myself to see if it was all real. Here I was, sitting in the famous Piazza San Marco, surrounded by beautiful buildings, drinking a delicious ‘Bellini’, and listening to a great jazz trio playing really romantic songs, such as “The way you look tonight,” the theme from “The Godfather,” and “How wonderful to know somebody loves you.”
They did hot it up a bit with their fabulous rendition of “Hey Mambo,” and people were dancing in the square. Such a very happy evening.
The next morning dawned bright and sunny, but a bit cooler, and we were taken across the water once again to watch a glass blowing demo, which, although we’ve seen it done before, was still fascinating.
From a blob of red hot molten glass, the master glass blower quickly fashioned this dainty horse.
The Murano glass items for sale in the shop there were so exquisite, but no pics were allowed. I wanted to buy a divine chandelier which was made up of 380 interlocking pieces, and was decorated with flowers made of Chinese porcelain, but decided that a turquoise necklace would fit in my luggage much more easily.
The “Merchants of Venice” did quite well out of us, as we trawled the many shops in the narrow alleyways, crossing little bridges, looking at the Gondolas sailing through the waters of the canals. The leather goods are really lovely and we found that we could bargain a little with the shopkeepers if we paid in cash rather than credit card. I did get a leather jacket, bag and shoes, and hubby bought a pair of shoes and a cashmere sweater, so we certainly did our bit to keep Venice afloat.
Walking in Venice is not for the fainthearted, as there are so many steps to access all the bridges around the city. Goods deliveries are made on metal trolleys, fitted with special wheels for getting up and down these flights of steps, and it looked to be a very strenuous job indeed.
Here is a view of the Grand Canal, taken from one of the many bridges.
We stopped in at the cute and historical “Caffe al Ponte del Lovo,” where the gold and red velvet chairs were so close together, you were almost rubbing shoulders with your neighbour.This cafe was mentioned in a speech given to the senate of the Venetian Republic in 1585, by G.F. Morosini, when he stated the following ; ” …they amuse themselves by sitting both inside and out on the street, people from all classes, drinking a black liquid, scorching hot, derived from a seed called ‘cavee’, which they say has the power to keep a man awake.” The famous writer Goldini and his friends used to meet here in the mid 1800′s, and from the daily life scenes he witnessed whilst sitting there, he got inspiration for some of his plays.
I had a delicious “Capuccino Zanetta,” served with small almond biscuits and a square of dark chocolate. Really decadent ‘straight to the waistline’ fare.
Everywhere we went, we could hear snatches of opera, small orchestras playing to diners, and the ringing of church bells. The Gondoliers in their straw boater hats were singing Italian songs to their passengers. Everywhere you look is water, and all the taxis are boats of course. What an amazing place to visit! We went back to our hotel, which in spite of its present opulence, was many years ago, a “hospital for crazy ladies,” as our guide told us. Nowadays it’s a beautifully renovated five star hotel, to which rich men bring their own modern-day “crazy ladies.”
That evening, we were whizzed back across the lagoon, where we found a little pavement cafe, and sat people-watching and dining on Spaghetti Puttanesca and a glass of Pinot Bianco Delle Venezie.
I’ll tell you more tomorrow, because now I must go to the Mall to entertain my “Platinum Pensioners.” I think I’ll play some of those romantic Italian songs, and see whether I can get them dancing in the aisles. :)