Just An Update

Hi! I’ve been so busy lately, I haven’t quite set aside the time to sort out my favourite photos from my Venice trip this past weekend. I’ve been getting over feeling sick the past three days. Also I’m getting the hang of my classes finally, which is great!

I got home today after our Italian Life and Culture (ILC) class lecture on Italian Politics, and switched on our television — a nature show on some sort of river seals was on (in Italian). It was so exciting! I used to watch a lot of animal shows as a kid.

I walked about — next week I’ll have my cooking class, which has been arranged to be gluten-free! Yay! We’ll be making:

  • “Ravioli di spinaci e ricotta” (Spinach and ricotta cheese ravioli)
  • “Sformato di verdure” (I have no idea what this is)
  • Panna cotta! My favorite dessert!

Anyway, I spent the evening drawing in my sketchbook and listening to a calming audiobook on my iPod.

Bonus points to whoever recognises this image from one of my earlier posts! Diario Visivo di Fiona = my rough translation of “Fiona’s Visual Journal.” I don’t usually like to share any of my art online, but whatever. I draw for pleasure occasionally nowadays. I should probably practice more, but it’s much more exciting to see Florence!
Me in Verona; photo by Elizabeth V. , my awesome room mate. On our AIFS (American Institute of Foreign Study) Venice trip we first stopped by Verona. Like I said, I still need to put together my Venice posts. See you all soon in my next post! 🙂 -Fi

Venice (the Sinking City) — Day Two

Welcome to Venice!
I learned how to identify gondolas (there are also black, banana shaped lagoon boats in Venice). As depicted in this little street sign, gondola’s have a metal piece in the front with six prongs. Each prong represents one of the 6 districts of Venice.
I’ll just being with the beginning of my Saturday. I got up early to take some pictures right out side the hotel, before returning to meet up with everyone at the breakfast.
There’s a water bus/vaporetto station right there; Accademia was our stop. We got 48 hour bus passes for this AIFS weekend trip, so I basically got unlimited access to using the water buses!
A vaporetto on the canal beneath the bridge right by my hotel. The deeper canals (such as this one, are only about 10 feet deep.
I’m just wandering around alone. The architecture here is so different than Florence. Imagine having your own bridge to get home.
Some random food place I passed. I personally didn’t find the food in Venice very good, but this is just based on the places I wandered into.
A store.
At this point I returned to the hotel where we began our three hour tour of Venice with our Venetian tour guide Rita.
We learned a great deal, like the fact that the city of Venice is indeed sinking. This is due to fact that the city was built on wooden pilings — the foundations of the city are long, wooden tree trunks driven into the marshy ground, which have since petrified due to lack of oxygen. These foundations are slowly sinking. In addition to this, the water levels in Venice are rising.
A super cute golden retriever! Apparently, Venetians love their dogs. Tourguide Rita told us she scolds any owners don’t pick up after the dogs.
In Venice the water ways look like little streets made of water! These small canals are only about 3 feet deep.
Some boats. The water really is this colour, too.
Venice floods often. On days that street cleaners anticipate heavy flooding, they abandon their usual posts of collecting garbage bags and begin setting up these cat walks. In this way, the Venetians can walk along the streets above the water. Rita told us that it is very difficult to move alone the cat walk with other people on it as well.
Another dog! You can see the fashionable dark-coat-with-white-scarf combination worn by many of the Italians.
Venice once collected all of its water from rainfall. Their street drains and roofs were designed to catch rain water. Water that seeped into the street drains fell into a large, ceramic holding container built directly beneath the well (seen here), which separated it from the surrounding salt water. The clean water was accessible to the civilians via wells like this one, which are spread around the city. Guards were once posted by these wells to prevent any water contamination. The water was filtered by a system of sand filtration. Today, fresh water is pumped in from the main land.
The water level has risen about 2 feet from when the city was built — gondoliers like this one need to compensate for the smaller passages.
Interestingly, gondolas are not mass produced. Each gondola’s length and width is customised to the gondoliers height and weight. It has to be specific so that the gondolier can handle manoeuvring the boat all on his own.
Side note: bicycle riding is tolerated only by children in Venice. Otherwise, it is forbidden.
The Piazza San Marco in Venice! The pool of water visible there is not rain water– it is actually salt water that has bubbled up through the storm drains. This happens frequently due to the sea level, which (as I already mentioned) is about 2 feet higher than it was when Venice was first built.
Salt water ruins leather, so don’t let any of this touch your boots!
This interesting clock depicts the zodiac. It was also made when it was believed that the Sun circled the Earth. You can see the Earth and moon in the centre of the clock.
The San Marco church does not allow backpacks inside. Luckily, I hadn’t brought my backpack. I’m not sure there was really a solution to this issue (no coat-check area) other than simply not bringing a backpack. Here the flooding (that reaches into the church) is visible. There is the cat walk in use.
First interior shot; the golden ceilings here are famous. Photography is not allowed within the church. Also, the flooding is visible here.
The Bridge of Sighs (the raised, enclosed passageway in the rear) is often perceived as romantic location and tourist destination. Couples take pictures kissing under it. It is the passageway that prisoners took before their imprisonment, and their last glimpse of the freedom they had lost. It is said that they breathed a sigh of loss at their last moment seeing the beauty of Venice; thus the bridge has been named “the Bridge of Sighs.”
A stand with some veggies.
More narrow canals. It is impossible to walk along the water line/along the main canals, as there simply is not sidewalk or long stretch of flat area. So our tour meandered through pieces of all the 6 districts of Florence via the back ways and little bridges.
We ended our 3 hour tour in the Jewish Ghetto. To Italians, the ghetto was the districts that the jewish banking families were allowed to rent apartments, as they were not permitted to buy/own Venetian land.The building on the right is a synagogue (the jews were supposed to be discrete with displaying their places of worship. There are actually 5 synagogues in this square, and a well is visible on the left. Synagogues are easily identified by the 5, round-arched windows which represent the 5 books of the Torah. Afterward, Elizabeth V. and I wandered off as everyone else dispersed to eat lunch.
Again, notice that there is no water front. There are occasional strips of side walk, but they do not run along all the canals.
The rising water level is slowly obscuring the many steps that now recede into the green depths of the canals.
View on the vaporetto 🙂
One of the vaporettos ahead of ours. I was surprised that the water buses meander from one side of the waterway to the next to load and unload passengers. I had assumed there was a system of keeping to one side of the canal, but this doesn’t seem to be so.
A lab waiting to board the vaporetto. Service dog laws aren’t as developed in Europe as a whole as they are in the U.S., but average pet dogs have more public access than U.S. pet dogs.
A view of a gondola and restaurant from the vaporetto.
The Rialto bridge. In Venice, whenever you cross a bridge (large like the Rialto or any smaller size) you have technically crossed onto another island. Elizabeth V. (my roommate) and I walked around for a bit after our tour.
Interestingly, there is no night life in Venice. For this reason many young Venetians move away; Venice is slowly losing its young people. This made me a bit sad. Venice was once the hollywood of Europe, and in comparison today’s Venice is in decline. It is now a quiet city that isn’t being funded for repairs — essentially, it is sinking and thus far nothing seems to be being done to prevent it vanishing into the green waters.
Venice also has a very low crime rate.
Honestly, my photography is not an accurate representation of Venice. I’m drawn to photograph what I find appealing, so my photos are of the prettiest corners of Venice that I saw. To me, however, these pockets of charm simply dotted unexpected stretches of quiet bleakness. I know that many of my classmates adored Venice; I suppose I simply expected Venice to be a bit “more.” Thus far, one of my favourite things was riding the vaporetto.
Tips for Venice:
  • Look up some places to eat beforehand. A lot of food here is yucky, other students had bad experiences with food.
  • Wear rain boots.
  • Don’t take a backpack on the walking tour.
  • For fun: ride the vaporetto/water bus around just for sights of the city! Venice is a lot smaller than it seems, and it is enjoyable to see the city from the water.
  • Go island hoping!! Visit the other little islands like Murano (famous for its glass) and Burano. They are apparently unique and adorable, and not visiting them is the greatest regret of my Venice trip.
  • I got lucky because it didn’t rain the entire weekend I was in Venice. However, bring waterproof things and a warm coat and gloves.
  • There is no night life in Venice, so don’t wait until late in the evening to go have fun.

Venice (the City Built on Water) — First Night

I signed up for AIFS’s (American Institute for Foreign Study) Venice weekend trip.We departed on Friday morning by charter bus, stopped in Verona, and then arrived in Venice. The trip includes two nights in a hotel, and a return by train on Sunday. It’s like a road made of water. We took a boat to our hotel.

I got a window seat and poked my camera out the window — first view of the city.
My adorably unexpected room in the Hotel Belle Arti. (Those are two beds. I roomed with Elizabeth V., my regular roommate in Florence). This room made me so happy. Honestly, if I had redecorated my room immediately after our Venice weekend it may have ended up something like this one (which may or may not be a good thing haha).
Also, cool room key!
There are bridges everywhere! Small canals here function like little streets. Bridges arch over them around the entire city. Each time you cross a bridge, you cross onto another tiny island. Venice was built upon a bog — long wooden stakes were driven into the ground, and this petrified wood serves as the foundations for the city on water, Venice. (All learned from the tour given by a Venetian guide the following morning).
Murano, a bunch of islands included in the Venetian Lagoon, is famous for its glasswork. I regret not visiting colourful Murano while in Venice, it’s very close by and reachable by the vaporetto, the water bus. Some of the other students went though. Kat L., my other Florence roommate bought a pretty Murano glass ring.
 A store.
Elizabeth and I just followed the blue lights. I was so excited to see some of the city, what I thought was a small portion of Venice. More on this later.
Very cute squid Pope. Maybe I should make a street art page on this blog. Some of my classmates were disappointed by the amount of graffiti in Venice.
The buildings look like they’re floating on water.
Me, picture by roomie Elizabeth V. 

The view down off of one of the large bridges near the hotel.
A vaporetto is a water bus. Visible here are a vaporetto and station. We received 48 hour vaporetto passes. You board the floating station after validating your ticket, then wait for a bus to show up/check the bus schedule. Instead of keeping to right or left sides of the river, the vaporettos chug along drunkenly from one side of the canal to the other to make stops. They seem slow, but can be a surprisingly quick way to get around, and a fast way of getting home.
Tips for Venice:
  • Validate your ticket every single time you use the water bus/vaporetto. You can get a fine of at least 52 euros if you’re found without one.
  • Plan on seeing Murano!