Day 6: Venice!

A view of the Bargello before leaving

Leaving Florence is always bitter sweet. Once you leave, all other place just don’t feel like home. But we had places to be and sights to see. And our next place was a town known for its canals. That’s right. We were going to Venice.

The Grand Canal

Upon arriving in the train station in Venice, we were overwhelmed by large crowds of people swarming in and out. Before us was the sight of the Grand Canal, a sure sign that water was their road and boats were the only way to get around quickly. Our hotel wasn’t too far, but we found something else that was very surprising.

A familiar face in the crowd? Asking for directions I couldn’t help but wonder. She caught sight of me, to which I included, “Don’t I know you?”

Look who we found! (Photo by Arlene Arboleda)

With joyous exclamation we embraced one another. It was my dear Aunt Arlene, who traveled with my cousin, the other Emily, and her boyfriend. They were quick trying to catch the train to Verona, the city where the great tragedy of Romeo and Juliet was set. They gifted us water bus tickets and were off in a hurry with promises to see us at the wedding. (Wedding, you ask? Yes wedding, but that will be for another day.)

The Grand Canal before our tour

After settling into our hotel, we made a quick dash to Piazza San Marco to meet with our tour group. We awaited along the pier, taking in the sights of boats passing by on various errands. Looking into the water, it certainly wasn’t as clear as the water we had seen before. Not with all the activity transpiring on the surface. Soon we boarded a large boat and were ferried to our first island, Morano.

Outside of Morano glass factory works

I had seen glass sculpting before. As a matter of fact, when I was searching for art schools, Tyler School of Art won me over due to their glass work courses and studios. But in the end it wasn’t in the budget. Anyhow the glass works in Morano were a sight and art to behold. The careful maneuvering as well as attention to detail brought the glass sculpture to fruition before us in the hands of the glass sculptor. Before us we saw an old and traditional art come to life.

Morano glass work space
Morano glassworker giving sculpture form
Morano glassworker forming details
Finished glass sculpture

After our time in Morano, we sailed across to Burano, a town of lace. It was the perfect opportunity to to have lunch by the waterfront. And it was the perfect opportunity to partake of the wonderful local cuisine, particularly in the seafood department.

Breaded crab claws. Hit the spot

Our last stop on our tour was the town of Torcello. It is the oldest part of Venice, being the foundations for the famous city. It was founded around the 4th century AD, and the style of the buildings showed. There was a small chapel open to adoration and prayer. Seeing as no tickets or lines were involved, we went into our Father’s house and sat down for a while. It was a much needed break and breath of fresh air from the cacophony we were exposed to throughout this trip so far. It was great to have some time to sit down and reconvene.

Chapel in Torcello

After Torcello, we returned to Venice. The rest of the night was ours to do as we wished. We had wanted to venture back to Piazza San Marco, but it got dark and things were closing down before we could. So instead we sat down for dinner and had one of the best marisco dishes I’ve had in a long time.

Fettuccine with Mariscos (seafood)

Day 5: Al Mar

The Marble Mountains and Quarry

As I am writing this, it’s a bit late coming out. Mostly because I was exhausted after this trip and didn’t feel like staying up for two more hours to write. So with no further ado, here is my experience of yesterday.

We traversed Tuscany to Cinque Terre, the five cliff towns. I had been here before and couldn’t wait to see the clear blue waters and the immense cliff faces again. On our way to the destination, I couldn’t help but notice giant slabs of white stone below shining mountains. As it turns out, those mountains were the source of most marble. I’m not sure where I thought marble came from. I had never thought of it before. Now I was seeing it for the first time. It got me thinking, we don’t use marble that much in art any more. These days sculpture utilizes more renewable and reused materials. The materials in a contemporary sculpture often relate to the message it wants to portray. It’s almost as though marble sculpting is a dead art.

The streets of Manarolla

At long last we arrived to the first town, Manarolla. It was a small quiet town as I remembered. From what I remembered, many tourists went cliff diving here and went for a refreshing swim. This time there was no cliff diving, but still swimming, and I understood why. We had gone down to where the boats get launched and were planning to dip our toes in the water until we saw a young couple proceed down, and what happened next was terrifying.

The young man slipped on the mossy bank and hit his head on the stone floor. He wasn’t moving. His partner screamed for help, and the people around pulled him out of the water. Someone witnessing above must have called an ambulance, because they informed us one was on its way. By the time we left the town the ambulance had arrived. I could only pray that it wasn’t too late for him, because his head was bleeding terribly.

After that scare and the cautionary incident, we took the train from Manarola to Vernazza. The last time I had gone, my roommates had gone for a swim along the cliffs while I stayed behind on the rocks since I didn’t have a swimsuit on. We had gone swimming that time there because the place we had wanted to go wasn’t available. It was a place known as the hidden beach, and it had been closed off due to a landslide. Four years later it was finally open again. All sorts of people came to swim, both local and tourist. And a few more came to paint. (Maybe for next time I should bring painting supplies.)

Hidden beach in Vernazza
Artists painting away in the Hidden Beach

After our quick look at the hidden beach, we went to the sandy bank in front of the village and finally got to dip our feet in the cold Mediterranean water. It was clear as I remembered, and refreshing. I felt at peace. After some time, we had to rejoin our group to go to the next town.

Bell tower In Vernazza

Our next stop was Monterosso. A perfect place to go swimming, sunbathe, and… get drunk. I remembered when we came to this town, we parked our stuff on a rented bench and went swimming. Then my professor suggested that we get something a lot of people were walking around with… a Drunk-ass bucket. They had strawberry daiquiri and piña colada. So haven had piña coladas with alcohol at the beach in Ecuador before, I thought I could just relax with my piña colada by the beach, soaking in the sun… I was just wrong. The only good thing that came from it was a (drunk) philosophical conversation with said professor. Then I had the dumb idea to go swimming after. The ride back to the bus that day was not smooth.

So! Haven learned my lesson from last time, I did not order a Drunk-ass bucket. We ate lunch, walked along the boardwalk, and waited for our boat to the next town. Something I did not realize from before was the tunnel leading to another part of the town through the mountain. We took in the sights of people causally resting their blankets and towels on the pebbles, sand and rocks, letting their children play in the calm sea and what appeared to be the mouth of a river.

River mouth in Monterosso

We boarded a ferry that took us around the cliff sides to our last town, Porto Venere. The sight of the enclaves in the natural rock walls was breathtaking. Here and there I could spot shrines and grottoes dedicated to the Virgin Mary or Jesus on lonely rock islands. I could only wonder how they got there. It was when we reached a castle looking over the cliff when we knew we arrived to our last destination. At this town, we concluded that a nice drink would suffice to closing out our day.

Outdoor bar in Porto Venere

From there, we took another boat back to our bus, and from there, the bus back to Florence. I wish we could have done more with our last night in Florence, but we were far too exhausted. We checked into our new hotel for the night, bought a second suitcase for all our souvenirs and crashed.

Dog on Artemis statue in our new hotel