Day 9: Arrivederci Padova, Salute Venezia!

We were awakened by an alarm signal about 5:00 this morning and evacuated the building. Stood outside with Sally Murray and some snotty woman from Chicago who informed that she'd heard that Elderhostel tours were "ghastly". Why it was necessary to say that to three people who were on an Elderhostel tour, we couldn't imagine. Anyway, she wandered off before we had a chance to stuff her in the nearest dumpster. Apparently some idiot had been smoking in bed. The alarm was turned off and we went back to bed.

We made one final pilgrimage to the Basilica piazza to feed the pigeons - every morning we took Zwie-back from the dining room to do this. While we were distributing our largesse an old Italian heard me refer to them as piccioni and emphatically insisted (in Italian) that I call them colombe, doves. Pigeons may be "rock doves", but these definitely were pigeons.

At 9:00 we prepared to transfer to Venice; we began the trip at 10:30. Traffic was still jammed up around IKEA (pronounced ee-KAY-uh), the first Sunday after its opening, so we took the Villa Road to Venice along the Brenta River. Lovely - much nicer than the freeway. Along the way we passed an enomrous castle (pictured above), the Villa Pisani, occupied by Napoleon and used for a 1934 Mussolini-Hitler conference. When we arrived in Venice, we made sure our luggage was off the bus and then watched it loaded on a boat by the trasbagaglio guys for transport to our hotel. That done, all 39 of us crowded onto Vaporetto #1 for our trip down the Grand Canal.

It's hard to describe the first vision of Venice. We hadn't really noticed it while we were attending to our luggage. Once at the vaporetto landing, however, the vista is breathtaking. Oriental domes, a bewildering array of water-front palaces, churches the size of cathedrals, water transport everywhere, the total absence of cars or even bicycles ... a vast delicious jumble of sites unlike anything we've ever seen before. It really is like waking up (or dreaming) in an entirely new world.

We boarded the vaporetto - for which our tour had supplied us a week long pass - at the Piazzale Roma stop and rode down the Grand Canal, under the Rialto Bridge, under the Academia Bridge, to the Salute stop and made our way to the Hotel Messner on the Rio Della Fornace. You can follow our route past all the vaporetto stops by placing your cursor over over the plain red dots which line the canal -- the names will appear over a google link to many images (just click the dots). The red dots with black outlines are major sight-seeing places mentioned on these pages; they also are hyper-linked to the internet.

Interactive Map (use your cursor to roll over dots, click on them)

After a dazzling trip the length of the Grand Canal we arrived at our stop, Salute. It's named for the enormous church of Santa Maria della Salute, built in 1630. Plague had killed a third of Venice's 150,000 citizens and the Venetian Senate made this pledge: "Stop the plague, and we'll build a church to honor the Virgin Mary." Cooler weather that October killed off the plague-ridden fleas and the church was built.

It's a very short walk from the Salute vaporetto stop to the Hotel Messner. Alongside the Chiesa [church] della Salute, there's a footbridge over the Rio [small canal] Della Salute leading to Rio Terra [literally "earth river", a filled in canal or alley] dei Catacúmeni, at the end of which is our hotel. This part of town is very quiet and residential. In contrast with some of our tour companions (who could barely find space for their suitcases) our room is large by Venetian standards. It was not in the main part of the hotel but several doorways down the R.D.Fornace. The shower (not pictured) was much better than the doorless one in Padua.

vaporetto approaching Salute

Karen in front of Salute

footbridge from Salute

gatto nero on way to Messner

Ospizio dei Catacúmeni
hospice on the left

our Messner bedroom
canal is outside that window

our Messner kitchenette
which we never used

the Rio Della Fornace
it's being dredged

Venice is often referred to as an island. Actually it is 117 islands separated by a network of 180 canals, including the Grand Canal in the shape of an 'S'. Today's canals were originally just the waterways separating those islands. When Napoleon conquered Venice his Austrians (who preferred horses to boats) filled in many of the canals. Over the years the "island" has been sinking. Routine dredging the remaining canals, permitting the water to circulate, appears to have lessened that problem. Behind our hotel is the Rio Della Fornace which was in the process of being dredged while we were there.

We had a meeting in the outdoor dining area with Howard Fitzpatrick, an expatriot American art historian, who told us about Venice. Turns out he's married to writer Laurie Graham whose Future Homemakers of America Karen had just been reading.

After the talk our tour guide Laura led us on a walk around our Dorsoduro neighbood, showing us where to find the cash machine, pharmacy, a good wine shop and gelato place. Went out later to use the cash machine and, after dinner, took another walk along the Zattere, just a short walk down the Fornace from our room.

Dinner, btw, was was salad, zucchini soup, thinly sliced roast beef medium rare, something like a yeasty pound cake. Unlike Padua, the dining room here was just right (intimate, small booths rather than a noisy hall).

Howard Fitzpatrick

Region - Veneto
Prov - Venice (VE)
Area - 412 km²
Pop ('04) - 271,251
Time - CET, UTC+1
Coord - 45°26 12°19
Dial - 041
Post - 30100

Wikipedia article: Venice

The book in the shield says
"Pax tibi Marce evangelista meus"
("Peace to you, Mark, my evangelist").
The open book suggests peace;
a closed book suggests wartime.

very large map of Venice

The hotel provided us with a plug-in device which contained a mosquito repellant. You plug it in late in the afternoon and pull the plug just before bedtime. It worked quite well considering all the water we were surrounded with. Buona notte!