Day 13: DAVID RESURRECTED
It was 6am when we awoke to our alarms. Although we slept relatively early last night, the rest wasn’t what it could have been due to a pair of pesky mosquitoes in the room taking pot shots at me while buzzing close to my ear. It turned out that I unknowingly slapped one of them, and it ended up dead on my shoulder with blood, which meant it must’ve gotten some of my blood.
In any case, we got up early in anticipation of taking the 8:30am train to Venice (Venezia). So after going downstairs a little after 7am for the usual basic breakfast provided by the hotel, we then took our stuff and headed straight for the train station with our belongings.
The first order of business was to go to one of the self-help kiosks to buy train tickets for the 8:30 train. However, when we got to the machine, we found out that both the 8:30 and 9:15 trains were sold out! Damn! I knew we should have bought the tickets last night!
Anyways, we then went to the biglieteria where the lady there said the same thing the machines already indicated to us. So we just bought tickets for the next train at 10:15am, which was about a little over 2.5 hours away.
The next thought on our minds was to use this unexpected time in the city to do the one thing we wanted to do but couldn’t because yesterday the museums were closed… see Michelangelo’s statue of David! There was some concern whether the lines would be so long that we might even miss the 10:15am train, but at this point, we weren’t going to sit idly at the train station for over two hours. So the decision was made and we were now going to act on it.
Indeed, the idea of seeing David was resurrected…
The first order of business was to use the left luggage service at the train station. It was a fairly hefty price we had to pay at 5 euros per piece of luggage and we were going to leave 4 so that would mean we would pay 20 euros at the end in cash (probably amounting to almost $30 USD). So we walked all the way to the platform 16, left our stuff, showed the staff our passports, and off we went at 7:45am.
Now that we were pretty familiar with the city, we quickly walked in the rain all the way towards the Duomo. However in our haste to get moving, we neglected to bring an umbrella so we pretty much went through the city taking our chances with getting wet if the weather decided to rain harder.
At the same time, we didn’t exactly know where the Galleria dell’Academia was so we simultaneously walked with a mission while also scanning our paper city map trying to find the place so we knew where we were supposed to be going once we got to the landmarks like the Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, or the Uffizi.
After some tense moments in scanning the map for the small icon and words for the Galleria dell’Academia, I eventually found it, which was northeast of the Duomo. Fortunately, we were approaching the Duomo from the west so there would be no wasted steps.
Sure enough, there was a brown sign on the street we were supposed to turn left on and then we hastily walked the narrow streets following the sign for the Academic Gallery. And eventually at 8:05am, we saw a line of people waiting along the wall and so we assumed that this was the line we were supposed to be in.
The place didn’t open until 8:15am and we noticed that we weren’t that far from the entrance for the non-reserved door. Meanwhile, we were standing underneath the shelter of someone’s stand selling souvenirs, post cards, and some clothing. That shelter was welcome so we wouldn’t get pelted on some more by the rain.
As the opening time neared, we could see that both the reserved and non-reserved lines grew quickly. It was a good thing we came here when we did, but still our thoughts turned to how quickly the line moved and whether they might make us wait in another line after purchasing tickets (ala the Chateau de Versailles in France).
By around 8:30am, we had gone through the metal detectors, bought our tickets at 11 euros per person (credit cards accepted as cash supply was becoming a problem again), and then quickly made our way directly to the statue of David where there was already a big crowd gathered in front of the statue.
On the way here, there was a sign at the entrance that said we couldn’t take photos nor take videos. That was annoying because both Julie and I knew that they did this to make the visitors buy post cards. So Julie managed to sneak a photo in with her iPhone 5, while I hid behind a column to sneak a photo in with my DSLR.
This photo prohibition had nothing to do with respecting the art and everything to do with squeezing more money out of tourists so I had no problem doing our subtle act of rebellion.
Now that we got our look at David, we had time to spare so we looked at text below the marble statue and realized that its significance was really more historical than masterpiece (though lots of people swear you could see this statue and forget about seeing everything else).
The idea was that the statue was carved with David’s sling mostly hidden to emphasize that he used more brains than brawn to defeath Goliath. The Florentine people identified with this figure and it became a rallying symbol that they could be inspired to defeat larger armies by outsmarting their adversaries.
History (which is typically written by those who were victors after the end of conflicts) seemed to corroborate the idea that David was the rallying icon for an entire republic or city-state or whatever form of governance that prevailed in the 15th century.
But in addition to the history, we started to pay more attention to the detail of the David statue because there was a lot more to his famous uncircumsized penis. Indeed, we saw there was some serious attention to detail as we could see protruding veins in his arms, his feet, and even some skin features. We figured that he must’ve had someone model for him as he was laying out the concept to figure out how to chisel out the marble.
It was either that or it was Michelangelo’s fantasy or idea of what a perfect male should look like. This was something we started to wonder about with the new appreciation of Michelangelo’s homosexuality. And it was in this light that we could better understand how he could’ve really put so much effort and energy into this work.
Anyways, we had more time to browse around the galleries that we missed earlier (including an intriguing musical gallery showing instruments used as early as the 15th century). Most of the paintings were of religious scenes, which we didn’t really appreciate much considering we weren’t into religion.
When we returned to the statue of David, I tried to sneak in another photo to show the context of the crowd, but that was when the nearest proctor caught me and immediately pointed at me to put the camera into my bag and never take it out.
So from that point on, we basically just explored the rest of the gallery pretty much looking at whatever caught our eye. Perhaps the most interesting works were the ones that showed what Florence looked like back in the day. We were also interested in a room showing other casts and statues, which was in the room to the left of the large Michelangelo room.
One thing we noticed about all the other statues besides the David one was that the level of detail devoted to David wasn’t there in those other statues (most of them smaller). I guess it was these subtle things that made us start to understand why people thought the David statue was as worth the price of admission and the wait as anything.
Now the next order of business was to return to the Hotels Club and use their Wi-Fi so we could let the Palazzo Cendon know that we were running two hours late due to the 8:30 train being sold out.
Eventually at 10am, we boarded the train, which was crowded this time (as opposed to the Roma to Napoli train). There was someone using our seat as he was occupying two seats, but then we claimed our seat and everything was cool.
Even though this train was to get us to the island part of Venice in 2 hours 10 minutes, I didn’t realize that it made at least 3 or 4 stops… one in Bologna Central at 10:55am, one in Padova at 11:50am, and then one in Venice at 12:10pm but not with the water canals (which we almost mistakenly got off on).
It was a good thing I helped this one Italian girl getting her stuff down from the top (which was out of her reach) as she was about to disembark the train. When Julie and I had mistakenly gotten off, she eventually told me in Italian that it wasn’t the Santa Lucia station (though we did start to wonder something was a bit off).
Another couple did the same thing, so it was fortunate that we were back on the train (though we did annoy some folks who were trying to get off since he thought we were just boarding the train before everyone got off).
Finally at 12:25pm, we were at the Venice Santa Lucia Station. As soon as we walked out of the station, we knew we were in the right place as we could see the water canal (part of the Grand Canal) as well as crowds of people gathered about this area. Further affirming our suspiscions were information booths, biglieterias for water taxis, and general foot traffic.
Now, Julie and I had to walk to our accommodation knowing it would be about a ten-minute walk with our luggage to get there. Eventually, we’d get to the accommodation by about 12:45pm where we had to wait some 15 minutes for our room to be ready.
We also saw the forecast and knew that if we wanted to see Burano, that would have to be today while the weather was still somewhat agreeable. That was because tomorow, the forecast called for rain pretty much all day.
So we walked through the main thoroughfare at the Spanish Quarter and eventually returned to the main area at the rail station. There, we bought a pair of 48 hour tickets at a whopping 40 euros per person!
Anyways, we got onto a water taxi that took us out to the outskirts of Venice Island at Fondamente Nove. We had to pay careful attention to the signs on each boarding pontoon because it appeared that there was nothing in English that would help us know when to get on or off the boats.
When I asked the employee where the change stop was to go to Burano, he told me we were about to get off at the F9 stop which was next. He then said we had to walk over the bridge to get to the boarding pontoon for Murano and Burano. A local also said the same thing to me in Italian as he pointed out the bridge we had to walk over and the station we had to wait at just as the boat was about to stop.
Then, we got on the now-crowded boat when the Burano boat arrived (they really pack in the people here) and after another rather lengthy taxi stretch where taking photos was pretty much out-of-the-question since the water taxis were like sardines, we finally arrived at Burano at 3:05pm.
There was a station that said “Burano” so we knew we were in the right place though the colorful homes (ala Recoleta in Buenos Aires, Argentina) kind of hinted to us that we were in the right place anyways.
While Venice was mostly depressingly overcast, we could see that Burano was still under the sunkissed skies. So that brought out some more color on those homes flanking the narrow canals of this small island.
Basically each small canal we walked along, we saw attractively colored buildings adding more interest to an already interesting scene. After briefly seeing what Venice was like, we could see that Burano was far more interesting from a scenic allure standpoint.
As we got towards the other edge of the island, we saw there was a clock tower with a pretty severe lean. It was almost as if we had stumbled across yet another torre pendente, except this one looked like it could go at any time.
Something Julie noticed as we were walking in the quieter parts of town was that many residents put cloths covering their front doors. We wondered if the residents weren’t too pleased with people randomly photographing their front doors or posing in front of them. Julie said they didn’t have this some 6 years ago when she went with her Mom.
After we had our fill of the leaning tower of Burano, we noticed this other quiet canal where the water was calm enough to produce some blurry reflections. It was also a much quieter part of town so we soaked in the atmosphere here while still trying to take photos and capture the magic of the scenery.
One thing we noticed was missing while touring Burano was that none of the boats within the smaller canals of the town were moving. Could it be that the town was pretty much in siesta except for a few vendors and restauranteurs trying to make a living off the tourists who would still flock to here?
Anyways we spent a little more time in this quiet corner of Burano looking back at the leaning tower of Burano in the distance as well as some more brightly colored buildings adding some life to our photos of the charming canals here.
That happening piazza contrasted greatly to the relative quiet of the corner we were strolling through as this seemed more like the now-familiar happening town squares that all Italian towns seem to have. Indeed, these piazzas were like the heartbeat of a particular city or town as we sensed the vast majority of the energy of the place was here.
Eventually, we had our fill of exploring the quiet streets and canals of Burano. By about 4:05pm, we waited in a rather big queue of people anxiously waiting to get on the next water taxi back to Venice. I doubted that all these people would fit on the next boat back to town.
Sure enough when the boat arrived and people crowded their way on (almost reminiscent of what China was like), we didn’t make the cutoff and had to wait for the next boat at 4:15pm. But at least we were close to the front so perhaps at least one of us could have a seat.
And at 4:30pm, we were finally on another crowded boat taxi back to the F9 stop (Fondamente Nove). Julie managed to get us a pair of seats and so the boat lulled me to sleep while Julie was busy reading her Kindle. Once we got to the F9 stop, we then went over to the next waiting boat, which was also crowded with people as it would drop us off back at the rail station (I think it was the 4.2 line or something).
At 5:50pm, a boat showed up that looked like an ordinary water taxi. At first we waited, but then there were people pushing through between us and it started to make us wonder if this was the boat. When I asked the employee if it was the Vaporetto for the Grand Canal, he said yes. Maybe he heard Grand Canal because I was skeptical if this was the tourist line.
When we saw the Vaporetto boat going the other way, we knew it wasn’t the one we were looking for. Damn!
Anyways, we got off the boat by the Rialto Bridge at 6pm. The bridge was crowded with people getting that iconic view of the Grand Canal looking to the south. Meanwhile, we tried to get a better look at the bridge from further away from it but none of the views were that great from the land.
But as we were walking from Rialto to the Piazza San Marco, we noticed there was a foreign exchange bank that yielded the best rates we had seen this entire trip (at about 1.318 $USD for each euro). Julie went ahead and exchanged $300 of the $500 we had left. I guess this kind of offset the $300 we exchanged while being ripped off at the Florence airport at 1.487 $USD for each euro).
We were finally at Piazza San Marco at around 6:30pm. There were some ugly scaffoldings on the basilica facing the west side of the square. However, the clock tower was very impressive and the square itself was very grand.
After we were done checking out the main square, we then walked towards the waterfront where we saw there was a lot more action going on here as well.
Meanwhile, there were some impressive Duomos and other buildings across the grand canal, and it seemed like there were signs of wealth and grandeur in all directions. I could only imagine how intimidating this must have been to a foreigner when they’d pull into this port and perhaps come to the realization that the Venetian Republic was not to be messed with.
Anyways, when we had our fill of the general Piazza San Marco, we then walked towards a restaurant that Julie spotted on LP. But along the way, Julie spotted this Hard Rock Cafe next to a smelly patch of canals and a bunch of parked gondolas.
We knew the food was going to be crap and probably overpriced, but Julie wasn’t going to be denied a respite from the constant bombardment of Italian food that she had had enough of for the time being.
At least there was some atmosphere as there were a bunch of young Italian teenie-boppers who were singing as a chorus the Carlie Rae Jepsen song “Call Me Maybe” while the video was on. That kind of added to the atmosphere while our waitress was also singing along.
At 8:10pm, we were done eating and we headed back to the Piazza San Marco waterfront. Once again, we were hoping to catch the Vaporetto back to the rail station, but alas, it didn’t seem like there was one.
So we took another one of those crowded and frequently-stopping water taxis back to the main station, but we secured the frontmost spot we could get so I could take some twilight photos from the boat.
I guess the Vaporetto would have to wait for tomorrow.
As the skies were darkening and the lights were coming on, we could see that Venice was taking on a different kind of energy. Sure the thoroughfares remained very busy, but it seemed like the boat traffic was significantly less as well as the typical tour group traffic as well.
Still, of the photos that did turn out, the moody magic of the twilight hours in one of the most unique cities on earth was certainly apparent. I guess that’s the beauty of digital photography since you have nothing to lose as you shoot first and worry about which ones could be discarded later.
After getting off the boat, we then made the now-familiar walk through the so-called Spanish Quarter, which was that thoroughfare between the railway station and one of the side canals that would ultimately lead us to the Palazzo Cendon.
At 9:35pm, we were finally back at the room after walking from the rail station to the Palazzo Cendon. We’d spend a couple of hours down in the lobby using the Wi-Fi while Skyping Tahia. Since we paid 10 euros for this, we mind as well do this (while seeing other guests coming in at the same time).
Eventually after 2am (after opening and drinking a glass from a bottle of complimentary wine), we finally slept.