Whenever anyone asks where I’m studying, I tell them “in a small town about an hour north of Venice.” Since I’m so close to Venice, or Venezia, as the Italians call it, I knew I had to spend at least a day in the city. We had shortened classes on Friday, so I was able to take the 1:15 pm bus from campus to Castelfranco. Then I walked about 20 minutes to the Castelfranco train station. I had a map with me, so I knew how to get there, but I ended up tagging along with some nice Italian girls who were headed that way. I ordered my train ticket in Italian and took the 2:46 train into Venice. Ordering in Italian is always fun, not only because I get a sense of personal satisfaction, but because it usually makes the person I’m talking to happy as well! I got to Venezia St Lucia at 3:30 and bought a 24 hour Vaporetto pass for 20 euro. This was a great investment, since I used the Vaporetto several times during my stay. The Vaporetto is basically like a subway system, but it’s with big boats on the canals. There are different lines and stops, and it takes longer than trains, but it was really cool to experience.
I was in Venice for Carnevale, which is the huge Mardi Gras-type celebration leading up to Lent. There were people dressed in elaborate costumes, but I didn’t notice anything that really seemed specific to Carnevale, other than all of the tourists wearing masks. I took a boat on Line #1 all the way down the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco. The trip there was beautiful and so picturesque. I walked through the square and bought a few souvenirs. I walked to the Rialto Bridge and looked in the shops there. I crossed the Rialto Bridge and took the Vaporetto from Rialto Mercato to Ferrovia (the train station stop) and then to Zitelle to get to the hostel. The Vaporetto system was pretty easy to navigate. The only confusing thing about it is that the boats aren’t always used for the same route, so the stops aren’t posted on the inside of the boat, which means you have to constantly be aware of what stop you’re at. This was difficult at night when the signs weren’t lit up, or during the day when it was foggy and I was inside the boat rather than standing out on the deck. I got a tuna and onion pizza at a place by the hostel – Ristorante Pizzeria da Sandro. It was fresh and warm and so nice to eat after being out in the cold night.
I traveled by myself this weekend, so I booked a bed in a 14 bed female dorm at the Generator Hostel, located on the island of Giudecca. I had heard complaints from other students about how far away it is from the main island, but I was only there for one night, so it didn’t present a problem for me. The hostel was great. There were only 6 of us in the dorm, so it was spacious, and my bed was really comfy. I wasn’t disturbed by any snorers, either – what a blessing!
^view from outside the hostel
I checked out around 9:30 and took the Vaporetto to Murano, an island known for its artisan glassware. I got there around 10:45. I somehow helped two different groups of people with directions while on the Vaporetto. I saw a free glassblowing demonstration. The artist used two different techniques – he blew the glass into a vase shape, and then he used tools to make a different piece of glass into a horse. I don’t really like the glass animals that much, but it certainly takes talent to create them. I wandered around some more and ate a light lunch at a cafe. I got an egg and tuna tramezzino, which is a light Italian sandwich made with soft white bread cut into triangles. I also got a frittella, but I think it was zabaione, which is the eggnog flavor. My favorite is crema.
^I stood in line for a glass-blowing demonstration here, but you had to pay for it, and I wasn’t interested enough in glass-blowing to pay for it. I found a free workshop instead. But I loved the glass flowers on the archway of this place.
I went to the glass museum. It was under renovation, so they only had 5 rooms open. Because of the limited exhibitions, everyone got in for a reduced rate of 5,50 euro. The museum had really old glass vases and little bowls from thousands of years ago. Each room had information about how glassmaking evolved during a particular century, with pieces created using those techniques. One thing I found really interesting is that African tribal necklaces are sometimes created with Murano beads. I was so surprised that a tribe all the way in Africa would import beads made in Italy. I always assumed that those necklaces were made with beads or objects produced in the local area. After the glass museum, I bought a crema frittella at another pasticceria in order to get rid of the zabaione memory.
^some of the oldest glass artifacts in the museum
^beautiful glass chandeliers
Next, I took a boat that went directly to Burano. It was packed with people. Burano is a fishing village with brightly colored homes, and it is also known for its lace. I went in a store where a guy painted colorful crafts depicting Burano. I bought a piece of wood painted to look like a Burano home, complete with little fabric clothing hanging from a clothesline. I kept walking and saw the leaning bell tower. There was a lace museum, too, but I didn’t go in. I bought a lovely burgundy lace scarf at one of the many lace shops. I was looking at the scarves because they were so pretty and the lady who worked there drew me in and had me try some on. I loved the burgundy one and figured it will be fun to say I got it in Italy! I wasn’t planning on buying anything else, but I saw a dish towel that had a different design and was cheaper than most of the other ones I’d seen, so I added that to my collection.
I saw a crepe stand on my way back to the Vaporetto stop. I didn’t have time to get one in Paris this year, so I bought one with Nutella and bananas. It was so yummy. It was a windy, drizzly day, so a warm crepe really hit the spot. I left Burano around 2:45ish, and there was a huge influx of young people as I was heading out. They were all drinking and rowdy and must have come in on the same boat.
^the leaning bell tower on Burano from the Vaporetto
I took the 4:26 train back to Castelfranco and arrived exactly one hour later. I planned to get back in time for the bus to Paderno – much cheaper when traveling alone than taking a taxi. Venice was the perfect city to visit from Friday to Saturday. Buses don’t run to Paderno on Sundays, so I didn’t want to pay for a taxi on my own, and I also wanted to have a low-key day on campus to catch up on sleep. I had enough time to walk through Castelfranco slowly. There is an old moat and the remnants of a castle are in the center of the town. I spent some time in a bookshop while I waited for the bus – time in a bookshop is never time wasted! I still don’t really know the area surrounding campus very well, so it was a struggle to find my bus stop while the bus was zooming through the dark Italian streets, but I made it back! Missed dinner, and Diego at the tabacchi had already put away the sandwich stuff, but he was kind enough to give me a roll and slice me some turkey – I made sure to say “grazie mille” to him!
^clocktower in Castelfranco
^castle walls in Castelfranco – you walk through them to get to a nice shopping area
Venice was really pretty, and though it wasn’t my favorite city so far, my bank account disagrees. I definitely bought more this weekend than I have during any other! Now I have class from Monday to Wednesday, and then I’m leaving for Rome on Wednesday night, and I’ll be there for four nights! But first – an Italian quiz and a marketing exam! That’s right, I am doing some studying here!