September 2011
more photos here


Wednesday 21st September
Decided to forego the bleary-eyed crack-of-dawn EasyJet this year and go for their lunchtime flight. My train journey was unfortunately rife with delay and cancellation. The only entertainment provided by the announcer at Clapham Junction, after many minutes of regular corporate apologies, saying "The train pulling into platform 13 is not stopping, stand clear...oh, it's stopped. OK. The train at platform 13 is for East Croydon, passengers for Gatwick Airport, Brighton, Eastbourne ... actually wherever you want to go, get on this train and change at East Croydon."

Once at Gatwick the EasyJet check in was fine - a long queue, but fast moving. The policemen with big black guns across their chests were a bit unnerving mind you, and the woman behind me transferring stuff from her suitcase to her hand luggage shouldn't have been weird, but the fact that her hand luggage was one of those blue fibreglass sacks from Ikea was pretty odd. The boarding and flight went pretty smooth too - the flight full of couples and parties of white-haired Brits, so I felt young. At Marco Polo I discovered they've moved the Venice Connected desk, where you collect your pre-bought vaporetto pass. It's now the right-most window of the bunch just to the left when you come out of arrivals, where they sell the boat and bus tickets. I noticed on a poster while I was waiting that the museum pass can now be bought including the Chorus churches, which is a new deal on me.

Caught bus number 5 to Piazzale Roma, walked over the bloody Calatrava Bridge and was at my hotel, the Ca'Pozzo, in no time. After my falling out with the Istituto Ciliota last year, following shoddy treatment, I decided to go back to one of the few hotels in Venice I'd stayed in that I'd liked enough to go back. Swift check-in, room is all modern and equipped, the wi-fi is free, and the first four soft drinks from the minibar are complimentary. Spiffy! And my first email is from April Steele, my agent within San Giorgio Maggiore who regular readers may remember my reporting had accidentally found the lost arm off the Saint George statue in an unmarked room deep in the bowels. Well, she's sent photographic proof (above right). Should we start a campaign to get it fixed back on?

Had an evening wander and some food. OK, confession time. Eagle-eyed readers of my past trip reports might've noticed a certain lack of detail with regard to my evening meals. Unusual, you may have thought, for a chap prone to wittering on re. cakes, chocolate and ice cream. Well this is because I have got into the habit of eating, well, junk food in Venice when I'm here on my own. For speed and the lack of having to sit alone in restaurants. I'm not proud of this cowardly failing, especially when it leads to me patronising Pizza Pause, whose pizza slice and chips option has become drier and cardboardier as the years pass. But this year it's going to be different. But not tonight. After my Filet-o-fish McMenu I walked along to the Rialto Bridge and back. On my way back I cleansed my palate with a Grom stracciatella and lampone. Came back around along the Cannaregio canals and through the ghetto, and the policemen were in their little hut, even at night.



Thursday 22nd September
Woken by the sound of a cat howling, but only about a minute before my alarm went off. My room's window is above head height, so I couldn't investigate the source of said racket. Now I don't want to be coming the seasoned traveller on your asses, but this is my third trip/hotel this year so some comparing is understandable, I think. The hotel in Vienna was big and ***** (that's five stars, not a swear word), the one in Florence pretty modest. The breakfast spread in the Vienna hotel was huge and varied enough to be a highlight of the holiday in itself, so the Florence breakfast could not come anywhere near, and is best left unspoken of. Here the breakfast spread is not huge, as the hotel is quite small, but it's got what you want, and the quality is good. Fresh fruit salad, yogurt, orange juice made from oranges, nice fresh croissants and rolls (but not real croissants, of course), and good coffee, was what I had. This place has the best wi-fi of all three. You don't have to get and put in a new password every few days (Vienna) and it isn't down more often than it's up (Florence, and you had to pay for it.)

Taking advantage of staying in Cannaregio for the first time in years I decided to start churching local, with the Scalzi (see right). Maybe it's because I've been soaking up the baroque in Vienna and Florence this year, albeit in more subtle forms, but this church didn't seem quite so overpowering this time. Or maybe I was in a forgiving first-church mood. It helps if you focus on the interesting details to lessen the overall rush. It is all very unrestored and catholic, with all the dull gilding and dusty statues. Interesting and odd that the middle of each side's three chapels is much taller, the one on the right being the highlight chapel, with the Tiepolo ceiling.

On to San Giobbe which is, as has been reported, only open 10.00 - 1.30 now, despite being a Chorus church and they usually always opening 10.00 - 5.00. This church is a strong renaissance contrast to the Scalzi - wide and airy and nicely bare with Lombardo and della Robbia bits, it's as close to a Florentine church as Venice gets. The sacristy has it's original wood furniture and painted ceiling panels, and an annunciation by Antonio Vivarini that's no great shakes. The paintings here are all less than middling, unfortunately. It's the Lombardo brothers' stonework that's the draw here and, for me at the end of my visit, the solitude. Another thing: the oddly deep apse, almost the same length as the church.

A sunny stroll through Cannaregio, always mostly deserted and dominated by locals, to Sant'Alvise. The bright and looming trompe l'oeil architectural ceiling still seems a bit incongruous on top of this dark box of a church. The three big Tiepolos (The Flagellation, The Road to Calvary and The Crowning With Thorns) are worth the trek , as is the great big nun's gallery (see below right). The church acquired three important relics of the flagellation in 1456, the guide sheet tells us, and so became a place of devotion and pilgrimage and thereby acquired a related reputation. Hence the pain and suffering in those commissioned Tiepolos. The 15th Century statue of St Louis over the door is by Florentine Agostino di Duccio don't you know.

The old Scuola Grande della Misericordia had not one but two exhibitions I didn't want to see, but it's always good to get inside. Downstairs it was some nasty Jan Fabré sculptures, but the huge space with it bunches of paired columns impresses anyway. Upstairs it was...something else, but the painted walls were just visible through the scaffolding, and the dramatically lit details on the stairs were nice (see below). The attendant offered to explain the works upstairs for me, but I declined, politely, despite the temptation to say 'give over woman, they're nasty'. This was a morning of quietly strong Venetian pleasures, away from the crowds, of course. The only spoiler was finding that my favourite bakery for lunchtime panini is now a children's clothes shop. Got some lunch elsewhere, fed some of it to some pigeons in the scrubby park near San Geremia. Back to the hotel to type up and doze.

Caught a vaporetto down to the Accademia, which now isn't all covered in scaffolding! For the first time in years! Into Dorsoduro to say hello to my mate Kim and stock up on boxes of Leone Pastiglie (lampone, vaniglia and biscotti di Natale). Then a random wander back through Santo Stefano, veering right off the main drag, getting lost and ending up at San Zulian, which always happens. Back to the vicinity of my hotel and a very nice (sit-down (see yesterday's confession)) pizza called a Fresca (with fresh tomato), a frutti di bosco panna cotta, and an espresso. I sat outside at Al Faro, which is on the calle leading into the Ghetto down the side of Gam Gam.



Friday 23rd September
Today, I thought, Castello. Caught the circular vaporetto anti-clockwise, taking me past the station and the bus station, around by Santa Marta, and through the Giudecca canal to, eventually, the Biennale gardens. (Nice to see the patch of scaffolding on the window on the front of the Doge's Palace that dropped stones on a tourist has finally come down, after a few years. Shame about the remaining big blue blight panels down the side.) Walked through the Garibaldi Gardens and took advantage of unusually not reaching San Francesco di Paola just as it's closing for a leisurely visit. It has four shallow chapels each side with the first ones, at the back, being under the nun's gallery. All the good art here is at clerestory level or on the ceiling, the latter by Giovanni Contarini, a pupil of Titian. Also not at ground level, there's an impressive bulbous organ balcony. The inevitable painting by Palma Giovane here depicts four female saints, but has a hole cut into it top centre for a small somewhat primitive painting of the Madonna and Child to be inserted.

Along Via Garibaldi to where Santa Maria Ausiliatrice has become a bit of a focus for Biennale satellite exhibitions. A couple of old artisan houses opposite are housing various exhibitions, and it's nice to wander through crumbly old rooms and corridors, even if the art's mostly underwhelming. It was also nice to get into Santa Maria Ausiliatrice at last, even if the church itself was hosting a big noisy video thing, which blocked the altar. Too dark to see much too, but the restoration seems to have left only bits of the original church, although there is a small nun's gallery, more a nun's balcony really, at the back. The other rooms were lacking in character, but one had loads of fetching little prints of bridges, and I even bought postcards of them. Tim Davies is the artist. Bought myself a bag of giuggiole and made my way to San Pietro delicately spitting my pips into canals as I went.

The Chorus attendant woman at San Pietro was obviously somewhat peeved at my interrupting her mobile call with my request for an info sheet in my language, especially as she hadn't put them behind their right dividers and had to search. This church is big (see above right). Not Frari big, but certainly San Salvador big. It's three naves wide, with a large dome. It's full of middling 18th Century art, with some good doge tombs and a large Longhena high altar. There's an odd Basaiti of five saints that seems pasted into a too-large frame (over the third altar on the right) with some mock stone work painted in to fill the gap. I sense a story here. Also earlier than most of the rest is a Veronese high on the left over the entrance to the Lando Chapel, of the few chapels in a Venetian church named after a character from Star Wars.

I then headed back via the Arsenale to take advantage of their bookshop's toilet. On the way, as I approached a steep bridge, I became away of an elderly chap behind saying something about 'giovani' and 'aiuto' and realised he was asking me, young chap that I am, to help him get his heavy shopping trolley over said bridge. Call me giovani again and I'll do your shopping for you, I would have said, if I'd known how to say it in Italian. Coming out of the loo I spotted a display of Swatch watches, there because they're sponsoring the Biennale this year, it seems. Now I'm looking for a new watch as the one I bought in Venice on a past rip (the infamous Basil Fawlty trip to be precise) has been playing up lately, regularly setting itself to midnight on the 1st of January 2004. Presumably this is the time when the watch was most happy and it wants to go back. Anyway, after considering a bright red or a tasteful grey model and finally deciding on frugality I wandered out, checked to see whether it was time for lunch yet and, you guessed it - it was the early hours of 1.1.2004 again. So, an omen I thought, and now a tasteful grey Swatch embellishes my wrist.

Got myself a slice of focaccia di cipolle and some little tomato flavour bruschetti things and sat in the campo outside San Giovanni in Bragora and lunched, and listened while an African bag seller made a sale and told his
life story to two sympathetic women. Visited the bookshop with all the cats, and found a book all about San Pietro Martire on Murano. It's multilingual and seems to have been published in the late 1970s. I say seems as it has no date, but has a dedication written in it in blue biro in Italian with the date 1980. I bought it anyway, and stroked a large plush grey cat, lounging in a small box, to celebrate my find. Back via the gelateria by San Zanipolo for a celebratory coppa (fior di latte and fragola), stopping also to buy a celebratory tart to go with my afternoon tea. I was told it was mele, and it seemed to be just so, with some spiceness too.

After my siesta I strolled to a couple churches past the bus station, for exterior pics. Then up to Campo Santa Margherita. Nearby I happened across a restaurant in a garden called Trattoria da Silvio which did a pizza with onions, a fave topping of mine not often seen. I went in and choose a seat and looked up and...there smack centre of my sight line was the famous campanile of San Pantelon, my comparison of which to a vibrator has got me more than a couple of emails, I must say. Returned via the gelateria that does the odd flavours - the Gelateria Alaska di Pistacchi Carlo. I had cinnamon and almond flavours and congratulated Pistacchi Carlo on his fine flavours.





Saturday 24th September
A bit of a free-form day today. I decided that I needed to get to the centre to check out a few Biennale-only buildings. I toyed with catching a vaporetto, but decided I couldn't face the scrum that this usually entails. So I made for a walk through Dorsoduro from the bus station. I got waylaid by San Geremia on the way, as it's a while since I've been in. It's still a church obsessed with telling tourists off, with it's profusion of signs and red rope barriers, and as a building it needs love. But with a bit of blotting out and raising your eyes it's a nicely monumental sort of place. Saint Lucy-love dominates - her glass box has now sprouted a tree of little red lights and her image, showing us her eyes on a plate, is everywhere. I'm not sure how her eyes can be on the plate and in her head at the same time, but that's saints for you.

Over the Scalzi bridge, on the way passing a pasta shop displaying the sign HISTORICAL PASTA - NOT SEXY. Wound through to the Zattere and made my way to the Abazia San Gregorio, by the Salute. (What looked like a full film crew on the steps of the Salute were just taking photos of a blonde woman in a short skirt and gold sandals licking an ice cream. The ice creams being made by a chap from some stuff that wouldn't melt, presumably, and couldn't be eaten, I imagine.) The art in the Abazia was from Japan and other Asian countries and was all in-your-face and mostly influenced my manga and video games, it seemed to me - all big eyes, cartoon characters and dubious sexuality. The toss-up for the most disturbing piece was shared by the plastic statue of the naked pre-pubescent girl with water gushing down her body from around the doll-like join in her neck and the human-sized shiny plastic Mickey Mouse with the enormous erection. (A photo of excited Mickey is in my Venice Trip 2011 album on
this site's Facebook page, if you can stand it.) What I did like was the large shell made from what looked like rusty miniature gothic churches. Still, nice to be able to get in and around the cloister and to take photos. Thanks to Brigitte for the finding and the recommendation.

Out and over the Accademia bridge and to San Samuele church, open for the Biennale too. You enter under an organ loft that's lost its organ. There are four almost identical altars, two on each side at the back and one either side of the high altar facing forwards. It has a triple nave four arches long with good-looking oil paintings set into the spandrels. No really good art amongst the paintings over the altars or at ground level. The frescoes in the apse are pretty spectacular, though (see right), having been restored by Save Venice in 2000.

To San Fantin next which is, you guessed it, open for a Biennale exhibit. The darkness and the largeness of the (pointless) art make appreciating the interior difficult. But it looks like an odd and interesting space made of cubes. Grubby dark grey stone detailing, with a couple of altars visible towards the back. The art masked the view of of the apse end (see right) but enough was visible to whet the appetite, and I avidly await an opportunity to have a look inside this one when it's artless.

Back, somewhat indirectly, via the bakers over the Rialto for a slice of their olive and cheese focaccia, which I ate sitting on some canal steps feeding bits of it to fish - a lot of little minnowy ones, yes, but several full-size fish too, I kid you not. The video proof is here. Passed behind the Frari after and got a cocco and pera coppa from the reliable gelateria there. I also took a fornarina home (see right).

In the evening I wandered up past the Tre Archi bridge and through the blocks of flats to where you can look over the lagoon to the road bridge. Lots of bunches of women on benches and their own chairs, gassing. Also various sounds and smells coming out of all the windows, including a noisy band practising. And boy did they need it, and a new vocalist. Back to the Tre Archi bridge and over it and around the back to the railway station. My idea of a trip to Ravenna took a bit of a blow finding it costs
35 and seems to take two hours, and that for 5 more euros and the same journey time I could catch the Roma Express and have a day in Florence. Through Piazzale Roma towards Angelo Raffaele I found a falafel take away and then soon found myself eating one by the side of a quiet canal in the company of a black cat, who wasn't keen. The sound of distant trumpet fanfares turned out to be two chaps in period costume playing from the balcony of the Palazzo Zenobio. A bit more dusky wandering around Dorsoduro, then back to the hotel. You might like to know that the new thing being sold by the chaps who sell the jelly-y things that go splat is a rocket thing that they fire high into the air with a big elastic band and which spins back to earth with flashing lights.




Sunday 25th September

Them what knows me knows me to be a creature of habit, and so it being Sunday it must be the Lido. All made a bit easier by my staying in Cannaregio this time and there being a Vaporetto from the Guglie stop direct to the Lido. I poked my head into Santa Maria Elisabetta when I got there but there was a service on and it was packed, so no sliding into a back pew and trying to look pious. I made for the Ospedale al Mare, my Lido habit bordering on addiction. This time there was an impromptu sign over the entrance, signalling a move by locals to reclaim the building as their own. I wandered the rooms and corridors and took many photos. There was yet more evidence of more people getting in, from debris like water bottles to the plaster underfoot having a finer-ground path down the middle. I revisited old bits, with my swanky new camera, and found some new subjects, like the peculiar shaped baths (below right) and the most spectacular damp patch ever (below). After a fair while I realised that I badly needed to pee, which put me into something of a quandary. I'm in a building with dozens of toilets, but they've all long since seen any running water. They also probably won't see demolition for decades though. What to do? On my way out I passed the theatre, where a chap and his dog made eye contact and invited me in to tell me something about his group's hopes for the buildings' preservation and reuse. The hand-made signs spoke of a group in its early stages, but I gave him a card for this website and I hope for some fruitful contact for both of us. (More photos from today are on my Ospedale al Mare page.)

Leaving the Opedale, which has been in development limbo for years, and walking past the Hotel des Bains, where work has been halted by Italy's (and Europe's) financial state, and the scaffolding remains, it's easy to despair of any progress. And the big new white buildings up by the Excelsior - is anything happening there? They seem eternally ringed by high fencing. Caught the boat back, passing a marina at the tip of Castello which was bizarrely full of just vaporetto stops. A slice of pizza for lunch. Followed by some tart indecision...

Tonight I went to Al Faro again. This time I had some bruschetta and pesto gnocchi, and it was good again. The gelato on the stroll was just plain old stracciatella and limone.

Monday 26th September
I feel I must begin by clearing up a couple of questions left unanswered yesterday. Firstly I have to confess that I did use the long-unplumbed facilities in the ruined ospedale. And yes, I did eat both of the cestoni - the cocco and the mandorla - the photo makes them look larger than they were.

A Dorsoduro day today, beginning at Angelo Raffaelle, a church I'd not visited in a while. It's Greek-cross shaped and given a warm glow inside by the orangey net curtains. The fluffy-looking scenes from the life of St Tobias along the organ loft are by brother-of-Guardi. The 18th Century art here holds little to surprise, and there's the statutory Palma Giovane painting. The ceiling fresco by Fontabasso is a bit darkly out of tone, but impressive. He also did the somewhat overpowering (as I remember it) low ceiling in the sacristy. One can go have a look if there's anyone to ask. The woman who had climbed up onto an altar with a feather duster seemed like she might not want to be disturbed and have to climb down.

On to San Sebastiano, which I'd not visited since the recent restoration finished, but when I got there...access only to the very back because of mucho scaffolding and more restoration starting and clanking of scaffolders. Bugger it! The helpful woman who sold me my Chorus pass had mentioned some closures and opening time changes, but not this one. I made for the Frari, as I have been here four days now without one Bellini. On the way I notice that San Pantalon is open, which is odd as it's always been an evening opener. But no, it now opens M0n-Sat 10-12,1-3 and even has a website It's better inside for being daylit, as opposed to the evening light of previous visits, especially to get a good look at the painted ceiling, which is spectacular (see above right). It's by Fumiani, whose work can be found in some of the chapels here too. In fact the ceiling can now be lit by putting a very reasonable 50 cents into one of the boxes by the middle right chapel. The other box takes 50 cents to light up the nearby Veronese, but it's considerably less of a bargain, it being a much smaller painting. The church is big and tall and aisleless, with three deep chapels on each side of the nave. To the left of the high altar there is now access to two chapels. The first is the Capella del Chiodo which contains a mighty impressive large Coronation of the Virgin by Antonio Vivarini and some bits from an earlier altarpiece by Paolo Veneziano. Have these works been gathering dust here awaiting display? I doubt that they were painted for this chapel. I'll find out. There's also the Capella della Santa Casa di Loretta. This is medium-sized, dark and brick-walled, with sweet fragments of fresco by Pietro Longhi, which are mentioned in guidebooks, and must've been made for here because they're, like, stuck to the walls. So, what with the new opening times, the chapels, the Vivarini, the ceiling, the lighting, and all, this one moves well up the ratings and becomes a bit of a must-visit.

I went to the Frari, as all this 18th Century stuff had only increased my Bellini need. A quick visit, just paying respects to the Titians and the tombs. I didn't realise that the weird black and white tomb with the blackamoors carrying the sacks has a door in the middle out to the calle. It was left open today with a barrier, so people could peer in, which was even weirder, after all these years of not having thought of the tomb as an enormous doorcase. Aside from the important (if not so lovable) Titians and the wondrous Bellini, the Frari's also good for an appreciaton of the Vivarini, all of them. Vivid red robes and square heads - that was their thing.

But that was enough church action, so I headed for the Ca' Corner della Regina, a palazzo done up by the Fondazione Prada to show modern art. I was intrigued to visit it as I had been reliably informed that it was worth the
10 admission fee. Walking around the ground floor with its, admittedly attractive, stony and bricky spaces full of big and stony art I was sceptical. But the main room on the piano nobile is a treat of decorative frescoing (see right), with some nice bits of old stuff in the other rooms to. And even some of the new stuff was a bit fascinating. But not the Jeff Koons of course. 1o does seem a bit steep though.

Lunch eaten in a favourite canal-side spot, and for the more savoury amongst you (including my n & d) I photographed what I ate (see right). The one on the left is a cheese thing and on the right is a cheese and tomato thing. With my tea back at the hotel I had a frutti di bosco...well the shop label described them as ravioli (see below right) - biscuity pastry, jammy filling.
Me evening stroll was to San Marziale, an evening-opening church. It was open and empty when I got there, the trick seeming to be to get there after it opens at 5.00, but before the service which seemed to be kicking off at 6.00. It's aisleless with 3 altars along either side of the nave, with a pair with barley-suger twisted (and coloured) columns either side of plainer central ones with statues. The high altar is one of those exuberant jobbies - highly populated and surging up to, in this case, a gold globe. There are even carved figures under the table, as it were. The right hand central altar has an unconvincing Tintoretto of Saints Peter and Paul which, a sign says, was over the high altar before the 17th Century 'restoration'. I left as the bells rang and people started arriving for the service, and had a photographically fruitful evening stroll. Evidence to the right, and on the Facebook photos page here.


Tuesday 27th September
Blimey, where has the week gone - it's my last day already. Things yet to do: the synagogues, San Zaccaria to see 'my' Bellini, the Accademia, Burano, the Real Venice exhibition at San Giorgio Maggiore, Ravenna ... and I haven't been into Piazza San Marco once the whole week! Or checked out the San Lorenzo cats. Bearing all this in mind I decide to head up towards Madonna dell'Orto and then head East, letting chance play its hand. I do this because if I've learned anything it's that if you want to have your faith in Venice strengthened it's best to keep to the back canals, and if you want to get jaded then head up, for example, the Strada Nova. Today I'm also going to learn that Palma Giovane is maybe not as bad a painter as he's painted and that someone up there is intent on making this my best trip in ages.

On the way to Madonna dell'Orto I pass the decidedly small and mostly-closed Santa Maria dei Redentore and its doors are open. I'd found it open a few years ago and taken a quick photo but been intrigued by a likable altarpiece, which I tried to get a better photograph of. Some noise out the back resolved itself into a friendly chap who showed me some leaflets telling the church's history! That exclamation mark is because I have a very brief paragraph about this place on my churches site, and now it gonna get a whole lot longer. And that interesting altarpiece ... Palma Giovane.

On to the Madonna dell'Orto, and the refreshment of not having to be polite about the art in a church. Here we have Tintoretto and son, of course, but also a fine Cima and a couple of impressive works by Matteo Ponzone, a new name on me. Even the Palma Giovane Annunciation is one of his more original compositions. (A church full of Tintoretto and Palma gets the high altar position!) The Presentation of the Virgin is still one of my favourite Tintorettos, but has it been cleaned lately? Ever? Titian's Tobias and the Angel, taken from San Marziale (presumably because it's a less visited church and so doesn't deserve a painting by a big name) still looks very unTitiany to me.

The cloister next door was open, for the showing of art, but not Biennale-related stuff. Some of it was actually quite good and the cloister is lovely (see above right) but aren't they all? Heading vaguely towards the Miracoli I passed Santa Caterina, a church I'll never get in as it's part of a school and rumoured to be used as storage, but the side door's open! I do my best to look casual and slope in. The church is here being used purely as a space, and a space with three big portakabin school rooms built in the middle. You can walk around this block, getting some odd looks from the kids learning stuff as you pass the open doors. The church fittings are in a very poor state. Two side altars remain, one on each side, and the high altar in it's charred-looking apse. No art works remain. There are bits of partitioning and modern doors to further make for a functional but unlovely space.

Consulting my map to make sure I'm on a direct route, I pass over bridges and through calli where my feet have not previously trod, which is always a treat. Until I find myself at the door of the House of Corto Maltese, a museum dedicated to Hugo Pratt, Venice's most famous comic-book artist. Any more such surprises and I'll have to double up on my blood-pressure tablets! It turns out to have only been open since February of this year and to cost
6. It's not a big place, but there's some art to look at, a mocked-up room in the British-Empire-inspired style of the comics, and the opportunity to dress up and create stuff and write messages to our hero. And to buy a Corto Maltese fridge magnet (see right).

Lunch was (fine, fresh-saladed) falafel from a place beyond San Zanipolo, eaten on a bench by the side entrance of same, with entertainment provided by three policemen checking the papers of a couple of chaps of middle-eastern appearance, at great length. And some pushy pigeons demanding bits of pitta bread. The bakers by my hotel's entrance alleyway provided me with a marmalade ravioli and an almond kiffle. They were small and looked boring (so no photo) and were boring in the eating too. A disappointing end to a somewhat special morning.

Laying my weary bones down for my afternoon snooze I registered the time as 3.30. My afternoon constitutionals rarely last longer then an hour. Any longer and they tend to lose their refreshment value. Imagine my surprise, then, at waking up to the sound of church bells. They're ringing early, I thought. But no, it was 6 o'clock. So I zipped over to Dorsoduro for a last chat with Kim, saw her onto her Giudecca vaporetto, and took me to Gianni's nearby on the Zattere for some penne al arrabiata. A pera and fior di latte coppa from Nico followed, and a night-time weave through from the end of the Zattere to the Scalzi Bridge and back to the hotel. Why does one always feel most arrived and comfortable just before it's time to go home?


Wednesday 28th September
Breakfast, pay bill, catch bus, queue for flipping ages at the EasyJet desk, now on the left as you enter hall, and one long snaky queue for all destinations. Seriously considering going for more expensive, less stressful flying experience next time. With food maybe. The flight was hitchless, though. At Gatwick they're now using machines to read the new UK/EU passports and teething problems involving people brains made this queue a bit long too. You put you passport's page with your photo on face down on the glass of the machine (like an Oyster card reader crossed with a photocopier), then you go through the gate that opens when it decides you're not dangerous, then you stare at a camera lens over a screen while it reads your face, and then the big glass gate opens and you're in the country. I did it in about 30 seconds and I am not, as you may have noticed, a rocket scientist.

Last thoughts: one of my best trips, the time flew, I went to new places, I saw inside churches I never thought I would, it didn't rain, my accommodation was near faultless and my shiny new laptop is now one of my very best friends. Everyone was friendly this time, at the hotel, in shops, in most of the churches, and in the Corto Maltese museum the chap was helpful beyond the call. What I didn't do this trip was walk through Piazza San Marco, even once, or visit the Accademia, or San Zaccaria. I'm wondering if I could've stayed longer. I do get homesick after a week on my own, but there's also that thing of it taking a week for one to get really settled in. So next year I might stay longer, or maybe miss a year and concentrate on Florence.

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