Wed, 22 October 2014
You may be wondering whether I did a gondola ride. The answer is no, although I did take a water taxi (motorboat) from St. Mark's Square to get to the train station, thus sparing myself a lot of trudging through the city with luggage as on my arrival.
After a night train ride from Venice, with transfer in Verona, I arrived in Rome today at 6 am. I walked to my hotel (the same one where I had stayed during my first week here), and I was amazed to discover that my room was ready. At 8 am I took my laundry to the fellow around the block, and at 10 am I had it back.
I'm doing a lot of reading. I am a fan of Tom Wolfe, and last night I finished I Am Charlotte Simmons -- an uplifting story, if you can stomach the cruelty inflicted on the title character, and the language. I've started another Sinclair Lewis novel, Cass Timberlane.
Today I am going to see whether I can at least find our two seminarians, Michael Friedel and Dominic Rankin. Lunchtime at the North American College would be the most likely point of intersection.
Category:general -- posted at: 9:45 AM
Mon, 20 October 2014
The line for St. Mark's Basilica begins to form well before the 9:45 am opening time. This being my last full day in Venice, I knew I had to hustle, and I did. There is in New Berlin an establishment called "Capone's Hideout," with a very eclectic decor, including a poster of "The Horses of San Marco." These ancient bronzes were on the facade of St. Mark's -- reproductions stand there now -- and the original horses are now in the museum within the walls of the basilica. To say they are beautiful is a great understatement. Their beauty is in a way heightened by the awareness of how old they are -- perhaps as many as 1800 years old.
I feel a bit of sadness at departing from Venice, which I look upon as a place of great beauty and mystery. I will perhaps return, but only with maps of the greatest intricacy.
As I report on yet another evening with spaghetti alla carbonara, this time followed by a pork chop, French fries, and tomato salad, I have been wondering whether my travel-blog is similar to what people do on Twitter, which has never made sense to me, because if you are telling everyone what you are doing, how do you get anything done? It does seem to make sense to me that the readers of this blog are simply enjoying with me a moment of leisure in surroundings I enjoy very much. I know you wish for me a good rest before going back to the work which will always be there. And I thank you.
Tomorrow night, a night train from Venice to Rome (by way of Verona). I don't anticipate being able to post anything on Tuesday. Look for the next post Wednesday.
Category:general -- posted at: 6:32 PM
Sun, 19 October 2014
My shoes hit the pavement about 10:30 am, and I have been out walking around all day.
This afternoon I visited the original "ghetto," that is, the Jewish quarter of Venice. I took part in a tour which included the German, French, and Sephardic (or "Levantine") synagogues. Can I help it that the soundtrack in my mind is playing the Elvis song "In the Ghetto"?
This Sunday is sunny. I am finding more straight streets and direct routes. I walked along the lagoon again -- this time with a view of an obviously artificial square island which serves as the city's cemetery.
I did not have the greatest luck with dinner. Again I had spaghetti alle vongole, which I love, and then fried shrimp and squid. At this particular restaurant, they were serving something I found unappetizing -- I think it was the heads of the squid. Whatever it was, everything that looked similar I pushed to the edge of the plate. Their artichokes were strange, too -- my serving was two discs. I think of artichokes as being made up of many leaves. Whatever.
Category:general -- posted at: 7:02 PM
Sat, 18 October 2014
I have referred already to the difficult task of navigating the streets of Venice. I had another experience of this, this afternoon.
One thing to be said for the streets of Venice is that there are NO CARS. In fact it's quite a rare thing for any of us these days to have such an experience.
This evening, after penne with four cheeses, roast chicken and fries, and sorbetto al limone, I walked down to St. Mark's Square and discovered that I could walk freely, seeing where I was going, to a great length along the shore of the lagoon.
Category:general -- posted at: 7:30 PM
Sat, 18 October 2014
I am in my hotel's lobby, reading the local papers. There was an accident yesterday, a vaporetto (floating city bus) colliding with a barge, and seven people were hurt. I was not there.
Category:general -- posted at: 10:14 AM
Sat, 18 October 2014
Thursday evening was seafood night. I had spaghetti alle vongole -- the signature pasta around here, with clams in garlic and oil. I loved it. Then, fried shrimp and squid, which was likewise very tasty. I learned that sorbetto al limone is to be drunk, not spooned out.
Not much to report regarding Friday. This hotel room has the comfort I found lacking in Rome. I ended up sleeping a lot. Friday's dining: prosciutto and melon, spaghetti alla carbonara, salad, and an Averna amaro.
It's Saturday morning (I was up in time to partake of the hotel's breakfast, served on very nice china) and my task was to find a laundry. I found one close by, but it is closed Saturday and Sunday. In 1997 I forgot to pack any socks, and so I was washing my socks in my room every night. I may have to resort to similar arrangements until I get back to Rome and the friendly neighborhood laundry.
My hotel is very close to St. Mark's. I must confess that I have little ambition to sightsee beyond this area. I do want to get to the original ghetto, but today is not the day, since it's the Sabbath.
Category:general -- posted at: 9:32 AM
Thu, 16 October 2014
As it turned out, the packaging is shinier but the product is the same. Wednesday-Thursday was my night train ride to Venice. No internet; no electrical outlet. I had enough power, however, to finish reading Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here. Entertaining, but gruesome. In the "trains-running-on-time" department, we arrived in Venice just one minute late.
Get ready to laugh. It took me nearly three hours to get to my hotel. Take a look at a map and you can appreciate how baffling the job of navigating Venice is.
The Blue Guide says that the best time to observe Venice is early in the morning. I arrived at 5:30 am and at that hour I had the city to myself. After finding my hotel, I wandered for a while since I had to wait for my room to be ready. The view of the Grand Canal from the Rialto bridge is stunning. And then there's St. Mark's Square, which has to be one of the great public spaces in the world.
With every passing hour, the streets of Venice become ever more crowded. I have been taking it easy this afternoon, and when I'm good and hungry I will find a place to eat. Besides the numerous restaurants, Venice is sort of an endless shopping mall.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:50 PM
Thu, 16 October 2014
... but was not in a position to upload it until now.
Believe it or not, I have been spending a number of very pleasant hours in the Rome train station!
There has been a big change here from my younger days. Back then, you entered this vast building and saw nothing but the interminable windows (some of them with bureaucrats inside) where you stood in line interminably, waiting to be told of various complications.
By contrast: today there is scarcely a window of this sort to be found. Everything is done with self-service computers. Before I left for this trip, I paid my fare for Rome-Venice-Rome on the RailEurope website. All that remained for me to do at the station was to use one of the computers to retrieve my ticket for Venice! Nothing to it!
The space the bureaucrats used to take up is now filled with cafes, restaurants and shops where I have enjoyed myself. Even the passenger waiting area is less grim. Besides having a breakfast pastry and a couple of cappuccinos, I am now at the end of my meal at the "Roadhouse" where I had a ribeye and a baked potato, Italian draft beer, fruit salad with vanilla ice cream, and espresso.
The Italian passenger rails used to be known as FS of "Ferrovie dello Stato" (Ironroads of the State). This name has been abandoned in favor of the breezier "Trenitalia."
They tell me that there is wi-fi on the train. I hope this is true. I hope there are also electrical outlets, so I can use my iPad all through the nighttime trip. I chose night trips so I can save a couple of nights of hotel rooms.
I have, of course, been reading up on Venice in my Blue Guide. They say that Venice can be compared only to itself. I've been studying the maps so as to figure out how to get from the train station to my hotel. This should be tricky.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:36 PM
Thu, 16 October 2014
Quickly: I have arrived in Venice. I will write more once I have resolved a keyboard problem.
Category:general -- posted at: 2:04 PM
Tue, 14 October 2014
Today was quite a full day. I spent a good bit of time at St. John Lateran, which is the cathedral church of Rome (St. Peter's ISN'T). They have done some wonderful restoration to the facade, and the Latin inscriptions declaring this to be the "mother and head" of all Christian churches really jumps out at you now. I kept in mind Fr. Augustus Tolton, whose priesthood ordination was here, and two popes buried here: Innocent III, who approved the establishment of the Franciscans, and Leo XIII, who engaged the modern world with his teachings on the rights of workers.
I found a great place for lunch, between the Lateran and the Colosseum, and then inspected the Colosseum area. It is undergoing restoration and the restored stone is noticeably cleaner.
This evening I met Fr. Daren Zehnle for dinner. He is in the second year of a three-year canon-law program at my alma mater, the Gregorian University.
There was a little rain this evening. My main recollection of this day is that I seem to do nothing but sweat.
Category:general -- posted at: 9:19 PM