(To get to our accommodations, you have to pass by a small doorway that leads into a bigger alley, which goes into the Jewish ghetto. Outside that doorway, though, is a canal and some sort of fish market, which I only see in the morning.)
I think it’s no secret that we, for some reason, have a strange fondness for feeding pigeons. One sunny day in Venice, we decided to stop by the Rialto (of course) and the Piazza San Marco, also known as the Pigeon Capital of the World. I mean, I would guess.
I loved going around Venice. It has a sort of labyrinthine feel to it, with a lot of narrow streets and ominous passageways that lead up to a beautiful piazza or a bridge to take you to another part of Venice. It’s a little difficult to get around, but you get to see a lot of wonderful things. Like this row of pretty-colored houses, for instance.
It’s quite nice to shop and look around, too. However, you kind of need to scout for the best price. A lot of Italian stores, especially the ones located near tourist attractions, sell the same things for varying prices, so if you spot a great deal, you should go for it.
We took a water bus or vaporetto to save time, and also to see some of the buildings from a view on the water. This, for example, is the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, with a great Calder piece (it’s a dog!) visible from the canal. When my parents were last in Venice, people could disembark from water-based vehicles onto this side of Peggy Guggenheim, but I don’t think they do that now, since it leads right into the building, bypassing the ticketing office.
Santa Maria della Salute. We didn’t get to visit this gorgeous place, but I read more about it here.
Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark’s Square, is often called “the Piazza,” and aside from the Rialto bridge, this is where tourists flock to. According to Wikipedia (lol), “it is one of the few great urban spaces in Europe where human voices prevail over the sounds of motorized traffic.”
The thing I love about Italy is that they take their piazzas (and their pizzas, hehe!) very seriously. I had a hard time leaving Italy because I knew there would be no public spaces and squares—at least no pleasant ones—waiting for me in Manila. I remember filching a shirt from my sister, which was designed by Team Manila, with a slogan emblazoned on the front: We need more parks. Indeed-y, we do.
Like I said, we love feeding pigeons. It reminded me of a strip by a softer world, where a devious plan to feed pigeons some uncooked rice (they expand when wet), for a pigeon explosion. I did not try it out to see if it’s an accurate hypothesis.
St. Mark’s Basilica takes up most of the Piazza. I love this place. It’s a hodge-podge of aesthetic and cultural styles (Byzantine mosaics, holla!), and I LOVE IT. I know some people think it’s atrocious, but I am of the belief that it is wonderful. Because it totally is.
Sassy green pigeon, gnawing on a normal-colored pigeon.
Pigeon bath! We witnessed the assertion of territorial superiority. It was quite fascinating, but mostly it was funny.
P.S. I colored these photos quite a bit. As you can see.
On our first afternoon in Venice, we walked around the Jewish ghetto and the surrounding areas. Cut short by the rain, our exploration ended at a quaint coffee shop (which turned out to be a chain), where I had the most amazing lemon meringue. The rain let up, and instead going back to the hotel, we decided to venture out near the city center. We were met with the most amazing sunset.
Slowly, the sky changed from a brilliant orange into a vivid sort of purple. It wasn’t a bruised-up sky, but a bright, tinted purple. Somehow, as we found ourselves at the edge of Venice, as we chased the sun down. It was thrilling and somewhat romantic. Our sprint was cut short by the water, and the scene unfolded like something I would have liked to read about in a story or to watch in a film.
Taken with my iPhone 4 & Instagram
I know that people often consider Paris as the City of Love and Romance, but I truthfully felt this buzzing, swelling feeling in Venice. Crazy, right? Maybe it’s all the American tourists aboard the gondoliers at every turn, or something in the air (love?). But perhaps it’s sunsets like this, introduced by heavy rains and a rainbow, coloring everything with a wash of warmth. Or witnessing a man’s proposal to a beautiful woman on a random street corner, accompanied by “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on an accordion.
Sometimes, I witness something remarkably, undeniably magical, and I wonder how these things fall into place. I wonder about the possibility and the likelihood that I be a piece of these puzzles, and I think about how lucky I am to have been a part of this one little pocket of magic—in Venice, no less!—that afternoon.
Here be the last of Florence pictures; that is, aside from the Radiohead show at Parco delle Cascine that we were able to catch. That was an experience in itself—both good and bad—but I won’t get ahead of myself.
The thing about Florence is that it knows that it attracts tourists like moths to a flame. It also knows that it is a very, very small city, with only a handful of major attractions. Like I mentioned earlier, Florence is usually a “day trip” type of city, where people take the train there for the day (or the night?), with the bigger cities as their main stations. As a tourist, you want to maximize your short stay by hitting the “major leagues” of Florentine attractions. Understandably, of course.
But therein lies the problem, because everyone else wants to do that, too. Which explains why we did not get to see the actual David. The line to buy tickets and go inside the Galleria dell’Accademia barely moved. We waited for about two hours before giving up. (It was our last full day and we were not able to explore the city so much yet.)
We waited for an hour and a half to get inside the Uffizi Gallery (aka, the Botticelli motherlode), and we were not allowed to take photographs. They offer “reservations” for tickets that come with a price tag. Sadly, in euros, everything is more expensive.
Even eating out is more expensive. At a café, it’s the norm to be charged 4 euros for a cup of coffee if you opt to sit a table, as opposed to the 1.50 euros it usually costs if you drink it at the bar, standing up. Everyone knows that it’s better to explore on foot, which makes most tourists tired. Which makes them want to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee in the company of their friends. Which means that you have to pay more than double for the coffee. Che peccato!
But anyway, enough of that. Florence is still lovely, and that is how I would like to remember it. I guess that was just sort of a warning for anybody who plans to go there.
On this journey, I have acquired a newfound love for sculptures and installation art. Though I have no idea if I will try to venture out into this medium, I can at least glean some insight and inspiration from them.
Like I said, Florence is beautiful. I really love looking around and seeing small stone (?) sculptures and engravings mingled with contemporary brands and stores, as well as artisanal shops. Though I don’t have pictures of the markets, Florence had the best ones I’ve been to in Italy.
Dead bird a little outside a minor piazza.
Good-bye, Florence. I hope I get to see you again someday, on even slightly better terms. I really wanted to love you, but some stuff got in the way.
As you may (or may not) know, I have been bitten by quite a few obsessions lately. And one of them is of the fountain pen and ink variety. Though I have not gone over the deep end and purchased all the pens in sight, I have acquired an unhealthy gravitation towards ink instead. Thanks to Leigh Reyes‘ help, I decided on a beautiful LAMY Safari as my starter pen. My dad passed on a Montblanc Slimline Noblesse, which I learned was a mid-range pen from the 80s. I’d previously known fountain pens to be somewhat tricky, because of ink blockage and faulty cartridges. But, when I learned about converters and ink, I was a goner.
One of the first inks I purchased is Rohrer & Klingner’s Alt-Goldgrün, because I saw someone use it on a LAMY Safari review. It came as a balikbayan box stuffer, so I only got to try it last week.
Alt-Goldgrün as its name implies, is a very pretty gold green, with what I’d like to think of as an unusual depth and dimension to it. There is ample shading, but obviously, it tends to be on the lighter side when I write more rapidly. It has decent dry time (2-3 seconds on Miquelrius paper), and the color just looks gorgeous when it does.
It comes in a 50ml bottle, the size of which surprised me, when I finally got to hold it in my hands. I primarily shop for inks online (since I don’t even know where to start looking for colors here in Manila), and the Rohrer & Klingner bottles look like they are the size of dinky aromatherapy oils. Obviously, I didn’t really think about getting a 50ml bottle for comparison, but that’s my brain for you. The bottle is sturdy glass and it comes with a nice-looking cap made of thin metal. Also, I adore the label.
I am in love with this color, and I’m torn between wanting to write with it everyday and saving it for special occasions. In any case, I’m glad I bought it. I would definitely buy a bottle again, if I run out, and if, on such occasion, I still had money to spend on good ink and paper.
Rohrer & Klingner Alt-Goldgrün was purchased at Jetpens.com for $12, which I have now realized is a bit on the expensive side.
My sister is nuts.
From our second European morning, she had been bugging me to go jogging with her. She had coerced my dad to go jogging with her one morning in Paris, and another morning in Rome, where they did a Rocky in St. Peter’s Square, aka the Pope’s front yard. I, for one, value the little time I get to be sedentary.
Waking up at the crack of dawn to jog is absolutely nuts to me because a) we already spend the whole day walking around until our toes are numb from the tired and also, shoe friction, and well, b) that is the only reason.
Of course, when I had spent the previous day admiring the Florentine sunset, I figured I might as well see a Florentine sunrise for myself.
We crossed the Ponte Vecchio to the other side of the river. The sun was still low, by this point. We intended to follow the river, up to a certain bridge (I forget which one), but we had been jogging for quite a while before we decided to head back, since the bridge was farther than we anticipated.
Thank you to all my supporters and everyone who believed that I could rouse myself from sleep before seven in the morning, on a European vacation. Which is to say, nobody. Because nobody thought I would actually do this. So, thanks to no one for believing in me.
Just for the record, again, Florence is beautiful. I’m so glad I got to see it at all times of the day. It really stirs up something in you that inspires you to create something beautiful, just because you’re present in some place beautiful. While I was here, my hand rushed to finish scenes of a young adult novel I had been meaning to write for years. I think I actually have a plot line now.
I wish it weren’t such a tourist trap, because I honestly loved this city a lot.
All photographs were taken with a Lomography LC-A+ loaded with Kodak Ektar 100, aka my new love.
First of all, I had no idea that that was how you said “Firenze.” I had to learn from The Jersey Shore. Every time Firenze’s name would pop up in Harry Potter, I’d just pretend it didn’t exist. Because that is how mature people roll.
It was around this time that I began feeling really tired of taking photographs. I know that’s a little sacrilege, but as much as it pains me to admit it, I began wondering if I’d overpacked cameras (I brought along a Nikon D7000 with a 35mm lens, a Nikon FM-2 with a 50mm lens; mostly because I forgot to bring the 35mm, and a Lomography LC-A+ with a wide lens attachment I borrowed from Shine). From here on out, I would bring a maximum of two cameras every time I stepped out into whichever city we would be in.
It took about four hours to get to Florence from Rome, and when we got there, we were famished! Because we traveled in a group of five with one bag each, we do not usually like hailing cabs (they fit only four people) so if there is no public transport like a bus or a tram, we usually just walk it. Which is not a pleasant experience if the roads are cobblestones (which they are).
We rented an apartment that was about twenty steps away from Piazza della Signoria. Seriously. It was awesome. There were also a cluster of pizzerias down one side, so we ended up grabbing a bite to eat.
I’ve probably mentioned it already, but I’ll say it again: In Italy, they usually serve each person their own whole pizza.
I had porcini (mushroom) risotto because I missed rice, and because I hadn’t had any yet in Italy. They actually sell “instant risotto,” kind of like instant noodles here, but they took about twenty minutes to cook, so I don’t really know what’s so instant about that. Also, the instant stuff smells really good, but tastes kind of like nothing.
Mama, trying to fit us all in one picture, hehe.
As you can probably tell, Florence is beautiful. My parents said that most people who visit Florence are only there for the day, opting to spend the bulk of their vacations in bigger cities like Rome or Milan. Of course, my mind played with the idea of maybe living there one day or something. It was really picturesque, although my brother pointed out that it seemed like it was comprised of 90% tourists.
I rather love the markets, too. They have a lot of stalls that sold leather (smelled so good!) and other unique, handcrafted items. One seller showed us how to tell the difference between “plastic leather” and real Italian leather. Frankly, I was horrified that they would even sell artificial leather along with the real kind.
Here are some tourists rubbing the snout of Il Porcellino for good luck. According to tradition, you put a coin in the boar’s mouth, allowing it to fall into the grate below (around its feet). Then, you rub its snout for good luck and also, of course, for a return trip to Florence. There is a marble copy of the Florentine Boar in the Louvre, among other places, and there was a florentine boar in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II, apparently! I have yet to check it out, although I do remember seeing a boar when I went on the Studio Tour in London, further down this trip.
Because of a tip from two friends (thank you Armando & Lora!), we decided to catch the sunset at Piazalle Michelangelo, which has a panoramic view of Florence. I should have anticipated a high climb (duh, Carina), but it’s okay because it was worth it.
Be-a-utiful! For a minute, I wished I had brought my Sprocket Rocket (imagine!) but I know it’s severely impractical. Still though, that would have been a lovely view caught on film.
Thank everyone and their mother that David has a bunch of replicas strewn all over Florence, because we were NOT able to see the original. It’s a long, sad story, but enough of that! We were still all smiles here: