Have you ever had one of those days where things ended up just fine, but it was a struggle to make that happen? You end up feeling negative about the whole experience, even though nothing technically went down the drain. That is how I feel about today.
We started the day wayyyy earlier than originally planned because we knew there was a train strike planned. How did we find out? Well, my limited Italian was able to decipher it on one of our fast train rides, then I did a little research. It's interesting; on the Italian rail site, they have a link to information about the strike in Italian, but if you click to view the English version of the page, it's gone. Our desk clerk at the hotel was optimistic, the website seemed optimistic that if we got there early, we could get on one of the "guaranteed" trains. I think the Italian definition of guarantee must be different from ours because only one train (not ours) left from 6 am when we got to the station until about 8. Three trains we had planned to take we're cancelled, so we eventually had to buy tickets for a more expensive fast train. So, we ended up sitting in a train station for 3 hours to spend 60 euro more to make it to Venice in time. This is one of those days when it really helped to know some Italian. I'm not sure how we would have gotten by without it.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Italian train strikes are fairly common. They advertise them in advance, so you can usually find the dates with an Internet search, even if they are not advertised for English speakers on their site. Most commonly, it is regional trains which are cancelled, so if there is a strike during your trip, book a fast train and you should be okay. We just didn't think to research it this time.
Once we arrived at the Venice train station, we only had about 25 minutes until we were supposed to meet our tour for the MSC Musica, so we checked our bags at the station and hurried on. Most large stations have a bag check for about 5 euro for 6 hours. We headed to the terminal, took the PeopleMover (a monorail) and walked what felt like forever to reach the ship.
I will do a separate blog on our MSC tour, but it was very interesting, great to be on a ship after our travels, and I have lots of info. One thing I will say: the spa looked and smelled so good, if I had laid down for one of those rose petal massages with a view of Venice, I would have never wanted to leave.
By the end of our tour and the trudge to our hotel which had us feeling like pack mules, we were exhausted. I think I just laid on the bed with my feet throbbing for like 15 minutes. This is the hardest thing to me about big trips like this. When I am home, I would give anything for a stroll around Venice with the architecture, picturesque scenes and ambiance. But the toll it takes on my body to get here and to tour all day leaves me in almost too much pain and exhaustion to enjoy it. Maybe a transatlantic cruise is the answer, but we don't have enough leave for that. If we could force ourselves to take it easy in a small town like Ferrara for our first few days, maybe we'd feel alright, but we are always jetting around from morning until night, trying to make the most of our time and money.
And so we headed out into the city, wearing the most comfortable clothes we could without looking like beggars, with as little as we could possibly carry. It always amazes me how many people are walking the streets of Venice. It's like being in Disney World when you are on those main paths. You get stuck behind the slow people, some stop suddenly to window shop or take photos. You really need to attempt a laid back mindset to not get frustrated here. So, we held hands and strolled. Heck, I had to due to the pain in my feet. I was prepared for the blisters, but not for the aching soreness in the soles of my feet that you just can't do anything about. Even Dr. Scholl's can't combat our touring pace.
We didn't have much on our schedule this time, only the Scuola di San Rocco and the Frari Church. The Scuola was first, due to an earlier closing time. Painted by Tintoretto, the Scuola di San Rocco has been compared to the Sistine Chapel because of many paintings on the ceiling. Tintoretto was from Venice and he was extremely prolific, painting much of the art in the Doge's Palace. James calls him the Thomas Kinkade of Venice because of his use of light and how he stylizes scenes in a slightly unrealistic, picturesque manner. I have to admit, as beautiful as this was, it was a bit of art overload. It is really hard to appreciate that much art in one sitting. After the first 20 paintings or so, you start caring less, and it is really a shame because any one of those pieces would be the best one in most American art galleries. Nonetheless, it was beautiful and completely worth it.
Next was the Frari Church which houses a famous Titian called "The Assumption", and my assumption was that we would be able to see it fully. Well, you know what they say when you assume... There was large scaffolding in front of the painting, blocking most of the view. But even without the Titian, the Frari Church is a top notch site. It has the best sculpture I've seen in any church (only the Scrovengni Chapel in Naples surpasses) and is large, Gothic and impressive.
The rest of our evening was spent wandering around, first over the Accademia bridge, which is now my favorite bridge in Venice (much better than the Rialto) , then to St. Mark's Square in twilight. We took a vaporetto back to the area near our hotel and saw Venice like we never had before: at night, with lights twinkling inside palazzos and music drifting across the water from restaurants. Even on a public waterbus, which is 14 euro for us two opposed to 100 euro gondola ride, it is hard to not feel the drama and romance of Venice. Three slices of freshly baked pizza and two cokes (10 euro) was our dinner, which we took in the inner courtyard of our hotel. With raw feet and deep exhaustion, we hit the sack, thankful the day ended better than it started.