Sunday, April 18:  Venice I

Breakfast was plentiful, as advertised. We walked the now-familiar route to San Marco Square and nosed around about the vaporetto (passenger ferry) over to St. Giorgio Church, on the island of the same name. (Photo 46) Eventually, we paid our money and took our chances. The vaporetto got us there directly and we had time to mount the tower before mass. Six euro later and we were up the elevator to the top of the bell tower with a great view of the main of Venice and the outlying islands, marred only by a lifting haze. Pat mentioned that the guidebook said the bells ring quite loud at noon each day. Sure enough the printed schedule posted by the elevator warned that at noon each day, a single bell sounds for three minutes (forte). However, on Sundays, just before 11 AM mass, six bells sound for three minutes. We had just a few minutes to prepare, and off they went. Bells nearly the size of a person, began rocking back and forth, eventually doing a steady oscillating 180 degree rotation each, just a few meters above our heads. (Photo 40)

We sat in the main church, awaiting mass with our fellow tourists (some on the Rick Steves’ program), until just at 11 AM a priest poked out his head and motioned us all to a side chapel for the service. It was a cappella, with eight priests in attendance, and the celebrant was also the elevator operator from a few minutes ago. No wonder ours had been the last ride down for the morning. The chapel was packed, and the service was in Italian, but the Gospel was repeated in English.

With religion class over, I desired to visit the adjacent island, which seemed quieter and more realistic that the tourist hub-bub across the channel, but couldn’t figure out the logistics of having the proper ticket. So we boarded the next vaporetto to return to the heart of the city. Whoops, wrong direction. Hopping off and boarding the next ferry in the proper direction granted my visit to the adjacent island, but it was just for a few minutes.

Pat and I got slices of pizza at a walk-up window, while the boys held out for the #6 and #7 meals at Spizzico, the chain pizza joint sharing space with a Burger King. A huge slice of pizza plus a dessert, and a repeat of our first autostrada meal, were the attraction.

Back at the room we reorganized and headed for San Marco Church proper. But first the boys bought Pigeon Chow from one of the many vendors and had fun feeding the pigeons. (Photo 51) The church had a small museum, the originals of the four ancient horses that had long been mounted on the front (now replaced by replicas) and views into the lit church with its gold mosaic interiors. (Photo 44) (Photo 50) Gelato close to Rialto completed the afternoon. Back to our home territory, I visited the nearby Internet cafe which pleasantly had fast connections and expert help. Dinner was at the super-efficient and satisfying Vino Vino bar, which Rick recommends, but we would have likely found on our own anyway. On the way back, Pat spied a classical music concert about to begin, so the boys and I let her go and we headed back to the room for the night.