Venice is not only St. Mark's Square and the Rialto. It's a living, breathing city. Here are a few images of everyday life.
Venice is not only St. Mark's Square and the Rialto. It's a living, breathing city. Here are a few images of everyday life.
My Trip to Poveglia
There’s a group of three small islands in the Venice lagoon known as Poveglia (po-VAYL-ya), which is supposed to be one of the most haunted places on Earth. It was used as a place to bury the dead during the plague, and later was used as the location for an insane asylum. One of the islands is said to be composed of about 50% human ash, as they burned thousands of corpses of those who died during the plague.
Venetians are generally afraid of it, and few people will take you there. It’s long abandoned, the buildings are in a state of severe decay, and the island is covered in trees and a thick growth of vines and blackberry bushes. It’s impenetrable, except for a few narrow paths.
I met a nice young couple who had found a tour company to take them there. Actually, there was no tour, and no guide, and we never saw a representative of this company. When we showed up at the appointed place, which was one of the taxi stands near St. Mark’s, there was only a taxi driver waiting for us.
We got into the boat and introduced ourselves. I told them I wrote horror novels. I hadn’t thought about the affect this might have, but immediately the young woman became apprehensive. Maybe even downright afraid. She was heading to an abandoned haunted island with a man they didn’t know, who writes horror. It would have scared me, too.
She said it was a great start to a novel. The nice innocent twenty-something couple from Canada go to the most haunted place in the world with the old horror writer guy. She told me that it would have to have a happy ending, so far as they were concerned. I told her that that’s not how it works.
We had a lovely ride across the lagoon. Then in the island came into sight, marked by a bell tower, and a thick growth of vines, bushes, and trees. The driver dropped us off at a pier at about 8:30 am, and promised to come back at 1:00 pm to get us.
The girl took comfort in the fact that there were several sail boats moored near the island. They often go there because it’s quiet and out of the way. So, she could scream for help should the need arise.
We began our exploration by walking about the perimeter. We soon came to a building and went in. It was full of old abandoned equipment, and we determined that it had been the laundry.
After exploring several spooky and debris-scattered rooms, we ventured off into the jungle that makes up most of the island.
For an abandoned island where it’s technically not legal to go, the paths through the bush are well defined, for the most part. There were a few places where I had to use my little Leatherman scissors to cut blackberry vines, but we generally found decent paths.
As we walked, hundreds of little lizards scurried out of our way, making an eerie rushing noise through the underbrush. A little before noon we were tired and hungry, and stopped in a shady brick boathouse to have lunch. I had brought a bottle of wine, some cheese, bread sticks, and prosciutto. We sat and ate and drank and had a very nice time.
I was impressed that this young couple came to Venice and found the most unusual thing to do you could think of. No one else they know, or I know, will have done it. Most importantly, they love Venice.
All in all, I didn’t find Poviglia all that spooky. I was more concerned with being injured by the debris on the floor, or by part of the ceiling falling on us. I didn’t feel any presences, and was never afraid. The scariest thing that happened was when a young man who was part of a group filming a music video jumped screaming out of the bushes with two machetes. He thought that was pretty funny.
I’ll let the photos say the rest.
When one thinks of Venice, one does not think of Owls. Yeah, we got pigeons, rats, seagulls, and even scorpions. But owls?
Late one morning as I came home from meeting friends for coffee, I walked off the vaporetto and across the grassy lawn of Sant’Elena toward my house. Something sitting in the grass caught my eye. I walked over to see what it was. There in the hot sun sat a baby gray (or brown) owl. Cute as hell.
I approached it to see what it would do. It looked at me with large yellow eyes, and opened its mouth as though to screech, or something, but made no noise.
I went home wondering what should be done. There are a couple of cats around here, and a lot of dogs. And the poor thing sat in the hot sun, apparently unable to fly.
I went out with a large plastic shopping bag from the local grocery store. When I first tried to get him in, he flew about ten feet.
I was encouraged by that, and thought about leaving him to his own devices, but a kindly old man thought that he was not able to fly well enough. So, we herded him into the bag, and I took him to my storage room where he would be safe, and in the shade.
After checking around, we decided that it would be best to release him into a tree after dark near where I found him.
When I went out to get him, he was not in the bag. After a search of the storage room, I found him perched on a metal frame we had against one wall several feet from where the bag was.
I coaxed him into the bag (surprised that he didn’t fly away), and took him outside. The closest to where I found him is very tall, and the nearest branch is about twenty feet off the ground. Recently, the city had planted a group of small pine trees to replace ones taken out by a tornado a couple of years ago. The wooden poles attached to the trees to hold them up was a perfect perch. Karen and I went to the one nearest where I found him, and released him onto the perch.
That night, I went out later to look for him, but couldn’t find him. The following night, we heard him calling. I went out, followed the sound, and found him sitting on a branch about thirty feet above the ground. We’ve heard him every night since.
The light in Venice is great all the time, but particularly in the early morning and late afternoon. It's also wonderful at night. Here is a collection of shots from all times of day and night.
I've said it before, I'm sure, but one of the most interesting images to capture is the reflections in the canals. Sometimes the water is like a mirror. Other times, there are ripples of color and light.
As you go around Venice you never know what you're going to find. In this series is a picture of pigeon feathers spread on the pavement, in the midst of which is a splatter of blood (look carefully). I know that Sea Gulls have a taste for pigeon, so I figured that this poor creature met its end at the beak of a Gull.
A few yards up the street my suspicions were confirmed, as you can see from the pictures.
Today Venice had a special event whereby one could take a special boat to the various islands in the lagoon. We took the boat to the island of Mazzorbo, which is connected to Burano by a wooden bridge. On Mazzorbo is a wonderful bed and breakfast and restaurant known as Venissa, which sits on a property containing a vast garden and vineyard. We've eaten at the restaurant a couple of times. It's world class. But today, we simply walked through the property.
Burano is one of my favorite places around Venice. It's a pain to get there, but it's very interesting. The houses are small and brightly colored, with all sorts of fascinating things here and there. I've tried to capture some of these in the pictures below.
We ate lunch at a restaurant on Burano called Riva Rosa. I give it five stars. The service was some of the best I've had anywhere, the food was quite good, and the surroundings were very nice. They have a number of tables outside, but I felt they were too close together and too public. One table actually sits on a corner that is heavily traveled by tourists. So, we sat inside.
The walls and floors are bare brick, which is lovely, and the ceilings bare wooden beams. We had a special fixed-price menu, available as part of the special island day. It consisted of an appetizer of the Venetian specialty known as Sarde in Saor, risotto made with gho fish broth, fried calamari with vegetables, water, prosecco, and coffee. All for 45 Euros each. The Sarde and calamari are pictured below.
Sarde is fresh sardines that have been marinated in sweet and sour onions, with raisins and pine nuts. In this instance, it was served on a slab of white polenta. A gho fish is a small brown creature that's used to make the broth for seafood risotto. The fish itself is not part of the dish. It is used only to flavor the broth. If the fish breaks open, the broth is ruined because of the bitter flavor.
After lunch we took a traditional Venetian boat to the island of San Francesco del Deserto, known for a convent and monastery from the 12th century. In my opinion, it's not worth the trip for the average traveler. It has a beautiful grounds, and an ancient church, but it's not all that interesting considering the effort it takes to get there.
When you travel, you certainly need pictures of all the major sights. But in a place like Venice, which on the one hand has become (in some parts) a kind of Disney Land, there is an undercurrent of everyday life that is very interesting to photograph. Most of Venice is not inundated with tourists. It's a city where everyday life rolls along a bit differently than most other places.
For me, one of the more enjoyable things to do in Venice is to go out at night taking pictures. The city is mysterious and quiet, and is perfectly safe. My favorite night shots are light trails. I put the camera on a tripod, put the camera in manual mode, set the iso at 200, and set the shutter speed to "bulb." I use a remote shutter release so I don't jiggle the camera. With the bulb setting, the shutter is open as long as I press the release.
I may have adjusted the exposure of one or two of these in post processing, and I obviously cropped one of them, but that's it. There is nothing "photoshopped" here.
Here are some interesting and unusual things I've photographed over the past several days. Venice is packed with fascinating things and places, particularly if you get away from the maddening and soul-crushing crowds. Many of these places are on our Backstreets Tour.
After a number of days of rain, and a few days of sun, the flowers are popping out around Venice. Here's a shot I took on my phone of some wisteria and a broken-down well.
At the edge of the public gardens, along the Riva dei Partigiani, facing the lagoon, stand busts of the German composer Richard Wagner (ri-KARD VAHG-ner), and Italian composer Giuseppi Verdi. Both were composers of opera, though of very different sorts, and both had a connection to Venice. Wagner died in Venice at what is now the Casino.
An interesting story is that Wagner, as a foreigner, went to the Café Lavana, and Verdi, as an Italian, went to Florian, but neither would consider going to the other café.
As I now live on Sant’Elena, I often walk past these busts. They are very well done and I like to look at them, and I’m a fan of their music. A couple of months ago I noticed that the noses on both busts had been broken off. I was horrified.
First, I noticed Wagner. Why would anyone do that? Well, Wagner’s views on race were pretty much along the lines of the Nazis. He hated Jews, and wrote essays to that effect. He was Hitler’s favorite composer. I’ve heard that his music is still not played in Israel. I don’t know that to be a fact, but it makes sense. So, I thought that someone making a political statement might have done it. The youth of Italy often do so by vandalizing other people’s property, usually with graffiti.
Then I noticed Verdi, whose bust stands about fifteen feet away. His nose was broken, too. At that point I knew it was an act of pure vandalism. But who would want to hurt Verdi?
I went to the busts and looked around. Maybe there were bits of the noses. They are surrounded by thick bushes, and I didn’t find any. A bit further into the park, I noticed that one of the statues there had likewise been hit with a hammer. Bits of it were on the ground.
Who would do such a thing? Of course, I can only speculate. But I can’t imagine anyone other than a teenager doing it. The bushes surrounding these statues are large enough where the enterprising youth and several of his friends could fit under them and be out of sight of the rest of the world. There they could drink and smoke weed. Then what? One just happened to have a hammer and, being hammered himself, thinks it a good idea to bust up statues? Has he nothing better to do?
Attention drug and/or alcohol impaired minors: By all means, destroy your mind and health with drugs and booze in preparation for your careers in menial and low-paying jobs. Do poorly in school, it’s a professional requirement. But kindly redirect your creative energies away from destroying national treasures to other, less reprehensible things. Shoplifting or purse snatching, for example.
If you're a subscriber, you notice that the blog has changed. The primary reason is that I want to have everything all in one place. Another reason is that I want my blogs integrated with my website.
You also notice that the website itself (not the blog) is primarily geared toward marketing my novels. I want you to see that I've written novels, but I don't want to beat you to death with it. Otherwise, the content of the blog will be only things related to Venice with no attempt to sell you anything.
Thanks, and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.
|All Cleaned and ready to go. (I apologize for quality of the pictures, I took them with my iphone in dim light)|
|Thyme, garlic, lemon zest, and salt and pepper.|
I mix the salt and pepper together because my
hands will get covered in fish gunk. I don't want
to be going back and forth between the shakers.
|All stuffed and ready to go.|
|The fish all wrapped in their foil packets, ready for the oven.|
|Plated, with some parm grated over the broccoli.|
|The after picture|
|These are peppers I grew in the garden|
(They have nothing to do with this recipe)
|Bed sheet boat cover|
|Indian blanket motor cover|
|Raggedy motor cover|
|Tank top motor cover|
|T-shirt motor cover|
|Gramma's tablecloth motor cover|