Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Back to Venice

Today I am in Venice, another hot, hot hot day at 34 degrees...

Its been quite some time since I visited the city, which is one of my absolute favourites, and in actual fact I've never visited Venice in the heat, only when it has been wintertime/autumn which is evocative, misty and mysterious but its very different in the summertime - firstly a lot more crowded than I am accustomed to, cruise ships coming in and out of the city (which was worth seeing in itself) and oh my, have the prices been hiked in the hot weather?  Not sure I'd come back in the heat as I'd rather have the place to myself and I'd prefer to be able to afford it - I call 7 Euros for a tiny caffe latte wayyyyy too much!

I chose to stay at the Bauer Hotel, not somewhere I have stayed in the city before and it is wonderful - there are two Bauers, both owned by the same company - the expensive version and the less so, and I went for the cheaper option which is a boat trip over the water from St. Mark's Square on the island of La Giudecca, but the hotel has a little boat which shuttles back and forth which is quite convenient - the hotel was once a convent, dating back to the 16th Century - at the end of a crowded, hot and busy day in the city, it is an oasis of cool and calm and peace - and it even has its own garden which is lovely for breakfast; rooms are fab with lots of space (unusual in Venice), clean, spacious, with lovely staff.
Cafe Florian is one of Venice's great landmarks - the interiors date back to 1720 but again, one of those places you can just have a little peep inside and enjoy the ambience of the place by walking outside on the Piazza San Marco, because its another one of those place that unless you've recently won the lottery, there are so many other things you can spend your money on.

Above - the Lion of St Mark's - you see this emblem of Venice everywhere.

Above - view of St. Mark's Square from the launch going back to the hotel

Above - Goldoliers...waiting for their next victim customer

Above and below - someone's colourful washing!

Above - a tiny little painting I spotted on a wall next to a canal - so lovely - presumably an artist succumbed to boredom and decided to do us all a little doodle...much nicer than the usual grafitti though!


Above - Venetian glass creations. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Ponte Vecchio Florence

Views of the most famous bridge in Florence on a lovely sunny day...the bridge dates back to the medieval period, and spans the the narrowest part of the Arno river - it is one of six bridges in the city and is the oldest.   The original shops on the bridge were probably butchers, tanners and fishmongers but in 1593 Ferdinando I decided that these trades were "vile" because their practice had been to throw their refuse into the river causing an almighty stink, replaced these trades with goldsmiths - who continue to occupy the shops  to the present with stunning displays of gold, silver and precious gems...the net worth on this bridge would most likely go a long way towards paying national debt!

Further info on the bridge can be found here - 

Lovers Locks on the Ponte di Vecchio - the same the world over...
WikiPedia says of this practice: "Along the Ponte Vecchio, there were many padlocks locked to various places, especially to the railing around the statue of Benvenuto Cellini. This is a recent tradition for the Ponte Vecchio. It was perhaps introduced by the padlock shop owner at the end of the bridge. It is popularly connected to idea of love and lovers: by locking the padlock and throwing the key into the river, the lovers became eternally bonded. This is an example of the negative impact of mass tourism: thousands of padlocks needed to be removed frequently, spoiling or damaging the structure of the centuries-old bridge; however, it seems to have decreased after the city administration put a sign on the bridge mentioning a 50€ penalty for those caught locking something to the fence."

Displays of coral and precious metal jewellery

The bridge is lined with amazing jewellers shops on either side...

During World War II it was the only bridge across the Arno that the fleeing Germans did not destroy. Instead they blocked access by demolishing the medieval buildings on each side.

The bridge has always hosted shops and merchants who displayed their goods on tables in front of their shops, interestingly, it is claimed that the economic concept of bankruptcy originated here: when a merchant could not pay his debts, the table on which he sold his wares (the "banco") was physically broken ("rotto") by soldiers, and this practice was called "bancorotto" (broken table; possibly it can come from "banca rotta" which means "broken bank"). Not having a table anymore, the merchant was not able to sell anything

Monday, 5 September 2011

Vibrant Street Market in Florence

Thought you might like to see these pics of a fabulous street market I stumbled across this evening - how amazing is this place?  I wish I had something like this at home - everything was so tempting - in the end I succumbed to some lovely handmade soap and some olive wood salad spoons, though I could have gone on and on buying the amazing stuff on offer - however, the 'Jet2' luggage allowance dissuaded me...I'd hate to have to leave anything behind!

Everything was handmade/grown at home or as a small business and from plants to hand knitted clothes, olives to carvings, jewellery to handbags, you name it you could pretty much get anything you might want from this place - hardly anyone spoke English and I don't speak Italian, so we managed by the universal sign language of writing prices on paper - works every time.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Statuary in Florence

Art and culture is what you come to Florence for (as well as the grafitti and overall grubbyness) and here are some pics of the fabulous statuary around the city - we've had great difficulty getting into any of the buildings to see works of art because of the queues stretching back a literal five hours, and 35 degree heat... but just to be here is a treat.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Florence, Italy

Today I am in Florence, Italy, where I will be for a few days - I've never been to this city before and its a staggering 34 degrees so I wonder how much time I will actually get to spend out and about in my pale northen-ness....

Anyway, here are a few views of the Florence to get the photo album started...

The architecture is amazing...