Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Doge’s Life

IMG_0354_thumbWhen we set out this morning, I'm sure we were heading for the Rialto bridge, which should have been not more than 8 minutes' brisk walk to the north of the Piazza San Marco. My unerring sense of direction proved to be ununerring and we veered a little bit to the east of the trajectory. This took us through more residential areas where we could see a bit more of real Venetian life. Rebuilding and renovation are at least as necessary here as in any other city, and I could see narrow barges delivering materials or cargo through the "back door", some obviously designing for removing rubbish or carrying cement.
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Thus we ended up at the dock of the Fundamenta Nuove on the northern side of central Venice. A fortuitous landing because this was where the boats for the northern islands depart, and I really wanted to visit the Venetian island of Murano, famous for its glass wares.
20070306 Venice - Murano_thumb[1]
Again pretty sure that we were about third from the boarding gate for our vaporetto, but certainty is a fine thing: somehow at least 30 people managed to stream past us, waving canes and shopping trolleys, like priests brandishing frankincense burners to ward off evil commuters who might delay their journey by 10 minutes. None of them looked like they had lungs left to do any glass-blowing so I don't know what the rush was about, unless they were keen to have a long rest stop on the cemetery island between us and Murano.
Bondi on Murano (2)_thumb[8]  Bondi on Murano (1)_thumb[15]

Murano
is a small island (or collection of three) but it feels very spacious with wider, even driveable, streets, and some open grassy areas. Shops here are all about glass, Murano having cornered the market in European glass technology for a long period. Selling manufacturing secrets could shorten your life dramatically. Trinkets aside, some of the items on display demonstrate wondrous craftsmanship, even if in excruciatingly bad taste.

Ravanello Glass (5)_thumb Ravanello Glass (3)_thumb
It pays to shop around and see the range in quality and price of even superficially similar items. I find that taking photos of items, both reminds me of what I found interesting and dilutes my intent to buy: hunting and gathering on the cheap. At the end of the day I found some small items that were of indisputably higher quality than ones I'd seen earlier: I had a real problem making a choice from the artisan's stock, as their visual and tactile qualities seemed to alter from moment to moment.

Ravanello Glass (1)_thumb Ravanello Glass (4)_thumb
As a side note, almost every glass gallery asked Bondi to come inside, even if I'd tied him up to a gondola mooring post. I had a long conversation with one gallery owner who tearfully reminisced about a much loved malamute in his family.

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Once again we wandered off the beaten track, ducking in and out of short cul-de-sacs terminated by Adriatic waters. Bondi was immediately marked as we passed a convent school. A young girl set up the cry, and within moments dozens of six to twelve year old boy and girls were screaming through the fence for Bondi's attention. Bondi lapped it up, running up and down the fence, absorbing all their affection, a pawed piper drawing children behind him.

The pawed piper_thumb[1]
Lunching outdoors at a Muranese trattoria, we had an equally lively time. Sandwiched between talking to an Australian teacher (about how awful Australia is for dogs in respect of access to public spaces) and a Californian couple, we were besieged by about 25 Italians in their early teens.

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They completely encircled my table, clamouring for Bondi and scuffling for photo access. I had one guy holding his camera over my shoulder above my plate, another sat himself down in the vacant chair opposite, while others moved bottles and condiments around the table to improve their sight lines. Circling all of these was a young Bernese Mountain Dog, who I'd seen earlier when her master, a waiter here, arrived by motor launch along the Canale Grande di Murano.
IMG_0379-81 Murano [ice]_thumb[1]

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