New Years' in Venice

Trip Start Sep 24, 2006
Trip End Sep 01, 2007

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Wednesday, January 3, 2007

My last day in Siracusa was spent lining up again to mail a parcel to myself of material I didn,t want to carry around with me anymore (Italian guide book etc.)   The day before, when I still wasn't feeling well,  I had to line up (take a number for the package line) in order to obtain a mailing container, translation courtesy of another customer, and then once I received that (after an hour in line) and addressed it, I had to line up again to obtain postage.  I thought forget it, I am wasting my daylight hours and I don't feel I can stand in line anymore as waves of nausea kept me company . My train for Venice wasn't until the next day (Sat., Dec. 24) at 4 p.m., so I decided I could actually obtain the postage for the package before I left as the Postitaliane is open 9-12:30 on Saturdays, and while I still had the energy I wanted to see the National Archeological site, complete with Teatro Greco.  It was quite a hike from my b and b, about an hour and then I walked around it for an hour and walked back, this is after standing in line for an hour at the post office and I wasn't feeling 100% so I thought that was enough for the day.  The b and b told me that Italian post office is like Africa, so backward and it used to be worse!  Apparently they had to install chairs because people (esp. the elderly) were fainting from standing so long!  But line ups and service are worse now since the P.O. is privatized and now includes banking facilities.  To add more strain, the private companies have to hire people on 3 month terms to provide work experience and training to the unemployed, presumably so they can keep collecting social assistance!  So the scope has increased, labour skills decreased, and corporate knowledge is non existant because everyone is constantly new!  That explained why the next day when I went to get postage, after collecting my line up number again, and lining up, the clerk said it was impossible to send a package to Canada, as a non Italian,with the terrorism laws!  Oh what a consternation this caused - they had to check binders for the law (Italy does have stringent nti-terrorism laws) and then once they cautioned me, through another good Samaritan who translated, that the package may be returned to Italy (in which case I had to provide a redirection address and used my parents').  I had to fill out the same 3 forms separately (no carbon) and a mailing label and answer a lot of questions about the material I was sending, which is just odds and ends, nothing worth anything!  Anyway that took most of the time until I had to leave for the train station, which was about a 30 min. walk. My Hotel Aurora was so hospitable while I was sick, and I would recommend it as a great place to stay, almost right on the Ionian Sea.  Siracusa is very beautiful.
 I arrived in Venice after a 17 hour Trenitalia journey in a Wagon Lits (very comfortable cabin sleeper for two - I shared  bunk beds with Ferella, an Italian woman from Padova who spoke excellent English) on time (actually train was early and had to stop in various towns to let the time catch up to it, a rarity in Italy I understand from Ferella).  The local newspaper was delivered to our cabin in the morning, along with our coffee, ordered the night before.  The paper was full of pictures of Saddam Hussein's execution, very graphic, which is apparently par for the Italian course or reporting.  The execution came as a shock to me; i knew from Italian tv that he had been sentenced but I thought I interpreted from the tv news that he was sentenced to one year in prison for every death attributed to him, but obviously my Italian leaves a lot to be desired.  I was shocked and dismayed that he was executed as I think it will escalate the Islamic unrest; he would have suffered more perhaps if just imprisoned..... I spoke to some American young women in the b and b this a.m. and they thought the same.  
Anyway Ferella was so glad to get on the train (she got on in Catania) as she had been, once again for 25 years, spending Christmas with her in-laws, and it was driving her crazy as there was nothing to do and she had to go to work in Padova before her husband and she was really looking forward to 4 days alone in her apartment (a little 2 bedroom with a bathroom divided into 2 bathrooms, very terrible she said). Her husband wants her to come (and for summer vacations as well). She said she made up her mind to go to Paris next Christmas with friends, no matter what.  I relayed a saying I heard once 'If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy' and she thought that was wonderful.  Her daughter has told her she's never getting married and Ferella says many of her daughters friends have no intention either, and she wondered what was going to happen to Italian society!
Anyway I was afraid I would have no where to stay in Venice as all the hostels were either closed or full but i found a phone number in my Michelin Guide and phoned from a pay phone outside at the Siracusa train station, and during the noise of traffic etc. actually got the last room, a tiny little one near the reception which could be noisy he said, and I said that's fine I'll take it, I was so relieved to have somewhere to go. I didn't realize that Venice is a very popular place to go for Christmas and New Years.  The little hotel is easy to find, I took a Vaporetti, a water bus, to Cal dell Oro and walked according to the map (thanks Elaine and Jo for the Venice map!) and found it right away, a first for me!  There are so many tourists on the Vaporetti, with their luggage, it is impossible for the locals to get anyway on them, I found out from the very hospitable hotel owners.  It is frustrating to try to get to and from work, do shopping etc. with tourists everywhere. Venice is so unique, no cars or busses, just water transportation and walking on the narrow streets, which because there is no motor traffic, have not  been altered since Venice was built.  All other cities have installed roads on these narrow streets, which makes it so dangerous to be a pedestrian. Apparently Venice during Carnavale (February) is amazing with everyone dressing up and wearing masks, which are hand made here and shops to buy them proliferate.  Italian prices are so expensive for everything I am wondering how people live. Ferella told me she makes 1000 euros a month as a school secretary and her husband 1500 euros a month as a high school mathematics teacher.  1 euro is worth about $1.50.  I  will have been in Italy for almost 5 weeks and looking spending a lot less in Thailand, where one can live quite well apparently, on very little and I will report more on that.  Anyway New Years Eve I wandered down to Piazza San Marcos, St Mark's Square with the Basilica, the Companile, Museum Correa and just  beautiful medieval site.  They had fire works at midnight and everyone was out. It was crushing crowds, and I plastered myself against  post so I wouldn't get knocked over, and gave my water bottle to a guy who's girlfriend had drank so much she kept passing out.... he had his hands full trying to get her to stay awake.  I just kept my back to the wall when it was all over, and still ended up leaving when the crowds where still thick, leaving the square. I took pics with my hands held over my head, and could only still a little of the fireworks which i think must have been beautiful... they also had live music from about 10:30 p.m. which I didn't attend. On Jan. 1, New Years Day,   I attended a performance of " I Musica", similar to the one in Rome, where the musicians were dressed in period dress and played violin, (about 4), 2 clarinets, a flute, cello and piano plus a soprano and baritone for certain songs, all classics by Beethovan and Strauss for example.
This afternoon I leave for Ljubljana, Slovenia, a 4 hour direct train trip from here.  I booked a hostel on line last night, and had to opt for a "mixed Dorm" which i am not looking forward to. I hope they take pity on me and maybe put me in a double room for the same price or a dorm by myself ( who else is travelling in January?) haha, the whole world according to what Venice looks like tourist-wise! Prices for rooms in Ljubljana are just as much as here, go figure, but apparently food etc. is less.  I found a little pizza-ince cream place here which has a salad bar and lentil soup (called lenticche, not zuppa, I found out! as when I asked for zuppa they said they had none, but when I pointed to the sign they said oh that is lenticche, not zuppa but sure looked like and tasted like zuppa to me!) Anyway it is the best bargain in Venice I think and many others do too. I found the best way to get a seat and service in a trattoria is to eat lunch at noon and dinner at 5 or 6 as no Italians eat then and few tourists do as well as they have late breakfasts. Since breakfst was not included in my hotel, I ate lunch at noon today and went to a little place I found yesterday which was packed at 2 p.m., but which has whole wheat bread eggplant and mozzarella sandwiches, again up my alley. The only place i have seen in Italy with whole wheat bread!
Anyway better get this off, weather today is sunny and gorgeous. It has been about 4 above and rainy, still nice for Christmas!  Happy New Year!
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