The Rialto over the Grand Canal
With Slovenia and Croatia so heavily influenced by the power of the Venetian Maritime Empire of the middle ages, we felt it a natural next stop as we headed into Italy. Venice was bustling during our weekend there with two big events occurring – the Regatta Storica and the Venice Film Festival. Our first night in town we marveled at the city’s interwoven web of bridges connecting the 170 islands that make up Venice proper. Crossing from island to island so seamlessly over intricately carved arched bridges is a reminder of the architectural genius that was required to turn this swampy marshland into one of the most powerful and beautiful cities in history.
As we wandered along, we serendipitously came across Piazza San Campo, where we saw a line of people waiting for tickets to a showing of the film festival. Our timing was perfect and we snagged two tickets to “At Any Price” starring Zach Efron, Dennis Quaid, and Heather Grahm (we missed the premier the stars attended by only a day!). After enjoying a quick bite of our first “pasta fresca” (homemade fresh pasta, which in comparison to typical package pasta in America is wonderfully firm and flavorful), we headed to the movie, which was showing on a giant screen right in the middle of the piazza.
The film is a compelling drama revolving around the plight of the small American farmer as he sacrifices his values to an “expand or die” mentality and becomes increasily boxed in by the ominous reach of Monsanto’s GMO seeds. These genetically modified seeds are patented by Monsanto and require farmers to buy entirely new seeds each year rather than clean and re-plant the seeds as they have been doing for centuries. The movie also features heavy doses of American iconography, with Nascar, the National Anthem, and loads of shots of Iowa cornfields. The result was that I ended up feeling closer to America than I had since leaving over a year ago. What a strange feeling to have while sitting in the middle of a 500 year old piazza in Venice!
The Regatta Storica
The rest of our time in the city involved lots of walking as we explored the city’s circuitous routes. We caught a bit of the Regatta Storica on the main canal as thousands of Venetians donned traditional garb and raced their boats and gondolas along the canal in a tradition harkening back to Venice’s days of maritime glory. We gaped at the amazing Piazza San Marco where the enormous bell tower occludes the sky and the gorgeous church gleams golden in the sun. We also struggled a bit to find good restaurants in this town whose daily count of tourists outnumbers residents! With copious copertos (a charge for sitting down which seems to get you nothing but some stale bread) we bounced like ping pong balls through the streets looking for a decent place to eat. By the end, we were ready to hop on our nighttrain and get down to Rome to meet the family, but we were happy to have gotten to experience some charm and Romance in Venice.
To see all the pics of Venice, click here: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjBZuU3S