Glass Act

Doge's Palace

Doge’s Palace

We set off for the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), determined that one day was going to go to plan. Each time we go to San Marco, we end up finding a new route there. We’re claiming this as a deliberate mistake to see a lot of Venice and not because our method of ‘keeping heading south’ is not an accurate way to navigate. Normally on holiday we like to do a lot of things, such as visiting as many places as we can squeeze in before closing time. Wandering around, whilst fun on our way to somewhere, does not feel like a productive use of our time. We didn’t pay all this money to walk around. What would we we write in our postcards? ‘Spent five days walking around Venice. Our feet hurt. Wish you were here.’ No. We want to cram so much into our holiday that our family struggle to read all the information on the postcard.

Doge's PalaceWe went to the palace and the guard remembered us. We bought a museum pass so we can do 11 museums. That should keep us busy for the rest of our trip. The palace was stunning. The rooms are huge, the ceilings are beautifully painted and there’s just so much to look at. KT, our polefit instructor, had done splits in the grand hall when she visited in November and we promised to honour the class by doing a pose. We did a double figurehead pose. It was the best we could manage without flashing the other tourists. We’d promised Neen that this holiday, our posteriors would not make a guest appearance.

Doge's Palace

double figure head

The armoury was very impressive and puts our weapons collection to shame. Granted, we don’t have the room for that much weaponry but it doesn’t hurt to dream. Some of the swords were taller than us! Each time we saw the sign for the prisons, we got excited. They were the main reason we wanted to visit the Doge’s Palace and they were saving the best ‘til last. It’s like they knew that if we saw the prisons first, we’d spend all our time there and wouldn’t bother with the rest of the palace. Venice, we’ve only been together two days and you already know us well. Cat found some cell-like doors in the armoury and tried the bolts. They slid back. Before she could open the door, a worker appeared like a ninja and slid the bolts closed again. Maybe Casanova was still inside.

Doge's PalaceWe went over the Bridge of Sighs to the New Prison. That was cool. We imagine the prisoners didn’t appreciate the view of the Grand Canal as much as we did, what with the impending torture they would receive on the other side. Though we failed to cross it without thinking of The Small Faces’ ‘Itchycoo Park’. “Over Bridge of Sighs…” We wondered how many other tourists failed this challenge. We got very excited at seeing the prison. Nobody else on the tour seemed as excited as we were. We ended up going the wrong around the area near the courtyard and got totally lost. This would trigger a habit of going the wrong way around museums that we were unable to break. When in Rome…no wait, wrong city.

Doge's Palace

prison cell

We were able to go inside some of the cells and one area had wooden planks on the floor. We lifted one to see if anyone skeletons lay beneath, grinning at their impending discovery in the longest game of hide and seek. Sadly it was just dirt. A child loitered to watch us do it. Look away, kid, we are a bad example of how to behave in public. Doge's PalaceOne room was filled with prisoners’ graffiti. Mostly it was our level of drawing skills, with badly drawn people and it was clear they hadn’t seen female company for a while as someone drew boobs up by the neck. One prisoner was clearly gifted and had done an amazing portrait of a woman, boobs in the correct place as well. There was also a graffiti penis. Even back in 17thc Venice, men were drawing penises on walls. It’s almost comforting to learn that our male high school classmates had so much in common with 17th Venetian prisoners.

Doge's Palace

Bridge of Sighs

We had lunch sitting by the Grand Canal then educated ourselves on the vaporetto and caught one to Murano. The vaporettos are incredibly punctual, which makes a nice change. Turned out, we could’ve caught one by the Fondemente Nove, by our apartment. We didn’t realise we were supposed to get off on the museum stop and got off three stops too early. It was Paris all over again. But it meant we got to explore Murano. We bought ourselves Murano glass pens with glass nibs, ink and a glass stand. They write beautifully. Being writers, we can’t resist pens, especially novelty ones, but these are the finest in our collection. We were allowed to test them in our shop so drew our C L Raven wings signature and a skull. So should the shop face bankruptcy, the owner can sell that on eBay and raise about 5 cents.

Murano

Murano

We got lost trying to find the museum and had to ask for directions. The lady couldn’t speak English but hand signals are universal so we were able to follow her directions. The museum pieces were lovely. So intricate! We didn’t think it would be very interesting but we really enjoyed it. We were so nervous we were going to break something, but fortunately, most of it is safe in glass cabinets. There was even glass barbed wire! We found more shops and bought our mum a multi-coloured Murano vase, our sister a blue Murano photoframe and our niece a set of green sealions. The woman in the shop couldn’t speak English and we didn’t learn the Italian for ‘sealions’ so we used the fail-safe method of pointing. She laughed and said “multi-lingual.” Yes, our mastery of language is impressive.

Murano

Murano glass butterflies

We caught the vaporetto to Fondemente Nove, convinced the boat was going to sink under the amount of people on board. It was like public transport at rush hour. We protected our Murano gifts, ready to growl and bare our teeth at anyone who so much breathed near our bags. We returned to the apartment, uploaded our photos then went out to get chips and chilled out in the apartment for a bit. We immersed ourselves in culture by watching a French film in Italian and making up dialogue for the characters.

Murano

glass centrepiece

We think our improv was funnier, though not as funny as the lead actress’s dress sense. Then we went out for drinks, as it was Lesley’s last night. After getting lost trying to find the nice bar we’d found on Tuesday, we ended up in a Jazz bar. First time for everything. There were bras hanging from the ceiling. We find the classiest places. We’re so cultured. We wondered if it was a custom of ‘donate a bra, get a free drink.’ Sorry, but our Ann Summers bras would cost an entire round and we’d rather be jiggle free in public. Then when we got back to the apartment, Lynx realised she’d left her gloves in the bar, so we had to go back. Luckily we found them.

One thing we’ve noticed – the dogs don’t care. There are a LOT of dogs in Venice. And not one of them even looks our way. It’s crushing.

Doge's Palace

us and Tom being prisoners

Corpse Groom

VeniceOn Wednesday, we woke so full of hope. We were going to visit dungeons and torture chambers and not allow Tuesday’s curse to hang over us. We were going to conquer Venice and finally achieve something. We were…going to fail.

We decided to head to St Mark’s Square – Piazetto San Marco – and the Doge’s Palace. Doge’s Palace had been top of our list for museums. We’d promised KT, our Polefit instructor that we would honour the class in the palace. We ended up going the same route we took on Tuesday night and eventually found our way to St Mark’s Square using a combination of a little bit of map reading and mostly guesswork. The guesswork consists of ‘keeping heading south’. St Mark’s Basilica is beautiful.Venice It’s where St Mark’s body is kept, after the Venetians stole it and claimed him as their saint. They also stole the lion on the post that is his symbol and the horses on the Basilica. The Basilica also has a ghost story attached. On the corner of the Basilica are two lights, which tradition claims they symbolise atonement for when Venice wrongfully condemned Pietro Faccioli, a little baker boy, to death. On the corner of the Basilica is an execution block where he was decapitated. He was accused of killing a nobleman, Alvise Guoro. The block was a section of column in perfidy brought from Acri. Since the boy’s death, on foggy nights, people report seeing blood drops on it. clock tower, Venice

We couldn’t find it. There’s a surprise. It’s the story of our lives, being in the area something is and not finding it. As we discovered when we went to the front of the doge’s palace – Ducale Palazzo – and realised we had walked right past St Mark’s Square on our first night and didn’t see it. If only we had looked to our left. Yes. We walked past Venice’s most famous square and Did. Not. See. It. In our defence, it was dark. And we weren’t looking. And it was dark.

Doge's Palace

Doge’s Palace

We wanted to do a secret itineraries tour of Doge’s Palace but we’d read that at midday during the carnivale, an acrobat jumps from the bell tower in St Mark’s Square. As it was 11:30, we decided to hold off on the tour until after the acrobat. It didn’t happen. We decided to do the tour, and the guard with the metal scanner at the entrance took one look at the metal on our outfits and laughed. He didn’t speak much English but managed ‘sexy’ as he waved us inside. Once inside, we couldn’t decide which tour to do. We wanted to see the dungeons and the cells where Cassanova was kept. Yes, that Cassanova – world’s greatest lover – he was jailed for hitting on the magistrate’s girlfriend. And we wanted to see the torture chamber. Y’know, the touristy stuff. We were in one of the most romantic cities in the world, the day after Valentine’s Day and we wanted to see the place where people were tortured. And people think romance is dead! We suspected the secret itineraries tour was the one we wanted but the last one was at 11:35. So instead of wasting half an hour for an acrobat that didn’t show, we could’ve done the tour. Now we had to wait until Thursday. Yet another wasted day. If there’s one thing we can’t stand, it’s wasting time. It can’t be replaced. Our fury was reaching a level considered dangerous. Tourists were looking nervous. We cracked open a Red Bull and tried to deactivate Tantrum Mode.Venice

So our day wasn’t a complete disappointment, we decided to check out haunted spots we’d researched. We walked across the water front and stopped at a pizzeria so we could finally get some wi-fi. Well, the others wanted food, we just wanted the internet. It was a good job too because our sister video called us with exciting news: we have a new guinea pig! He’s two years old, called Shadow (we might change that because we had a cat called Shadow) and his owner was about to give him to Cefn Mably farm because he and the other guinea pig he was with kept fighting. So we got to see him on video, as well as our duck, our youngest cat and our dog, who was very excited to hear us and even waved at the phone. Much nicer than his usual response, which is to ignore us on the phone. While our friends enjoyed their lunch, we sat by the Grand Canal eating Discos and waving at our pets. Time well spent.

Venice

At the Grand Canal

We made our way to the island of San Pietro and San Pietro church. It was in a lovely, quiet residential part of Venice. That’s the great thing about incorporating haunted stuff into your holiday – you get to see parts of the place you wouldn’t normally see. San Pietro’s story involves two lovers – Ennio and Tosca. They met in Treviso where she lived and he worked. They swore eternal love and vowed to marry, dead or alive. Technically, two corpses marrying would be impossible as they’d be unable to say the vows and you don’t even want to think about the wedding night. Mind you, Corpse Bride managed it. Ennio, on return from a job in Florence, became ill and died within hours. Tosca didn’t know. The following night, Tosca was in bed and heard Ennio call to her from the courtyard. She ran to the window and he said, “hurry up and get ready, then come downstairs without saying a word to anyone. We’re going to get married in Venice.”Venice

Now our response would have been something along the lines of “get off our land,” but Tosca, although confused, was so in love with him that she didn’t argue. We suspect this is how most marriages happen. After a while of walking, Tosca offered Ennio bread. He said “don’t you know that the dead don’t need to eat?” A gust of wind then transported them to San Pietro. We could’ve done with that magical wind today – saved our poor feet. Tosca was too terrified to scream. Ennio left her outside the priest’s house while he went to fetch witnesses. Tosca shouted to the priest for help. The priest ran down to let her in so she explained the story. He didn’t believe her. To be fair to him, it does sound made up. Magical winds? Dead groom proposing marriage? Hollywood has probably already done this and it probably stars Johnny Depp.

Venice

San Pietro

Then the priest looked out the window and saw Ennio with a group of musicians. He had buried Ennio that day and knew he was looking at a band of dead souls. Ennio said “I want my fiancée, because we swore that dead or alive, we would be married.” The priest said “Away with you, you damned soul. Go away, you and your friends.” Ennio “Give me at least her ring finger or I will never leave her alone.” The priest told Tosca there was no other choice, (um, how about ‘no’) cut off her ring finger and threw it out the window. Ennio caught it and left with the band. Tosca’s mind never recovered and she refused to leave the priest’s house. The priest looked after her until one evening she left and was never seen again.

San Pietro Venice

San Pietro church

At night, she can be seen wandering in front of the church in elegant 19thc clothing, dressed as though for a wedding ceremony. She wanders and moans as she searches for her ring finger, because without it, she can’t enter the church to be married. We also couldn’t enter the church but that’s because we weren’t dressed modestly, not because a priest had chopped off our fingers. Plus you had to pay to enter and the ghosts haunt outside.

We made our way back to towards our apartment and en route, bought ourselves a flail. Y’know, typical Venetian souvenir. Then we ended up by the Fondamente Nove, which is also haunted by the girl who was never buried. On 29th November 1904, Francesco Quintavalle, captain of the vaporetto “Pellestrina” left Fondamente Nove for Burano, despite visibility being almost zero. Two gondolas rowed by Antonio Rosso and Andeto Camozzo were filled with inhabitants from Murano on their way back from Venice. They waited for Francesco to pass the tip of San Michele then left to ferry  their passengers home. Francesco passed the cemetery then decided to reverse. He didn’t see the gondolas and crashed into them. Rosso’s gondola split in two and sank. Four people were pulled on to the vaporetto, but five women disappeared. Rescue efforts began immediately and lasted through the night.

Fondamente NoveSeveral hours later, Maria Tosa Bullo was seen clinging to a post. She was taken to Murano but died a few minutes later. Lia Toso Borella and Amalia Padovan Vistosi’s lifeless bodies were found the next morning in the stern of the gondola. The remaining two passengers – Teresa Sandon and a little girl, Giuseppina Gabriel Carmelo – weren’t found.

In September 1905, Teresa Sandon appeared to her sister in a dream and said “pray for me, for my soul, because my body is still imprisoned, but if you pray it will be freed from the bindings that hold it to the bottom of the canal, and I can rest in blessed ground.” Ten days later, a battered body was found by two fishermen in the canal of the ‘Bissa’ towards the island of the Vignole. The scarf she wore identified her as Teresa.

Giuseppina was never found. But on foggy nights, a floating casket can be seen, lit by candles so ferry boats don’t crash into her.Fondamente Nova

We returned to our apartment to rest our aching feet in a saucepan of cold water and write the blog. After an hour and a half’s rest, we headed out for food and ended up in a pasta place. Tom, Amy and Lesley all ordered. We tried our best to explain to the waiter ‘vegano’ but he couldn’t speak English and gestured for us to point to what we wanted on the menu. We pointed out chips, but ‘what are your chips cooked in’ and ‘are they cooked separately from the meat/fish’ wasn’t available to point at. We didn’t have internet access to Google translate either. We’d just about mastered basic Italian. So we just said ‘no food’. It’s easier that way. He then seemed really affronted that we were taking up breathing space and not eating as he brusquely gathered our glasses, cutlery and plates and marched off. Calm down, sir, we’re just not eating. It’s not like we punched your mother.

vegan gelatoWe then returned to the chip shop for our meal then headed to one of the gelato places on our list that did vegan gelato. We had the cherry/vanilla and it was even listed as ‘vegano’. This is what we like to see. Is it really so hard to just add ‘vegan’ to a label on food? Whilst we ate, we made our way to a pub we had seen last night – The Devil’s Forest. It turned out to be an English pub. Which meant it had football on TV. Real Madrid and Naples. We had to constantly endure deafening chants of ‘Napoli’ as we tried to play a great card game, Million Dollars But. The guy next to Lynx kept knocking her and she was sorely tempted to punch him, but we’ve never started a bar fight and would like to keep that record clean.

The pub had promised us wi-fi but the barman didn’t know the password, so we returned to a café whose wi-fi we had used before and had memorised their password so we could lurk and use it without buying anything. We know that’s bad etiquette but we needed it to access our email as our host had emailed us our apartment’s wi-fi password. That would have been useful before. Lesley then joined us and bought a coffee. We hurriedly uploaded our 200 photos under the waiter’s suspicious gaze. The upload was slow. Lesley had finished her coffee and was ready to leave. The waiter watched us. The upload icon was spinning. Lesley stood. The waiter moved closer. The photo upload froze. We avoided eye contact with the waiter. The photos uploaded. We shut down the laptop and fled before we had to buy a drink we hated. Now we know how Jack Bauer feels when he’s downloading information onto a usb stick while armed men hunt for him. Note to selves – sit further away from the establishment whose wi-fi you’re stealing.St Mark's Basilica