Sharks in Venice

San Michele cemetery island, Venice

San Michele cemetery island

We spent our last day in Venice in a cemetery, visiting museums and elbowing our way through crowds. The carnival had arrived. And we did our best to avoid it. We got up early and headed to San Michele alone. San Michele is the cemetery island just off Fondamente Nove. It’s illegal to bury people on Venice. This was one of our top places to visit before we came to Venice and we were not leaving without seeing it. We spent hours in Pere Lachaise in Paris, even picnicking there. Visiting cemeteries is one of our favourite things to do. Though trying to convince other people that spending their holiday with dead people is a great use of their time doesn’t always go down well.

VeniceWe tried using our Murano tickets to avoid paying for the ferry but alas, we were foiled.  The cemetery is actually pretty small. We managed to tour it in an hour. Sadly we weren’t allowed to take photos. Or picnic. We found the graves of Igor Stravinsky and Ezra Pound. Most of the graves are actually ossuaries because you rent the graves and if you stop paying, you get moved into the ossuary. So whilst the island is small, there are a lot of people buried there because they’re all in what is essentially chest of drawers. There were some huge tombs. Some even had chairs inside them with glass doors. Sadly, the doors were locked.

church of Santa Fosca, Venice

church of Santa Fosca

We returned to the apartment to collect Tom and Amy and set out for a day of museums. First we took a detour to find more haunted places and to visit a supermarket. Our first haunted place of the day was by the church of Santa Fosca. An old money-lender, Bartolomio Zenni, staggers up and down the Campo dell’Abbazia, begging for help. If you approach him he turns into a fiery skeleton. That is one of the coolest ghost stories ever. On 13th May 1437, a fire broke out on the opposite side of the canal. He refused to help his neighbours save their children because he was saving his bag with his belongings. He dragged it to a nearby canal and vanished into the waters. Several nights later, he reappeared with the bag, breathless, and asking people for help. Everyone avoided him. His soul will only be free when someone helps him carry the bag from the Campo to the church of Santa Fosca. We’re great at carrying bags. And we hate children.

Mastelli brothers, Venice

one of the Mastelli brothers

We headed for our next haunted destination and ended up walking right past some statues we wanted. Typical. Fortunately, Amy spotted them. They are the Mastelli brothers – Rioba, Sandi, Afani and Antonia and are on the wall of Campo dei Mori. They were merchants who were apparently turned to stone due to their dishonesty and meanness. Rioba used to say “May the Good Lord turn my right hand to stone if what I say is not true.” They could buy any jury and ruined many families. One day in February, a woman came to them to buy Flanders lace for her shop. Mastelli brothers, VeniceHer husband had died and she needed to re-open her shop. Rioba showed her many fabrics, claiming it was Flanders and she couldn’t afford them but he wanted to help. He and his brothers quoted his line about being turned to stone. As the woman paid, she said “May the good lord be a witness to your honesty and may you be held to what you have decided.” With that, the coins and his arm turned to stone. Then his brothers’ arms turned to stone. The woman was Saint Magdalen. “Criminals! Liars and hypocrites! You will turn into the whited sepulchres that you have shown yourselves to be during your lifetime.”Mastelli brohters, Venice

The statue of Rioba has been seen crying in February. If someone who is pure of spirit lays their hand on his chest, they might feel his heart beat. We were too short to reach his heart. Tom and Amy could touch his heart no problem. We managed to touch his stomach while stretching up on tip toes as far as we could reach. Otherwise it would’ve been a groin grab and according to legend, that’s not what you can feel throbbing.

Mastelli brothers, Venice

Rioba, whose heart you can feel beating. If you’re not short arses like we are.

We insisted on heading to the museums through parts of Venice we hadn’t yet explored. Getting lost is how adventures happen! We wanted to see as much of Venice as possible, rather than retracing the same route we’d take every day. First up, we found another vegan gelato/sorbet place, Gelateria Alaska.

Gelateria Alaska

Gelateria Alaska

The guy serving asked if we were here for the carnival. We said we were here for our birthday so he insisted on giving us an extra scoop of sorbet for free. That was so nice! We had strawberry and mango and strawberry and lemon. They were delicious.

Museo di storia Naturale, Venice

dinosauro

We managed to find our way to the natural history museum, Museo di Storia Naturale, despite Cat having the map. Usually CatNav is unreliable and easily distracted. CatNav took detours a few times but did manage to get us to the gelato place and the museum. That was a really cool one, probably our favourite after San Servolo and Doge’s Palace. To be fair, it had dinosaur bones and anything with dinosaurs is a winner. We were so excited as we headed in that we started squealing and bouncing. Some people, can’t take them anywhere. They’re just an embarrassment. There were also sharks and other creatures. We love sharks as much as we love dinosaurs. This was our happy place.

Museo di storia naturale, venice

sharks in Venice

Some people on Trip Advisor complained that none of the information was in English. However, there is an English guidebook at the desk and an English audio guide. Plus, in Britain, we don’t have museum information signs in any other language, so don’t complain when other countries do it. Wales is the exception, as we have bilingual signs in English and Welsh. We were heading upstairs saying “dinosauro” and doing our best not to show our excitement. And failing. Our friends doubted that this was the Italian for dinosaur. Turns out, we were right. It was amazing being able to touch the fossils. It’s like we were touching history without the danger of being eaten.

Palazzo MocenigoLynxNav took over and experienced technical difficulties when she ripped more of our battered map. It was one day from retirement and it was a battle to keep it intact. We headed to Palazzo Mocenigo, which was a perfume museum and had 18thc furniture. That was interesting. There were glass bottles filled with scents that you could sniff. Some places don’t trust tourists with touching furniture, but this place let you lift glass stoppers to smell the scents inside. Palazzo MocenigoCat sniffed too enthusiastically in the scent bottles and spluttered. A woman next to Cat laughed. At least we’re keeping people amused. There was also a table filled with bowls of different raw ingredients that you could smell. It’s the first time we’ve visited a museum that has an interactive olfactory section, so it was good to do something different. There was a collection of perfume bottles, some dating back 6000 years!

Ca'Rezzonico, Venice

Ca’Rezzonico

Our final museum was Ca’ Rezzonico, which had 18thc furniture and paintings. We kept our tradition by touring the museums the wrong way around and only discovering our mistakes when we found arrows pointing the opposite direction. There was a beautiful 18thc writing desk that puts our £10 IKEA metal writing table to shame. Though we have no room for a writing desk in our dungeon. We particularly liked the 18thc apothecary that was randomly inside the house but we weren’t allowed in. Each room was beautiful and proudly displayed its wealth while taunting us that we could never afford such luxury. The upper floor was all paintings.

Ca'Rezzonico

writing desk envy

Then we headed back to discover everyone had arrived for the Carnivale. We imagine the carnival itself is spectacular. The crowds, however, were not. This is officially the worst circle of Hell. You couldn’t move down the streets. We all got very frustrated and murderous and also claustrophobic, as our heads are generally chest, armpit or shoulder height to most people so all we could see was the back of the person in front of us. Being in crowds is horrible enough but when you’re short, it’s even worse. People were moving so slowly! There were even police officers directing foot traffic. We were glad to be leaving the following day to escape the madness.

VeniceWe found our way to another haunted spot, which as it turned out, we walked past every. Single. Day. It wasn’t far from our apartment. Although it gave us excuse to escape the crowds for a bit. In the Campiello del Remer on the Grand Canal, the corpse of Fosco Loredan floats to the surface holding his wife’s head. He was extremely possessive of his wife, Elena, whose uncle was Doge Marino Grimani. In 1598, the Doge heard a woman scream as she ran towards campiello del Remer chased by a knight with a sword. The Doge blocked the knight then recognised them. Fosco said “what right have you to stand between me and my wife? I am going to kill her and it is my right to do so.” The Doge replied that he wanted to know what Elena’s crime was.

Fondamente Nove, Venice

Fondamente Nove

Fosco suddenly recognised the Doge and claimed Elena had been unfaithful. Elena protested her innocence and said Fosco was jealous, even of her cousin, who was young enough to be her son. She begged the Doge to protect her and he agreed. Fosco swore he would do as the Doge wished, but Elena warned him not to trust Fosco. The Doge sheathed his sword. Fosco shouted “behind you! Armed men!” As the Doge turned, Fosco decapitated Elena.

The Doge drew his sword and Fosco dropped to his knees, begging for mercy and swearing he would do whatever the Doge asked, providing he spared him. The Doge replied “you will lift this corpse upon your shoulders and you will hold the severed head in your dirty hands. You will never put them down, day or night and you will go to Rome to see the Pope. When you appear before him, you will show him what you have done. He will decide your fate.” He threatened to chop Fosco to pieces if he disobeyed. Fosco walked for months and when he reached Rome, the pope refused to see him, sending him away without absolution. Fosco returned to the spot where he killed Elena and threw himself into the Grand Canal. His corpse now re-emerges holding her head. Sadly, he didn’t do it when we were there. Perhaps he was also avoiding the crowds.16807644_10155179942500982_5116692098111421778_n

Tom and Amy returned to the apartment while we stayed out because we wanted to find a Murano gondola with black cats and a moon that we saw a day or two before and hadn’t seen since. Lots of shops sell glass gondolas, but hardly any sell them with cats instead of people. We’re starting a collection of pewter models of the cities we’ve visited – for Paris we have the Eiffel Tower, so we wanted a pewter model representing Venice – a gondola or the Rialto Bridge. We didn’t see any, then figured that Murano is famous for its glass, so a glass gondola would be perfect. On Murano, we saw a black gondola with two cats and a heart and whilst we liked it, hearts aren’t really us, so we wanted something different. We ended up constantly in the crush because we kept going wrong. Couldn’t find the cats with the moon so decided to get the one with cats and a heart. We saw it before Tom and Amy left us but could we find it again? No. So we had to retrace our route through the crush. In one shop, a shopkeeper’s dog was barking. She hated the crowds. We agreed with the dog and told the owner we wished we could get away with barking at people too.

p1200288It was so busy, there were police directing the pedestrian traffic at crossroads. That’s the first time we’ve ever experienced that. And hopefully the last. Lynx got stuck behind three women who stopped to window shop, so a police officer marched them on to keep the crush moving. It was like being back in high school when they locked the doors, trapping several hundred kids in a corridor. We eventually found the shop with the cat gondola and headed back. By now, our tempers had frayed so much, the slightest provocation would result in someone being Hulk smashed in the face and tossed into a canal. Our rage is bigger than us.

When we returned home, our feet were back in the pans of cold water while Tom and Amy went to get pizza for them and kindly got chips for us as we couldn’t physically walk anymore. We uploaded our pics, chilled out, packed and celebrated not being outside with all those people.16730201_1452867414755530_7725308376231030617_n-1

16903144_1455424244499847_4630676275197451023_oThe next day, we left. We got to the airport very early and had to sit around for half an hour until check in opened. Our bags were underweight. Hooray! We waved them off and headed to security. Everyone got through without a patdown, except Lynx who got checked for drugs. We needed a Red Bull. We went to every shop downstairs. No Red Bull. They only sold Coke or water. We needed a Red Bull. The headaches were forming. Our thirst was increasing. Our tempers were rising. We headed upstairs, our rage starting to burn brighter than a dying star. No Red Bull. This was reaching dangerous levels. This was reaching…Edinburgh levels, where Cat had a meltdown on Canongate and nearly destroyed a man’s fridge. Finally, as the meltdown started to reach Volcanic levels, we found a shop that did one. €3.3o! For a small can! We paid in disgust, cracked it open and like a bomb being diffused with seconds to spare, our rage dissipated with each sweet sip.p1200594

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

The Italian Job

Venice

the ferry port at Marco Polo airport

There must be a circle of Hell reserved for packing and constantly being a kilo overweight. It’s no wonder we start suffering from packing anxiety a week before we leave! Preparing for holidays is the meant to be the exciting part. Not for us. We get so anxious that we don’t have enough food, or money, so we take way more than we need. We also get anxious that we’ve forgotten something and that our luggage is too heavy. We have a scales so we can test it, but once we’d added our customary vegan shortbread, our suitcase gained weight faster than people at Christmas. Who knew shortbread would put so much weight on? Fortunately, sacrificing one carton of soya milk and an ice block helped the weight issues. But then that made us worry that we won’t find somewhere we can eat. We also worry about getting to and from the airport and finding our apartment.

VeniceWe got up at the ungodly hour of 2:30 a.m. to leave at 3:30 a.m. Junctions 25 – 26 of the M4 were closed, so they diverted us back on to the M4 in the opposite direction. Diversions signs said to get off at J27, so we did. And followed the diversion signs all the way back to J26. Maybe this was another circle of Hell we were trapped in. This time, when we got off at the slip road, we used our classic trick of following the car in front and hoping it knew where it was going. It did. We managed to find Broadfield farm with no problems and just had to wait for the farmer to finish milking the cows to get a lift to the airport. Travelling isn’t all glamour y’know.

VeniceOur suitcase was exactly the weight our scales said it was, so there were no embarrassing incidents in baggage area. Although us and Tom suffered the body scanner and a vigorous pat down from security. We assured the woman that the metal showing up on the image was in fact our underwire bras, but she had a good feel just to make sure. She even checked Cat’s hair. Nothing hiding in there, love, but we hope you like the feel of wax on your fingers. On the plane, Cat was sat beside a couple who hogged all the window space. Lynx felt horrendously sick all plane ride and just about refrained from vomiting into the doggy bag in her pocket.

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finally at our apartment

We managed to book tickets and find our way to the Alilaguna ferry with no problem. Are we…becoming responsible? Will we finally battle our travel anxiety by proving to ourselves that we’re competent? You know what pride comes before. And our fall was about to be more epic than Lucifer’s. Though we were sadly not given a kingdom to rule.

VeniceThe ferry ride in was lovely. The ferry stopped at Murano, which is famous for its beautiful glassmaking. It was our first visit to Venice. We had to do it in style. It would be the first of many boat rides. There was a boy on the ferry we could have cheerfully thrown over the side to swim with the fishes. He spent the entire ride reciting numbers and working out Maths problems to show off to his mother what he’d learned. Why don’t children come with off buttons? Come on evolution, this would be valuable to the survival of our species.

Venice

Rialto Bridge

Then it all went to shit. We were supposed to meet someone to take us to our apartment. In hindsight, we should have waited longer. Although further hindsight revealed that wouldn’t have made a difference. Nobody could get hold of the person who was supposed to meet us and we couldn’t get hold of our host. We decided to find our apartment ourselves using an online map. The online map is a dishonest charlatan. We ended up walking for over two hours, to the middle of Venice, lugging our 20kg suitcase, 8 kg hand luggage and 7kg rucksack up and down hundreds of steps over the many bridges. If we don’t have muscles by the end of this holiday, we will be pissed.

VeniceWe ended up by some sort of school, judging by the amount of screaming kids in the courtyard. That noise was really not helping our stress levels – noise stresses us out at the best of times. We managed to get in to what we thought was our apartment building. A resident informed us we were in completely the wrong part of Venice. And seemed more concerned about who let us in and getting us out as quickly as possible.

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this is where we ate lunch most days – by the Grand Canal

We returned to the Rialto Bridge and decided to ask for help in a handbag shop. We met a lovely guy who not only got out a map to try to find it, but also found a street address book and tried to phone our host for us. When we told him we were from Wales, he said “Swansea or Cardiff?” His mum was helping him, though she didn’t speak English, so he was translating for her. You sir, are a hero.

VeniceWe eventually found the right apartment and waited for an hour in the entrance hall. Still no sign of our host. Luckily there was a settee in the corner, which we named the settee of despair. We returned to the ferry port. Turns out, we were about 5 minutes from our apartment. We were about as happy as someone sitting comfortably on an Inquisitor’s chair. We texted our mum to tell her what was going on, so she suggested phoning Airbnb and got us the number for the Italian one.

Venice

it’s carnivale time in Venice

We spoke to a lovely guy called Luca. He managed to get in touch with our host and she rang us back. She was currently in Brazil. She and her husband continuously tried to get hold of the person who was supposed to meet us but she wasn’t answering her phone. So they arranged for someone else to meet us. Someone who couldn’t speak English. Meanwhile, Tom and Amy managed to salvage some of the day by finding a chip shop that did vegan chips. Luca rang back to see if we were ok and told us to get some food and drinks, photograph the receipt and email it to him. He’d then reimburse us up to €50. He was so nice and phoned us several times to see if we were ok and whether we’d got in to the apartment. That’s customer service for you. A couple entered the apartment building, saw Cat and stopped dead. The woman looked genuinely  terrified and refused to walk past her for a minute. When she did, she passed by as far away as she could then hurried on. Was it the blue hair? The piercings? Or the murderous look due to the shitty day we’d had? It was the blue hair, wasn’t it?

VeniceOur host arranged for someone to meet us at 6 outside MacDonalds. Luckily there was only one MacDonalds nearby so while Tom guarded our bags, us and Amy headed out to meet our new greeter. We had fifty minutes to kill so wandered into Lush. A smiley man greeted us and insisted on rubbing pink heart soap on our hands then giving us a hand massage. It was a Valentine’s offer, apparently. Rub away, sir! Another man tried to persuade a couple to accept the soap and massage, but they refused, so Lynx volunteered again. We were then dragged over to crumble some powder into our hands then wash them off in this soft foam. A lady then gave us the same soap and massage treatment. So while Tom sat alone with our bags, we were getting hand massages. We’re not sorry, we deserved it.

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looking towards the Bridge of Sighs

The lady arrived on time and took us to the apartment. Luckily we were in the right place. She walked at a blistering pace and didn’t slow as she climbed the many, many stairs to our apartment. By the time we were halfway, our thighs were burning like Hell’s fiery lakes and we were tempted to tell her to go on ahead and leave us to die on the stairs. We had to lug our 20kg bag up the stairs. Our apartment is on the fourth floor and the stpes get steeper the higher you climb. There is no lift.

VeniceBut we were finally at our apartment and it was lovely. We unpacked, did our 130 squats (we’re doing the 30 day squat challenge) and marked off the haunted places on our map then decided to head out and explore while we waited for Lesley to arrive. Venice is so much nicer when you’re not dragging nearly half your body weight up countless steps and glaring like gorgons. We made our way down to San Marco but somehow managed to miss St Mark’s Square. We blame it on being dark. And on us not looking left. And poor map reading. Venice is lovely to walk around at night. There’s not much nightlife, so there are no drunken louts and the streets aren’t crowded. It feels safe to walk around, even down the narrow alleys. Luckily there were no little girls in red coats leading us astray.

16819074_1450718771637061_4416583587394694314_oLesley arrived at 10:45 so we went to meet her, took her back to the apartment so she could drop her bag off then went to find the nearest pub. Which wasn’t very near at all. In fact, we wandered across half of Venice until we found a tiny bar and had lovely vodka and lemonades. We have tried to find this bar again since and have failed dismally. Maybe it never existed. We got back to the apartment at gone midnight. Our aching bodies had now given up.

VeniceThere’s one thing we’ve noticed about Venice – there are a lot of lovely looking men around. The level of attractiveness just seems to be generally higher than we’re used to. We might need to make Italy a regular holiday destination.