On Tuesday, I woke up and got dressed in all my warmest clothes. Today was the day for my gondola rowing lesson and the sky was heavy with fog. I arrived at the meet up destination early (after getting lost a few times–luckily I had time to spare) and found this amazing little church, Madonna dell’Orto:
Soon my instructor Jane (she owns the company Row Venice) arrived and we got right down to business. She showed me the two basic styles of Venetian rowing, from the front of the boat and from the back. The front of the boat is the labor position, just rowing with as much strength as possible. The back is the finesse position, you have to row and steer at the same time, all with one motion. That looked a bit tricky. But we headed off, out of the marina and into the lagoon which surrounds Venice. Out in the lagoon, I practiced and tried hard to learn the back of the boat rowing position. Unfortunately, I could only really manage to go in a circle. Jane wasn’t concerned, she said we should head into the canals and give it a shot.
I was skeptical at best. If I couldn’t keep it straight in the open waters of the lagoon, how was I going to manage in the canal?
Things started off okay, I had a few straight strokes, but then I noticed I was veering to the left. I tried to correct it, but I couldn’t. Not wanting to crash into a wall, I let Jane take over the back position and I returned to the front. Which was great fun as well. We headed toward the Grand Canal.
In true Venetian style we rowed to the Rialto Fish Market where Jane purchased some sardines (I think). Then we headed, leisurely, back to the marina. It was such an amazing experience. For two hours, I got to see Venice from the water and learn about rowing culture and Jane’s life as an expat in Italy. For the same price I paid for those two hours, many a tourist were on a 35-minute gondola ride. I’m positive I got more for my money than most of them. Such an experience, you must do it.
After my rowing experience I headed back to the Frari Church to check it out, following another Rick Steve’s audio tour. It was an interesting church and Rick’s tour (free) provided a good deal of information. After the church tour I headed toward the Royal Palace, Musee Correr and the Archeology Museum, both were included with my ticket purchase to see Palazzo Ducale. Afterward, I headed to the train station to purchased my train ticket to return to Trieste the following day. Then, I got back on the vaporetto and listened to Rick’s tour of the Grand Canal. It was a great way to wrap up the afternoon.
Later that night, dressed up as much as I could considering the cold, and headed out to see a truncated version of La Traviata in a palazzo (Musica a Palazzo). A couple that I met on my tour the previous day was there as well, so I sat with them for the performance. There are three acts and each act takes place in a different room of the palazzo. At the first intermission they offer complimentary wine (to go along with the festive mood of the first act). It was really amazing. It was the most authentic opera experience I think I’ll ever have. Honestly, I felt like I was back in 1800s Venice at a party, where the hosts had hired opera singers to entertain the guests. It was really wonderful.
On my last day in Venice I woke up to crystal clear blue skies, and decided I needed to see Venice from the air. Most people head to the bell tower in St. Mark’s, but I’d heard from my tour guide that there was a better option. Across the water from St. Mark’s is San Giorgio Maggiore, which also has a bell tower at it’s basilica. So I headed there. The views were amazing and I was the only person in the belfry. So worth it.
After taking in the view, I set off for the Fenice Theater. It was amazing, having read the book about the fire and rebuilding of the theater, I had a great appreciation for the work that went into the restoration. I can say it is one of the most beautiful theaters I have ever seen.
Afterward, I headed back toward the Rialto Market and then wandered my way around Venice and back to my favorite little bar for lunch and a another traditional Venetian drink, a spritz. I can honestly say, that I will be happy to never drink another spritz again. But I’m glad I tried it, since it seemed that is what all the locals were drinking!
Then I returned to the hotel, which was kindly storing my bag, and to the train station. For a beautiful, sunny train ride through the Friuli wine region. Arriving by train into Trieste near sundown was a magical experience. I don’t have any photos, but it was absolutly gorgeous, looking out over the Adriatic. And the bus ride from Trieste up to Opicina had some equally amazing views. It was a wonderful way to end my little trip and rejoin my friends in Trieste/Opicina.