Brad was ready to go before my eyes even opened, so by the time my camera bag was on my back he was halfway out the front door. We decided the first order of business was going to be food of some sort, so we made our way down to the Canal near the San Polo side of the Rialto bridge, finding a table at a restaurant along the water where we could watch the gondolas, water-taxis, and tourists parade by on either side of us. I ordered a smoked salmon dish with ricotta cheese, and a liter of water to start my day’s hydration, a delicious meal that I wrapped up as the temperatures began dropping and wind picked up outside. It was becoming more overcast, as we knew it would be before the rain began, and temperatures were already in the low 60s. Once the bill was paid we made our way over the Rialto and headed towards the waterfront of the San Marco area, home to the Piazza San Marco, the National Library, and San Marco’s Campanile, the famous bell tower of the Basilica. This area was one I was familiar with from that opening scene of The Italian Job as Donald Sutherland calls his daughter, played by Charlize Theron, to tell her they’re doing “one more heist” before he retires. I used my phone to navigate us through the narrow and exceptionally crowded streets, and after ten or so minutes we laid eyes on the side of the Basilica di San Marco, a gigantic and beautiful church built between 978 and 1092 AD and has an incredible presence over the plaza.
After wandering around, photographing, and putting our jackets on to combat the growing wind, we made out way back to the Campanile tower, standing in line to take the elevator to the top of the 100m structure. For a reasonable $8 we bought our tickets and piled onto a tiny elevator for the quick ride to the observation deck, adorned with massive cast bells hanging overhead. I began photographing the island from the elevated position, my ideal kind of vantage point in any city. As I snapped away, I was startled (many other spectators more than me) when the bells shattered the otherwise quiet atmosphere to ring the half-hour chimes. Watching them swing overhead was an incredibly unique opportunity, and one I’m glad we were there to experience. As more people came up to the observation deck, we made our way back onto the elevator, packed in like sardines, and descended back to the street level. Our next adventure would be taking a water ferry over to Murano, a small island a thousand feet off the northern shore of San Polo, so off we went, jackets blocking the ever-increasing wind, to find the water taxi terminal.
Though Brad might be mad that I sell him out on this, he took the lead for our navigation to the taxi, and despite my questioning our direction a few times while walking, we spent nearly 30 minutes walking and ended up at the water taxi dock no more than a hundred feet from the base of the bell tower we had left from. I teased him relentlessly for this snafu as we bought a round trip ticket to Murano, boarding the water taxi as the waves from a windy bay slapped up against the side of the 60-foot passenger boat. The ride across the harbor was entertaining, as it was fascinating to see what the tiny islands that Venice is comprised of looked like from offshore. The ride to Murano took no more than 20 minutes, and before we knew it we were docking on the small island, the vibrantly painted buildings popping out against the grey skies behind them. Known around the world for their famous hand-blown glass, we knew that along with a few notable architectural destinations we definitely wanted to see glass being blown by local artisans. Utilizing the narrow concrete bridges to cross over the causeways between the island’s lagoons, we stopped briefly at the Saints Maria and Donato Basilica, home to an expansive mosaic tile floor that dates back to September of 1141 AD.
We wandered up and down the town streets following the main canal, stopping into dozens of stores looking at glasswork, watching glassblowers, and keeping an eye out for the window sticker denoting the products being sold were actually made in Murano. After we each found a few gifts for friends and family at home, I stood on the sidewalk as a light rain began to fall and Bradley wrapped up the purchasing of a locally made bottle of cologne in a store nearby. We walked back towards the watertaxi stand as the rain turned to an almost downpour, causing us to duck into a hotel lobby restaurant for an afternoon cocktail and appetizer to hold us over until dinner. By the time we finished our drinks and snack the rain had only gotten worse, so we quickly ran over and boarded the taxi back to the closest stop to our Airbnb.
After rushing through the wet streets with no jackets or umbrellas, we got to the house and took a quick nap before turning around and heading back out into the weather so that I could photograph the sunset in the Piazza San Marco. I had the forethought to bring a rain jacket and waterproof cover for my camera, and Brad brought his umbrella, so we were much more prepared to stand in the rain for an hour or two while the overcast skies caught whatever color the sun allowed them that evening. We made our way over the Rialto Bridge for the third time that day, arriving in the Piazza as the sky began its shift from grey to a deeply saturated blue. The streetlamps glowed, casting an orange hue in the sky and shining back in the reflective puddles that covered the ground. Faint sounds of a saxophone reverberated across the centuries old stone buildings as a small trio began playing covers of Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and other Rat Pack tunes. It honestly was akin to standing on the set of a movie, the rain pouring down overhead as couples with bright umbrellas made their way across the courtyard and the music surrounded us from seemingly every direction. My camera stood faithfully atop a tripod, and Bradley did a fantastic job sharing his umbrella with it (adding to the protection of the waterproof camera cover) as I did my best to keep the wind from blowing raindrops on the lens. Despite my best efforts, in the end my most favorite photograph of the night is adorned with a handful of rain droplets on the lens that caught the light of the Piazza in the most incredible way. I’m sure we looked odd to the people rushing by to locations more suited for waiting out the rain, but in looking over the photos later that night, I’m so incredibly glad we stood in the rain to photograph this breathtakingly gorgeous city.
The rest of the night flew by after we packed up the camera, and before I knew it we were back at the house and I was passing out on my bed. It was our last night in the city, and the next morning we were headed to the airport to pick up a car to drive back to Rome, breaking the tourism mold and sightseeing our way across the country out the windows of a two-door five-speed Renault.
I hope you enjoy the photos... there are a few more than usual, but I couldn't bring myself to be more selective.