Wednesday, 6 October 2010


We just walked back into our apartment at 6.30pm to see a marvellous sunset out across the Veneto plain. In fact the weather has been gorgeous today, like a fine mid-summer day in England. All the Venetians are wearing wool, black leather, thick sweaters, scarves, everything smart but all in grey, black and brown. We on the other hand are wearing light summer clothes, bare arms, basking in the heat.

Today we went out to Torcello, one of the 'remote' islands in the Venice lagoon, partly to see Venice's oldest building (church of St Maria dell'Assunta) founded 685AD and barely altered since, so reaching back into Byzantine history and with some marvellous early mosaics. We knew it would be a complicated journey, requiring three different boats, but actually it was hilarious – the pontoons getting more and more crowded as service after service failed to arrive. No-one really seemed to mind as our morning slipped away.We could easily have gone for a coffee or a stroll and still come back to the same queue. One group were a bit anxious, asking how long it would take them to get to the ospedale, but otherwise a kind of ancient Italian resignation settled over us all, whatever nationality we were.

Eventually we clambered onto a low busboat, and headed out past the station and along the Canale di Cannaregio, missing the Fondamente Nuove and going straight out to Murano. There on advice we waited for the second stop (Pharo), and changed to a ferry going to Burano. There a stolid man on a motorised wheelchair waited in line, and it took lots of heaving and shifting to get him up all the precipitous ramps and steps and onto the boat. Bravo! The third boat took a bit of time to arrive but by then we were in a calm, quiet, natural looking part of the lagoon, with most passengers heading off into the brightly coloured streets of Burano and just a few of us heading for Torcello. It was such a short trip we could have swum, almost. Our path into the island was a plain, modern, brick causeway with wild meadows behind a wire fence, and a solitary beret-wearing accordionist who struck up a jolly medley of songs as we walked past. We passed the Devil's Bridge (ancient and recently restored – no handrail at all!) and two restos, but went on to the church. There a horde of children scrambled and shouted and played under some trees, perhaps on a school outing. We paid our 5 euros and went into the church – well worth all the hassle or fun of getting there, with wildly coloured marble floors, grey marble pillars (some bound in iron to keep them from splitting), and the two stupendous mosaic walls – one with Mother and Child in huge isolated beauty, and facing them a terrific Judgement Day. Here (just as with the Giotto in Padua yesterday) we could see the rich and wicked being tormented and harried by devils and dogs, poked and prodded down into the fires of hell, while on the other side of the design the saintly and good were lifting up their hands in praise – or it looked like they were applauding.

We had thought we would eat at Locanda Cipriano, which was recommended, right by the church and museum, but it seemed empty and expensive so we went back to the Osteria del Ponte Diavolo – where we had a life-memorable lunch in the garden for 28 euros. Fabulous setting, service, atmosphere and food..... a salad, freshly made rolls, a tagliatellini with shrimps, tiny mussels, clams, and herbs, and then a little mould of the local salt cod stuffed with a puttanesca sort of sauce – olives, tomatoes, rich and strong. Perfect perfect meal.

Getting back to Venice meant standing most of the way – but the light was wonderful, the company on the boats amusing, the water as calm as the lake in Regents Park. We disembarked at Fondamente Nuove and wandered around the Cannareggio part of Venice – far less touristy and with real people doing real things. We had an ice-cream and a glass of acqua con gaz by the Rio di Misericordia in the Campo di Mori, watched a guy reloading his lovely Rolleiflex camera, wrote some postcards.

Then back to Piazzale di Roma, onto a bus (no 4 takes us a smarter way home), into the PAM supermarket to get some stuff for a salad tonight, and then into the flat and that sunset. A marvellous day. The sky outside - just 30 mins later – is streaked pink and orange against pale blue. Fantastic.

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