2. Verona and Venice

On the bus, Maresa explained that on the way to Venice, we'd be making a stop in Verona, famous as the home of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  There is a Casa di Guilietta in the town, though we're dubious whether anyone named Juliet ever lived there.  The courtyard was packed with people trying to feel up the statue of Juliet--grabbing her boob was supposed to guarantee fertility.  We tried to get there, but Chris was overcome with claustrophobic terror and had to leave the area.

Later we caught up with Dan and Sonja and walked down to the river Adige for some spectacular views of the town.  We crossed the river on a Roman bridge, the Ponte Pietro.

We stopped at the ancient Arena, which is still being used, though for opera, not for gladiatorial games.  The evening concerts, lit by thousands of candles, are supposed to be quite impressive.  What impressed us was how stupid it was to force hundreds of tourists in and out of the stadium through the same small door.  In America, this would be a lawsuit waiting to happen.

We reboarded the bus and headed for Venice.  One of the highlights of our trip was the boat ride down the Grand Canal to our hotel. Our mouths dropped open at the beauty of the city.  The Canale Grande is dominated by the Church of St. Mary of Salvation, built by the city's plague survivors.  The boats brought us right to the front door of our hotel, the Bauer Grunwald.  Unfortunately, one lady broke her ankle as she was disembarking.  We were sad for her, since this was just the start of the trip.  Maresa told us later that Orient Lines paid for all of her medical bills and was sending her back home first-class.

The hotel was in a great location.  Right ouside our hotel was San Moise, a Catholic church.  Apparently the Venetians had run out of saints to build churches for so they canonized the Old Testament patriarch.  We walked a few blocks to the famous St. Mark's Square, dominated by hoards of pigeons and tourists.
In the afternoon, the group met with a local tour guide, who took us through the Basilica and the Doge's Palace, dating from five to six hundred years ago, when Venice was a world power.  The Palace featured incredible artwork, none of which we were able to photograph well.  Connecting the palace with the city's ancient prison is the Bridge of Sighs, so-called because it gave the condemned prisoner one last chace to see the beauty of the city.  The last stop on the tour was at a glass factory, where the master craftsman showed us his awesome skill, before his son gave us a sales pitch.

After dinner, Maresa had planned a ride on a gondola for us, complete with violins.  Pouring rain caused her to cancel our trip.  Both Linda and Sonja were set on a ride, so after it stopped raining, we managed to find a lone gondolier to give us a ride.  He didn't sing for us, but he did entertain us with his colorful complaints about Venice's Communist city government.  It was great!

Our evening came to an end back in St. Mark's Square, as we moved from cafe to cafe, following the duel of the house quartets.  One band would play a set, then the other would try to outdo them.  The crowds had left, the rain had cleaned the air, and we spent a wonderful time in each other's arms listening to the music.

In the morning, we snapped a few more pictures of the beautiful, sinking city.  Then it was on to Florence!
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