Friday, May 15, 2009

Venice marked

On Monday when I was supposed to go by train to Brescia in order to be able to go to Milan on Tuesday with my friend F, I was hit by a bad surprise. I left work at the time I was supposed and went to the bus stop right in front of my hotel. When I was waiting for the bus, I realized that I didn’t even know how to stop the bus.

Since I have seldom taken a bus, because they barely exist here in Italy, I actually do not know how you stop busses in this country. I decided to try to do it in the same way as we do it in Finland. When the bus finally arrived, precisely between two different times written on the schedule, I waved and the bus stopped.

The funny part was that when I got on, all the persons in the bus turned their heads and starred at me without saying anything. Even funnier was the part when the bus driver got angry at me because I didn’t have a ticket and I had to disturb him. Even the fact that I was willing to pay the extra euro that it costs to buy a ticket on board on a local bus didn’t make him happier. He insisted that I had to have the exact change, easy when the price is 3,65€! One thing is for sure; Italy is a country of coins. Since they have even 1 and 2 cent coins, you always get stuck with a lot of coins in your wallet. And when you try to buy something, it doesn’t matter where you are they always ask for coins and never have the change. Anyway, somehow I managed to have the exact change so I got my ticket while the driver continued to drive while I tried to get myself to a seat stumbling on people who of course didn’t seem to care about the fact that I was trying to get through the bus.

When I got seated on the bus, I received a sms from my friend. This was the unexpected surprise. My friend had been in an accident and he was not able to do anything since he was in the hospital actually waiting to get operated!

He had cut his finger and had to try to save it. So I found myself on a bus going to Latisana, a town about 20 km from Lignano Sabbiadoro, without anywhere to go. When I reached the bus terminal in Latisana, I had to take a minute to think about my options.

At that point I was just so happy because I had managed to get on the bus and know when to get off that I didn’t want to give up and just return from where I came. So I had to think fast. I thought, if I can’t go to Milan, where can I go?

And that’s when an idea hit me; I’ll call my friend in Venice and see if she’s home. And so I did. When I called her, I had to explain about the accident and the changed plans. She was actually at home, not in Venice but where her parents live, in a town called Aquileia, not far from Latisana. I had the craziest luck because she said that she had plans to go to Venice that afternoon. She was taking a train leaving in one hour, so I told her that I would take the same train, get on when it reached Latisana and so we could go to Venice together. She agreed. I sat at the train station thinking how incredibly lucky I had just been. In one hour, I got on the train and met my friend E.

I hadn’t seen her in almost three years. She took part of the Erasmus program in Helsinki in 2006, that’s how I met her. It was so great to see her again! E is a really wonderful person, she reminds me of an Italian singer called Elisa and Amelie. She is beautiful with her strong facial features, dark hair and dark eyes. She has great style with lively colors and big necklaces.

I was so happy to reach Venice together with her. E studies art in Venice, so she rents a flat on an island just in front of Venice. We took the ferry there and I got to leave my stuff there. I was even so incredibly lucky that her roommate was gone for two days so I could sleep in her bed and leave my stuff in their room. On Monday we spent the day eating in, getting to know E’s flat mate (they live in three in one flat) and then heading to the center for a drink. Venice is great. It’s such a small city that you can easily go anywhere on foot.

The main directions in the city are Piazza San Marco, the main square, and on the opposite side of the city you find the train station, Santa Lucia. Venice has signs all over telling you the direction of these two opposites. One has to be careful though, because if one gets off the main track, Venice can easily feel like a labyrinth with its many small streets and squares. It’s such a romantic and cozy city though.

When we were returning from our late drink out, we found the city almost isolated. Venice doesn’t have a lively nightlife since it lacks nightclubs. One of the biggest reasons for this is the fact that the ferries stop going quite early and anyway a lot of persons working in Venice, live outside it so when they return back home for the evening, they don’t feel like returning there for the night. Considering all this, we found ourselves queens of the streets walking around and enjoying the Venetian atmosphere. E even took me to see the store where they’ve made the masks for the movie “Eyes Wide Shut” by Stanley Kubrick. How cool is that??

The next morning, we woke up around nine. We had a perfect Italian breakfast, which I seldom have here since I live alone in my room and therefore eat only biscuits and crackers for breakfast if I don’t steel something from my hotel’s buffet breakfast. At E’s the breakfast consisted of star shaped cacao biscuits (my new favorite of Mulino Bianco that is one of Italy’s best brands for cookies), crunchy bits of bread with marmalade made by her grandmother, yogurt, coffee with milk and fruit. Just lovely.

E had class at eleven so she followed me to the ferry and then I took mine headed for Piazza San Marco and she took her to university. We made plans to meet up again at two o’clock when she finished, so I had three hours at my disposal. I had decided to go to the Dodge’s Palace, Palazzo Ducale, situated right on Piazza San Marco. I had never been there even though this was already my fifth time in Venice. The reason is the most obvious one in Italy: too long lines to get in. Right now the high season for tourism is yet to begin, so I only had to queue half an hour to get it. The atmosphere in Venice is quite different from all the rest Italian cities. Here you can hear a lot of English on the streets since the city lives on tourism.

The Dodge’s palace is known for its luxurious rooms and halls, even for its golden hallway. But above all for its prison cells, and of course the bridge of sighs taking you to them. I spent one and a half hour walking around with my audio tour, adoring the great walls, decorations and paintings of this museum. I can’t lie though; I was secretly waiting to see the bridge. I have taken so many photos of it from the outside; I couldn’t wait to see it from the inside! And it added quite well up to my expectations. You could actually feel the history when you passed on the bridge. The thought of prisoners passing on the bridge made me feel like I was back in a historical time. Venice is pure history, you can feel and see it everywhere. Amazing.

After I left the museum feeling proud of myself because I managed to listen to the audio tour in Italian and bought some books from the museum store in Italian about Venetian masks, I headed for the Venetian stores. I had to find some things for my work; comfortable shoes and a white collar shirt. What I ended up buying was a tad more. Venice is a lovely city to stroll around in since the streets are narrow and street after street is full of these cute stores. Even the fanciest brands like Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana have only boutique size stores in Venice. One of the best things I found during my shopping spree was the newly open (in January this year) Hard Rock Café. I found some great personnel there that treated me great and I was happy to manage there all alone with my Italian. One thing is sure; this internship has made me far more secure about my Italian. I honestly think that I can manage on my own, something I have dreaded before.

At two o’clock I found myself exhausted after all my walking so I sat down beside the Piazza San Marco. Not long after I got told that it is not allowed to sit on the steps close to square since the major of Venice wants to keep the square clean. How funny is that! The piazza is enormous and you are not allowed to sit beside it, makes sense! Everybody who’s been to Venice knows that this is only so because the coffee shops and cafeterias around the square want more customers and they charge very high for their service since the location is costly. I didn’t mind moving along since I knew I was meeting E shortly after.

Soon I was already on my way to meet her at a square not far from the famous Rialto Bridge. Rialto is one of the few bridges existing in Venice and therefore it’s always jammed with people. Since Venice has a great canal running through it, these few bridges serve as crossing points. Otherwise one is forced to use the ferries to cross the canal, or obviously a gondola. I actually asked E about the gondolas. I wanted to know who invented them, how long the tradition is and so on. She told me that they already have existed for hundreds of years, even though their form has changed over the year. Venice since it’s a harbor city has always been rich of culture and entertainment. Therefore it was a natural place for the carnival to be born.

Once I met E at the San Polo square, we went for lunch at a close by pizzeria. Afterwards we enjoyed some pastries E had bought us with some liquor inside. They were delicious! The San Polo square is one of the city’s few squares and it serves as a meeting place but also as a playground for children. E babysits a small girl and she told me that she usually brings this girl to the square since there is space to play.

During the rest of the afternoon, I and E, went around Venice looking for something for her to put on during her sister’s first communion coming soon. In Italy it is important to wear something that covers your shoulders while you’re in church.

Afterwards we headed back to E’s place for showering and changing clothes. Much later, at around nine, we left E’s place in order to get to one of her friends, where we had dinner. It was nice spending the evening with three Italian girls, us all speaking in Italian. I felt like I got an insight on how girls act here. There were the usual topics; weight, tan, boys. I’ve realized by now that all girls speak about their weight here and a lot of Italian girls tell me that I am strangely self-confident about my weight. I guess we Finns accept ourselves as we are. I thought we were insecure, but we are way more secure than Italian girls. I guess in that sense the Finnish society is more open-minded to people being of different weight. I like it like that. Here it seems that many of the girls just want to fit in and look alike. They don’t seem to strive to be unique.
I found it funny to hear that even Italian girls use tanning cream to look more tanned. We Finns think we are ridiculous using tanning cream since we come from far north, but way are we wrong! I also found out that sunglasses with heart shaped lenses are getting popular here, a trend we’ll have next year maybe? Right now at least the thought seems childish to me, but I have already learned that Italian fashion trends usually find their way to Finland after a couple of years. Not all of them of course, but many.

We finally got back to E’s place at around two o’clock and I immediately fell asleep. The next day I had to wake up already at seven in order to pack and make myself ready to take the nine o’clock train back to Latisana since I was working on Wednesday from twelve. I was bummed about going back. I had such a great time in Venice. In Italian you say “mi ero trovata troppo bene”, I enjoyed my time there too much. I love this expression, actually I love adding “too” to everything. I am too tired, I’m too happy, I’m too hungry. For sure I will continue using this when I get back home to Finland.

The Italian language is so descriptive. It has far more expressions than Finnish and Swedish. I feel I lack a lot of words when I explain my days here in Swedish and Finnish. Some things are just impossible to translate.

Le sensazioni che provo in Italia non si può tradurre. The emotions Italy makes me feel are impossible to translate.

The whole way back I felt sad for going back. I felt so alive in the company of E. She’s great, so full of energy and kind. I love the fact that she walks around on the streets of Venice with a Marimekko bag. She’s priceless. The train ride went well and I was in Latisana already at ten twenty. I had to wait there for a bus for half an hour. Of course the busses here do not follow any schedule yet since the summer season is yet to begin. I say of course because the Italian assume that everybody understands this. I was just happy to be back in time for work.

The whole day at work I felt like I was on a boat, still feeling the waves. I must have seemed drunk or something, but when everybody asked me, I just chuckled and said that Venice left its mark on me.

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