Saturday, December 31, 2011

Night photography in Venice

I love taking photos.  Most people I know would consider me an addict.  I can't help myself - I see beauty and composition in so many things.

Venice is a photographer's heaven.  No one can take a bad photo here.  All you have to do is head in front of San Marco and take the gondolas in front of you with San Giorgio Maggiore in the background.  It's the postcard shot and I have several of them on my Flickr photostream.  Go down a canal.  Catch a gondola going under a bridge.  Look for the beautiful reflections in the water.  And for my personal favourite, go to the middle of the Accademia bridge and look across to Salute.  That's probably my favourite view in all the world.  Glorious - whether it's a sunny day or a foggy day, the grand old dame at the mouth of the Grand Canal is wonderful.  Time it just right with a vaporetto or gondola going by, and bang, another postcard shot!

These past two visits to Venice I've bought my tripod along for the ride.  I don't have a really fancy camera - it's a digital SLR, Sony A350.  I love it, it does the job nicely, and I have a few lenses I take with me when I travel.  I'm not an experienced night photographer by any means but it really is lovely to "have a go" and get out there into the piazzas, along the bridges, when the sun goes down.  The only thing I've noticed about Venice, particularly in off season which is when we travel here, is the lack of buildings being lit up at night.  I'm used to Sydney where all the sites are proudly and magestically lit up but I remember on my last trip to Venice being disappointed Salute wasn't glowing at night, there was small light, but nothing to show off her beauty.

So a tripod is what you need.  I play with various settings on the camera and just enjoy the experience but last night, in FREEZING weather, I went to Piazza San Marco (around the corner from our apartment) and IN THE RAIN took dozens and dozens of photos.  The rain - particularly at night - produces such wonderfully creative reflections.  The light from buildings casts such a glow on the water, it really is a lot of fun.  Mind you, I didn't like the cold or the rain, but here's a few from last night:

If you can pack one, bring a tripod to Venice.  And head off one night to your favourite campo, bridge, canal, and see what magic can happen.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Burano - it's all about the colour

We've had a gorgeous time here in Venice.  Because we had no plans, no itinerary, for this holiday we've pretty much relaxed and walked around our favourite parts of this glorious city.

On the 27th we went out to Burano again.  It was one of the things we wanted to do but it was dependent on the weather.  And what stunning winter weather we've had.  Days and days of sunshine.  It's been wonderful.  So we woke up on a beautiful day and walked the back streets from San Marco down to Fondamenta Nuove.  Since our visit to Burano last year, the vaporetto number had changed - it's no longer the LN, it's the 12.  There are also several vaporetto points at Fondamenta Nuove to get out to Murano, Burano, various islands, the airport, the cemetery etc so check the boards carefully and make your way to the right departure point.  There is 100 metres between them so if you have bags, leave enough time as there are bridges (and steps) between them.

The trip to Burano still takes around 40 minutes.  This time we got off at Mazzorbo and walked around the island.  One of the canals was undergoing major work so we just walked around it.  There was a detour in place as once we got to the other end near the church (Santa Caterina)  it was a dead end. We found the church relatively small and plain, so it was a quick visit.  I had read about a byzantine church on the island so I was a little disappointed, having equated byzantine with golden mosaics!  Or more to the point, my love of the church at Torcello - a highlight on any trip to Venice.

We then strolled alongside the path to the cemetery.  It was an incredibly beautiful blue sky day - not a cloud to be seen.  We had Burano to our right and it was lovely.

We then walked across the bridge to Burano.  Burano is one of the most colourful places you can visit.  Make sure your camera is charged and you have plenty of space on your memory cards!  Every corner is a delight.  The colours are vivid and the reflections they produce in the canals are absolutely stunning.  It really is a photographer's paradise.  Whether you are a professional or a hobbyist, you can't take a bad photo in Burano.

Here are just some of my favourites from the day however you can also view my Flickr album here.


Gorgeous gorgeous reflections

This year we didn't treat ourselves to a fabulous seafood meal at Trattoria al Gatto Nero, but went to Trattoria Al Raspo de Ua near the piazza.  We took the recommendation from our Lonely Planet guide and I must say I was a bit surprised it was there.  Bit touristy - not helped by a few tourist groups in the restaurant - and food average.  Nevertheless it did the job and there was a clean toilet there (even though we purchase our weekly vaporetto tickets with the public toilet passes, it's always good to have back-up plans!)

Once we had lunch, done some shopping, and looked at the church - Chiesa di San Martino - the one with the lopsided bell-tower/steeple - we stopped for a hot chocolate and a pastry.  I wouldn't recommend the former, it was one of the worst hot chocolates we'd ever had, but the pastry was fine.  We then caught the vaporetto back to Venice and spent hours in our apartment checking out the photos we took while in Burano.  Just gorgeous.  It's not about the food or the drink, it's all about the colours.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas time in Venice

Christmas Day in Venice
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day have now passed, and we've had a lovely time here in Venice.  The weather has been glorious - sunny wintery days, crystal blue skies, most unexpected...Tour groups appear from time to time and every third person has a camera strung around their neck, but it's not busy and it's very easy to get around the laneways, bridges etc.

St Mark's, late afternoon, Christmas Day

As it's Christmas time, we asked people we know here in Venice about church services at St Mark's for Christmas Eve and searched the web as well.  We got very different information.  In the end we went straight to the Basilica's own website and they noted mass this year was at 11.30pm.  (Last year it was 10.30pm due to Acqua Alta so it pays to check times directly).  We left the apartment around 10.15pm and we're literally a 30 second walk to the church (!) - would you believe the queue to the side entrance was already near the main entrance?!  Needless to say we stood out there in zero degrees for about 45 minutes before the doors were opened.  We talked to a lovely couple, originally from Australia, now living in London and that managed to pass the time away.

By the time the side doors opened, the queue was well past the Palazzo Ducale!  Of course there will always be people who don't queue up and we noticed several people join us as we started to move.  Very rude but what can you do?  Likewise when we got our seat in the church.

When you visit Basilica di San Marco you cannot take photos inside the church.  Yet dozens and dozens of people took cameras and recorders into the church for the service.  To me it is one of the most extraordinary churches in the world.  Those byzantine mosaics are just glorious and it's an absolute wonder to behold, but if you are going to church, you don't take a camera yet flashes went off everywhere for quite some time.  I must say, I was surprised it wasn't "policed", there weren't any obvious signs reminding people not to take photos, nor were any announcements made over the loud speakers.  Of course, I ached for my own camera, but soaked up the mosaics all around me in a totally different way.

Just a note for those planning to attend a Christmas service at St Mark's - hundreds of people left their run to the church late and when they came in realised there was no seating - standing room only.  Again a few people here and there just barged in and tried to take prime viewing spots, blocking the view of those that had patiently queued.  We were lucky - we had good seats.  They were cold but it wasn't nearly as cold in the church as I had expected (then again, I was wearing a number of layers of clothing!).

There were booklets on everyone's seats, translated into 4 languages - French, English, German, Italian.  You could follow it but about 80 minutes into the service, no one could find where we were up to and as it was all in Italian by this stage, you were kind of lost if you spoke English.  We ended up leaving at 1pm but it was an amazing experience.  The choir, the chants, the spectacle, the history, it was quite something to be a part of.   Just remember, if you want to go to St Mark's for Christmas, QUEUE early!

Ristorante Cantinone Storico

For Christmas lunch we went to Ristorante Cantinone Storico over the Accademia Bridge in Dorsoduro.  We had booked prior to coming to Venice.  It was a set menu for 70 euros - six courses, wine, water, coffee etc - and wonderful hospitality.  The owner there made sure we were very comfortable and told us everyone else in the restaurant was Venetian - so we were among locals on Christmas Day.  We spent three hours there, enjoying the meal and the day, and strolled back to the apartment as the sun was setting across the lagoon.  Just beautiful.

One thing to note about Christmas Day in Venice - church bells go ALL DAY!  We're so close to the Basilica, so we're hearing them loud and clear.  Mind you, we do love hearing the church bells ring out through this wonderful city, but let's hope they ring out less often in the days ahead!

Speaking of which, for Boxing Day we'll try and head off to Frari for a 4pm concert.  Just another glorious thing to do around this time of the year in Venezia.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

No itinerary, no rush, just an easy day in Venice

Another glorious day in Venice.  The wonderful thing is we don't have an itinerary, there's no place we need to be, we're not in a rush and we can take it relatively easy.  The apartment is just around the corner from San Marco, it's a 10 minute walk to Rialto or Accademia, everything we need is closeby. It's also really pleasant in winter, particularly on a sunny day, because the crowds are manageable. They don't annoy you, they don't get in the way. I took a photo of St Mark's Basilica today with no one in front of it, same alongside the Doge's Palace.  It's lovely!  I can't imagine what it would be like in summer.  It's the one time of the year we WON'T come to Venice!  And of course, we wouldn't choose to stay around San Marco, it was just that this most recent trip wasn't exactly planned and it was organised in less than six weeks, which meant our first choice apartments were already taken.  But we do like being central.  It's just that we prefer areas with a more local feel.

Today we had to do some food shopping so we headed off to Rialto.  If you love food you simply must go down to the markets in the morning.  Whether it's meats & chickens, seafood, fruit & vegetables or meats and cheeses from the deli, Rialto is the place to be.  It's wonderful watching the Italian women do their shopping, discussing the produce, chatting away to the locals.  It always sounds so vibrant and interesting. It's times like this I a) wish I was Italian and b) wish I could SPEAK Italian!  We don't really have recommendations around the Rialto area - I think everyone should make up their own mind what they like based on what they see there.


After shopping we decided to go to Taverna del Campiello Remer which is one of our FAVOURITE places for lunch.  It's a little difficult to find but the location is on the Grand Canal around from Rialto.  It attracts a mainly local clientele - although Lonely Planet did list it in their Venice guide! - and it's great value - you help yourself from the buffet (where there are really yummy things!) and then there's usually a choice of two pastas (today we had zucchini with a soft cheese) and dessert (assuming you can fit it in!).  Add in wine, mineral water, and bread, and you're up for only 20 euros.  We love it there.  The background music, the setting, the ambience, and the experience.  Easy Venetian living.

entrance to Taverna del Campiello Remer

After lunch we popped into the apartment and then headed off to Campo San Stefano as we'd read on another blog there were Christmas markets there.  Um, no there wasn't.  So we headed over Accademia bridge for that GREAT view of Salute and then to a restaurant we'd booked for Christmas Day lunch, at the back of "Peggy's place"  (sorry we are not a fan of the Guggenheim - extraordinary price for an ordinary and somewhat boring modern art collection).  We went over to Salute, which I just adore, and then cheated and caught the vaporetto one stop to San Marco!  We waited for the sun to start to go down, took a few photos, grabbed some gelato and headed back to the apartment.  Tonight we'll probably just go a pizza, somewhere locally, because we had such a wonderful lunch, we really don't need a big meal.

It is Christmas Eve tomorrow and while I said we had no plans this Venetian holiday, that's not 100% true.  We do know one thing we will be doing and that is going to a church service in St Mark's Basilica.  I think it will be an amazing experience.  Let's hope the crowds aren't too bad!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

And so we return

It's been one year and 12 days since we were last in Venice.  When we were planning for this latest trip we thought it would be too soon but the minute we got off the train, we realised we were home.  It seemed like only yesterday we left.  The church opposite Santa Lucia was still being restored!  We went straight to the Venice Connected stand to pick up our vaporetto weekly ticket and toilet passes.  We pre-ordered them about a month ago and simply handed over our printed confirmation and a few minutes later we were on the 2 express up to San Marco.  Apart from a couple of photos on the Blackberry to load quickly onto Facebook to let our friends know we had arrived safely, the cameras stayed tucked away and we chatted quitely away as the vaporetto took us up to the hub of Venice. 

We rented an apartment again from Lux-Rest and the lovely Barbara met us at the Ferrari shop next door.  It was good we knew where the apartment was - it was the one we stayed in back in January 2008.  Very central but probably good for this time of year.  NEXT time we'd like to try another sestiere.  A few changes had been made since our last visit.  Once the formalities were done, cleaner money, and tourist tax handed over, we headed off to an ATM for some money and then to a restaurant just off San Lio which we hadn't been to previously.  We had a relatively simple meal and then popped into our a favourite restaurant of ours to book it for New Year's Eve.  We were a little surprised we had to leave credit card details OR 50 euros to reserve our table!  We ended up going for a 9pm setting, after which we'll head off to San Marco Piazza for midnight. 

A coop supermarket was in the area so we filled the apartment with some groceries - coffee, sugar, milk, bread etc - and then headed back out to the square (a minute away!) and walked up the Riva Schiavoni to via Garibaldi and back again, watching the sun set beautifully over the water, San Giorgio Maggiore, Salute and other wonderful churches. 

My love of the pink lamps of Venice was also getting a workout.  This time I photographed them as the sun set behind - just glorious.

We had a little hiccup tonight when all the power went out.  About 90 minutes inconvenience but then it righted itself, with the help of an electrician, and we ended up going somewhere close to the apartment for dinner.  Not usually a wise suggestion, seeing we are so close to San Marco, and we ended up choosing Ristorante "da Carletto" in Castello along Calle delle Bande.  The menu was in multiple languages but we both just wanted a pasta.  We both enjoyed what we ordered - salmon pasta and a fresh crab one - but were shocked with the bill.  The salmon pasta was only 14 euros but the crab one (a special of the day) was a whopping 25 euros.  I would have recommended the pasta there and indeed the restaurant itself - even though it was more touristy than we usually like - but the bill - at 52 euros for two pastas and a mineral water - was too expensive for what we got.  Ah, we all get caught doing things the wrong way.  Live and learn. 

Part of us doesn't really care, we're in Venice and we are happy. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Another trip to our favourite place

Well, trip number five to Venice is on the horizon!  It's not quite 12 months since we spent our month there and the return is much sooner than we expected - I thought we'd be back when my long-service leave kicked in - in 2013!   Never in a million years would we have imagined a return so quick, but life is full of wonderful surprises.

Once again, we'll be there in off-season - arriving just before Christmas and leaving shortly after the New Year.  We know it will be cold - really cold! - but we're excited by that.  Christmas Day in Sydney, for example, is generally a hot day.  And we've never been a fan of summer, so why not head off to the Northern Hemisphere for a nice cold Christmas break?!  And a hot meal on the day rather than cold meats and seafood will be wonderful!  We just have to remember to organise everything as soon as we arrive because we'll have to work around public holidays and shop closures for the festive season.

We've organised an apartment through Lux-Rest - the third time we've used them -  and funny enough it's the same one we stayed in back in 2008, up around St Mark's. While we prefer to be out of the main hub of Venice, we're actually quite happy to be central again. For example, it will be great to watch NYE fireworks in the square and know that we're less than a minute back to the apartment and not a 30 minute vaporetto ride to San Croce.  The apartment is on a canal and close to absolutely everything.  And it's literally a hop, skip and a jump to the Basilica and Palazzo Ducale.

Part of me wanted to stay in another sestiere (Dorsoduro, Cannaregio, San Polo) but with only six weeks to go, we didn't have a lot of planning time!  It's a holiday that's being added to a work trip for the "better half" and is something spontaneous.  We still can't believe the flights are booked, accommodation is being finalised, train rides too (we're going to go via Siena, Bologna on the way up from Rome).  This time a fortnight ago we wouldn't have even contemplated it!  We were gearing up for summer in Sydney not winter in Italy!

Ah, as I said, life is full of wonderful surprises. So with another Venice trip on the horizon I'm back on this blog.  We know the place so well so I'll be posting the odd thing while we are there.  Perhaps providing more information to those travellers that go off-peak like us.  Share the love, so to speak.  Afterall, it is a place we love dearly....

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Still dreaming of Venice

Somedays you don't need a title

We've been back in Sydney for weeks and I think of Venice every day.  It doesn't help I'm still going through the 5,000 photos I took during our month there.  I look at the photos and remember that particularly day, what we did, what we saw, and how happy we were in La Serenissima.  It's so hard to come back to reality when you're daydreaming of a fantasy land on the other side of the world. It really is heaven.  A magic place.

And even though we're no longer in Venice I've decided to keep this blog going with some journal entries.  Share the experience with those who read this blog through my Flickr link or just finding it on a web search.

Around the back canals

And I'm going to keep playing around with the thousands of photos I took on our last trip to Venice.  I've been using Adobe's Lightroom to come up with enhanced photos, sometimes I little "out there" but I like how many of them turn out.  Appeals to my creative side, I guess.  I never used to do much with my photos apart from crop them or tweak a colour but when we were in the apartment in Venice I had time to play with the program.  I'm enjoying enhancing them and loading them on my Flickr page. I love being on Flickr, such a wonderful community of talented photographers.  Their feedback over the years has helped develop my own style and influences.  But I digress....

I've decided to put the journal and the photos together in a book.  Will make such a change from a standard photo album.  There's soo many programs now available online so I'll explore a bit and see what works for us.  I've had several suggestions from my Flickr friends to do a photographic book of Venice but I can't see that ever coming off.  Maybe one day I'll be discovered or asked to have my photos in a beautiful coffee table book, but being in the world of publishing, I can't see it selling that many copies!!! 

Gondola on the Grand Canal

I also believe that anyone can take a good photo in Venice.  It's a photographer's dream.  Actually, it's a dream.  Fullstop.