Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘Venice

Venezia

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This blog is being assembled differently to my usual practice. I am going to start with one image, called to mind by a tweet by Taras Grescoe

Funny how people will cross oceans or drive for days for pleasure of being in a place without cars. (Venice, …

We were in Florence but decided to go to Venice on a whim. We could get there in two hours on a high speed train, but that’s too long for a day trip, I think. I booked on line and got a cheaper fare by extending the stay. So we stayed two nights, not one. And Venice is not cheap. (OK since you ask, round trip train fare $226, two 72 hour transit passes $110, hotel two nights $500 – but it was steps from San Marco, and included breakfast.)

Ponte della Constituzione

Ponte della Constituzione is new bridge that links the Ferrovia to the port and the bus station. On one side Venice is as it has always been. A city where you walk or take a boat. On the other side is the “real world” – buses, cars, a people mover to the cruise ship terminal.

When we got to this point, on our last day, I did not want to go any further. There was plenty of time before our train would leave, but it was not going to be spent on the other side of this bridge. Below is what you see when you look the other way

The view from the crest of the bridge 1

View from crest of the bridge 2

In front of the ferrovia and one’s first view of the city when you get off the train. Immediately in front are the fermata for the vaporetti. The guide books warn of the need to be careful about checking route numbers and boat directions, but we quickly found that to be a mainlander’s obsession. The secret to enjoying Venice is to get a pass covering the whole time of your stay, and just get on the boat you see first. It really doesn’t matter all that much (as long as you avoid the extra fee for the airport runs) as wherever you get to will be just as interesting and attractive as wherever else you might have been thinking about. In fact the very first ride we took, the No 2 was not going up the Grand Canal to Rialto and thus reach San Marco, but through the port and then the much wider (and, as it happens, more direct) Canale della Giudecca. So we didn’t see the Grand Canal that trip – but would later – and landed a little further east. Where there was a very nice and not too expensive place for lunch, on the terrace, with a view of San Giorgio Maggiore. Yes it was a longer boat ride, but that was actually a benefit. I relaxed and enjoyed the ride and forgot about schedules and check in times.

Fmta and Ponte degli Scalzi

In Venice we stopped trying to fit in the required “top sites” and art galleries. We just wandered until we felt like sitting down – or saw a boat going somewhere. We did not use water taxis or gondolas: they are far too expensive, and fit the needs of others, not us.

There is quite a new housing development at the outer end of Cannaregio. I got the impression the arch is simply decorative, whereas others clearly were needed to stop the buildings leaning towards each other. Note too the ramp down to the Fondamenta (wharf) there are very few concessions to wheeled traffic in Venice.

Newer archway

Venice may be mostly about walking, but the city is still dependent on fossil fuelled internal combustion engines. I think this arrangement is a lot neater than the Chevron barge moored in Coal Harbour, but no doubt the residents and seawall enthusiasts would disagree.

Gas Station

There is not, of course, a “typical” Venetian scene. This one of the minor canals through Cannaregio.

Fondamenta de la Capuzine

I took the title from one of the street signs on the side of the building. These use local dialect rather than more formal Italian which would render the same place Fundamenta delle Cappucine. If new signs go up that ignore local usage they are simply obliterated by locals who want to hang on to their identity rather than meet the needs of tourists, who rely on maps and worry about getting lost.

Campo Ghetto Nuovo

If Shylock had been real, this is where he would have lived. This now the location of the Museo Ebraico. That is a police box at the centre of the picture at the back of the square: our visit came just after the attack near the Paris synagogue and security was heightened. It was probably a good thing that I wasn’t, by now, paying much attention to the news.

Calle Goldoni

A fairly representative example of the size of the passageways between buildings. I found GPS useless as the phone quickly lost any orientation because of the buidlings’ proximity.

Rialto Bridge

One of the few bridges crossing the Grand Canal. The shops are pretty much devoted to tourist tchochkes. There are plenty of street signs at intersections that point towards Rialto or San Marco.

Rialto Bridge

This is the more familiar view from the deck of the vaporetto.

Campo San Polo

Not far from the Rialto is this large open square. We had dinner one evening at Birra La Corte and watched boys playing football over to the right. Those are EU Election posters. I got the impression that there were extra points for hitting a politician with the ball. The local police intervened, as all ball games are forbidden in Venice except in designated playgrounds.

We came across this place on one of our first long walks. Originally my partner thought we should walk from the station to the hotel: it didn’t look that far to her. But I had visited the city once before and had a very clear memory of how confusing the passageways can be. It wasn’t like we were pulling rolling suitcases either, thank goodness, but I said we would be better off on the boat, when we could then drop off the carry-on bags. Well, I explained above how that went. So after lunch and then checking in, we took the direct boat back to the station and then started walking the route Google laid out for us. And after a while, just put the phone away and wandered in the approximate direction, finding the odd dead end and plenty of photo opportunities.

She likes to walk for exercise. And I must admit that the arthritis in my knee did not bother me all month – until I was stuck for nine hours in a seat on the plane back. But I have also persuaded her of the joys of loitering. Becoming a flaneur in Paris. Using the camera as an excuse to stop and look around. Venice is even better than Paris in that respect.

Flickr is being more than usually balky this morning, so I am going to end this here for now.

More pictures have been put on flickr and added to the group there that I created and curate. It’s called Places Without Cars.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 3, 2014 at 10:24 am

Firenze

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We are leaving here tomorrow. It is a shame to have to say this, but I am actually glad to be going home. Our landlady in Florence told us that there was no point in staying for two weeks, there was not enough to keep us here. We have been in Venice last weekend largely as a result of this advice. We fell in love with Venice, and would have liked to have been able to stay longer. The expense alone was enough to deter that thought. If we could have got back to Vancouver from there … well anyway. Let me tell you about today, which is all about the sort of issues that get discussed on this blog all the time.

Last weekend, on Saturday, before our departure for Venice next morning, we took the advice of our Lonely Planet guide and decided to “get out of town”. Fiesole is a beautiful Tuscan hill village with stunning views and amazing archaeology. You can get there on a #7 bus, from Piazza San Marco within the 90 minute validity of a single ride. So tram ride ride from the apartment, walk across the Centro Storico, and up the hill we go, with a bus full of American art students. When we get to the village square – where the #7 turns round and goes back down the hill – there is a sign on the bus stop. Something obviously rushed out at the last minute on the office printer. No service on the #7 after 15:00 because of a road race – the 100km super marathon – a big deal – through Fiesole which means road closures and who knows when regular bus service can be restored. We saw the view – stunning – had lunch – ordinary but twice the price because of the view – and then caught the next bus back to town in case we got stuck and missed our train to Venice in the morning.

Today we tried again. Fiesole deserved a second chance, if only for its archaeology. Not just Etruscans and Romans but Lombards too. The bus stop for the #7 was beseiged. Local buses could not get near because of a flood of tour buses. In Livorno a massive cruise ship had landed, and tipped off its human cargo onto fleets of coaches full of punters sold on the idea of seeing Michaelangelo’s “David” for real. They get to see Florence in the morning and Pisa in the afternoon (or vice versa). The #7 bus stand is close to the Academy where this version (the real, authentic, actual statue as seen on tea towels and t shirts) could be seen. If you are waiting for a #7 local bus and many tour buses occupy the space where your expected municipal service is going to be, you get anxious. What if the local bus drives straight past, unable to pick you up because of this huge, throbbing airconditioned landwhale is unloading its cargo of bemused, earphoned tourgroupistes onto the one person wide sidewalk? It was chaos I tell you.

Eventually things sorted themselves out and the #7 arrived and we boarded within our permitted 90 minutes. It was a struggle for the bus from there but we just sat and observed how the usual dramas of urban life unfold. An MVA involving another bus, a BMW and a motorscooter, closing three of four lanes. A delivery van, double parked, while urgent packages are rejected for damage incurred while dealing with … a sudden intervention by several varieties of cops (carabineri, local plods, security company wannabes) misdirecting – an ambulance with the horrible wailing siren, unique to their kind, makes all thought impossible. Daily life in Florence.

Etruscan Altar

Roman altar

We got there. Roman ruins were seen. The difference to Etruscan ruins was noted. Lombard burials were studied in minute detail. The play of mottled sunlight on Tuscan hillsides was dutifully recorded. Lunch was eaten, beer was drunk, Fiesole was given its due. Time to return. The #7 is waiting in the square but somehow some other distraction means that it has – how sad – circled the roundabout and gone back down the hill, without us. We find a bench in the shade, where we can wait the quarter hour that must elapse before another #7 will appear. And as we sit observing the human life around us, we note the numbers of others who place themselves between us and the bus stop. There is no orderly queue. The bus has three doors, and all are fair game for entry. And the capture of the very few seats – let alone those that face forward and allow a view out of a window – requires strategy and cunning.

When the bus does arrive, two schoolgirls nip aboard and occupy the seats designated for those over 65 – to which I am entitled and feel that I have earned, being at the bus stop a full 15 minutes before they appeared. My partner deals with the smart cards (proximity reader not being proximate to the desired seats). They get the window seats and pretend not to understand my protests.

But all is well and we are seated, if not optimally at least satisfactorily, and eventually the girls get off and we can arrange ourselves … wait, what, some scruffy individual, wants to inspect my ticket?? No uniform, no apparent authority?

Florence tickets

It seems when the “smart card” was waved in front of the reader, no new ride authority was actually established. My partner’s card is fine, mine despite its three ride validity remaining is deemed “expired”. FIFTY EUROS cash to expunge the offence, once the details of the UK passport I carry with me to get free entry into National Monuments (but not, be it noted Fiesole Museums or archaeological sites) are copied onto a three part, no carbon required, form.  He even digs into his clothing and produces photo ID which shows that he is actually the Yoda of ATAF – so there is no point in arguing – and a new crisp €50 note saved for “a rainy day” is handed over. The alternative is not worth contemplating. The shame, the publicity, the headlines. Far better to sign on the dotted line on a form – being Italian – that I have no hope of understanding. Your card reader, ATAF, failed but I must pay the price, or face ignominy.

I note, from a distance, that once again the Compass card is under assault. That Cubic is once more fair game in the fare evasion/faregates/fare or foul fraud foofooraw. Meh! Life goes on. I will be back next week, refreshed. Able to sleep all night and function on Pacific Summer Time. This too will pass.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 29, 2014 at 11:19 am

Posted in Fare evasion, transit

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