The tour officially started the next morning with a motorboat ride to St. Mark’s Square on the lagoon side of Venice instead of down the Grand Canal and since it was raining, (boy, was it raining!) the gondolas weren’t operating either. That meant that anyone who hadn’t gone into town the day before missed out on any sort of cruise down the Grand Canal! Lucky us for doing it on our own!
When we got off the boat, we rushed to a nearby shop that had an overhanging canopy. That shop also was selling rain gear like jackets and ponchos that fold up. We all bought something to keep us dry as it was windy so umbrellas didn’t do much good! The guide met us there and away we went on a walking tour around St. Mark’s Square! Which floods. Did you know that? We didn’t. The water was bubbling up between the stones on the square and apparently that day the square flooded to the highest level in a few years! It looked like it was at least 4 or 5 inches deep or more in some spots but they have low, knee high tables set up all around the square for people to walk on when the square floods including a table/path right into St. Mark’s cathedral.
We walked around, crowded under the loggias of the buildings surrounding the square with all the other tour groups. We did have a walk through of St. Mark’s which was absolutely stunning though it was dark inside the building so hard to see some of the ceilings. Some of our tour group went back in the afternoon and said the lights were on then. St. Mark’s was the only building we saw from the inside and since time is limited, you have to pick and choose what you want to see on your free time. The inside of the Doge’s Palace is supposed to be very beautiful too but we had a tour booked to the island of Burano for the afternoon so didn’t see all the things we might have.
We were taken to a glass factory but I wasn’t really impressed. The demo was very short and the sales pitch very long. We escaped and searched for a place to have lunch and luckily it had finally stopped raining. It just showered lightly once or twice during the rest of the afternoon. We had lunch in a cafeteria style place and sat outside in damp plastic chairs with our first plates of real Italian pasta! Mamma mia! Fabuloso! We checked out a few shops along the way back to the lagoon side and bought a few souvenirs of glass and ceramic.
We met back at the pier on the lagoon for an afternoon excursion (optional, meaning it costs extra!) to the island of Burano where lace is made. Burano is really pretty and so colourful! All the houses are painted a different bright colour, shades of blue, green, yellow, purple etc. No pastels here like the rest of Italy (Italy’s buildings, if they aren’t brick or stone have a plaster coating that is painted or washed with a colour that reminds me of desert colours, shades of yellow, gold, tan, white, pink, green. Not exactly pastels, but light warm shades to reflect the heat of the Mediterranean sun. Not that many single detached houses either except for farm houses in the countryside. Most of the towns and cities are full of apartment buildings and flats above shops and attached ‘row’ or ‘garden’ terraced houses of various sizes and shapes and ages though we didn’t see very many huge modern glass and concrete buildings, just a few on the outskirts of Rome and Florence.
Burano doesn’t have much else besides fishing and the lace making but the workmanship is really beautiful. We bought some items after a bit of haggling and met the boat back to Venice and then back to the hotel. We decided not to stay in Venice on our own in the evening because although the weather had cleared up a little, we were damp and tired and wanted to rest and were still a little wary of managing public busses without getting lost in the dark. That evening we had dinner again in the hotel with some of our fellow tour members and started to get to know them.
There were some very nice people on our tour of about 40 members. Quite a few from England, some Americans, a group of girls from Taiwan and also some fellow Canadians. A group of the Canadians that were all travelling together seemed to want to spend most of their time travelling and exploring independently, using the tour bus mainly as transportation between locations and spent little time socializing with the rest of the group. The Taiwanese girls were very nice but also kept to themselves but I think that was because their English seemed a bit limited.
Our tour guide, Muris, was from Bosnia. He was in his early 20's and was a student in Rome during the off season. This was only his second season guiding and it showed. He read everything from notes and didn’t seem all that enthusiastic for the job. We didn’t really think he was all that good at it overall. The guide for the tour I took of the UK in 1993 was absolutely fantastic and really added to the pleasure of the trip and others on this tour that had taken other tours said the same so I guess we were just unlucky this time! Many of the other tour members, as I said, were very nice and we spend time with each other at meals and off and on during the days but nobody seemed to want to socialize after dinner in the evenings! They all just retired to their rooms after dinner! I was looking forward to a repeat of the kind of evenings I had experienced on my last tour where many of the group would sit around in the lounge or lobby and chat together. Oh well.