A Whirlwind Week in Florence & Venice

The past week has been yet another wild ride for us Ramages and our BC group. This weekend students went all around Europe, with some going to Germany, others to Spain, others to Poland, and others–like us–traveling within Italy. Our choice for the weekend was Venice, which more than surpassed my expectations. Unlike some other Italian towns, the cat has long been out of the bag when it comes to Venice’s beauty. Indeed, the hordes of tourists and cruise ships that pile into the island town daily can be annoying, but once you remember that you too are one of those tourists and just accept that most great sites are like this, it is no problem.

For me, the best part of Venice is just walking around and taking the vaporetto (boat) around the lagoon to take in the rustic beauty of the old palaces and churches sitting on the water. Saint Mark’s Basilica is of course great. I am a big fan of Eastern-style churches and art, and this one fits the bill as it was constructed with the experience of Venetians who knew the East and who had gone on Crusades. (In fact, some if the infamous deeds of Christian Crusaders were committed precisely by the Venetians!) It’s great to go into an Italian church and see icons of the Pantocrator and the Descent into Hades. Then of course St. Mark is buried there, having been “rescued” from Alexandria by the Venetians who needed a big saint for their big empire.

Another one of my favorite parts of the weekend: Sopresa Veneta. No, it’s not a church. It’s meat, a specialty of the region which we bought on the cheap along with some cheese and bread for an outdoor lunch in front of the train station on our way home. The simple things in life, like a nice view of a body of water or a tasty panino, are sometimes the best.

Oh, by the way: some pictures below are of a BBQ with some new Italian friends of ours. It was a bizarre and providential feast. So Jen goes on the internet looking for some kids Julia can play with, and she finds a site with an Italian mom asking to see if any English-speaking toddlers in Florence would be around to play with her kid. We give her a call, and she says to come over the next day for a BBQ. I wondered what she meant by this term. When we arrived, it turned out that this day was this family’s annual “American BBQ” day, wherein they all dress in red, white, and blue, put out American flags, and grill out American style. It was a welcome treat to have chesseburgers and hot dogs in the company of America-loving Italians.

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