Day 9: Exploring Venice after a night on the train (6/11/2017)

By Kendra Chow

Last night we were excited to board a night train and this morning we were very eager to get off of it. Startled by police banging at 4 AM requesting passports, I was initially confused as to why they did not wait long enough for us to produce our passports for them. After our discussions about the current refugee crisis, it was clear that the reason the police left after flashing lights into each bunk was to look for migrants. Between of the police wake up call and difficulty sleeping, I think we were all ready to move on. Unfortunately, some people in the group did not receive a breakfast because supplies had run out; yet others had been given more than they needed. Ironically, the uneaten food was thrown away by an employee while others were left hungry, which was quite relevant to Courtney’s “Food Waste” policy paper.

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Our ‘couchette’ on the train

Venice is located on the eastern coast of northern Italy and unlike our recent bus, subway and tram experiences in Ostrava and Budapest, Venetians travel by canals rather than roads. In fact, I only saw a few cars near the train station when we arrived. After obtaining tickets, we took a water taxi to San Zaccaria. On the way we noticed an art installation of white hands reaching up to touch the side of the Ca’ Sagredo Hotel. The piece is titled “Titled Support” and is by Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn is a part of Venice Biennale 2017. It is intended to be a visual statement of how climate change and rising sea levels are impacting the sinking city. I personally love the installation and thought it was appropriate timing to see it on display now after our visit to the Regional Environmental Center in Hungary where we discussed changes in flooding due to climate change.

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Lorenzo Quinn’s “Titled Support” speaks to the challenges posed by climate change

Next, we took a boat to Isola San Servolo, an island ten minutes away. The island once housed a convent and a psychiatric hospital, but today it is the home of Venice International University, a conference and cultural center, and a museum about San Servolo’s past.

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San Servolo Island, home of Venice International University

After settling in our rooms, we had a free afternoon to explore Venice. Some of the people in the program spent their day exploring the city through gondolas, visiting the Dodges Palace, and one even got to visit family from a neighboring town. My roommate, Kendra H., and I decided to visit San Marco Square, the Rialto bridge, and the Museo di Storia Naturale. However, we were a little disappointed and disturbed to realize the museum was almost entirely rooms of taxidermy. We much preferred all of the miniature Murano glass animals we passed in shops along the way.

We were amazed to move from tourist packed squares and streets into alleys that lead to completely empty courtyards. In the previous cobblestone covered cities and towns we’ve visited I’ve thought to myself how these older places must be very difficult for those traveling with crutches or wheelchairs. Moving from bridge to bridge in Venice seemed to be even less considerate of disabled people as I only noticed one ramp at a much steeper slope than the building code standards would require in the United States. This trend is a result of the urban form; the many islands and canals that make up Venice limit mobility almost exclusively to walking over canals on bridges or by boat.

Feeling tired of wandering after six miles of scenic Venetian streets, Kendra and I finished our evening with a pasta dinner at Stephano’s. When we arrived at the restaurant we were handed “to-go” menus and had to request to sit down to order and eat dinner. We were informed that the menu prices would increase if we decided to stay, showing that it is much more common in Venice for people to order foods and drinks to go than it is in the United States. We then returned to the San Zaccaria water bus stop satisfied with postcards and of course gelato in hand ready to return to San Servolo for the night.

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