Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday in Venice!

Yesterday, we went to Burano, an outlying island which is enchanting.  It’s a lacemaking center, and its buildings are all in nice repair with fresh stucco painted in glossy, bright colors.  Lilac is next to hot pink, is next to egg yolk yellow.  The kids couldn’t get enough of it!  Sadly for me, the lace museum has been closed for two years for “restorations.”  We did see an older lady (in her own shop) doing punto in aria, which is a particular lacemaking technique for which the island is known. 

I caught Florence on camera!  Isn't she lovely?
Ashley with Trey & James in the background
I loved the pink & red next to each other!
 After several hours, we went to Torcello.  Torcello has a completely different flavor, and is essentially an abandoned island with a very small town available to tour.  After Torcello, we went back to Burano and spent even more time there.
We came back to our palace after dinner and spent some giggling time before bed! 
In Torcello!

Everyone slept well, with the exception of Eleanor.  She had the bed that was preshaped for a cow.  It didn’t fit her body very well.
This morning, we had an unsurprisingly slow start.  However, we went over to St. Mark’s Basilica to check on Mass times (6:00 p.m.!), and then wandered across the island, sneaking into several churches along the way.  Many of them have the distinctive appearance of older European Catholic churches:  lots and lots of stuff.  Everywhere.  Sculpture?  Check.  Relics?  Check.  Paintings everywhere? Check.  Mosaics on remaining square inches? Check.  Mosaic on the floors?  Check.  Okay, boys, now we’ve got ourselves a church!  It’s so cute, because in many ways it’s so much like a home.  Things just accumulate – gifts that have sentimental value, renovations that were never quite complete, and so on.  And of course, it gives you a lot to look at.  
Carnevale from Tuesday
Trey with Florence on the vaporetto
It was still Carnevale on Tues!
Another rare shot of Florence
On the way home
We were amused at the way they carry freight -- loose!
The rose in the hallway.  Note the scrap wood.
At night near the hotel
Near the hotel
Then we caught the vaporetto to Murano.  We had a wonderful time looking at the glass shops.  Several of them have the typical junky stuff you’d expect, but many have museum-like pieces that are just gorgeous. I, of course, had to put the fear of breakage into the children before allowing them into these shops.  Whoever talks about bulls and china shops knows NOTHING.  Try six kids in a cramped room that is stuffed to the gills with colorful glass items.  It’s enough to make one cringe at the thought, isn’t it?  Well, I lived to tell the tale (and so did the glass). 
Trey preparing to go downstairs in the hotel
We came back in time to drop off our purchases at the (hold-your-breath-while-you-go-upstairs) hotel and to get back to St. Mark’s. 
Mass at St. Mark’s was replete with pomp and circumstance.  With no exaggeration, there were at least 15 altar servers, probably 20 or more priests, all in purple and fuchsia, an archbishop, and a cardinal to preside.  There was enough incense burned to keep half of India in funds for quite some time.  And I actually understood a lot of it!  So exciting!  The kids (and I) were amazed at the extent of the mosaics.  I’d seen photos, but they have no way of conveying the sheer square footage.  Kind of like the difference between hearing about surround sound and actually experiencing it.  We used the strategy of drifting out of the church slowly so that we could take an extra look around.  But the priests were one step ahead:  they started turning all the lights off.  I guess they’re used to us tourists.
Coming outside of the church, we were captivated by the sight of these…things – brightly lit boomerangs?  Helicopters?  We couldn’t quite tell.  But you get the idea – street vendors at night with a gimme toy.  And my three boys were all clamoring, “Gimme!”  Trey ended up getting one, and it turns out to be the ultimate boy toy:  a slingshot with a whirling light-up helicopter.  Wow.  Jeremy had a great time taking photos, and the boys forgot completely about getting dinner.  We had to drag them away!
I couldn’t resist the opportunity to eat in an Italian Chinese restaurant to see what it was like.  The hot and sour soup was rather more sour (more vinegar) and had fish sauce – a happy addition.  It was also less aggressively thickened than American.  The egg rolls were like Vietnamese spring rolls – yum! 
Then we came home, gloated over our glass, and laughed some more.  Our abdominal muscles have certainly had a workout today!  But did you notice the amazing thing?  We got to celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice!


  1. That is fantastic! Was the basilica crowded? Young or old people? This was certainly an Ash Wednesday never to be forgotten! Thank you for sharing all your impressions,it took me back to a Sunday in Ordinary time when we went to Mass there. It was no longer ordinary once we stepped inside so I can only imagine how it must have been with a cardinal! Daddy is sitting here totally amazed about your whole adventure.
    Love you lots

  2. In actual point of fact, the phrase 'bull in a china shop' is a misnomer. Myth busters did a 'study' on this, and found that the bulls were actually quite dainty and delicate while walking through the china shelving. So, actually, three boys in a china shop are probably a lot more challenging to keep under contol than a herd of docile bulls. I have been to Murano and St. Mark's, but have not been to mass there. I am quite envious. How long did the mass actually take? I imagine with that much p&c it took a while. William entertained my entire church yesterday at Ash Wed mass. He was singing twinkle twinkle quite loudly and making sure the kneelers worked. He also pointed out Rosie on the altar and made sure everyone knew there were lights overhead. He's at school today. Breathing a sigh of rest!

  3. How exciting to attend Mass at St. Mark's - an experience to remember! I was pleasantly surprised with how well attended all the Masses were at Holy Cross, since Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day. Lots and lots of people marking the start of Lent. Missed you all at the Conquest dinner!!!