When planning a visit to Saint Mark’s Square in Venice, popular wisdom states that the queue to enter the Basilica will be long and painfully slow. What it neglects to warn the hapless visitor of however, is the ongoing crocodile issue.
After a leisurely breakfast and a less than leisurely dash for the Vaporetto (River bus), we arrived at the Piazzetta San Marco and passed between the two iconic Byzantine columns that each hold a statues of the two Venetian patron saints. The current patron, Saint Mark, is represented by a majestic winged lion. The former patron, Saint Theodore, rather puzzlingly stands triumphant over a crocodile.
Despite our early(ish) start, the square was already buzzing with traders selling the Venetian equivalent of ‘kiss me quick’ hats to tourists keen to purchase genuine Venetian tat at exorbitant Venetian prices.
The queue to enter the Basilica was not far from our position between the columns, although, the bad news was that it was the back of a crocodile of tourists that meandered off into the distance. It was clearly going to be a long wait. Fortunately, the sun was still quite low and the Doge’s Palace cast a long shadow across the Piazzetta giving us some temporary protection, but this would not last for long.
Within about a minute of joining the end of the queue (it may have been longer, but it did seem to start quite quickly) I became aware of an annoying droning noise, the sort that drives people mad. Being in the middle of a lagoon at the height of the summer one might expect the annoying tinnitus of mosquitos, but this particular noise was coming from Rachel, who was already questioning the value of standing for what might be hours to see something of which she wasn’t really bothered about anyway.
The wait seemed endless, but every few minutes we took another step forward, steadily closing in on our goal at the speed of continental drift. The sun rose. The temperature rose. The note of disapproval from Rachel rose. Something had to be done and I knew exactly what. Drink.
Conquering language barriers and more:
Having been in the country for nearly a day, I was now feeling confident of my newly acquired skills in the Italian language. I took strict instructions of what to get and left Rachel guarding our paving slab as I set off to buy some bottles of water from one of the bars situated beneath the Libreria Sansoviniana building. As I slalomed my way through the alfresco tables, the stern look of concentration on my face and muttering under my breath either alerted the traders of an approaching nutter, or of another tourist about to attempt the lingo. Either way, I am sure I was not the first of the kind they had ever seen.
By the time I got to the bar, I knew exactly how to ask for two bottles of still mineral water. At least I did in my head, but despite the sentence leaving my brain as a fluent phrase, it left my mouth as a collection of random noises which only seemed to work when accompanied by much waving of hands and pointing. Fortunately, the shopkeeper understood the mix of Italian and semaphore and in moments I was the proud owner of two bottles of ‘acqua minerale’. Returning like a triumphant Saint Theodore after conquering the crocodile of international communication I was pleased to discover that in my absence Rachel had also made great strides (well, one little one) and we were now the proud occupants of the next paving slab, one crocodile’s stride closer to The Basilica.
How do you tackle the local lingo?
Add a comment below and we will find out who has a go and who points and shouts?