Thu 27-Sep-56: Left Rome about 3pm after cancelling early trip. Got luggage in from Karachi. Arrived Venice about 5:30pm. Trouble about accommodation. Cashed £5
CIGA Hotel Regina, Venezia (Wouldn’t it!)
Wed night [actually Thursday]
27 Sep 56
Happily my bag arrived intact & with a great steel band around it, to protect it from the thieving Pakistanis, and Italianos. It was cleared off only about an hour before the plane for Venice took off.
Had a good trip, less than two hours & landed on these little mounds of earth that just show above the sea level. The area looks very small from the air – what made it tick & why, I hope to find out. Nowadays it is quite obviously tourists. There are thousands of the beasts. Seems like a fair percentage of Americans as is fit, I suppose, because who else could stand this clip joint racket for long.
(If I sound a bit disjointed in parts – blame the screaming quiz show in Italiano which is disrupting the peace & quiet. The reproduction photographically is good – but the ensemble with talk is beyond me.)
The Orbit travel service has let me down badly in the matter of hotel bookings. In both Rome & here the bookings weren’t confirmed & in Venice there is no such hotel as they named. What with the millions of tourists here I had no option but to take the single room & bath C.I.T. the biggest Italian agency (to whom Orbit referred me) managed to get for my stopover. To make things easier I am not on the plane to Munich on the 29th. I have to ask again tomorrow to see if there has been any cancellations. How does one get out of here? Swim? I have a very fancy room in a second class hotel (for here) & a magnificent bathroom, complete with bidet (unused).
I had dinner seated on the edge of the canal, with gondolas parked alongside, and a fine view of the Santa Maria church just a hundred yards or so across the canal. All very dashing and fetching if you were here with me. Mostly, I’m sitting there chewing my nails & wondering how many 1000 lire a minute it is all ripping off the roll. I can’t get the hang of the way they bash your wallet in this country. They ask if you want full pension or half pension – which is about 1/6th cheaper. For half pension you have only two meals, breakfast & dinner or lunch. As you still have to pay separately for each of these meals, I don’t get it. The govt. taxes the bill total, which makes it extra – & having your meal brought to you apparently necessitates a service charge & so it goes on – HORRIFYING!
I can’t tell you much about Venice as by the time I had a shower & changed into fresh clothes it was too dark for me to begin an exploratory tour. I sort of tied a mental string around my waist & did a round of the block – or I mean where the block ought to be. St Mark’s Square, another example of Italian grandiosity – a massive open area with a very ancient church at its end & a huge campanile sort of thing alongside it. You may recollect hearing of the pigeons on the square. Just after dinner a combined drive of gondolas came past, accompanying a gaudily decorated barge with colored lights & professional serenaders singing into a flaming microphone full blast. How these Italians like noise. Gondola blokes yelling at each other like fish wives. It is still very beautiful despite the commercialisation. Delightful to have your meal in the open, pleasant lights, linen, good service – nice cool night – It could be done well in Sydney in some sheltered spot.
A funny thing just happened. After dutifully washing shirts & underwear & hanging same up on a cord which was attached to some thing over the bath, I was rudely awakened from my mediations on the can by a knocking on the door. On opening up – a chamber maid about 50 something agitatedly asked me some foreign questions & upon getting no reply came into the room & started mucking about with a switch beside the bedside light. All of the time nicking out of the front door to look at something. To no avail apparently. Back she nips into my odoriferous bathroom and a sigh of relief asks me to take the shirt off the cord over the bath. Seems like dear Willy hung his shirt on the cord you pull for help if you get stuck in the tub, etc. The ringing of bells ceased & the red light over my door miraculously went out on disengagement of the shirt. – What would they do without me?
6.45am Friday [28 Sep 1956]. A very nice bed to sleep on. In Italy the shops open at 8.30am and the millions pour out of the apartments, rooms, etc. the traffic starts and the noise begins. This goes on till 1pm when they all seem to go home again. The real peak hour rush starts again at 4pm when really everyone in Rome must go out on the streets. It’s deafening & you get jostled off the footpaths, if busy, cars and buses scrap your ass, and the cafes are setting up for the open air meal hour of 7 to 9.30. The uproar continues until 8pm. Then all is relatively quiet again. Not that the place dies, nothing like it – merely the commercial shipping is over for the day. Down near the pub I stayed at there is a park square slightly bigger than Wynyard which was always full of cats. Dozens & dozens of them. I couldn’t work it out until yesterday at noon when I was returning to book out. It seems that from about 10 till 12 the place is turned into a Paddy’s Markets. Double rows of stalls forming a corridor all round the park spring into life. They are brought in & set up and shelter beneath their own huge umbrellas or canvas awnings. Everything conceivable is sold. The real attraction being the food vendors, I imagine. You should see those cheeses & sausages, vegetables of every description, great yellow capsicums, long thin tomatoes, red and white speckled beans, eggplants, mushrooms, strings of garlic, all supported by a host of the commoner varieties. Many, many meat stalls displaying the frowsiest carcasses. Lambs, miserable skinny things only about a yard long. Yellow scrawny chickens, all peck and legs – tripes & bellies and kidneys & god knows what from beast & fowl all somewhat on the nose. Fish stalls stand opposite the meat. Squids, long fish, thick fish, herrings, sardines, mussels, pippies, lobsters, crabs, prawns, and any edible spawn of the sea. The buying & selling goes no for about an hour, when at 12 everything is carted away again, leaving behind a colossal litter. Hence the cats. I guess they feed on the offal from the meat & fish boys.
I shall now take me down to my collazione and find out where I can have a gander at the Tintorettos with a fist full of lire I suppose. A look at a couple of dozen pictures at the Rome Gallery cost me 3/6.