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Venice

Our first of three major (and two one minor) stops in Italy is the city best known for its ridiculous network of canals and its unique blinds. Venice, a city that, despite a lack of roads, has cars on display in several of the larger piazzas. Brilliant marketing strategy Subaru: drive the message home in a place where there’s absolutely no competition. It’s like advertising a texas steakhouse on a fishing boat; when you’re out to sea you’re in no position to be eating t–bones in a saloon, but once you’re sick of the fish you’ll know exactly where to go.

Venice is… kind of what you figured it would be. There are canals, obviously, and the opportunity for gondola riding is always present, and there are Italians everywhere; what more did you expect? The boutiques are amazing, the markets even more so, the couples making out on every damned bridge over every damned canal a tad enviable, and the architecture… oh, the architecture. The buildings are simply superb, and the Basilica di San Marco (Saint Mark… as in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is a jaw–dropper. Any institution, particularly a church, that wasted this kind of money on a building today would be lambasted, and twelve hundred years ago I’m surprised the poor didn’t rise up to behead the cardinals behind this kind of misallocation of funds. Something about the opiate of the masses, I’m guessing, but this building remains impressive nonetheless. It’s a gigantic church essentially built to house a saint’s remains (brought to Italy in a barrel of pork, dontchaknow) decorated with the most elaborate mosaics ever contrived by man. A few billion tiles arranged to decorate, well, the entire building, whilst doubling as a place of worship and an art museum.

Before this trip I was never sure I’d want to see too many of the world’s churches. Come to think of it, I doubt I would ever have been too big on the world’s museums either, but churches and museums have been my bread and butter for the last two months. Since Washington DC I have seen some of the most amazing shit in the world in some of the best–known museums in the world, with more to come, and have loved every minute of it. The church experience began in Paris with Notre Dame, whose magnificence lies mostly in its stained glasswork, but Italy takes worship to whole new places. And this is just Venice; I wasn’t expecting this kind of thing until, well, Rome. Vatican City seems an eternity from now.