Getting to Venice has been... well, an ordeal. It's involved missed trains, getting body-checked and shouted at in Napoli, an entire country's railway computer systems evidently going down, having to spend the last of my money on a new ticket, breaking my wrists and back lugging my suitcase around, and finally, finally getting here on time to see the sun set on the Grand Canal.
The second I stepped out of the Santa Lucia train station, my eyes filled with tears of joy and elation, and in my head, I felt completely and totally at home. Venice is as lovely as I left it, if not lovelier. I was astounded that the lagoon is just as gorgeously blue-green this time of year as in the summer, and the light is just as warm and staggeringly beautiful in March as July (ahem, except when it keeps raining).
I got to my hotel on the Lido as the cold and dark set in, and I was so worn out and exhausted that it was all I could do to get out of my clothes and crash face-down on the bed. I slept until the next morning, when I discovered that my tiny little monastic cell (seriously - it's the size of my childhood bedroom) has a cute balcony thing, where I ate a breakfast of crackers and herbed cream cheese. It's been that kind of trip.
The first day of research at the manuscript library was utter hell, and I can't remember the last time I've felt so stymied and discouraged. On the vaporetto back to my hotel, I decided I vastly prefer on-site scientific research and must do my very best to become proficient in conservation science. Going into this trip, I had all these misgivings, like I couldn't decide between going forward in art history or tapping out and going full force toward art conservation. Now I am 100 million percent certain that I am content to be done with art history as soon as I finish this degree. The thing is, I absolutely love studying art and art history... I just HATE libraries, digging around in books, and all the documentation which feels utterly divorced from the actual things I care about.
I'll elaborate on that topic sometime soon perhaps.
I went back to my hotel feeling intensely angry, frustrated, and exasperated with the whole endeavor. I had no idea how to get my thesis done from here, I was sick of being unable to communicate with people who understand me, and I just snapped. I sat on my bed listening to music and bawling my eyes out for a rather embarrassingly long time, then did what any reputable scholar would: went out and got smashed on red wine. Fortified also with a plate of gnocchi, I pulled myself together and slept the sleep of the dead. When I awoke, my first thoughts were "Ugh, I'm still in Venice," and I looked at myself in the mirror in disbelief.
Today started out equally awful, with all these irritating circles best summarized by saying that the manuscript which I traveled all the way here to view, they will not let me view. After quite an aggravating amount of time pleading my case up the ladder, I finally got to someone's assistant, who begrudgingly handed me a CD-ROM of all the pages of this manuscript, digitized.
I looked at it dumbfounded, amazed that such a thing exists, yet in the months of correspondence which preceded this visit, it never occurred to the library that perhaps I would like to be mailed a copy of this CD instead of coming all the way to Venice to view it on their computer and pay 7 euros per medium-resolution digital file, 20 per high-quality. That in fact, one can make copies of CD-ROMs and send them to distant locations, like New York!
I'm disappointed that I didn't get to see this manuscript, since from the digital images, it seems amazing, but whatever, I got the information I needed, and as I walked out of the library, I tried to repress maniacal laughter, thinking I would never step foot in that God-forsaken hell hole ever again.
To say I've reacted with rather dramatic emotions these past few days would probably be an understatement. It seems my default mode in Venice has been tears: of joy, exhuberance, anger, frustration, and now, absurdity and relief.
When I finished work for today, I came back to my hotel and chatted with a very friendly Sicilian desk guy, who set me up with free, unlimited high-speed internet. I cannot even begin to express how happy it has made me to get back in touch with friends and have a good long talk with my Mom. I did have a nice hour of troubleshooting in a foreign language when my connection suddenly dropped out, but nothing can match my manuscript library experience for sheer irritation and stupidity.
Tomorrow, I travel to Padua to view another manuscript, this time in a seminary library which is only open from 3-6pm on Thursday and Friday afternoons. I would say that the odds of me actually viewing this manuscript are slim to none, but I almost don't care. Just in case, I'm buying tickets to the Scrovegni chapel, planning a visit to Il Santo, and digging up some other Paduan adventures.
As far as I'm concerned, after Friday, I am on vacation. I have to go back to the Accademia to view my paintings again, and I'm planning to visit a few museums and churches for other research stuff, the stupid lace museum in Burano is still closed (for the third time I've been here!), but yeah, I am going into tourist mode and damn happy about it.
I fly home on Tuesday morning. I'm unreasonably excited to see my family, my kitty, to sleep in a soft bed with enough blankets and heat, to be warm and comfortable and have constant wireless internet, to speak English and almost completely understand everything people say to me... ah, it will be nice. I will curse myself for being so childish and petty in Venice over something so stupid as a manuscript library, but I can't manage to regret things anymore.
I will try to post something more thoughtful and upbeat when I have returned from Padua, but if you only see some drunken musings about art and music, please assume I am happy and have made my peace with Italy.