Monday, January 21, 2013
Chioggia by the Sea
The first day, December 26, Bozen is struck by a steady blizzard, with icy temperatures, that makes travel impossible ... but thankfully, the high wind blows the blizzard through and by early afternoon the sky clears, the weather calms and the party is able to take the road south as far as Trient. The valley widens and widens along the course of the Adige River (which you follow from Bozen). This is the High Plain, thin earth mixed with gravel, not very fertile, but there are goats and sheep in abundance. The slopes have been denuded of trees, and are bare and cold looking. The weather is frosty by mid-day and you're all quite cold by the time you reach Trient, another metropolis as large as Bozen.
The second day opens with some light snow, still icy temperatures, but these steadily climb above the freezing point during the day to where it is merely chilly by the time you reach Verona. The road has slowed you up some, as it is icy itself and you're reduced to walking your horses most of the day. Lukas's magical mount could manage it just fine, but he would leave you behind in the dust. As you approach Verona, you find yourselves upon the Lower Plain, where it is profoundly fertile. The empty posts for wine grapes spread as far as you can see, and there are many little houses. The farms appear to be as small as 10 acres on the average. By nightfall, you're glad to be inside, as an intermittent drizzle settles down to make the roads covered with ice again.
Verona is immense, with more than 10,000 buildings, three times the size of Trient, and sprawling - it seems - to the horizon. It is hard to imagine that a city could be so big, especially since you've just passed through two other cities nearby that seemed large enough to occupy all the land you've seen. You begin to get a sense of just how fertile is northern Italy.
Despte expectations, as you awake on the third day, you find the sky is clear, the temperature has risen above the freezing point (it is chilly), and the wind is calm. You make good time upon a road wide enough for 16 horses to walk abreast. The weather is brisk and your spirits are high as you travel.
You meet many people through the day, hauling hay, building stone, cartloads of gravel, driving beasts of every description and so on. Most are friendly, in a manner that makes some of you nervous, but they seem to mean no harm. Germany is nothing like this tremendously flat land, with its plaster buildings, its lush grass (three feet tall in large patches and brown with the season) and its people dressed in loose fitting shirts wrapped around the waist. Most are not even carrying weapons, and even those you see on horseback wear no armor. You pass through Vicenza - at 1,500 buildings a comparably small town - and continue to Padua. This again is as large as Verona was ... you cannot help be astounded by all the people.
Maximillian remarks on the existence of the Orto Botanico of Padua, founded in 1545, and that it must be something amazing. He would like to be shown in to it, but he doubts the likelihood of that, and at any rate the rest of the party would likely shut him down. After all, at least until you reach Fiume, the party is on a schedule.
It is frosty in the morning as you leave Padua on the 29th. By late afternoon the weather is positively cool ... and all day you can clearly smell the sea. By evening you reach the island of Chioggia, and the small city thereupon. There are more docks and warehouses than buildings of residence, and evidence of huge hydraulic projects that have been initiated upon the Lagoon of Venice here. The city of Venice is to the north, but it is past the horizon, about seven miles away.
Throughout your travels you have crossed 2 major borders (into the Prince-Bishopric of Trient and into the Republic of Venice) and four minor tolls, into the territories Verona, Vicenza, Padua, Venice (that controls some of the mainland) and Chioggia. The total fees would be 11 s.p. per horse and 40 s.p. per person.
To enter the city of Chioggia, where you will need to be in order to obtain a barge to Venice, will cost you 1 g.p. per horse or person.