Categories
Italy (Venice)

Going to the hospital in Venice

H is for Ospedale

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Ospedale SS Giovanni e Paolo Venice

I’m betting that the question, “Wonder where the hospital is around here?” passes through the minds of most visitors to Venice… at least those visitors who stay on the island and think about where they would go if they twisted an ankle or suffered whiplash doing a double-take at an especially handsome gondolier.

Last Sunday, my daughter and I wound up at the hospital without really meaning to. We intended to go see the church, Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo (the Basilica of St. John and Paul). In 2017, I had purchased a little folding picture book of the top ten Venice sights and this church was on that list.

During the week that we visited back then, we simply didn’t get everything accomplished. Back home after our trip, I realized that if I was ever to return to Venice, this church would be on my list of sights to see.

And when one sees this church, one also has the opportunity to see the Venice hospital, the Ospedale SS Giovanni E Paolo Venice. That’s because the church is literally connected to the hospital building. You can enter the hospital from either the black front doors (as seen in the photo above) or you can enter from the backside, which borders the waters of the lagoon.

My daughter and I decided to take the water route around the back of the island. My daughter had never actually ventured on the vaporetto route past her Santa Elena stop, so this was a first-time experience for her, too.

Here’s the sign in the vaporetto bus stop that shows the stop for the Ospedale (Italian for hospital). Note the international symbol for hospital, “H,” below the line.

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Signs like these are posted inside the vaporetto bus stops.
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My daughter has become especially adept at navigating around Venice on water buses, known as vaporetti.

We traveled around the backside of the island to eventually arrive at the church; we didn’t realize it at the time, but the church is joined to the hospital.

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This map is courtesy of The Venice Insider. The “3” in the picture above marks the hospital’s location. Santa Elena is included in the area inside the green oval.

Here are some more pictures from the vaporetto ride around to the hospital and the basilica.

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The park-like Santa Elena neighborhood of Castello in Venice features lots of bright red wooden park benches.
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This is a view of part of The Arsenale, the area within Castello that was once included shipyards and armories.  The unique “Building Bridges” hands sculpture by Lorenzo Quinn has been installed to commemorate the Venice Biennale.
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Almost there! More of the Arsenale area.

According to The Venice Insider, the hospital grounds are not open for tourists. That being the case, I hesitated to take lots of pictures. However, I did snap a few. Here’s a picture of a modern-looking inner garden area you’ll walk through after leaving the vaporetto and walking through the first doors you come to.

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I took this picture after walking through this inner courtyard.

Katherine’s roommate had told us to look for the gardens with all the cats. We thought that this was the garden she meant. We were wrong, as you will soon see.

Before we would find the garden full of cats, we walked by the Emergency Room doors. Here it is, for all you ankle twisters or gondolier gawkers:

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The E.R.

Keep walking past the ER and you will eventually arrive at a beautiful garden, surrounded by loggia walkways and filled with about a dozen stray cats.

Residents and visitors alike care for Venice’s many feral felines. The kitties are quite comfortable during the warmer months. I’ve read that the cat population can become a problem during cooler temperatures and that there are volunteer groups that help with the problem.

 

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Notice the black and white cat sleeping under the flower pot in the center of the photo. Photo: Katherine Yung
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Photo: Katherine Yung
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This cat is so relaxed we thought he was sick, or worse. No, just very content. Photo: Katherine Yung

After you exit the cat garden, you’ll pass through an exit where you can continue on to the wards of the hospital or turn left to the Scuole Grande, which leads eventually leads outside to the campo with Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

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This is a photo looking back outside from the hallway leading to the Scuole Grande, religious and social groups that provided charitable services, including hospitals. If you turn to the right outside these doors, you will return to the cat garden.

If you continue down these steps, you will enter this grand entrance hall. There are doors and hallways that lead from this hall. This is the Scuole Grande (see caption above). At the end of this hall, is the front door of the hospital shown in the elaborate facade in the first picture of this article.

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Entrance hall just inside the front facade entrance to the hospital. The cat garden and ER are at the far end of this hallway. Most people needing ER services would, I imagine, enter from the backside along the main waterway.

And this brings us to the front entrance of the hospital on the campo, the large square that is the “city center” of this area of Castello.

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In effect, this post has brought you to the hospital from the backside along the water, to the very front door, which is shown in this photo at the far left (see the oval-topped dark door that blends in with the light post).

And this also brings us to the close of this post. I will continue this post tomorrow with our visit to the basilica where you will meet a die-hard Venetian who gave us some very good and timely advice on how to be “better tourists.”


Thanks for reading! Tune in tomorrow for the continuation of our Sunday morning in Venice. Click like, leave a comment, and be sure to follow my blog for the next installment. 

Categories
Life lessons Memoir & Narratives

Cats Were Another Story

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Mildred Sneigel liked dogs. She had always owned at least one dog, even before her husband had died. Her dogs tended to be lapdogs, smaller, terrier-sized breeds that she could easily care for, groom, and converse with. Cats were another story and the two little girls who lived across the alley knew it.

One morning, on the kind of lazy summer morning that allowed them to stay in their pajamas longer than they should have, the younger of the little girls was playing with her older sister in their backyard when they heard the old woman across the alley talking.

They dropped their spoons into the mud and crawled on the damp grass each to the base of a skinny poplar tree. They listened.

The old woman said “Good doggy,” and “Be a good little doggy.” She carried a shovel and took small steps around her own backyard in her gray rubber rain boots and long, floral raincoat. Her head bobbed among the wisteria and rose bushes and was enveloped in a clear plastic headscarf, the kind that folds up into the size of a business card and then has a little snap to keep it all together.

The girls, who were not naturally inclined to torment others, nevertheless chose to torment Mildred Sneigel on this particular morning. If only they had known her better.

Their plan: crouch beneath their respective poplar trees, send meows into Mildred’s backyard, wait for her response.

At first, the sounds they made were the tiniest, tenderest of mews, the sort you might hear from a three-day-old kitten. Mildred gave no response, continuing to scrape at the topsoil to the right of the iris patch with a rusty, claw-shaped hand rake. No fun.

Then, their mews became bolder, less tender, akin to the sounds one might hear from a gangly, mildly dissatisfied teenage cat. With this, Mildred paused and looked into the branches of the elm tree above her. That was better. The girls’ eyes met and they stifled their mouths into shrugged shoulders.

Then, the older sister took the lead and lobbed the final grenade. What began as a tiny kitty mew lengthened into a quite realistic, prepubescent meow, which evolved into the gruff, gravelly howl of a geriatric feral tomcat. The duration of the meow was impressive. Its tone rose and dipped and curlicued around the older sister’s tongue, into her chest and then out through her mouth, which guzzled with silent laughter as she collapsed into a ball on the dewy grass.

By that time, her younger sister was also engulfed in secretive, red-faced laughter. Her cheeks streamed with tears. Dirt plastered the two sisters’ knobby knees and legs, grass clippings mingled in their bangs, and tears and dew dampened their pajamas.

That final lob did the trick. Mildred’s eyes tore over her shoulder, she raised her claw, and she stomped in her rubber boots to the back edge of her yard, headed directly for the girls’ poplar tree seclusion.  She scanned the length of the lot, and stooped to peer into the darkened rows of shrubbery, weeds, and decrepit lawn ornaments frosted with molds and lichens.

“Out of my yard, you cats!” she barked. “Out.”

Seeing no feline trouble-makers, she stood back up, transferring the hand rake to her other hand. “Just leave,” she spoke quietly into the shade.

She returned to the iris bushes and settled to her knees. She patted the soil with her hands, and leaned into the earth.  The girls, who had by then righted themselves to their spying positions, watched Mildred pull two wooden paint-stirrers  from a nearby bushel basket. She arranged the slats into a cross and then held it together with one hand, while the other rummaged through the basket and pulled from it a length of wire and a pair of wire cutters. She wound the wire around the center  of the cross several times to secure an “X” and then with a click, snipped the wire in two. She gently submerged the base of the cross near the far end of the little plot of soil. “Good doggy,” she said. “You were such a good little doggy.”

The girls watched in silence, then glanced at each other. Their glee turned to regret, and grief, too, since they had remembered seeing Mildred’s little dog prancing about the yard following its owner.

They stood, brushed off their dirty knees, straightened their pajama tops, and went back inside their house to change. They left their spoons in the drying mud.