Our first full day starts bright and early (9.30) with a vaporetto ride along the Giudecca. As we walk from our stop to the Church of San Angelo Raffaelle, famous now because of the success of Salley Vickers' Miss Garnett's Angel, we chat about how privileged we are to be in Venice with Venetian residents and experts. We explore and wander through calles and over bridges where we are clearly the only tourists, all the other visitors bring crammed into the honeypots of Campo San Marco and the Rialto.
At the canal side, Michael tells us more about the history of Venice: how this tiny city came to hold such immense sway over the rest of the world for so long. How the building of Venice, on clay, over quicksand, on water, required the taking of what is now Croatia, simply to ensure the supply of logs needed to create the millions of oak pilings that were driven down to make the foundations of the amazing architecture that Venice is famous for.
We visit the first church to be restored by the American 'Save Venice' campaign, and learn more about the power of the Venetian Catholic Church, how they ignored Papal interdicts and went their own way; how power was shared randomly, like a lottery, and was rotated regularly so that individuals did not become corrupted by power, and instead that Venice herself held the power. All of this, told in lively conversation - as though it's happening now. And then, lunch!
In conversational asides with Anne, we reflect on the links between Venice and Wenlock, Venice and the Black Country, between Peggy Guggenheim and the Walsall Art Gallery. Our world grows smaller.
In the late afternoon, four of us hop onto the 'number 1 bus' and ride the Giudecca and the Grand Canal as the sun goes down. The contrast between industrial Venice by the Piazzale Roma (complete with DHL delivery barges) and La Serenissima is stark. We disembark at Accademia and change for supper, then a concert. Riches, indeed.