16 June, Venice – ‘All Over The Place – Europe’

After a late start yesterday we said goodbye to Croatia and piled into a bus to make our way to Italy, with a lunch stop in Slovenia to sample some of the local delicacies (McDonalds). With two days filming in Venice ahead of us we arrived in the mainland town of Mestre with just enough time for a few of us to hop into a taxi and make it over the bridge in time for dinner. Naomi hadn’t been to Venice before, so Geraint and I led her through the streets with the slightly smug air of people who know where they are going and I managed to find a lovely little restaurant near the Rialto Bridge that I’d been to once before.

After taking a water taxi this morning we found ourselves on the other side of Venice, with Naomi chasing me round the streets dressed in a creepy looking Venetian mask, then we headed indoors to a traditional Venetian mask shop that makes masks for Hollywood movies (among many other things). My old drama teacher Michael Edgley would have died and gone to heaven if he wasn’t already dead. His house used to be full of masks and I tried to impress the shop owner with my knowledge of the different characters and styles, with varying degrees of success. We certainly didn’t impress her with our mask making skills, which we made a deliberate pig’s ear of.

You can’t come filming in Venice and ignore the gondolas, so in the afternoon we became the only people in Venice to ever wear life jackets on one (BBC health and safety regulations). I would have been quite happy to sit back and let our expert gondolier Alessio take us up and down the Grand Canal, but the script dictated otherwise. We were to have a go ourselves.

It’s flipping difficult. Unlike punting you aren’t pushing the boat along with a stick as the canal is too deep in many places, so the stick is more of an oar that requires a nimble wrist, and the boat is fiendishly unstable, so you must have good control of your centre of gravity. I have neither, and after 15 mins Alessio had nicknamed me Spiderman due to my tense couching position. Naomi did slightly better and was christened Wonder Woman. I was just happy to get off the thing.

Went to bed early feeling utterly shattered. Can’t believe that Alessio manages to paddle one of those things up and down the canals in blazing hot sunshine for up to 16 hours a day. I take my Venetian boater off to him.

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