Venice Diaries: Mark takes a trip to the mountains

Mark Hicken is one of our new graduates taking part in the Arts Council of Wales Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice Invigilation Plus programme. As a part of the programme the invigilators have time to develop their own art work and to explore Venice and surrounding area. Over to Mark…



  • 7:00am- wake up
  • shower
  • dry
  • dress
  • pack bag
  • unpack bag
  • repack bag
  • walk to boat stop


  • 7:48- boat arrives
  • present ticket
  • take a seat
  • close eyes but definitely not for sleeping, just resting them
  • listen to the incessant groaning and rattling of the boat’s engine (sounds more like when a troll’s tummy rumbles)
  • open eyes
  • close eye
  • hear sexy Italian accent, open eyes
  • watch as ticket man tries flirting with woman who has the wrong ticket
  • watch ticket man walk to driver to discuss woman’s ticket situation
  • watch as ticket man returns
  • ticket man explains she needs to buy a new ticket, continues to flirt
  • woman pays ticket man
  • ticket man returns to driver cabin to get the woman change
  • ticket man brings woman change
  • ticket man leaves, I close my eyes once again


  • 8:10 – stop in Murano
  • open my eyes
  • people get on
  • boat is pretty full now
  • I close my eyes
  • we move off


  • 8:13 – ticket man returns to flirt with woman
  • they converse
  • maybe she is interested, maybe she is just being polite, I wonder which it is


  • 8:14 – notice long nose hair poking out of ticket man’s nose
  • remain focused on ticket man’s nose hair
  • wonder if he knows he has a nose hair
  • wonder if the woman has noticed the hair
  • boat rocks as we get into open water, ticket man nearly falls
  • ticket man is unfazed, he continues his conversation
  • close my eyes but continue to conversation, wish my Italian was better so I could be more nosey


  • 8:36 – reopen eyes after definitely not having a snooze
  • see us approaching airport
  • become excited and anxious at the same time


  • 8:40 – boat stops, everyone departs
  • check the time, 8:42 – time for some quick breakfast before we collect the car


  • 8:53 – walk to find car rentals
  • identify signs, follow signs, find door, open door, go upstairs, open door, sun, cars, now I’m nervous
  • find car company I have reserved the car with
  • talk to friendly man in office, told I’m in the wrong office
  • given directions by nice man


  • 9:00 – go to correct place, go to correct desk, check time, perfect dead on 9:00


  • 9:01 – desk becomes available, greeted by friendly man
  • think he looks like an Italian Seth Rogan
  • smirk
  • give him my details
  • driving license
  • passport
  • credit card
  • he gives me the legal run through
  • tells me I should buy extra insurance
  • I tell him its fine, basic will do
  • he checks the return time, 10pm the same day
  • Correct
  • Good to go he says


  • 9:14 – time to find the car
  • bay 36
  • arrive at bay 36, no car
  • look confused
  • play the press unlock and listen game
  • I win, the car is there… I was facing the wrong way


  • 9:15 – better car than expected, win
  • get settled into car
  • nice car
  • very nice car
  • right where to go first
  • put Belluno into sat nav, deep breath


  • 9:22 away we go!!!

The drive begins. After just a few roundabouts we are on the motorway, within minutes the strong architectural line of the airport melt away replaced by flowing expanses of green fields. Nothing but a long black ribbon of tarmac to lead us to the adventures to come. Those big mountains in the distance suddenly become those bigger mountains in front of us. Belluno is the first destination of the day.

A quick stop in Belluno to have a little walk around and a cheeky Nutella covered waffle to keep us going as the journey continues.

Stop two and three had to happen as the views just needed that little bit longer to be taken in (and time to catch them on camera)! Whilst driving through a tiny village aside a very pretty mountain I couldn’t resist a little detour, a little drive up the mountain had to happen. WOW. I thought North Wales has some steep inclines. Beautiful views rolled over the edge of the mountain road, another photo stop looms. Once a little lay-by appears I pull the car in and take in the amazing views and snap a few photographs on my (borrowed from a very kind Scottish invigilator) 33mm film camera. Time to head down the mountain and continue on to the next stop.

Agordo is the next stop, a very important stop, FOOD. Sat eating pizza, (what else could one eat when on a road trip in Italy, not like I’ve been eating pizza most days for a month or anything) with the beautiful village church in front, with the Dolomites all around piecing the sky I felt like I was in a middle earth.

The final destination on this grand adventure was Alleghe. A beautiful lake surrounded by mountains, how much more Italian can you get! After a walk around lake the mountain called, I didn’t fancy walking the 1960metre to the peak so cable car it was. From lakeside to peak of a mountain in five minutes isn’t to bad I think. The second the peak was reached. Wow, the air felt lighter than a pixie’s fart. I have never experienced anything like that moment, the heat of the sun against my skin, the cold fresh mountain air in my lungs, the only sound heard was the faint jingling  of cow bells in the distance. Time for one to explore!

Nearly 2,000 metres atop a Italian mountain, what is the last thing you expect to see – a huge old gun. Man is such a strange creature. We feel more connection to a piece of land we claim as our own than toward a fellow man. A very sad realisation in such a beautiful place.