My number one place to visit in the world is Venice, and as of this week I have to find a new number one. That is because I have now spent three days in the city of canals. You see my college roommate, also named Shane of all things, moved to north Italy in July for the Air Force, so I came to visit him and his wonderful family. During the week I have been here I took the train to Venice for three days of exploring. So this week’s blogs, photos, and video will be about Venice, which means you should come back every day to see more.
Venice is an old city having been founded in 421 AD with the building of the first church. The inhabitants moved from the mainland to the islands in the lagoon in order to escape Germanic and Hun invasions. They sank wood poles through the sediment down to the clay below and used these as building foundations. The town is very compact and the buildings are densely packed. This causes one of the most wonderful and frustrating features of Venice; it is very easy to get lost. The canals are the main arteries through the city, but there are “roads” between the canals. Now I put quotes around the word roads because there have never been cars and some of the roads are barely wide enough for me to walk down. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to where the roads go, since it appears they would build a building wherever and have the road go around it. Plus you may think you are on the right path and boom you dead-end into a canal. Like I said, frustrating but tons of fun.
At one time Venice had a population of 200,000 in the 1600’s, but now days it is around 50,000. This sounds like a lot, but you have to remember most days the city gets that many visitors OR MORE. This means it is more of a living museum than an active city, if you understand what I mean. But with that said there is a ton of historic, artistic, and fascinating things to see and do and I am going to tell you about my three days.
My train arrived each day at 10am and the first day I want to spend in San Marco Square, which is the sightseeing hub of the city. One thing I found that sounded great was a tour inside the famous clock tower, Torre dell’Orologio, so I bought an advanced for the tour at 11am. On Tuesday I will be writing more about this fantastic tour, so come back for it. After the clock tower I walked through the Correr Museum, which originated with the collection bequeathed to the city of Venice in 1830 by Teodoro Correr. The museum houses the Imperial Palace of Napoleon, who brought the end of a 1000 year old republic. It also has artifacts and artwork from Roman time through the 1800’s. My next thing to see was Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), which was the home of the elected leader, called Doge, and the republic’s government. This tour went through the Doge’s resident; which was rather simple compared to the times, the Senate and other government rooms; which were huge and amazingly decorated (on Friday you will see the biggest and most beautiful room), and the city jail. I loved this tour and each room I entered I took photos and videos and then put my camera away thinking it could not get more photogenic and then would be floored by the next room. In fact I ran the battery out on my camera by the time I entered the main attraction of Basilica di San Marco (St Mark’s Basilica). This church was HUGE and amazing, especially when you realize the walls and ceiling are one amazing mosaic work of art. In the church I did the extra tour through the Treasury (not worth the $4) seeing church relics, weapons, pottery, and more from the 4th – 15th century. I also did the museum tour (worth the $6) and got on the second level seeing restored mosaics, the original horses, clothes, and other historically and artistic items.
My second day was spent around the main islands, but outside San Marco Square and started with a tour of Carlo Goldoni’s house. He was one of the most famous Venetian play writes, but I was disappointed with the tour since it was only two rooms. Next I walked by a gondola boatyard near Squero di San Trovaso and on to Rialto Bridge, which is the most famous bridge in the city. It is big enough that there are shops lining both sides of the bridge and is where the market traditionally was located. Near it is the first church I mentioned earlier, San Giacomo di Rialto, which was worth looking at. Next I visited San Giovanni e Paolo, which is the church were most of the Doges are entombed. This church is just as big and impressive as St Mark’s, but without the beautiful mosaics. What it did have was grand and elaborately carved memorials on the walls and NO LINE to get in! You see St Mark’s can have a line over a couple hours long in the high season. I only waited 15 minutes, but earlier in the day I bet it was an hour. I finished my second day with a tour through the Jewish Ghetto, which I will write about on Thursday.
My last day I took the water bus to three other islands. The first island was Murano, famous for glass work, and visited a glass factory to see how it is made. On Wednesday come back to see a photo of a beautiful and typical glass chandelier. The next island was Burano, which is known for cloth lace work in sheets, clothes, tapestries, and other fabrics. Finally, I visited Torcello, which turns out to be my favorite spot of the day. On this small island there is not much, but the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta was worth the visit. It has gorgeous giant mosaics on two walls (one depicts Judgment Day) and wonderful tile floor, but the highlight was the guided tour I took. Luckily I was the only one on the tour and got a personal look at the church, crypt, and sacristy by a lovely woman who knew her history, architecture, and archeology. The only negative of this church is they are very insistent on no photos (the one of the floor tiles I got off the internet), but I did find out that Atlas have a huge range of UK mosaic tiles and they are very similar from the ones they have at the church.
My three days in Venice fulfilled the top of my visit list and was wonderful, but tiring since there is so much walking. In fact once I got on the train each evening I took a 30 minute nap. I did see gondolas all over the canals (on Saturday there will be a short video of one) and gelatto shops (ice cream) seemed to be every four shop. Which do you think I visited more often? 🙂 Next week I will write about my tour through northern Italy and the week after that Paris. I hope you enjoy reading about my trip as much as I am doing it. 🙂