Friday 31 August 2018

Venice - 'the drawing room of Europe', according to Napoleon

You can never have too much of Venice. The more you know it, the better you like it. We think we have probably been here five times now. Today we have spent eight hours roaming and discovering Venice, the feet are tired but the brain is stimulated.

There was a long queue at the waterbus stop at Santa Lucia station so we decided to walk to Piazza San Marco. What fun we had as we crossed back and forth across canals, photographing gondolas and gondoliers, admiring Murano glass and Carnivale masks, food shops and leather goods (oh, the gloves!). Add in an occasional peep in a small church with Tintoretto paintings, or musicians or children chasing pigeons and that's  the background for our day.

The new us that now pay large entry fees to enter historic buildings spent three hours in the Doge's Palace. This Venetian Gothic palace is one of the landmarks of Venice. Situated right beside the Basilica of San Marco, I did not realize until today that the basilica church was actually the chapel attached to the Doge's Palace. The Doge was not a Duke but the senior-most elected official of the Venetian Republic.

We could not see in the Doge's Private Apartments today but what we learnt was that the palace actually housed the parliament and government departments; it was the political centre of the Venetian State.

The rooms were large and lavishly decorated with rich stucco and oil paintings. In 1574 and 1577 fires destroyed much of the palace but it was re-built and the art works replaced. Much of the massive replacement art work was done by Tintoretto, Titian and Veronese.

 The Golden Staircase

 It was even the state prison, Casanova being the most famous inmate. The Bridge of Sighs, built from limestone in 1600, links the interrogation rooms in the Palace to the New Prison.

These are the last views the prisoners had as they crossed the bridge into confinement.

 The Bridge of Sighs as seen from the Palace.

The Giants Staircase was the entrance to the Doge's Palace, and is so named because of the statues of Neptune and Mars at the top. It was built between 1483 - 1491 and is a really stunning work of art as well as an impressive entrance way.

A bronze water cistern in the courtyard

It was a surprising history lesson to see about the Venetian State, their power and  dominance over many aggressors, except Napoleon.

After lunch in the Palace cafe we joined the fast moving queue to enter the Basilica San Marco. It was a far cry from our first visit there in 1983  when we could wander anywhere and take photos of anything. Today we had to shuffle along with the crowd along a prescribed matting path, take no photos and pay to see the golden dome and the tomb of San Marco. Since the 11th century it has been known as the 'church of gold' because of its gold mosaic decorations.

This photo was taken from a doorway in the Doge's Palace looking into the 'chapel'.

These photos are from the external parts of the Basilica San Marco.

And from inside ... Tomb of St. Mark (I didn't take the photo!)

Rather than take the vaporetto (water bus) we walked all the way back to the train station, twisting and turning down narrow calles and across canals. We had avoided the midday thunderstorm as we were in the palace but we were nearly caught in the 5 pm storm. Twelve minutes in the train and were were back in Mestre.

In Piazza San Marco.

  Back across the Rialto Bridge

By contrast, this is a view from the window of our hotel in Venice Mestre with a modern church building, and bells.

Tomorrow we are going on a seven night cruise down the Adriatic coast to Santorini and Mykonos in the Greek Islands then back up the Adriatic to Venice. We will not have internet access on the ship so I shall be silent probably until I get home. 

Thanks for all your comments, I'm  pleased to know that my blogging is enjoyed by so many people around the world.

Thursday 30 August 2018

Off to Venice we go

Up early today to complete our packing and say our farewells. For a change I went to Bar del Gallo for breakfast too. No wonder I don't usually go ... the most decadent thick hot chocolate with a cornetto and some cantucci biscuits.

Returning the car to the depot in Chiusi proved to be a bit tricky as the roads were closed off for their festival season. Even the railway station was hard to get to, but we managed to get on the 12.10 train and spent the next four and a half hours on the train to Venice Mestre. We are staying in Mestre because it is more convenient for our purposes this time, and I got a real bargain 4* hotel.

This evening we walked around the block which took an hour. Very much a residential area, there wasn't much to photograph. Plus the memory card had a meltdown and I had to buy a new one. I fear I might have lost the last two weeks photos.