Sunday, July 3, 2011

Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liquers in one go. --Truman Capote

Ah, Venice...what a unique, beautiful, magical city. Scattered across 117 islands, Venice is the world's only pedestrian city, and a very pleasant one to get lost in. This is the Campanile, or bell tower. I went to the top of it nine years ago when I first visited Venice!

Venice has been a wealthy city for centuries, growing rich from trade between northern Europe and the Near East. In 828 the city garnered more prestige when it acquired the relics of St. Mark from Alexandria. St. Mark's basilica was built as a chapel attached to the palace of the Doges, the elected leaders of the Venetian republic. (Doge means duke in Venetian.)

This is the Doges' Palace, or Palazzo Ducale. It's a girl's dream--a pink palace! The beautiful building is made of pink Veronese marble and looks so light and airy as the bulk of the structure sits on a framework of delicate, lacy arcades built of white Istrian stone.

In Piazza San Marco with the Palazzo Ducale and basilica behind me. It's early in the morning and I was already melting in the sweltering humidity. Guess that's what I get for wearing jeans in Italy in June...idiot.

The palace was begun in the 1340s, mainly to provide a meeting place for the elected assembly of the republic.

Sweating is so not cute.

I love this picture. I am looking out into the central courtyard of the palace and St. Mark's. You can see how it's attached to the palace.

Here we are in the dungeons. Since the 16th Century, the palace has been attached to the prison, linked by the famous Bridge of Sighs. Named by Lord Byron in the 19th Century, the bridge is where prisoners would sigh as they were led from the interrogation rooms to their prison cells. Casanova was the most famous prisoner here.

This is a view from the bridge over the Rio di Palazzo...the last sight of Venice that many convicts ever saw...

The Giants' Staircase at Palazzo Ducale, topped by statues of Mars and Neptune, symbols of Venice's power.

Front of St. Mark's Basilica, or Basilica di San Marco. Until 1807 this was the doge's private chapel. Ridiculous.

Standing in Piazza San Marco, heading to hop on a gondola.

So, gondolas. Some call them a pricey tourist trap; I call them a non-negotiable. There is nothing like a gondola ride to see some amazing views of beautifully secluded canals and to get away from the noisy crowds in the main square to experience the openness and tranquility of the city.

By 900 years of tradition, gondoliers must be male and Venetian-born. Here's ours...his name was Johnny. I'm just going to say it--we definitely got the cutest gondolier in Venice.

In 1562 decree was made that all gondolas must be painted black. Keep it classy, Venice...

Santa Maria della Salute, at the mouth of the Grand Canal. This Baroque church was built to celebrate Venice's deliverance from the plague epidemic of 1630. Salute means health and salvation. And how cute is that gondolier?!

Santa Maria della Salute.

View from our gondola in the Grand Canal. Is this real life? How adorable is Venice?!

The pigeons of Venice. Never in my life have I ever craved so much attention from pigeons. Venetian pigeons are just so cute and magical. It's so easy to forget how dirty they are and that they poop a lot. You just want to feed them and befriend them and like, hug them.

This is the interior of St. Mark's. These are NO FOTO pictures, so of course they're terrible and don't do the place any justice. Not that any photograph really could. I have been in few other churches/cathedrals that have a more deeply spiritual atmosphere. With its dim lighting and mysterious spaces, this place invites you in to wonder and worship. Almost the entire interior of the basilica--the domes, walls, and floor--is covered with gleaming gold mosaics of figures of saints. The whole place just dazzles with a golden glory.

St. Mark's tomb. When I saw this, I knew I had to do some research because I just couldn't believe I saw Mark's tomb! Mark, as in The Gospel of. Here's the scoop--the building of St. Mark's is actually the third to stand on the site. The first one enshrined the body of Mark in the 9th Century, but it was destroyed by a fire in 976. But apparently the body reappeared when the new church was consecrated in 1094 and the remains are housed here. Hmm...alright!

Hayley and me on a bridge over the Grand Canal.

After St. Mark's and a delicious pizza lunch, we wandered all over the crooked alleyways of the city and found ourselves lost in all of its nooks and crannies looking for this thing--the Rialto Bridge, one of Venice's most famous sights (and really, not that hard to find). Completed in 1591, the Rialto was the only means of crossing the Grand Canal until 1854.

It felt like we had meandered for hours. The heat and humidity might have multiplied the time; Venice was by far the hottest city of our trip. After a jam-packed day of walking, water taxis, and gondolas, we were ready to head to Florence...

1 comment:

Julie Hibbard said...

I LOVE being in Venice with you! I feel like I am there...and BOY did I get lost one night while attempting to get back to my hotel. It's probably the ONLY time I was actually frightened while in Europe...
All the bridges and side streets and twists and turns...
And the deeper you get, the less chance of finding anyone who speaks English...
Thanks for sharing your trip!!