Category Archives: Venice

Expectation Meets Reality

Despite my initial misgivings that I wouldn’t like Venice, I must say that a slow afternoon here is like walking through a painting. There is hardly a street or canal without a beautiful view, though I can’ t speak so highly of the smell. As Venice uses the tide as its primary sewage system, a malodorous breeze surges between the buildings twice a day.

As we sat in a bar Americano today, one of the few places to buy beer on tap, enjoying the charming dilapidation of the city’s architecture, we were struck with the unpleasant scent of public bathrooms. As we stood on the edge of a side canal, watching our small view of the Grand Canal during the Regata Storica, we noticed the occasional tang in the air, mingled with the salty bouquet of the ocean. And while we were relaxing in the Piazza San Marco, we picked up on subtle notes of wastewater in the air.

Don’t let me lead you astray, however, for there’s nothing more pleasant than sitting along one of the many side canals of Venice with a slice of pizza, away from the hordes of turisti, tourists, reflecting on the beauty of life. But every city has its disadvantages, right?

East Meets West

The Museo Correr (Correr Museum) and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), neither of which hosts a collection of “famous” art, both had some jaw-dropping pieces and a wide array of general “old stuff.”

Strategically located on the border of Germany, near the Swiss border, and along the path of Greek and other Near East merchants, Venice represents a unique mash-up of artistic styles. Old and new, East and West, Christian and pagan: All collide in the vast spaces of the Venetian palazzi (palaces). In the museums, the variety makes the exhibits more interesting. The architecture itself, though – particularly in the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica – looks to me like a monstrous mess, a Jackson Pollock painting with stone and bronze instead of oil and acrylic. Cornices and friezes cut into each other at odd angles, and every surface is a different color, texture, pattern, brightness. I’ll be happy to see the harmony and careful aesthetics in Florence, where buildings were constructed and streets paved with marble and other locally quarried stone.

Right this moment (at the time of writing), we are waiting impatiently for the start of the corteo or parade that marks the start of the Regata Storica.

Climbing the bell tower

The Piazza San Marco was sluggish on Sunday morning, spotted with tour groups and the more ambitious individuals such as ourselves. As we stood in line to climb the Campanile at 10:00, though, throngs of tourists flooded raucously into the square, pointing their cameras and raising their voices. Two girls (German, perhaps) sat on a bench outside the ancient bell tower and laughed as four young Asian men (maybe Thai) sat next to them one at a time to pose for a photo. Though they put their hands around the girls’ shoulders, the men were all strangers, and the girls (13 or 14 years old) were flattered and entertained. Appeased by a photo each, the group of Asian men moved on to the next “attraction.”

As we enjoyed the panoramic views of the terra cotta rooftops of Venice at the top of the Campanile, I wondered if the bells hanging ominously over our heads were still operational, still used for celebrations and special occasions. We lined up for the elevator when we were finished ogling the cityscape and heard a chime vibrating from deep within the core of the tower. Following that, one bell after the other (there are four in all) began clanging, a deafening sound at close range. Fortunately, we boarded the elevator at that moment and descended to the ground floor, the jubilant notes fading away to a pleasant volume. Apparently, the bells still ring on the hour.

Photos, photos, photos!

Whatever did the people of the world do without Photoshop? It must have been the dark ages of photography.

Since we don’t have Photoshop on our netbook (naturally), and our internet connection is slow, we’ve been struggling to upload photos. However, I finally was able to download an open-source photo editor (GIMP), and I am proud to announce the arrival of a whole host (or beard, if you prefer) of photos for your enjoyment. Click here to see them.

Photo of John atop the Campanile

Titles? Descriptions? What, do you think we’re sitting around with nothing better to do? We’re on our way out to see a centuries-old church and eat a leisurely meal of fresh pasta and local fish. Maybe we’ll add titles and descriptions tomorrow.

Catholic Mass

I made John go to Mass the other night, okay it didn’t take much since the Mass was being held in St. Marks Basilica, but I think that is probably a pretty good place for someone to attend their first Catholic service.
We popped in to St. Marks on Saturday when we got into Venice. It is a gorgeous building, so hard to believe it is old! Not the mention it’s built on a sinking island!

However, when you visit the basilica as a tourist, you cannot sit to enjoy the view, and I felt ushered along by the push of the crowd. What better way to be able to soak up a buildings beauty then to have 45 minutes sitting and hearing the drone of a man speak in a language you don’t understand? I enjoyed every minute of looking around, looking at the tiny details of the tiles in the floor and the statue near where I was sitting.

Photos would never do the building justice, and they don’t allow you to take your own photos anyways, but heres an image of what we were dealing with looking around. And just to clue you in, the ceilings and walls are not painted, but instead done in mosaics with tiles the size of your thumb nail.