We made it with plenty of time, arriving at the bus and vaporetto with no waiting time for either.
Here's a couple of pictures taken by Martha from yesterday while up in the Clock Tower in Saint Mark's Square:
Punta dela Dogana(Customs)
and Basilica di Santa Maria de Salute
Island of San Giorgio Maggiore
One of the first stops, was the Venetian Hospital, the fancy
palazzo behind Martha. Not too shabby eh?
We followed a route that meandered through narrow streets and alleys, wide Campi or "Fields" which once were farm plots, now paved over. The tour guide provide us interesting tidbits of information about the history of Venice, details about the ubiquitous Gondolas and Gondoliere and assorted building we walked by.
Did you know, Gondolas used to be painted whatever color the owner wanted. But, after the Black Plague that devastated Italy as well as Europe, the city fathers decided all Gondolas should be painted black in remembrance of the victims of the plague.
Bridges before the Bridge of Sighs
Many details later, we ended up at Saint Mark's Square where she proceeded to tell us about the mosaic art detailing Saint Mark's travels from foreign lands to where his remains now rest in the Cathedral.
There's four arches framing the the four panels of art, the last one being the original....the first three being restorations.
Above shows the two Venetian merchants smuggling the remains of
Saint Mark from Muslim lands. The body was hidden under layers of pork
apparently, causing the Muslim to shy away from inspecting the contents of the basket.
Above shows the arrival of St Mark to Venice, being greeting
by the Doges and Religious authorities
Above shows the Doges, authorities watching the saint's
remains being carefully installed within the cathedral
The last is a depiction of St Mark's Cathedral in its
heyday, note the colors and adornments.
We toured the inside of the church, sorry no pictures allowed, it was pretty awesome as I'd remembered it but I think Saint Peter's Basilica is more impressive still. Not to mention, they allow pictures!
Taken outside of St Marks, on the balcony on the upper level
Most of the facade of the Cathedral facing the water was hidden
behind scaffolding and sheets due to restoration work by the way.
Next was the Doges Palace, which served as the seat of government for the city of Venice back in the day. Gorgeous paintings, of mostly religious themes, abound in almost every possible flat surface it seemed. I took lots but will forgo posting all but the one below as I've no ready context to go with the art.
In the main council hall, is displayed what is supposed to be the
biggest mural painting in the Western World. Over 500 faces
are supposed to be on display. The rest of the room, to include
the ceilings is not too shabby either.
All along the upper edge of the walls, are paintings of past
Doges (elected figureheads) who presided over the city's government.
The tour guide made sure to point out the one spot where a simple
painted on veil blocked one's view of a former Doge who
betrayed the city and tried to make it into a kingdom instead of an
aristocratic republic. He ended up beheaded.
There used to be, before Napoleon conquered the city, many of these
letter drops where one could "report" evil doers to the authorities.
The above was for reporting people who'd failed to pay their taxes!
Next we took a tour of the jail cells within the Doges Palace, with the main exhibit being the Bridge of Sighs, linking the Doges Palace with the jail. Apparently, the prisoners upon being led from the courtroom to their cell, would look through the stone work and sigh as their freedom vanished.
Closeup of exterior of Bridge of Sighs
The tour soon ended after the jail portion and we were left to wander about the Doges Palace. We went and sought out the spot where 19 years ago, Martha and I had posed for a photo while on our honeymoon.
Maybe someday, the Things will come back and replicate
the above picture.
A view of a nearby San Giorgio Maggiore from the second floor of the
After we exited the Doges Palace, we found a place to get a quick sandwich and drinks. Afterwards it was time for Martha's Gondola Ride. Back in 1996, we'd passed on such a ride due to reasons which time has obscured. Today, it was time.
Martha picked out a couple of Gondoliers who seemed ready for passengers and after some negotiation all four of us were on board and enjoying a 40 minute ride in the quieter canals near the Grand Canal by Saint Marks Square.
Miles, my youngest son, did a pretty good job capturing
the ride for us.
A crystal horse being worked on. The Gondolier pointed it
out to Martha as they all waited for me to get additional
monies from a nearby ATM machine.
Gondolas are designed with asymmetrical bottoms, to allow
for them to be steered and driven easily with a single oar.
Note how the gondolier causes them to tilt to the right in order
to clear some of the low bridges!
yep, texting while rowing.....
About 40 minutes later, the ride was over as we neared our starting point
at the Grand Canal.
We left Venice by water bus, the slowest one possible it turned out, but we finally made it back to the bus station where thankfully it was a short wait in the hot afternoon sun and humidity before our bus showed up.
The family relaxed in the heat of the afternoon back at the apartment as I worked for a bit, then we went out to a nearby pizza bar for our last dinner in Italy; for tomorrow we dine in Austria!
I hope you liked our Italian postings, stayed tuned for Austria.