Archive for the ‘Venice’ Category

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“Venice is a place where the past is still hanging around, waiting for an appointment with the future; but the future hasn’t shown up. In the meantime it is a kind of no man’s land, given up by default and occupied by irregulars and their dogs.” – Jack Smith 1976

When Venice comes to mind I tend to associate it with gondolas, a flat bottomed rowing boat in black that looked like a curled Turkish slippers floating on the canals and  It is driven by a gondolier who stands facing the bow and rows with a forward or backward stroke. They usually dressed up in white sailor’s suit or a red/navy striped tee shirt with a round straw hat in ribbons belting out tunes in alto as he propelled the lovers into the sunset – I guess I’m watching too much Looney Tunes as this is not the case when I finally set foot in Venice.  Gondolas were the chief means of transportation within Venice and there are usually at least 5 to 10 people in that boat and the driver is not crooning unless you hired a private and pricey water craft to make this impression come true for you.

Venice the capital of the Veneto region is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world for its celebrated art, architecture, the beauty of its setting. Venice is built on an archipelago of 117 islands formed by 177 canals in lagoon, connected by 409 bridges. The city in its entirety is listed as a World Heritage Site, along with its harbor. As per our local guide who’d rather lecture us standing out in the sun whilst we Asians hide in the shade, Venice was not built directly on the surface of the islets, but instead supported by wooden platforms kept together by wooden piles entrenched in the sea bed to support a building on them. For this reason, under the Venice lagoon you can find literally millions of wooden piles.

Marco Polo is number one, the opera composer Antonio Vivaldi and the great lover Casanova are the famous Venetians, and St Mark was buried here as well. What I saw in Venice: St Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica, The Doge’s Palace, Bridge of Sighs, and Torre dell’Orologio. What I didn’t see in Venice – Venetian blinds! LOLc”,).

Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square)

Is an open space connecting to the waterway of the lagoon. It is one of the few remaining great urban spaces in Europe where human voices prevail over the sounds of motorized traffic – This is how people do a way without microphones in the olden days. It was a big square surrounded by low rise old buildings and the busiest section of Venice

St. Mark’s Basilica

The Piazza is dominated at its eastern end by the great church of St Mark. According to our guide this is where the body of St. Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria lies. It was constructed in 828, when Venetian merchants stole the supposed relics. I don’t know, up to know I’m still wrapping my head on this one. I’m just not comfortable with the word ‘stole’ and build a basilica on the concept of a that negative attribute or I’m just being opinionated probably the old folks had a different mindset for allowing such. Anyways, this is one of the most famous of the city’s churches and the best example of Byzantine architecture. Too bad I didn’t see the interior as we are not allowed to go in unless we have to hear mass and being in a group tour, time is of the essence.

Doge’s Palace

Doge is the Venetian term for leader or the supreme authority, in English means duke – The Doge’s Palace was built in Venetian Gothic style, and one of the main landmarks of the city of Venice

Bridge of Sigh

Ponte dei Sospiri in Italian, there was a lot of brouhaha before our tour guide presented this bridge to us. He spoke of legend that says lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge Of Sighs as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile chimed. The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars. It passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. The bridge moniker was given by Lord Byron in the 19th century, from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.

Before lunch we went to a glass blowing factory. Well it did make sense for us to go there as Venice was famous for their (Venetian) glass made primarily on the island of Murano. It is world-renowned for being colourful, elaborate, and mastered a variety of decorative techniques. During the demo I found out the glass are made from (melted) sands. The lecture consisted of showing us how a vase was made by blowing a heated glass from a long iron stick. We then head out to calle Larga San Marco to have lunch at Tratoria Ai Leoncini located at the corner of piazza in a shiny building which stands out against the more run-down backdrop of the famous San Marco Square. This was recommended by our tour guide, a little bit pricey but the it was the best seafood spaghetti I have ever tasted and my mouth waters just thinking about it.

We are given much time to roam around Venice and went off to San Barbarino Factory outlet 30 km outside of Florence. It’s similar to the ones in the US but you can find out of season Italian brands especially Prada really cheap. Some of my favourite brand reduced from 30% to 70% and the big kicker was shopping is Tax free for international tourists!