Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ponti de Rialto ~ San Marco Plaza ~ Doge's Palace ~ Venice, Italy

Our visit to Venice, Italy continues with more rides in the vaporetto on the canals and many hours of walking.  Our stay was only 3 days as the city of Venice is not a large one but we certainly wasted no time during those days, we walked for hours every day and saw almost every corner of this wonderful city.  Be sure to wear good walking shoes and carry a map.

Ponti de Rialto on the Grand Canal in Venice
What is now known as the Ponti de Rialto was originally a floating bridge and the only crossing on the Grand Canal.  It has collapsed, then replaced, burned then collapsed again so was totally gone by 1524.  This stone replacement was done in 1591 and then given its’ name we know it by now.  The bridge has shops on either side and is a landmark in Venice, recognized throughout the world. 
Crowds in San Marco Plaza in Venice, Italy
 San Marco Plaza might be considered the heart of the city of Venice.  It is here that one will see crowds of people at any given time, day or night.  The water bus dropped us off at the terminal and we set out to see the sights that this plaza is famous for.  The large building on the right of this photo is Doge’s Palace, click here for more information. 
Street performer in Venice, Italy
 There are street performers at almost every turn in Marco Plaza but we didn’t find them to be too intrusive.  This person was standing on something high and posing for pictures with anyone who might be willing to pay them for their time.  Venice is a city known for their masks and costumes at festival times of the year and I believe this was to be symbolic of that.  I give him credit for his efforts.
Artists at work in San Marco Plaza
 I can only imagine having the talent of an artist and being able to sit here and paint the magic of this incredible city. We spoke to one artist who was fulfilling his lifetime dream of visiting Venice to paint. Although I was tempted to purchase one of these paintings, I wasn’t willing to spend our day of walking carrying it so passed on the opportunity.
Doge's Palace at San Marco Plaza on the Grand Canal
 The other dominant building around San Marco Plaza is the Doge’s Palace.  A beautiful gothic structure, it faces the Venetian lagoon and was completed in the early 15th century, though portions of it were rebuilt after a fire in 1574. 
St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy
 St. Mark’s Basilica, the Catholic Church adjacent to Doge’s Palace is a great architectural sight and jumps out as we come around the corner of the Palace.  There had been churches built here before but demolished during different battles until this one was built in 1063.
The crowds wait to see inside St. Mark's Basilica 
There are mosaics from 28 meters wide to 21 meters high and they cover over 8,000 square meters of walls, cupolas and vaults.  We didn’t go inside, there was a very long lineup but these mosaics outside were magnificent. 
Mosaics on St. Mark's Basilica, Venice, Italy
The mosaics of St. Mark’s Basilica are beautiful with golden backgrounds that light up depending on the time of day and offer different effects.  There have been replacements done over the centuries but they have now found a way to remove and restore then return these mosaics so they will remain original. 
Gesuiti in Venice, Italy
 The Santa Maria Assunta, known locally as Gesuiti is a twelfth century church and convent.  It was one of thirty convents at one time but there are now only a few left. We came upon it on a wandering stroll through the city where it sits surrounded by homes in a quiet neighborhood.  It wasn’t open at the time of our visit so we didn’t see inside but I loved those huge doors.

Venice is definitely a city that should be on your list if you are planning a trip to Europe.  There are many beautiful places to visit but I think Venice is very unique and I would go back in a heartbeat, there are still some sights we didn’t see enough of.  If visiting churches and museums are on your list, then you must allow more time than 3 days.  Stay awhile and enjoy this lovely city.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Venice, Italy ~ Canals ~ Vaporettos ~ Gondolas

Venice is a fascinating city.  It is surrounded by water and the main ‘roads’ are canals that can only be travelled by boat, there are no cars in the city.  This sets Venice apart from any other and offers a stay that may be considered a visit back in time.  If you choose not to walk the many streets or walkways that are for pedestrian traffic only, then you would get around the city by boat and of those there are many.

Canals of Venice, Italy
Venice sits on what was once a swampy area and the base of it consists mainly of stone and pine logs driven deep into the mud.  The city of Venice is known to be sinking but that is happening very slowly and although considered at a critical point in time, there is no immediate remedy to the problem, nor will it disappear. 
Saltwater erosion shows on the buildings

The buildings are old and time shows on them. When travelling the canals one can see the erosion done to the buildings by the water as the canal level changes with the tide. The sea air is causing erosion as well, but it all only adds to the fascination of this city.  It just would not be the same with a modern look to anything.
A quiet early morning canal

The population of Venice has steadily dropped over the years to be around 60,000 permanent residents at this point.  The city also gets that many daily tourists visiting the city so it is a busy place to be, especially during the high tourist seasons.
Vaporetto on the Grand Canal

The vaporetto is the water buses that we used for our transportation when we weren’t walking during our visit to Venice.  We bought a pass on our first morning that would allow us to get on and off for the next 24 hours.  We paid 18 euro each and toured every canal that we could during that time and some more than once.  We would be out morning, afternoon and evening, being part of the crowds but enjoying the sights at all times of the day. 
Entrance doors from canal

Many homes have canal access so they park their boats outside that entrance.  They would also have another access to the street adjacent, too, but these canal doorways are seen all down the canals.  Some hotels and restaurants have canal access, too, but that would not be their only access, just one that makes it look like it came out of the movies. 
Wooden walkways for flooding weather

High tide season can cause some havoc for visitors at that time as well as for the local Venetians.   The rates would likely be a bit lower but they do get flooding throughout the city which has an average elevation of one metre (39”).  Some places are worse than others, but the solution for those needing to get around the city have been to put elevated walkways throughout Venice.  
Gondolas wait for busier times

The gondola has been around for over 500 years with the gondoliers like a small fraternity and great ambassadors for the city of Venice.  They dress the same way they always have and the gondolas have been painted black ever since that law was passed in 1562.  The gondola is built with over 280 pieces of eight different kinds of wood, they are 11 meters (35’) long and weight 600 kg (1300 lbs) and have a flat base allowing them to be maneuvered without a rudder.  The rates are controlled so you will pay the same with everyone.
Evening sun on the Grand Canal

One would not visit Venice without going on a gondola ride… would they?  I sure hope not, that was a highlight for us during our three day visit.  I could see a gondolier on the bridge outside our bedroom window looking for some customers so it was time for our special ride.  After a few moments of ‘interviewing’ and confirming the price we went out for an hour with Luca, our singing gondolier who was full of great information.  It cost us 100 euro for the four of us and well worth it.  I got one of my favorite photos of Venice with the setting sun from the gondolier as we travelled the Grand Canal.
Santa Maria delle Salute

The Santa Maria delle Salute translated means St. Mary of Good Health and was built in thanks at the end of the plague in 1630 that took the lives of 80,000 Venetians.  That is more than today’s population of the city.  A 26 yr old Baldassare Longhena, a top Italian sculptor and architect won the commission to design this crown but it took 50 years so wasn’t completed until just before he died.

The history of this city is endless and the architecture shares a big part of that but it seems to have so much more. Venice is a very special place and I have more of our visit to share with you.
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