November 6, 2015 – Venice

So…it’s been a while since our last post, but some things just have to be shared.  Venezia (Venice) is one of those things.

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Brittany and I finally managed to find a weekend with no exams, classes, or other reasons not to travel.  We chose to take a train north-east to the “City of Water.”  A warning for those of you who have read any of my other blog posts, I usually try to give a pretty good description of what you’re looking at (i.e. artist name, building name, street name, etc.), but we really weren’t able to do that with this trip, so it’s mainly going to be pictures.  I’m trying to find some info as I go, but sometimes it’s just not available.

Before just bombarding you with images though, let me see if I can set the scene for you.  Of course I’ve heard of Venice, and I’ve seen photos of the area and movies set in its “streets,” but nothing can really prepare you for the city – you really have to see it to understand.  We followed the Grand Canal through the city, and did not see any vehicles with wheels.  The only means of transportation available was walking or taking a boat.

The view as you exit the train station is one of the best:

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You cross a bridge into the city and then weave your way wherever you want to go.

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We had a map and a destination in mind, but it was actually pretty difficult to navigate the narrow alleyways without taking a boat.  We liked it this way though.  It’s nice to stumble into amazing things, and Venice is full of wonder.  Like Bologna, every building is full of history.  Our first find was Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.

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This place had a ton of statues, paintings, and various other works of art, but you weren’t supposed to take photos, so we just snapped a few to get an idea about how ornate the interior was.

The left portion of the front alcove:

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The right portion of the front alcove:

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A view from the entrance:

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A view of the entrance:

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Behind Frairi we found another church, Chiesa San Rocco.  Though much smaller, picture taking was allowed.

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This guy greeted you as you came in:

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The front of the church:

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The rear (entrance) to the church:

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This is the detail of one of the church’s pillars.  Little details like this are found all over the city (and in the rest of Italy).  I find it remarkable because each of these items has a story, even if it’s unknown.

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It really was amazing just to be lost in this city.  Every time we turned a corner, a new, beautiful view awaited.

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We did finally manage to make it to St. Mark’s Square, which was our original destination, and it was well worth the effort.  You are walking down narrow alleys, crossing bridges, passing all varieties of shops, then, suddenly, you step out onto this huge, open plaza.

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One side looks pristine…almost new:

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The other looks worn and deteriorated, but equally beautiful:

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At the end of the plaza, several of Venice’s “must see” items are on display.  From left to right –

Torre dell’ Orologio (St. Mark’s Clocktower):

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Built at the end of the 15th century…

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…(according to Wikipedia) “at the top of the tower are two great bronze figures, hinged at the waist, which strike the hours on a bell. One is old and the other young, to show the passing of time and, although said to represent shepherds (they are wearing sheepskins) or giants (they are huge figures of great mass, necessary so that their form can be recognized at a distance) they are always known as “the Moors” because of the dark patina acquired by the bronze.”

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“Below this level is the winged lion of Venice with the open book, before a blue background with gold stars. There was originally a statue of the Doge Agostino Barbarigo kneeling before the lion, but in 1797, after the city had surrendered to Napoleon, this was removed by the French.”

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“Below this is the great clock face in blue and gold inside a fixed circle of marble engraved with the 24 hours of the day in Roman numerals. A golden pointer with an image of the sun moves round this circle and indicates the hour of the day. Within the marble circle beneath the sun pointer are the signs of the zodiac in gold (these are original and date from the 1490s), which revolve slightly more slowly than the pointer to show the position of the sun in the zodiac. In the middle of the clockface is the earth (in the centre) and the moon, which revolves to show its phases, surrounded by stars which are fixed in position.”

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Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica):

(We went in later, so there will be more pictures.)

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St Mark’s Campanile:

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This bell tower was originally constructed in the 9th century and stands 323 feet tall.

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Again, according to Wikipedia, the tower was restored several times due to lightning strikes and fire, but in 1902 it completely collapsed.  Reconstruction began immediately, and it was reopened in 1912, exactly as it was before.

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And then around the corner you get part 2 of the plaza, the Piazzetta di San Marco.  From left to right –

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Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace):

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(Again, we went into the palace, so there will be more photos.)

The Lion of Venice:

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St. Theodore:

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(Just know I’m using Wikipedia as a quick reference.) There are “two large granite columns in the Square, thought to have been erected between 1172 – 1177…bearing ancient symbols of the two patron saints of Venice. The Lion sculpture has had a very long and obscure history, probably starting its existence as a winged lion-griffin statue on a monument to the god Sandon at Tarsus in Cilicia (Southern Turkey) about 300 BC.  The figure, which stands on the eastern column, at some point came to represent the “Lion of Saint Mark”, traditional symbol of Saint Mark the evangelist. The figure standing on the western column is St. Theodore of Amasea, patron of the city before St Mark, who holds a spear and stands on a crocodile (to represent the dragon which he was said to have slain). It is also made up of parts of antique statues and is a copy, the original being kept in the Doge’s Palace.”

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Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (National Library of St. Mark’s):

Wikipedia: Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana “is a library and Renaissance building in Venice, northern Italy; it is one of the earliest surviving public manuscript depositories in the country, holding one of the greatest classical texts collections in the world. The library is named after St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice.”


Another important thing we noticed about Venice is that it is very touristy.  We heard more english in an hour there than we have heard our entire two months in Bologna.  This also means there are many, many shops selling tourist junk (don’t worry, we purchased our fair share) and it costs to get into almost everything (and once inside you aren’t supposed to take photos). Doge’s Palace was well worth the admission price.

Doge’s Palace:

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First off, it’s important to know that doge means “chief magistrate.”  (I was under the impression that Doge was just a wealthily family for a good portion of our visit.)  So this palace is not just someone’s home, but rather a building designed for work (very elaborate government work mind you) and imprisonment.

First you go up the “golden staircase”:

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Then you enter the palace rooms…I cannot stress how stunning each of these rooms were; covered floor to ceiling in art.

The Four Doors Room:

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Antechamber to the Hall of the Full Council:

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The Senate Chamber:

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A painting of Neptune:

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The Chamber of the Council of Ten:

Brittany and I both liked this ceiling because of the range of color side-by-side with the black and white:

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The Chamber of the Great Council:

According to the palace’s website, the room is “53 meters long and 25 meters wide, this is not only the largest and most majestic chamber in the Doge’s Palace, but also one of the largest rooms in Europe.”

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This was an interesting little scene in the room…this guy probably has a pretty good headache…

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Off of the Chamber of the Great Council, were a few other rooms, whose names we’re not sure about.  The first image was very elaborate, and the second is a detail shot of the first.  I took the second photo because of the guy just under the plaque, he is the only creature I could find in the painting that looked more like a skeleton than a person…thought it was kind of neat.

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This room had a huge chandelier (that messed with photo lighting), a painting of Madonna and Child, and three paintings of lions.  This one turned out best, but I also like that the paintings from this area all have the city in the background (i.e. paintings from Bologna all have the two towers, this one clearly represents Venice).

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We also got to walk through the armory and then across the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs), the bridge that led from the palace to the prisons.

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The windows on this bridge would have been the last view several prisoners had of life outside their cell.

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And finally, a couple of quick pictures of the prison cells.  There were so many floors of cells, but, for the most part, they all looked about the same.

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After winding through the prison, we ended up back in the main courtyard.

I feel like we could easily fill blog after blog, photo album after photo album, of just statues in and around Doge’s Palace.  We took as many as we could, but these guys, guarding the palace staircase, were my favorite.

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After leaving Doge’s Palace, we headed to Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco (The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark).

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Again, we had to pay to go in here and photos weren’t allowed.  And again, we snapped a few when we could 🙂

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Gold mosaic was the theme of this church, in fact it is nicknamed Chiesa d’Oro (Church of gold).  I thought I’d change it up and use Wikipedia as my source this time…”The first St Mark’s was a building next to the Doge’s Palace, ordered by the doge in 828, when Venetian merchants stole the supposed relics of Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria, and completed by 832…the basic structure of the building has not been much altered. Its decoration has changed greatly over time, though the overall impression of the interior with a dazzling display of gold ground mosaics on all ceilings and upper walls remains the same.”

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After climbing a huge, narrow set of stairs, you reach a museum on the upper level (had to pay separately for this and still couldn’t take pictures) but there is also access to the balcony, which gave an amazing view of the plaza.

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When we left St. Mark’s Square, we had no destination; however, the sun was starting to set and after getting lost finding the place, we thought it might be best to find the train station before it got dark…stupid daylight savings time made it dark at 5PM!

We played tourist for a while, getting a Nutella crepe and waffle, and buying some souvenirs, while still taking pictures of the amazing city.

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Which somehow grew even more magical at dusk.

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We had dinner at a lovely little restaurant with our table mere feet from the water.  By the time we finished, Venice had become an entirely different looking place.

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Our final thought…we have to come back and stay longer…

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Italian word of the day: treno – train (because it’s the best way to get around Italy)

And now you know…

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