Trip to Italy – Day #5 – Venice

We had not set an alarm clock, but were delighted to be awakened today, Wednesday, May 12, by the sound of an accordion and an man with an operatic voice, singing to a couple taking a romantic ride in a gondola in the canal just outside our hotel window.

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After a delicious buffet breakfast at the Ala Hotel, we were then off for a sunny, warm day in Venice. We decided to just spend time walking and looking. There is, indeed, so much to see and do in Venice that to rush through would result in missing much of its splendor. In fact, we re-walked several streets, seeing things we totally missed the first or second time through.

As one wanders around Venice, eating, snacking, sampling gelato, sipping a cold drink, or enjoying an espresso is never a problem. There are appetizing shops on every street and square.

Of course, no trip to Venice would be complete without a stop at Piazza San Marco, which is Venice’s official town square. While there, we visited St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco in Venezia), which is the most famous of the many churches surrounding Venice and is described as ‘Venice’s fairytale cathedral,, and is the city’ most famous building.

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‘The Basilica San Marco’ was constructed in a stunningly ornate Byzantine style in order to create ‘a fitting resting place’ for St. Mark, whose remains were brought to Venice from Alexandria, Egypt. And its exterior features ‘a succession of domes, columns, arches and spires, interspersed with screens, glittering mosaics, and innumerable marble statues.’

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Lining the square is St. Mark’s Clock tower (you can see we were there at 950 am). The Rennaisance style clock tower of ‘Torre dell’Orologio’ is topped by two bronze figures who hammer out the hours. According to legend, the craftsmen who created the clock tower were subsequently ‘blinded’ to prevent them from repeating the work …

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and St. Mark’s Campanile …

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‘The Campanile’ (The Bell Tower) rises to 325 feet and is the highest building in the whole of Venice. And it is possible to make trips to the top of the tower by an elevator, where incomparable views of the city along with the immaculate Doge’s Palace can be seen.

At the rear of Doge’s Palace is the second most famous of Venice’s bridges, The Bridge of Sighs, which crosses over Rio di Palazzo, connecting the old prisons to the interrogation room in the palace. The bridge was built in the 16th century, but was given its name by Lord Byron in the 19th century. The exterior of the palace is being renovated, and is covered by scaffolding that creative folks have sold to an advertiser …

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As seen today, with advertising.

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As seen in the past before advertising.

It is said that when prisoners were transferred to the prison, while walking across the bridge, they would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice, before being taken to their cell; hence the name Bridge of Sighs. The old prison once confined Casanova and Galileo.

From Piazza San Marco we spent the day wandering the streets and visiting various sites and churches. Perhaps the most impressive outside of the Basilica, was the Friari Church with a magnificent above-the-alter painting by Titian.

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The church had incredible art work and sculpture, and some amazing tombs. We thought the most unique was the tomb of Canova, the most famous Venetian sculptor.

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Just walking around, we encountered immaculate hotels, with amazing lobbies adorned with priceless sculpture and Venetian glass chandeliers …

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Unique restaurant signs …

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One-of-a-kind architecture …

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Saints and icons blessing you from virtually every street …

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And a wide array of unique door knockers on each street …

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Along with a smokin’ hot babe seen sitting under a public sculpture …

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And countless charming canals and bridges with myriad reflections …

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One of our most interesting experiences was going to the church of St. Moise (built in 947 by Moisè Venier and dedicated to his name saint, Moses). We first ran across this church in the early morning. Although the high altar sculpture of Moses receiving the 10 commandments from God was amazing …

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… the church was, like many we visited, cold and lifeless. Yes, the artwork was often extraordinary, but the churches themselves seemed void of the life of real people, Christians … community … living and worshiping together.

However, this evening, we passed by the church again as a sacred music concert was beginning. The performers were all students at Ouchita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. These young, vibrant Christians enlivened the building with a concert of soaring sacred music — designed to be best sung and heard in a cathedral. It was worship at its best.

After the spiritual lift, and a brief respite at the hotel, we ventured out this evening to enjoy a dinner on the edge of a large city square. Sitting outside in a cool evening breeze, we enjoyed watching the Venetians and their dogs, along with observing passing tourists scurrying to dinners or concerts. It was people watching at its best.

A Venetian dinner of pasta, fresh grilled fish, and Chianti wine capped off one of the favorite days of our trip so far – although the most enjoyable part of the evening was being with Barb and recounting our many memories of the day.

Indeed, a visit to Venice is a dream that many people share. As one writer says, “Mention Venice and immediately a vision of graceful gondoliers gliding along blue translucent canals floats before one’s eyes. For Venice is a city of canals – canals that are bordered by elegant palatial buildings. Venice is, in fact, described as ‘a uniquely romantic city …” and with some sadness, yet many warm memories we will bid her farewell.

Tomorrow, we’re up early to catch a water taxi back to the train station for a completely new adventure. Buena sera!

Here’s the entire series:

Dr. Walt and Barb’s Italian Adventure — May 8-25, 2010

If you’ve ever wanted to go to Italy (or even if you have in the past), you’ll want to come along with us and enjoy the sites, sounds, food, and art.

Hopefully, this blog will stimulate you to put visiting these amazing cities on your to-do list. Just click on any of the days or cities you want to visit with us.

  • Days #1 and 2 – Flight Nightmares
    • Okay, so you think you don’t know anyone whose plane to Europe was canceled due to the volcanic ash … or who were on another plane that blew two tires on take off and had to make an emergency landing … well now you do!
  • Day #3 – Rome
    • Rome and the Vatican Museum. Come visit the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Michelangelo’s Pieta.
  • Day #4 – Venice
    • The tourists call it ‘Venice,’ the Italians call it ‘Venezia,’ while the Venetians call it ‘Venexia.’ Barb and I call it romantic and captivating. Come on an afternoon and evening stroll and be quickly drawn into her whimsical wonderment … right to the Rialto Bridge.
  • Day #5 – Venice
    • We were awakened by the sound of an accordion and an operatic voice, singing to a couple taking a romantic ride in a gondola in the canal just outside our hotel window. Then off to Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Basilica, the Bridge of Sighs, and an amazing discovery.
  • Day #6 – Venice to Cinque Terre
    • We spent the day traveling to the Cinque Terre. If you’ve never heard of it, you’ll want to visit the next two days with us.
  • Day #7 – Cinque Terre Day #1
    • We awoke this morning to throw open our shutters and let in the fresh sea air and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. The music of small children laughing in the square, and the smell of fresh-baked bread from the bar below us wafted up and in our window. Today we explored Riomaggiore, the ‘Via dell’Amore,’ Manarola, and Corniglia. Come along with us.
  • Day #8 – Cinque Terre Day #2
    • Cinque Terre is a remote mountainous chunk of the Italian riveria that is called “the traffic-free, lowbrow, underappreciated alternative to the French Riveria … just sun, sea, sand (pebbles), wine, and pure, unadulterated Italy … exploring, hiking, shopping, and evening romance in one of God’s great gifts to tourism.” Join us as we visit Monterossa.
  • Day #9 – Florence Day #1
    • A trip by Carrara (home of the world famous marble), Pisa (home of the world famous tower), and then to Florence for quick visits to the Duomo and the Baptistery to see Ghiberti’s bronze doors. And, it was a hot night in Florence.
  • Day #10 – Florence Day #2
    • Come visit the Oltrarno area, to the south of the Arno River, to get a sense of rustic, old Florence. Then, off to the Santa Croce Basilica and the amazing tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante, and Machiavelli.
  • Day #11 – Florence Day #3
    • The Uffizi Museum, the greatest collection of Italian art anywhere, was our morning adventure. Then join us at Piazzale Michelangelo, where we saw a second copy of Michelangelo’s David, and relived our memories of romance 30 years ago … followed by an evening at the Palazzo Vecchio and a wonderful meal at the Fescobaldi Wine Bar.
  • Day #12 – Florence Day #4
    • Join us at the underappreciated Duomo Museum and then the Academy, to meet the real David. Our afternoon was Fra Angelica and the Santa Maria Novalle Church. For our Florentine finale, the Lord was pleased to provide us a riverside, bridge-view table near the Ponte Vecchio for sunset.
  • Days #13-14 – Rome Days #1-2 – The Wedding
    • We’ve been to a lot of weddings in our lives, but a wedding at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican comes right at the top. We had a magnificent time with dear friends, accompanied by fantastic fellowship and food.
  • Day #15 – Rome Day #3
    • Join us for a journey through the Trastevere area of Rome, and then to devotions at the Church of St. Cecilia, followed by our amazing trip to the Villa Borghese Gallery. Our evening was capped off at  the magnificent Trevi Fountain and the the world-famous Spanish Steps.
  • Day #16 – Our Last Day – Rome Day #4
    • We’ll start at the Roman coliseum, an tour by the Arch  of Constantine,  the ostentatious Victor Emmanuel Monument, and Bernini’s Four Rivers fountain in the Piazza Novona. As well as a visit with an amazing young man.

We’ve hoped you’ve had fun accompanying us on this trip to Italy, and that one day you’ll be blessed to experience and enjoy her yourself.

Venice, Italy
Snapshot of Venice
Written by Jan Castagnaro
Venice to the tourist, Venezia to the Italian, and Venexia to the Venetian, but whatever you choose to call it, it is one of Italy’s most captivating cities. This city of canals carves its way through several small islands nestled within the marshy lagoons along the Adriatic Sea, and takes its place as the capital of the Veneto region. With its shoreline embracing the Adriatic, it’s no wonder it was considered a major sea power, making it an important staging ground during the Crusades, a leading area for commerce, and a central inspiration for the arts during the Renaissance.
One only needs to stroll the streets of Venice to feel the whimsical wonderment, which captivates and lures you in to days long gone. The intricate detailed architecture of the buildings will keep you in awe as you wander through every nook and cranny. Though there is a blending of modern alongside the pieces of the past, the newness has not overshadowed the splendor of this ancient city, which was founded in 568 following the emigration of refugees escaping the invasion of northern Italy by the Lombards. The narrow paths and walkways are not only crowded by tourists, but the ghosts of yesterday hauntingly carry you along your journey, as you step back in time.
Whether you are there for its beauty, or a connoisseur of sorts, Venice will offer up a dish of something for everyone. Though often crowded by tourists, this city is not hard to navigate at all. Once you abandon your car at a parking garage/lots, or step off the Train at Venezia S. Lucia station, the paths are clearly marked by yellow signs pointing the path of the most common sites visited in Venice. In addition, there are many waterbus (vaporetti) stations along the canal, each having maps noting your location; and if you are feeling intimidated and unsure, you can purchase a waterbus ticket and tour the city by boat.
The streets of Venice are lined with small shops, selling everything from souvenirs, Murano glass, carnivale masks, art, jewelry, clothes, food, wine, bread, gelato, and more. There are open-air markets where you can buy fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and souvenirs. One of these al fresco markets can be found at the famous and oldest bridge in Venice, The Rialto, which spans across the Grand Canal. The Rialto, itself, consists of two covered inclined ramps, which lead to the central portico. Small shops line the covered ramps of the Rialto.
Before making your way to The Rialto, you may wish to venture into, what is called Ghetto Novo, the Jewish Ghetto in Venice. After 1492, when many Jews were pushed out of Spain and Portugal, they began to make home in several Italian cities, and eventually, setting up small communities within Venice. Their presence was not always one of welcome, and it led to the Governor of the Republic to designate a specified area where the Jews would be confined to; and in 1516, the first Ghetto came into existence. Today, when visiting, there are two synagogues dating back to the 15th and 16th century, a museum, shops and kosher restaurants.
There is, indeed, so much to see and do in Venice, and to rush through it you would surely miss some of its splendor. As you wander, eating and snacking will never be a problem. Whether you pack a lunch and sit in one of the numerous squares, or stop for sit down up market cuisine, there is something appetizing for every one. The mouth-watering smells that permeate the city, especially at lunchtime, will tease you into submission
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