walking the labyrinth
Venice Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
A labyrinth of enchantments. Grandiose and majestic architechture, the gothic alongside the baroque. The splendour of the renaissance mingled with the magnificence of the Byzantine. Greek churches, Jewish Ghettos, it is truly the most unique city.
The adventure began at the Piazzale Roma, which is where we had to park our vehicle. On the western side of the city, it is the starting off point for all travelers arriving via motorvehicle; with Park houses and parking lots filled to capacity. We were lucky to get a spot on the top floor of one of the park houses, for the cost of 20 Euros. Seeing the mass of people and luggage, we were sure to change our minds about staying the night in venice.
with no particular goal in mind, we began our trek into this city of enchantments.
We came upon the Canale Della Guidecca, in the Dorsoduro district, where the buildings began to take on a more grandiose appearance. Across the canal we could see San Giorgio Maggiore, a 16th century church, situated on an island all by itself.
A beautiful sunny day made our passage easy, our footsteps light, but also brought out the smells of the city. With the buildings erected on top of pilings driven into the mud, and the buildings being so close to sea level, not hard to imagine the smells wafting into our nostrils from the canal. Though I saw a sign that stated swimming was allowed in the water, I doubted any person would take venice up on that offer. My friends in Germany claimed that there was no sewage system in venice, and that waste products were pumped into canals, and swept out to sea by the adriatic.
Still on the Guidecca canal, we cut through a narrow alleway and ended up on rio terra dei catacumeni, where we stopped for cokes. The cost for two cans of coke: 7 euros. roughly $9.00. To our right was Campo della Salute. We crossed the small stone bridge and walked to the front of this beautiful 17th century church, situated on the canale di san marco.
Walking, and having the opportunity to stop at every fascinating sight or building, is part of the charm of this city. When looking at a map, one can't tell how truly easy it is to get from one point to another.
The Accademia building is where Da Vinci's Vetruvian Man is located. Though I am a big fan, and would have liked to have seen the original, I was enjoying myself more with walking and enjoying the beautiful day. Because of the small size of the city, and the large number of its population, it is very crowded. If people were standing in line to get into a church, I imagined the art museums would not be any more spacious.
The best view was from the bridge at the Accademia, where the canal stretched into the distance, past the Della Salute, and houses and palazzos tucked neatly together on the canal.
After leaving Stefano, another beautiful church welcomed us in. The church of St. Mary of the Lily, otherwise known as Chiese Di Santa Maria Del Giglio, it was founded in the 9th century and rebuilt in the 17th century. Standing in a square called Campo Santa Maria Zobenigo, we were now west of the Piazza San Marco, very close to seeing the byzantine splendour of this world renowned cathedral.
We pushed through the crowds, the milling tourists, crossed a stone bridge, or ponte, and came upon another church, Chiesa di San Moise.
We did not notice the grumbling of our bellies, as we were too preoccupied with all the sights around us. Our eyes soaked up the architechture like a sponge with water. Peddlers surrounded us, selling fake Gucci bags, Dolce and Gabbana belts. Every few feet there were vendors selling beautiful glass jewelry, from the island of Murano. Perhaps the only piece of jewelry I have ever invested any money in, I purchased a precious red glass heart, blown with gold leaf, and encircled with a silver coil.
So that brings me to St. Mark's Square. The photos we have seen do not do it justice. So many intricacies, so much life here. And when you approach the basicila and see all of the symbols, the mosaics, the gold leaf, you feel humbled. If it weren't for all of the tourists, it would be a much more enjoyable experience.
Before entering the basilica, we went in search for a place to eat. It seemed that in every doorway a proprietor stood, beckoning passerby to enter. Menus and photos of the dishes were displayed in windows, but the prices seemed to turn most of the curious away. Jason and I decided on a Snack Bar, where he had a large slice of pizza, and I a pizza roll.
We squeezed through the narrow alleyways and headed back towards the Basicila, where we stood in line for about 15 minutes, just to be able to walk around inside. There was no entry fee, but also no photography allowed. Oh, if i could have captured such a thing on film. It helps to know the history and symbolism behind this magnificent piece of architechture, to fully appreciate all that the eye takes in. For a thousand years it was the final resting place of St.Mark, whose body was stolen from Constantinople, I believe. It served as the private chapel of Venice's rules, doges, and it was a symbol of the glory and power of the venetian state. What you see today, is hundreds of years of building, which ended in the 11th century.
There was a fee to climb the steps and head onto the Loggia dei Cavalli, the balcony with the horses of St. Mark's. These horses were also taken from Constantinople, but the ones on the balcony are copies. Inside the originals stand, taken in the 13th century, but apparently dating back to the third or fourth centuries.
From here, we had views of St. Mark's place, as well as the St. Mark's canal. It was also an opportunity to see the mosaics up close, photograph, and be awed.
We did not go to the Bridge of Sighs, nor did we walk into the Doge's Palace, or climb the Campanile. Things that I as a tourist would have liked, but I think that until visiting the basilica, we had enjoyed merely walking around the city and enjoying the sights from afar. So, with that in mind, we boarded a water bus and headed for the Rialto Market.
The water buses are like any bus in a busy metropolis. They stop every minute, hundreds pile on and off, and sometimes there is standing room only.
But, let me not wax negative on this trip. Being on the water bus let me enjoy the beautiful waterfront architechture, which is something one obviously does not get to enjoy when walking within the city. All waterfront houses and palazzos displayed their social status, wealth, and affluence by the murals and ornamentation they presented.
Though the Rialto should be on every visitor's must see list, I was not impressed.
We wandered around alongside the canal, and had a couple offers of gondola rides. My guide book stated I could expect to pay about $65, but ended up being more like $100! it is not that we were duped, but the prices go up every year. My guidebook apparently was not up to date. We spoke to the first gondolier, and he made it pretty clear that the rates were fixed, and that there was no bargaining to be done. Be careful of trying to bargain with merchants in venice. Sometimes they get offended, as this gondolier apparently did.
So, let me tell you a little about Gondolas, and how unique they are to Venice. 1500 pounds, 35 feet, made from 8 different types of wood. One oar, and one oarlock.
We took our romantic gondola ride, for 45 minutes and 90 euros.
Our gondola ride went through the Canareggio district, across from San Polo, which is where the Rialto Market was located. We continued on through the Canareggio, through quiet side streets, over tiny bridges, along the Grand Canal, and we ended up at Piazzale Roma again, full circle.
I think we were eager to get away from the crowds, we longed to see open spaces again. We opted against the staying the night here, and drove on towards Verona, where we had a great dinner at one of the restaurants of Piazza Brai and slept fitfully in Hotel Europa.