Day 2 in Water World.

Venice Travel Blog

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The Hotel is close to the cruise ship terminal and when I wake up this morning I found out just how close! I get out of bed and draw the curtains but blocking out the sunlight is a huge floating apartment building. Luckily I am wearing a pair of shorts so my modesty is intact!

Much debate has been going on about the impact such large cruise ships have on The Venice ecosystem and economy. Most of the passengers just day trip to Venice and eat and sleep back on board the ship so it may be that in years to come the size of ships or their numbers are limited.

I meet the rest of the tour group and the tour leader over breakfast and we go over the plan for the next couple of days.

We are in tour group mode until lunchtime visiting the Doges Palace and St Marks square and the rest of the day is free to wander. Nothing is of course  compulsory apart from the time and place to leave Venice the day after tomorrow to catch the train to Florence.

Founded in the 5th century and spread over 118 small islands, Venice became a major maritime power in the 10th century. The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world's greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and others.

In the lagoon, covering 50,000 km², nature and history have been closely linked since the 5th century when Venetian populations, to escape barbarian raids, found refuge on the sandy islands of Torcello, Jesolo and Malamocco.

These temporary settlements gradually became permanent and the initial refuge of the land-dwelling peasants and fishermen became a maritime power. Over the centuries, during the entire period of the expansion of Venice, when it was obliged to defend its trading markets against the commercial undertakings of the Arabs, the Genoese and the Ottoman Turks.

We start are appreciation of the history of Venice by taking a tour of the Doges palace. Our guide is a former professor of history at the University and a wealth of great stories.

The Doge's Palace was the resident of the Doge ,the ruler of Venice and also housed the political bodies of the state, including the Great Council (Maggior Consiglio) and the Council of Ten. Within the lavish complex, there were law courts, administrative offices, courtyards, grand stairways, and ballrooms, as well as prisons on the ground floor.

Additional prison cells were located across the canal in the Prigioni Nuove (New Prisons), were built in the late 16th century, and connected to the palace via the Bridge of Sighs which we see from the inside looking out onto the crowds taking photos from the outside.

Historical records note that the first Ducal Palace in Venice was built around the end of the 10th century, but much of this Byzantine part of the palace was a victim of subsequent reconstruction efforts. The construction of the most recognizable part of the palace, the Gothic-style south façade facing the water, was begun in 1340 in order to hold the meeting chamber for the Great Council. There were numerous expansions of the Doge's Palace throughout subsequent centuries, including after 1574 and 1577, when fires ravaged parts of the building.

Great Venetian architects, such as Filippo Calendario and Antonio Rizzo, as well as the masters of Venetian painting – Tintoretto, Titian, and Veronese – contributed to the elaborate interior design.

Venice's most important secular building, the Doge's Palace was the home and headquarters of the Venetian Republic for approximately 700 years until 1797 when the city fell to Napoleon. It has been a public museum since 1923.

After a brief look around St Marks square we are free to explore on our own. I head for St Marks Tower for some great views of the area.

The Campanile di San Marco, stands just opposite St. Mark's Basilica. The bell-tower of the basilica is the tallest building in Venice, at 99 metres, and happily it's open to the public who can enjoy the superb views over the city.

The tower crumbled to the ground in 1902, a not uncommon fate for tall Venetian buildings, which are mostly very old and built on foundations of wood and mud. No-one was killed apart from a cat, and a few years later a replica was completed with that typical Italian philosophy: com'era, dov'era: as it was, where it was. The original version dated back to the ninth century; the present appearance copies a later sixteenth-century design. On the basilica's website there's a great picture of the collapsed masonry in St. Mark's Square.

There are usually queues to ascend the campanile. These aren't generally too long and today it was only 15mins. 6 euros is quite steep for an enrty fee but what the hell the views are fantastic.

The rest of the afternoon is spent in getting lost in the magic of Venice and just wandering and taking in the atmosphere of this lovely, photogenic place. I hope to return one day.

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photo by: asturjimmy