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Venice

I simply adore Venice, beyond all reason or sanity. I'd been there once before, in 1996, and I became quite smitten with the place. Since then, I've read more about it and studied its fascinating history, which, in addition to the knowledge of its fragility due to subsidence and rising sea levels, is a real-life counterweight to its fairy-tale appearance.

So I was thrilled to learn that Henry had arranged this repeat engagement. When our plane was easing down toward the runway in Mestre, across the lagoon, and I looked out the window and saw the Serenissima in toto, with sunlight shimmering on its towers, domes and canals, .... well, just say that the enchantment is intact. This visit was still too brief, but I remain very much smitten. And I want to go back again!

Our wonderful host met us at the airport and guided us on a walking (and eating!) tour that covered practically the whole city. I have a general idea of where most of the photos were taken, but you'll have to understand that I was in a dream-like state most of the time, resulting in quite a few great shots that could have been taken anywhere. So there are a few photos in the Flickr set labelled something like "a Venetian street." But I hope you enjoy them anyway!

To find where some of the sights featured here are located, you can use this map, which has marked the few places I was able to pinpoint:


View a larger version of this Venice map here.


Of course, the main distinction of Venice is its watery streets, called canali when large and rios when smaller. Here are a few photos of some random rios, and one of a random calle, or more conventionally paved street. At the bottom of this collection is a happy American tourist couple thoroughly enjoying this unique environment.

a rio [spacer] a wide rio

 

gondola under a bridge [spacer] a rio [spacer] a calle
 
me and Henry in Venice

The biggest, and most famous of the waterways is the Grand Canal, and we took many pictures at different points along it. Here's a selection:

Grand Canal [spacer] working gondolas on the Grand Canal
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Grand Canal [spacer] Grand Canal

It being November, sunset came early, but if anything that only heightens the loveliness of scenes like these, which show the famous gondoliers at work:

gondola parking on Grand Canal [spacer] gondolas on the Grand Canal

Here are some more shots of this most amazing of urban spaces. Don't I look overjoyed to be there, on the left? That shot was taken as we took a commuter (as opposed to the much more expensive tourist) gondola ride across the Canal. In the middle is a look at Venetian garages. And on the right is Henry with our host just after we had crossed the then brand-new Ponte della Costituzione, a controversial 21st-century-looking bridge over the Canal.

me on the Grand Canal [spacer] a Venetian garage [spacer] tourists at the Costiuzione Bridge

After crossing this bridge to the main part of Venice, we headed for a section of the town we hadn't seen on our 1996 trip: the Ghetto. I had learned through my readings about historical Venice that the word's current more sinister meaning derives from the Italian word for "foundry," since this little island within the Canareggio district was the site of the city's iron industry. But it was also where the Jewish population of Venice, at times in its history quite numerous and successful, were required to live. Here is a building adorned with the sign for the "old ghetto" street name. Note that "Gheto Vechio" is the spelling of "Ghetto Vecchio" in the Venetian dialect, which tends to drop the double consonants found in many "normal" Italian words.

In the center here, I'm with our host in the main Campo (square) of the Ghetto area. On the right is a gate leading to the "new" Ghetto. This passageway was closed in the evenings to insure the required isolation of the Jewish Venetians.

[spacer] Ghetto Campo [spacer] Gheto Novissimo gate

Here's another of these gates, and a rio in the Ghetto area:

Sotoportego de Gheto Novo [spacer] rio in the Ghetto area

After touring the Ghetto, we took a leisurely walk across the city, in order to meet our host's daughter (who lives in Venice! what a fantasy come true that would be for me!) for lunch. Along the way we were reminded of Venice's stature as a shopping mecca. Especially for masks, on the left, and seafood, on the right. In the middle we're on the bridge that's been shopping central in Venice for hundreds of years—the Rialto.

a mask shop [spacer] on the Rialto Bridge [spacer] at the fish market

And we noted lovely and whimsical little details of domestic architecture such as this scrumptious Venetian red building along the Giudecca Canal, and these windows with windmills.

Venetian red [spacer] whimsical windows

Our lunch stop was at the Osteria Ai Do Farai, in the Dorsoduro district, where the food—surprise!—was fabulous and we were treated to a floor show for the making of our dessert: some yummy sgroppino, a new drink for us.

making sgroppino [spacer] serving sgroppino

Of course, churches are a big attraction in Venice and though we only had time to go into one of them on this trip, it was one of the best—Santa Maria della Salute, at the tip of the Grand Canal. It was already dark by the time we got there, so our exterior photos didn't come out too well. But the interior was amazing! A sevice was going on, but we were discreet and were able to get some wonderful photos.

Santa Maria Salute interior

main altar of Santa Maria della Salute

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Santa Maria Salute floor mosaic

floor mosaic at Santa Maria della Salute

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candles in Santa Maria Salute

lots of candles

 

Santa Maria Salute interior

an ornate lamp

Another church we saw from afar and passed by a couple of times is Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, in the middle of the San Polo district:

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari [spacer] looking toward Santa Maria dei Frari

You can find information on these and the many, many other Venetian churches, as well as other sights in Venice, at this handy website. I found it very useful in identifying buildings for labelling photos in my Flickr set.

One of Venice's most famous churches we had to be satisfied with seeing at a distance. On the left here is one of Palladio's masterpieces, San Giorgio Maggiore (whose tower we climbed in 1996), seen across the lagoon. (See more about Palladio on my Vicenza page.) On the right is Santa Maria della Salute, at dusk, seen from the same vantage point.

San Giorgio across the water [spacer] Santa Maria Salute at dusk

This vantage point is the highlight of almost all trips to Venice, the Piazza San Marco. What an amazingly wonderful urban space this is! You can practically get credit for an entire history of art course just by standing the middle and looking around. But even if you don't know anything about the wonderful buildings that surround the open space, it's still a must-visit place everyone should see at least once in their lifetimes. And we were there at a most photogenic time of day, just before sunset. Here are four of the main attractions:

San Marco Basilica detail

Basilica San Marco

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San Marco clock tower

the clock tower (note the Venetian lion of St. Mark)

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San Marco campanile

The Campanile (not the Rice yearbook! [inside joke])

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Doge's Palace

The Doge's Palace (with another lion on the column at the right)

Here, on top, is a more panaoramic view, followed by some more glimpses of the Basilica, the jewel of the Piazza:

Piazza San Marco
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San Marco Basilica
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On the left, below, is looking off to the east as the Piazza opens out onto the lagoon, along the Giardini ex Reali. And on the right, again, is San Giorgio, this time with a gondolier pulling into his parking spot in the foreground.

Giardini ex Reali [spacer] San Giorgia across the water

All too soon our latest visit to Venice was ending with the short November day. Here is the Grand Canal as seen from Santa Maria della Salute, looking back up at some of its wonderful buildings, as dusk fell. Sigh. Perhaps, we can make a return trip someday?

Grand Canal at dusk


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