Venezia. Venice. How to describe it: It is otherworldly, beautiful, strange, disintegrating, unique, and ethereal. Howard adds that it was spooky, sinister, and breathtaking. Rick describes it as a “car-free urban wonderland of a hundred islands – laced together by 400 bridges and 2,000 alleys – survives on the artificial respirator of tourism.” He goes on to say that Venice is a “medieval cookie jar, and nobody’s looking.”
Rick suggests getting lost in the city, to just wander. And that is what we did on Friday. First, we took a vaporetti, one of Venice’s public water buses, to the San Marco stop. This excursion took us on the Grand Canal and under the Rialto Bridge (constructed in 1588, yes, 1 -5 -8 -8).
It was raining, so Piazza San Marco, or St. Mark’s Square, had flooded ever so slightly. Rick had warned that this happens, and happens in this square because it is the lowest spot in town. It is hilarious because walkways are set up using wooden benches, people vying to go both ways. So this was how we entered St. Mark’s Church, via a wooden bench.
The Basilica was a beaut, full of massive amounts of mosaics. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but we managed to snap a few. And this first photo is the entry - submerged under about four inches of water.
And, we met two very nice young men from Texas while at St. Mark’s. We were inside looking at reliquaries and one of the guys sort of leaned over our shoulders and said, “So, do you know what we’re lookin’ at here?” We started chatting with him and his buddy (a devout Rick Steves' disciple), and it was fun because they reminded us of what it was probably like for Scott and his friend when they travelled to Europe a few years back. And Scott, I found the ceramic mask you bought for me as a gift when you were here! Thanks . . .
After our time at the Basilica, and the Basilica’s Museum, and after a bite to eat, both Howard and I agreed that we were not only arted out, but we were also duomoed, cathedraled, churched, castled, villaed, and basilicaed out. We took Rick’s advice and allowed ourselves to get lost in the city. We’d turn left, then right, go down an alley, then over a bridge, never having a clue where we were. If we saw a sign for San Marco or the Rialto Bridge, we went the opposite direction. We wanted to get lost and it was a hoot!
Okay, this has been one of my favorite stops because of an item that is everywhere: MASKS. I love masks and the masks here were beautiful. Howard bought one for me in one of the first mask shops we saw (it’s still my favorite). Here is the shop and here is my mask:
This was another mask shop. Howard liked the sign and the artist!
I thought of a friend of mine, Paul, who also loves masks. Paul, I couldn’t buy you a full-sized mask, but we did buy you a mask magnet, so that will have to do until you get over here for yourself. I’m sure Michele would love to tag along!
Howard adds his comments on the city:
Venezia is amazingly large, very compact and sinking. Building fronts tilt and sag, whole buildings look slightly askew, and interior floors have valleys and ridges. Venezia is a marvel of construction, renovation, determination, and just plain stubbornness. I found myself in awe and at the same time spooked. The streets get narrower as you get away from water. The avenues along the canals are called Fondamenta, which are wide and easy to walk, progressively decreasing in width to microcalle (calle means street). When you are in a microcalle and the dark is approaching it is flat out eerie. It takes very little imagination to conjure up no good coming to pass in these crooked, narrow passageways. Charming, and yet ….
I love boats. Watching a city do business by the influx of goods by boats of all shapes and sizes is amazing. No cars, no bikes, just boats and pedestrians. If the city wouldn’t make me so claustrophobic, I would love to operate a business in this unique environment.
As for the city sinking into the ocean, it may happen.They have been predicting it since the 1700’s, but in looking around there is a lot of renovation and cranes, which indicate investment. Usually that doesn’t happen if the end is in sight. So, Venezia is probably not going to disappear in our lifetimes, but I would suggest to all, that in the words of Goethe, Italian Journey, 1786, “Venice can only be compared to itself.”