The sun was brightly shining this morning when we woke up. Right after breakfast we boarded a vaporetto and headed straight into San Marco.
The area around San Marco was a beehive of activity. Just as we stepped off the vaporetto, a huge Norwegian Cruise Line ship sailed down the Grand Canal to dock in Venice. The size of the ships compared to the size of the buildings is quite a contrast. They bring thousands of passengers onto the island every day and there has been talk of having them not dock here anymore.
Walking to Correr Museum we discovered a tiny inlet where gondolas seemed to congregate before passing through the canals. I spotted a beautiful glass shop and headed inside. I’m not usually attracted to these shops, but this one had beautiful hand blown glass animals. Walking around the store, I carefully clutched my purchase and was a little embarrassed to read the sign, “Do not touch anything.”
The Correr Museum had an interesting combination of decorated rooms with period furnishings, marble floors, beautifully painted wallpaper with hand painted animals, and statues standing before mirrors. This gave the observer a different perspective. “You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul,” said George Bernard Shaw.
In some of the rooms, modern art was mixed with ancient art. One odd exhibit had television monitors on the floor all showing artists at work, but machine guns were part of it. The explanation was in Italian so I do not know the significance of the display.
We stopped in the cafe in the museum for a sandwich and a salad. It was quite elegant, very affordable, and air conditioned which was a welcome relief from the plus 90 degree temperature outside.
Doge’s Palace surrounds two sides of San Marco. Much of it was closed for renovation, but we were able to see the renovation in progress. The palace had beautiful chandeliers with Murano glass which is hand blown on an island nearby. There were rooms where politicians met long ago and they were elaborately decorated with paintings on the walls and ceilings.
The whole world seemed to be inside the palace. We saw tours for Japanese, Chinese, German, Italian, Spanish, English, and Arabic visitors all in their native language. One group which appeared to be from a cruise ship had a small group of six. Pointing to a set of metal arrows in a room devoted to weaponry, a woman wearing a long flowing skirt and straw hat asked, “What’s that? Does it zip, zap, zing faster?”
“I’m not sure what you mean,” replied the guide with a quizzical look. At that the woman acted out arrows shooting with her arms. It was a comical moment.
The last two rooms were covered with dark paintings. One room had over 1,000 people depicted all in a state of battle. One wall had a huge sailing ship where sailors were in anguish fighting a battle while rowing like mad, Personally I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I thought the whole room represented a total state of chaos on every wall.
I have always known about the Bridge of Sighs and remember it being depicted in a romantic old movie, “A Little Romance,” as a romantic bridge, but in reality, this is far from the truth. From inside the museum, we crossed from a palatial palace over the bridge to a prison. This was the last look prisoners had long ago of Venice. Visiting the prison in the intense heat of Venice was torturous so I can’t imagine what it would have been like long ago. It had cold looking stone rooms with iron bars. Escape would have been impossible. I was really happy not to be in it anymore when we exited the building.
The lines to visit St. Mark’s Basilica were long in the hot Venetian sun, but by going online you can buy skip the line tickets within 5 minutes of your visit. We visited at 4:30 which only gave us 30 minutes before closing, but the lines were down. The Basilica houses the remains of St. Mark and is a pilgrimage spot. The ceilings are covered with glittering gold mosaics which are centuries old. They may not be as shiny as they once were, but are beautiful. We paid 2 euro extra to see a storyboard all in gold with precious jewels in honor of St. Mark. Climbing the steepest steps ever, we visited the archaeology exhibit which included four horses that Napoleon had stolen, put on the Arch of Triumph in Paris, and were returned to Venice. They are inside to protect them from the elements and the ones outside are reproductions.
Back at Piazza San Marco we sat outside at a cafe with a live orchestra to people watch. Tour groups full of weary tourists strolled by following guides holding limp flags. Families of small children stopped to feed the pigeons. One family had a pigeon eating on top of a girl’s hat. Selfie sticks are still popular and we sometimes wonder if the people actually look at the monuments they snap pictures of themselves standing by. Bells rang out every hour echoing through the Piazza. We could have stayed there for hours.
We have decided that Venice itself is a museum. While searching for a mailbox down the Grand Canal we wandered into a campo we had never seen. A man sitting on the edge of a well played a recorder in front of an ancient church with its wooden doors tightly shut. We found a small restaurant on the corner of the campo where we dined on pizza and spaghetti Bolognese. The servers were so friendly, but none of them were Italian. This is the Italy of today where people living here are from many countries.
Following Google maps back to our hotel, we made new discoveries. In one campo families dined outside at two cafes. We sat on the marble steps of a theater just to enjoy the ambience.
Just before we reached our hotel the sound of an accordion echoed in an alley with a small bridge crossing a lagoon. It was singing gondolier. It was the perfect backdoor moment.
Back at our hotel we sat out in the garden with a final toast to Venezia. This has been a memorable trip and we promised ourselves to return again next year. Thank you for coming on our journey with us.