The Quiet Gems of Venice

Breakfast this morning at our hotel was outside in the garden under wide canvas umbrellas, but the hotel guests were not alone. From up on the tiled roof of the hotel, three pigeons sat watching and waiting. As soon as people abandoned their breakfast, down they’d swoop to grab a piece of toast. Also present was a ginger colored cat who we saw yesterday. A staff member kindly gave it a bowl of milk when breakfast was over.

We followed google maps to Rialto and noticed that the types of shops in Venice are changing. Seven years ago when we were here, the shops all tended to sell prints, decorative papers, leather bags, masks, glass, gelato and pastries, and funky souvenirs. This year we noticed several blocks with designer shops which was surprising, but I was thrilled to find out one of them was Swatch. Going there is fun for me and it’s always so hard to choose which watches to get.

Rialto Bridge was overflowing with tourists in the hot sun snapping selfies against a backdrop of the Grand Canal with vaporettos and gondolas. Just beyond the bridge, tiny fountains pour cool water over towers of coconut slices and shops selling gelato temp people inside. We stopped at Campo San Polo which is a wonderful atmospheric square with shade trees, a pump with fresh water to refill bottles, and several cafes with misters for the hot and weary customers. Some people even stop and feed the pigeons who flutter around them. We stopped for an iced coffee. Inside the cafe chefs were busy making lunch and it smelled of fresh garlic and basil.

We visited Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa die Frari which is full of artwork made specifically for the church. It is made of brick because Venice cannot support a stone church on its soggy foundation. The most magnificent artwork is Titian’s altarpiece which looks beautifully lit even though there is no natural light on it. Titian’s tomb is also inside and its massive and way more impressive than Napoleon’s tomb in Paris. It extends several stories and has intricately carved marble sculptures.

The foundation of the church of San Polo dates back to the 9th century. At first I wasn’t impressed because the paintings are all dark and there’s no light on them so you don’t really know what you are seeing. Not only that, the Last Supper is depicted almost as an unpleasant scene of people shoving each other unlike Da Vinci’s Last Supper in Milan. We stepped outside and a girl who had just stepped out told us there was more in the back room. We hurried back in and found brightly colored 18th century paintings of the stations of the cross with a painting of the resurrection on the ceiling.

Tonight we took the vaporetto to San Marco. It was so hot that people sat with their feet in the canal, but San Marco was magical with small orchestras playing at historic cafes. San Marco is so beautiful with small lights lit up in the arches. Tomorrow we’ll return and visit the major sites there. It is supposed to in the 90s so hopefully our day will include lots of museum with ac.

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