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Visiting Venice

sunny 32 °C

The last stop on our European vacation was Venice, a World Heritage Site full of beauty and a long history. With a cooler packed, Mom, Andrew and I set off on another road trip in our little rented car. The four-hour drive took us from Northern Croatia (Istria), first through the Slovenian border, before crossing into Italy. We found a four-star hotel with three-star pricing in a district outside of Venice, but with an inexpensive train service that will take you directly into Venice and back to the outer districts, hotel location is irrelevant. The train tracks clear the mainland and continue across the water and towards the island of Cannaregio, where the final train station lies. With a bridge in place, cars and buses are able to cross the water to Venice, but beyond the expensive parking lot, only pedestrians and boat services travel the alleyways and canals.

The symbol of Venice -a winged lion

The symbol of Venice -a winged lion


Mom and the A-Team in Venice

Mom and the A-Team in Venice


So beautiful

So beautiful


Canal

Canal


Gondoliers along the Canal Grande

Gondoliers along the Canal Grande


Ana in Venice

Ana in Venice


Waterways of Venice

Waterways of Venice


Mama in Venice

Mama in Venice

As you exit the train station and walk out into the brilliant sunlight, it feels as if you have been transported to another luxurious time, full of palaces and gondoliers and bright flowers cascading from every windowsill. A maze of small streets circle with no pattern. Buildings piled upon each other crowd the narrow alleys, which lavishly display shop fronts full of souvenirs, and restaurants aplenty. Vendors with trinkets, Venetian masks and knock-off Murano glass vie for your attention as the incorrigible crowds wrestle and jostle each other for a chance at a photo before one of the 350 bridges that stitch the island together. Pink street lights await the night so they can wash the city in a soft glow, though during the day act as perches to the countless pigeons that scrounge for food. Yet, however hectic, somewhere behind the throngs of people and the persistent commercialism lie enormous palaces once lived in by dukes, with Venetian windows overlooking tiny canals and front steps leading into the depths of the murky water. Boats are tied off to posts in front of every building, and gondolas wait like taxis to ferry you to any destination. Becoming purposefully lost in the labyrinth, small courtyards are stumbled upon unwittingly and lead to countless churches covered in detailed marble statues, glittering gold mosaics and frescos. Venice is both overwhelming –with so much beauty to absorb, and exasperating –as you climb over tourists and continuously empty your wallet. Its mystique will soon disappear with the incredible growth rate of tourism, slowly wearing away the charm and grandeur that was Venezia.

Bridges over small canals connect Venice alleyways

Bridges over small canals connect Venice alleyways


Venetian church

Venetian church


Three gondoliers and the Grand Canal

Three gondoliers and the Grand Canal


Venice

Venice


beautiful canal with gondolier

beautiful canal with gondolier


Church stairs leading into the water

Church stairs leading into the water


Andrew and Mom in the Piazza San Marco

Andrew and Mom in the Piazza San Marco


Gondoliers on the Grand Canal

Gondoliers on the Grand Canal


Along the Grand Canal

Along the Grand Canal


Andrew at one of over 350 bridges in Venice

Andrew at one of over 350 bridges in Venice


Every building is adorned with ornate architecture, paintings, and sculptures

Every building is adorned with ornate architecture, paintings, and sculptures


One of many beautiful canals in Venice

One of many beautiful canals in Venice


Church of Santa Maria della Salute

Church of Santa Maria della Salute


Venetian windows with flowers

Venetian windows with flowers


The Rialto is one of the main bridges that crosses the Grand Canal

The Rialto is one of the main bridges that crosses the Grand Canal

Venice was built upon a small archipelago of islands situated off the Adriatic coastline of Italy, directly across from Istria. The name Venice comes from the early settlers of the 118 island archipelago, named the Veneti. It is believed that the original population of Venice was mainly formed by the early dwellers and refugees from Rome, fleeing from the constant attacks of the Germans and Huns in the 5th and 6th centuries. The first ruler, or Doge, of Venice was elected in the 9th century, and the first Ducal Palace was erected, along with the Basilica of St. Mark. It grew as a powerhouse of trade with an unstoppable naval fleet, and by the 13th century was the most prosperous city in Europe. Initially the city of Venice was built on the islands, but as the city rapidly expanded, bridges were built to connect islands, and eventually the Venetians resorted to building the rest of the city on water. In 1200 the Doge was also the Duke of Istria and Dalmatia, and used Croatia’s resources to build Venice. The trees from interior Dalmatia, as well as the islands, were used as pylons –tarred and then sunk into the mud –which became the foundation for the floating palaces (built from the white stone of Brač) that now make up Venice.

Large palaces line the Grand Canal, seemingly floating on water

Large palaces line the Grand Canal, seemingly floating on water


Palaces along the Canal Grande

Palaces along the Canal Grande


Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco


Gondolas await to taxi you through the tiny canals

Gondolas await to taxi you through the tiny canals


A mosaic of terracotta roofs

A mosaic of terracotta roofs


Punta della Dogana and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute

Punta della Dogana and the Church of Santa Maria della Salute


Canal Grande

Canal Grande


Gondolier and the Grand Canal

Gondolier and the Grand Canal

We bought a two-day pass for the ferry that winds up and down the Canal Grande, stopping at various stations along the waterway. With passes in hand, we set off down the main canal towards the famous, central and most prominent square in Venice –Piazza San Marco. This central square is where most tourists spend their time as it is the piazza of nobility, boasting: the Palace of the Doges, the Basilica of St. Mark, an impressive clock and bell tower, and the Bridge of Sighs.

canal

canal


Mom and Ana in Piazza San Marco

Mom and Ana in Piazza San Marco


A birds eye view of Piazza San Marco

A birds eye view of Piazza San Marco


The canal-facing side of the Palace of the Doges

The canal-facing side of the Palace of the Doges


The large courtyard of Piazza San Marco

The large courtyard of Piazza San Marco


Basilica of San Marco

Basilica of San Marco


The Clock Tower

The Clock Tower


The Bell Tower, or Campanile of San Marco

The Bell Tower, or Campanile of San Marco


The Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs


Mom and the lion in Piazza San Marco

Mom and the lion in Piazza San Marco

The Ducal Palace is an enormous building with a large central courtyard. While other palaces stood in its place, the present structure was built and added upon from the 14th to the 15th century. A large central window and balcony look out upon the square, and here the Doge would have stood to give speeches to the Venetian crowd below. Statues and carvings adorn the palace externally, only hinting at the splendor within. The inner rooms are covered in paintings done by masters and encrusted with golden frames, floor to ceiling. Unfortunately, the 16 Euro entry fee keeps many from entering these walls. Mom and I were both appalled and shocked with how every entrance to every building (big or small), had a fee attached; in years past, entrances were always free.

The door that leads into the courtyard of the Palace of the Doges, called the Porta della Carta

The door that leads into the courtyard of the Palace of the Doges, called the Porta della Carta


The central balcony of the Palace of the Doges, where the Doge would give speaches to the crowds below

The central balcony of the Palace of the Doges, where the Doge would give speaches to the crowds below


The lion, a Venetian symbol, adorns the Ducal Palace

The lion, a Venetian symbol, adorns the Ducal Palace


Detail of a column of the Ducal Palace -each column is differently carved

Detail of a column of the Ducal Palace -each column is differently carved


detail

detail


Paintings with golden frames on the ceilings of the Palace

Paintings with golden frames on the ceilings of the Palace

The Basilica of Saint Mark was built in the 16th century and is the central jewel of Venice. With domed roofs and large archways encrusted with golden mosaics, sculptures and carvings, and the four prominent bronzed horses on the central balcony, the exterior alone is remarkable. Upon entering the church you are surrounded by gold. Golden mosaics embellish the inner domed ceilings, display golden biblical scenes upon every wall and archway, focusing on the central golden altar.

One of the outer golden mosaics on the Basilica

One of the outer golden mosaics on the Basilica


The peak of the Basilica

The peak of the Basilica


The entry to the Basilica of San Marco

The entry to the Basilica of San Marco


Gold everywhere

Gold everywhere


No matter where you look in St. Mark's Cathedral you will find golden mosaics

No matter where you look in St. Mark's Cathedral you will find golden mosaics


The entire interior of St. Mark's Cathedral is gold encrusted mosaic

The entire interior of St. Mark's Cathedral is gold encrusted mosaic


Domed ceilings of gold

Domed ceilings of gold


Archways of gold

Archways of gold


Tiny tiles of gold create the mosaics that cover huge expanses of wall and ceiling

Tiny tiles of gold create the mosaics that cover huge expanses of wall and ceiling


Original golden mosaics

Original golden mosaics


Intricate mosaics adorn the walls of the Basilica of San Marco

Intricate mosaics adorn the walls of the Basilica of San Marco


The four horses of Saint Mark's Cathedral

The four horses of Saint Mark's Cathedral


Bronze horse atop the Basilica of San Marco

Bronze horse atop the Basilica of San Marco


The horses were initially plundered from Constantinople as Venice rose to power. In the late 18th century, when Napoleon conquered Venice, he stole these bronzed horses and took them to France. They were finally returned to Venice and the Basilica, with the originals inside the building and replicas atop the balcony of San Marco.

The Torre dell’Orologio, or the Clock Tower that was built in the 15th century, still has its original clock from the 15th century, as well as the two bronze Moors that move back and forth, taking a swing at the bell every hour. This original clock indicates the passing of the seasons, the phases of the moon, and the movement of the sun from one zodiac sign to another.

The Clock Tower, of the Torre dell'Orologio, with its original clock and bell

The Clock Tower, of the Torre dell'Orologio, with its original clock and bell


Two bronzed Moors move back and forth to ring the bell atop the clock tower

Two bronzed Moors move back and forth to ring the bell atop the clock tower

We went up to the top of the 100 meter tall bell tower (Campanile), just as the bells chimed the hour, and had a breathtaking panoramic view of Venice. Amongst the housing are large churches with spires and bell towers, domes and statues, that rise between the sea of terracotta roofs, haphazardly congested in a wash of red. The Grand Canal snakes its way through the center of Venice, constantly buzzing with boat traffic. The distant islands can also be spotted, but a haze seems to blanket the city, which we didn’t notice until looking at it from above.

Churches rise from the terracotta roofs

Churches rise from the terracotta roofs


No city planners here

No city planners here


From the bell tower in Piazza San Marco, a view of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore

From the bell tower in Piazza San Marco, a view of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore


Church of Santa Maria della Salute, seen from the bell tower

Church of Santa Maria della Salute, seen from the bell tower

We spent two entire days wandering the waterways and jumping on and off the ferry to explore areas away from the crowds. We visited the island of Murano to see the famous works of art created from Murano glass. Not discriminating between large and small churches, we took a peek in any door we could. Sitting along the banks of tiny canals, we watched gondoliers pass while downing our picnic lunch. There was still the Bridge of Sighs to visit, the Rialto Bridge, and countless little alleyways connected by bridges over the canals, so we spread our time trying to take in as much as we could.

The Rialto

The Rialto


Ana standing on the Rialto

Ana standing on the Rialto


Church of San Giorgio Maggiore

Church of San Giorgio Maggiore


Water fountains with fresh, cold water

Water fountains with fresh, cold water


Tiled mosaics floor in the Church of Santa Maria della Salute

Tiled mosaics floor in the Church of Santa Maria della Salute


details

details


The island of Murano is full of artists that work with the Murano glass

The island of Murano is full of artists that work with the Murano glass


Traditional Murano glass work

Traditional Murano glass work


Ponte dell'Accademia

Ponte dell'Accademia


canal

canal


A fleeting glimpse of the Bridge of Sighs

A fleeting glimpse of the Bridge of Sighs


Andrew and Ana in front of the Bridge of Sighs

Andrew and Ana in front of the Bridge of Sighs


The Bridge of Sighs is so called because it leads to the prison on the right. As Prisoners walked towards the prison and their inevitable death, they had one final chance to peer out the windows on the bridge and look at their family members crying and waving their final good-byes.

After two days in Venice we were exhausted from the scorching sun, endless walking, and hordes of tourists. A long day ended with an even longer evening, sending Andrew off on his journey home and thereby ending yet another amazing A-Team adventure. Gaudi, dancing, ancient walled cities, islands and the clear blue of the Adriatic, beaches, architecture, history, lakes and waterfalls, family and love, with a dash of Venice… we have enjoyed every minute of this journey and are glad you came along and shared it with us.

Till the next adventure,

Xox A-Team

Posted by A-Team 23:25 Archived in Italy

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