Thursday, June 4, 2009

Last day in Italy

Our last day was in Venice and it was a gorgeous clear warm day with crystal blue skies. We woke up early, like we had been all week, as not to waste too much time sleeping. We boarded the vaparetto and headed down to the Rialto market.

The Pescaria (fish market) and Erbaria (produce market), which combined make up the Rialto Market, have been located here since the 11th century. This is an exciting venue with which to mix with the local Venetians. Barges arrive at dawn with their crates of produce to be unloaded.

We checked out the Arsenal, an immense uninhabited space which, in the 16th century, was the site of the largest ship industry in the world. The whole exterior has been renovated and is very peaceful with a couple of cafe/bar/restaurants in the piazza outside the main entrance. What you see in the picture is the imposing 15th century gate-entrance to the Arsenale.

We hoped on the vaporetto over to Murano Island. On the way we sighted this church as our vaporetto made its way to Murano Island. The Dorsoduro church known as the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.Murano’s reputation as a center for glass making was born when the Venetian Republic, fearing fire and destruction to the city’s mostly wood buildings, ordered glass makers to move their foundries to Murano in 1291. Murano’s glass makers held a monopoly on quality glass making for centuries, developing or refining many technologies including crystalline glass, enameled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (aventurine), multicolored glass (millefiori), milk glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones made of glass. Today, the artisans of Murano are still employing these century-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass jewelery to Murano glass chandeliers and wine stoppers. It was very similar to Venice, but quieter.

After Murano, we made our way back to St. Mark's Square taking in some more sights on the way. It is so much fun exploring Venice. Most of the walkways are narrow. At the end you choose, left or right. In either case you may not be able to see a bridge or a canal. If you can see a canal, you may be surprised to find the walkway dead ends with nowhere to go except by boat or back the way you came from. On one occasion we had to back track several minutes to find a path going in our direction. Even with a map it was easy to get lost in the maze. But that was one of the most fun things about Venice -- getting lost over and over again.

We decide to tour the Doge's Palace (adjacent to St. Mark's). The Doge's Palace is a Gothic palace in Venice. In Italian it is called the Palazzo Ducale di Venezia. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice. Unfortunately we only had a little over an hour before closing, so we were kind of rushed through, but it was AMAZING!!!
As well as being the ducal residence, the palace housed political institutions of the Republic of Venice until the Napoleonic occupation of the city. Venice was ruled by an aristocratic elite, but there was a facility for citizens to submit written complaints at what was known as the Bussola chamber. Ornamentation is everywhere. The interior (no photos allowed) are lavishly embellished with paintings and carved and gilded wall decorations. It is drewl-worthy.

In the basement were several prison cells, which housed convicts awaiting trial. When the “new” prison was built on the other side of the Rio di Palazzo the facility was no longer used. The new prison was connected to the palace via the now famous Bridge of Sighs. We got to walk through it.This flight of stairs led to the Doge’s private quarters, known as the “Scala dei Giganti” and is flanked by huge statues of Mars and Neptune.

It was then time for the famous Bellini at Harry's Bar.

The Rialto Bridge is the most famous bridge in Venice, we crossed it many times.

An Ambulance

Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo: Scala del Bovolo

We tried to absorb as much as possible in the short time we had in Italy. I think we did a pretty good job of seeing alot and doing alot. It went by so fast, and we know we want to go back!

"Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go." --Truman Capote


Wendy said...

Wow, thanks for posting these beautiful pictures! Venice is one of the places I would like to visit someday. :)

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