Tuesday, 6 January 2015

San Marco and surrounds - Venice

Still being unsatisfied with my impressions of Venice (they just weren't matching up with external images of Venice) I decided that the best way to get from my hotel near the Piazzale Roma to San Marco Square was by the vaparetto, the water bus, and on a route that went straight down the Grand Canal (actually it zigzags from bank to bank, but you get the picture).

And having done my research before hand I decided that unlike the majority of tourists I wouldn't get off at San Marco, but instead at the next stop San Marco-S. Zacceria which is after a wide loop that takes in views of the Doge's Palace and down the canal where the Bridge of Sighs is. It was indeed pretty, sparkling pink and white in the sun.

First stop was closer photos of the Bridge of Sighs, then into the freezing cold Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace).

Very very few historical houses still use the fire places to keep the buildings warm (Chenonceau is a rare exception) and with marble floors, marble fireplaces and very bare rooms they can get freezing cold. Sensibly, this was not a place where you were also encouraged to hand your coat over to the cloakroom.

I wound my way through the palace, gaping at the gilded ceilings and old maps that grace the walls of one of the rooms.

Being an Australian and a historian, old maps and atlases always intrigue me simply for their date-able depictions of the discovery of Australia and charting of its coastline. While it is easy to find such maps online, to actually see these in person, dating to a time when this was the most up to date information on the Earth is something different.

One of the intriguing things I've noticed on this trip is the character that is instilled in the marble busts I've seen. Unlike the smooth fa├žades of Ancient Roman busts these particular ones have all the wrinkles and irregularities of real faces.


Attached to the Doge's Palace by the Bridge of Sighs is the prison, an even colder construction of marble. However it's existence is the reason behind the bridge's name. It seems this was the final glimpse of the world that prisoners would get as they were escorted from the courts within the palace, across the canal to the prison, and they would sigh at what they were losing.

Finishing the Doge's Palace early into the afternoon I contemplated following Mum's suggestion of sitting in the sunshine of St Mark's Square and indulging in a Spritz. However not being willing to pay 15 euros for the pleasure, I wandered around instead, clearing my mind for the next museum.

St Mark's Square is actually rather uninteresting, being more a tourist trap than anything else. The shops that surround the square are either restaurants with ridiculously inflated prices or very high end jewellery stores and Murano glass stores (not necessarily selling Murano glass). I did get to hear the bells and watch the animation of the clock tower.

Included in the ticket for the Doge's Palace was also Museo Correr so that was my next stop.
This museum is actually a couple of museums, all strung together in rooms that span the entire length of St Mark's square, which does result in a considerable amount of walking. First section was the Imperial Quarter decorated in the style of the First Empire and then inhabited by Empress Elizabeth (Sissi) of Austria later in the century.

This museum also possessed an intriguing collection of maps, this time depicting a recognisable, if inaccurate, Australia.

Shoes to enable fashionable ladies to walk above the filth on the streets. 

The Archaeological museum was chocked full of various marble statues and busts with a few gems amongst the collection. Sadly one of the more intriguing pieces was of Hermaphrodite, but it was wedged up against a wall stopping visitors from accessing the different sides of it to see the two sexes portrayed.

As it was only 4 pm when I exited this museum, I wandered back across the square towards the Basilica. I've kind of grown tired of Churches and Religious Iconography but felt it necessary to visit this church even if only to be able to say I did actually visit it. I would not be exaggerating if I said I managed to get in 5 minutes before the Basilica closed. As I slowly wandered around they were closing the doors behind me and ushering out those who still remained within seated in silence.

The Church is a pretty one, if rather dark. The bottom half is of dark stone/marble that is poorly lit while the entire ceiling is of gold mosaics (with a few figures spaced out amongst the tiles). Saying this, it is nowhere near as bright and shiny and gaudy as some of the palaces I've seen simply because it is so poorly lit. While this may have had something to do with the time of day or the need to protect the mosaics (unlikely as the paintings in St Peter's, Vatican City were replaced with mosaics because they were more durable) it seems strange that they did not light it well to give tourists a really memorable wow factor.

This Basilica is also very much a tourist attraction, to the extent that your path is cordoned off and you aren't even allowed to sit down in the congregation and silently stare up at the ceiling. 

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