Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Venice, La Serenissima

While we have visited Venice three times previously, this time we had a week to explore the city and to see favourite things and visit new ones. It seems such a luxury, especially when the Emirates tickets allowed for a chauffeur driven door to door transfer, but in Venice via the luxury boats used as water taxis. A bit of a contrast to the abras of Dubai.

Water taxi

We zoomed across the lagoon in a fast and rather bumpy ride to our local square, Santa Maria Formosa, where we were met by our host, Lorenzo. A good thing too, as I doubt we would ever have found his B&B by ourselves.
Four immaculate rooms tucked away behind the campo, a nice little breakfast room and everything you need for a stay. Lorenzo is a fount of information. www.aitagliapietra.com

First impressions of course, are of the impossibly pretty calle and canals that thread the city and make it such a delight to visit.


Nearby canal

But there are also small things that catch the eye, the water fountains that someone has planted with flowers or the little shrines high on the walls of houses to protect the inhabitants.

Water fountain

Shrine to St Anthony, decked in immaculate white linen and silk flowers.

The graceful prow of a gondola

The genteel ?? decay

And then the lovely, big things, like Salute, my favourite church in Venice. She always reminds me of a pregnant lady.

Salute by day...

and by night

Rialto Bridge and a vaporetto

The Dogana and passing traffic

and the big things that are not quite so charming, such as the frantic traffic on the Grand Canal or the huge cruise ships that together disgorge up to 12,000 tourists a day into Venice.

Grand Canal traffic at Rialto

A princess line cruise ship dwarfing the buildings

The crowds at San Marco

The gondola conveyor belt

We visited the area of Canereggio especially to see the Jewish Ghetto area, the places where the term ghetto began, being the name for iron foundries which is the area where the Jews were confined after dark. We visited several synagogues which at first were hidden in the houses. The tiny cupola you can see in the corner covers part of one of them.

Canton synagogue

A visit back to Torcello was also on the list, the site of the first Venetian Cathedral and also of the tiny round church of S. Fosca. No internal photographs allowed in most churches these days. The weather was baking hot and shade in short supply as you can see from the photo.

Santa Fosca and part of the old baptistry
(or perhaps of an even older structure)

Of course you have to stop off in Burano for the colour of the houses, which seems to get a bit more lurid each time.

Burano and its leaning campanile

...and flowers to match the house

An early morning trip to the markets is also a must in Venice. The fish always looks fantastic. Given what empties into that lagoon it is a wonder that the fish is fit to eat, but just look at these beauties, with their olive and pink colours...

and the rather sad looking little cicale di mare

not to mention the fantastic fruit and vegetables.

Like everywhere, Venice has its oddities too, which Nick particularly loves to capture. Strange signs perhaps...


To where? And who says?

And then the politically incorrect that quite blows your socks off!

Wine bottles in Rialto markets. Something for everyone perhaps?

We enjoyed some really good food, but not very often. Mostly it was everyday cooking at prices that were just too high. Lunches tended to be pannini and a drink. We looked for something better in the evening. The highlight was Il Ridotto, with five tables a small jewel with cuisine of a very high order and the type of service one associates with really good restaurants, that little generous extra something, the beautiful glassware and so on.

Lynn's carpaccio of fish

Another night we headed for a recommended place, only to find the menu had nothing we wanted to eat. Nearby we found a tiny bar/cafe Il Mocegnio with an all Italian menu. We chose a plate of salume, calamari and a plate of papardelle with tiny prawns, a few cherry tomatoes and wilted, sliced zucchini flowers. All delicious. Lots of tourists walked past, but only Italians came in, two parties en famille having a great time. We revisited San Trovaso for a pizza meal too; delightful as always.

The churches of Venice are little treasure troves. It is sad for me as a photographer when I cannot take photos inside but I then try to remember what I have seen. After a time they blur. We made an effort this time to visit some of the chorus churches and also fitted in the Scuole San Rocco, covered head to tail with Tintorettos, so memorable for their use of light and shade to emphasise the story (though I can't help but feel they might look different with a good clean). The carvings around the walls in the main salon were also extraordinary, representing virtues and gifts in such detail.

Eventually we got to Redentore, Frari, Santa Maria Formosa, Santa Maria Giglio (with a modest facade to the triumphs of a particular admiral to honour his own exploits) and the tiny market church of San Giovanni Elemensario.

Nave, Redentore

We visited San Giorgio Maggiore and went up the campanile

Choir stalls, San Giorgio

Angel on altar, San Giorgio

and took a free, guided visit about the history of St Mark's Basilica and the meanings behind the golden mosaics that cover the interior (no photos, sadly).

As well we found the church of San Angelo Raffael open, the church from "Miss Garnet's Angel" by Salley Vickers. The guardian took a shine to us and we were shown everything (in Italian) including the beautiful frescoes on the ceiling of the baptistry as well as the paintings of the story of Tobias and the angel on the organ loft. He kindly bent the rules and allowed a photo or two but of course with no flash.

 Organ Loft with scenes from the Tobias story

So, incipient heatstroke aside, Venice delighted again. I don't think we would go in summer if we returned, and we might choose to stay closer to a vaporetto stop and maybe a bit more out of the way, back to Dorsoduro perhaps. We would try to follow our rules on eating out more closely (away from the crowds, menus in Italian, no pictures of the food, ignoring beseeching waiters who lassoo you outside) and we have found we need to take things a bit more slowly. Ahh, the perils of old age!!

The next post will deal with Mantua and Vicenza and points around.


  1. Fabulous Photo's - Wish I was back there now (especially with this DREADFUL weather back in the UK!) 12 more sleeps and counting and I will be back there! YAY!

  2. Thanks for posting this blog. I stumbled upon it through TripAdvisor. The photos are really beautiful, and along with the text I can almost feel I've been there too. I'm travelling for the first time next year and you're inspiring me to keep a blog...


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