Friday, 21 August 2009

Venice... still the most romantic

Venice in Summer: hot, sticky, crowded, and yet still the most romantic city in the world...

It's often said that nothing changes; the elegant waiters edge between tables on the Piazza San Marco where they charge €9.50 (about $13.620) for a cup of espresso caffe.

But, but, but... there are some awful things happening. What have they done to the Bridge of Sighs? Giant hoardings have taken away all context, all relevance from the bridge that led from the old prisons to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace. The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge name, given by Lord Byron in the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice out the window before being taken down to their cells.

Seen in January 2008, it's obvious what it's all about. The Palazzo dei Dogi is on the left and the Piombi (the leads - see for explanation) on the right.

The Rialto is always the Rialto, and, indeed, it seems to need the tourist crowds to fulfil its purpose and bring it to life.

There are, of course, all the tiny sottoporteggi and the calli that exit suddenly onto a hidden canal. This, I thought, was a good photo, but, unfortunately the gondola's occupants couldn't resist waving.

Who do you love, my friend?

Nobody as much as myself!

San Giorgio Maggiore, where all the Tintorettos (Tintoretti???) are. Must get over there later.

We took the opportunity of our long-term vaporetto tickest to show some new friends the islands of Murano and Burano. Murano is where the glass comes from, though I'm sure much of the cheaper stuff in the shops comes from China. The Muranesi are running a positive campaign saying "Nothing in this shop comes from China. Stop killing Murano."

We found this small palazzo and thought we might buy it as a holiday home. Looks like it needs a LOT of work!

This is Marea on the bridge over Murano's main canal. This was a very hot day - about 32°C (90°F) and very humid. We took the vaparetto to Burano where all the coloured houses are. and they sell lace instead of glass.

This was Sunday morning, so all the locals were in church or visiting the cemetery on San Michele with large bunches of flowers.

It livened up later and we had lunch in a very good fish restaurant. Risotto and tagliatelle (not both, but between us).

Getting back to the Michelangelo, we found we had been upstaged by a bigger and better boat. this was fenced off and had a private office erected on the Riva Sette Martiri to make sure no-ne got in who wasn't welcome. Don't know who it belonged to, but we saw nobody either on board or coming and going.

This was the only bad weather we had; the weather forecast before we left England predicted rain 3 days out of 5, but we know what to do with weather forecasts, don't we! Barbeque Summer - HA!

The thunder clouds gradually rolled in and gave us a wonderful sunset and thunder & lightning after dark.

Next day, we got up early and went down to queue for St Mark's. Because we were their before opening time, we didn't have to wait too long, nor stand in the hot sun.

St Mark's is very beautiful inside, but rather dark. The camera makes the light appear much better than it really is. However, the mosaics are remarkable and you can see something of the development of the building over all those centuries.

Then we decided to keep our appointment with Tintoretto...

Via Titian... These are in Santa Mariea Della Salute. I could rapturise about Titian and Tintoretto and all the other Venetian School painters, but I'm sure you know all about them (if not, try Wikipedia).

Then back on the vaporetto, across the lagoon to San Giorgio.

Where the Tintorettos are placed all around the hexagonal walls. They are completely open to the atmosphere and could do with a clean, but the camera brings out the colours and the fabulous technique. It's hard to believe that these paintings are over 400 years old. I think of Tintoretto as the archetypical Venetian painter and he's usually described as the last great painter of the Italian renaissance.

It's wonderful to stand in front of these great paintings (particularly the Last Supper) without museum guards, or indeed anyone else keeping an eye on you. We also went to Ca' Rezzonico to see the Tiepolo frescoes which are, I have to say, my absolute favourites, but they don't allow photographs in there. You can see a couple of the Punchinello frescoes at and at

So we then went off to Chioggia, which, because it wasn't market day unlike the last time we were there, wasn't terribly interesting. (I did take this rather arty shot.) Last time, the temperature was about zero degrees; we had snow and sleet, Marea bought a rather fetching hat to help her keep warm...

... and we retired to the Bar Aurora, a real fisherman's bar, with real fishermen, to drink coffee and get warm.

This time, the bar seemed closed, so we went elsewhere, but as we made our way back to the dock, it began to open for the afternoon. Just bad timing, I guess.

Last day... we went to see the early markets West of the Rialto, then made our way via vaporetto to Ca' Rezzonico (which I can recommend if you've got at least half a day to look around a gallery) to the Accademia where we sat outside and had pizzas and cool white wine while watching the gondlas and vaporetti going back and forth.



  1. Oh I do envy you Jim! The nearest I got to Venice was the Canalettos(i) I suppose that little palazzo would be a palazzetto?!

    A lot of work but well worth it. The other way to get to Venice without leaving home is the Donna Leon novels.

    ... among the galleries the women come and go talking of Tintoretto...!

  2. Hi, a lady on our table was a Donna Leon buff. I've never read them, but she got us all fired up. Any way of getting back to Venice can't be all bad!

    Still keep watching Francesco da Mosto's dvds. He has his own island!!!