Tuesday, December 26, 2017

More walking around Venice

We had started one of the guided walking tours on the first day, wandering around St. Mark's. So after lunch on the second day, we finished it by doing the first half.

This tour explores the area of San Marco. Here's the link to the audio tours for Italy. We did the 4 Venice ones. We also did some from the book that aren't audio tours. This one is not an audio tour because I remember navigating via the tiny map in the book and the bigger map that we got from the hotel and the even-bigger folded one in the book.

Venice has most of the calles (streets) labeled but they are on plaques or stones in the walls of buildings and I couldn't find all of them. Plus they all look very similar and some of the turns are into very tiny alleyway entrances.

 This is one of the sights. The street used to be an umbrella-maker's street. It made for a good landmark as we were navigating at other times. The street to the right of the umbrellas leads to St. Mark's Square.

This pharmacy has a countdown of the declining population of Venice.

That is the countdown clock.

This is the Rialto bridge staircase (leading to the apex) from the bottom. You can see the shops on either side better.

A nicer view of the Accademia bridge. On some of our vaporetto trips, we placed ourselves for better viewing.

Finally, we ended the day with a visit to the Salute church. It is dedicated to the plague. You pray to the Virgin Mary in the church to avoid the plague. Venice was plagued by the plague (I couldn't resist, sorry!) many, many times. Crowded living conditions, damp, and sewage filled canals were conducive to the spread of disease.

Our third day was a short one,. We had to get to the cruise ship in the afternoon so we spent the morning going to the San Giorgio Maggiore church across the laguna and that ended up being a great visit.

But first, a mix-up. Our vaporetto stop near the hotel didn't have a ticket booth. So I wanted to buy the ticket ahead of time to go to the cruise ship. Our passes would expire before we went to the ship so we needed two more tickets. I went to the ticket booth at San Marco Square and asked to buy two tickets. The woman asked me where I was going. The way she worded it and it being early morning, I said "San Giorgio Maggiore' and she sold me two tickets to go across the laguna and back. I didn't need those! Our passes would have worked. Darn! So anyway I bought the other two tickets i needed at one of the other booths.

In addition to reflections, I love backlit photos where the sun (or light) creates a glow. This is the church and bell tower from the vaporetto.

The facade of the church.

The organ.  I also take a lot of photos of church organ pipes.

The church features two large paintings by Tintoretto.

The choir stalls were beautiful. I love church architecture.

One bonus was an art exhibit exploring people and diversity. The artist is Michaelangelo Pistoletto and the exhibit is called 'One and one makes three'. It featured mirrors, sculpture, murals, etc.

After going through the exhibit, we went to the bell tower. We wanted to go up one of the bell towers - this one or the one in St. Mark's Square. The one in the square always had a line so we decided to go up this one. The floor leading to the bell tower had the same sort of 3-D mosaic as in the Doge's Palace.

There is an elevator to the tower. No steps to climb except a few to get to the elevator.

The bells. They are rung automatically and I knew when they rang so we wouldn't be up there to be deafened by the sound.

Panoramic views across the laguna. That is St. Mark's square across the water. 

Looking down closer, I noticed this very interesting glass block wall down below. 

The cloisters associated with the church are also down there. That is the dome of he church.

After climbing down, we went to investigate the wall. It turned out to be associated with a glass blowing studio nearby and was not available to visit. So we just looked at it from outside the fence. By the way, in case you were wondering about the white arms on the building from yesterday's post, it was part of the Venice Biennale 2017 exhibit. This one might be too. I don't know. It was fun to try and look at it from different angles from outside a fence and a hedge.

Remember the raised walkways that are set up during Acqua Alta? This is what they look like. In most of the other places, they were stacked up with one being up-ended on top of another one. But outside San Giorgio Maggiore, they were set up as they would be during the flooding so I took a picture. 

Another one of my reflection photos.

After we got back from San Giorgio Maggiore, we went on the last walking tour. This one went from the other side of the Rialto bridge, which is on San Polo. The walk led to the Frari church which has works by Titian and other artists.

We walked through a number of plazas on the way.

This column is where people came to get their news. Every day someone would climb on this podium via the steps being held up by the hunchback, and read the day's announcements.

This is one of the oldest clocks in Venice. It is across from the news stand above. It predates the invention of minute hands, which is why it doesn't have one.

Pigeons are everywhere but they aren't always drinking water from a fountain. Some of the plazas are shady, some are not. Some have fountains, others have statues. They almost always have cafes. Some plazas are all cafe.

On the way we walked into Tragicomica, one of the famous mask making shops in Venice. Yes, there are lots of cheap touristy masks sold everywhere. I suspect most of them are made in China. But the beautiful Carnival masks are made by hand and this shop is one of the traditional makers. They asked us not to take photos inside the shop. I tried to take one of their shop window but the reflections made it difficult to see the contents.

The Frari church is magnificent.

This is a funerary monument to Titian, which is in the Frari church.

This one is a monument to Antonio Canova, which is based on a drawing he made for a tomb for Titian.

I loved this church.

After we left, we decided to see if we could get the traghetto across the canal instead of buying yet another single ride vaporetto ticket. We followed the signs and got to the traghetto stop with its green pillar. But there were no boats there. So we found our way back by foot, crossed the Rialto bridge and backtracked to our hotel.

Our hotel provided tea and coffee and cake in the afternoon. We sat and rested and had a little snack before we collected our suitcases and left. We had brought them down the flights of stairs in the morning and checked out so it was easy to leave.

To get to the cruise ship, we had to take the #1 vaporetto to Piazzale Roma, then take the People Mover to the cruise ship terminal. The People Mover takes people to the parking areas and the cruise ship terminal. Finding the People Mover was an adventure. We thought it was a trolley because we were following signs for it and then the sign stopped. There was a trolley station there. We were about to board when it occurred to me to ask. It was a good thing I did. We were then pointed to a building. We walked there and got the People Mover (we had bought tickets at the same time as we got our one way ride vaporetto ticket and the guy who sold it to us helpfully marked them with vaporetto and People Mover because they looked the same). At the other end, it was a short flat walk to the cruise ship.

This was only our second ocean cruise. I realized how convenient it is to be able to haul one's own suitcases on and off the ship. We just walked on and at Athens, we didn't have to commit to a time to leave. We just walked off when we were ready.

We spent the rest of the afternoon finding our way around the ship and relaxing. The ship didn't disembark till the next day from Venice so it was a quiet evening.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Walking and riding around Venice

One of the things I love to do is walk around cities. I get guide books that have walking tours or ones that have walking combined with public transportation. This time, I had bought Rick Steves pocket guides to Venice and Athens. These small books were very useful as they fit in my purse easily. Plus they had guided tours of interesting areas in the cities and museums and palaces. In addition, I found that they had these guided tours (most of them, but not all) in audio format that one could download via an app or as .mp3 files. This proved to be very useful.

We used the audio tour guide at St. Mark's on the first day. We started the second day with the Doge's Palace. i was really happy we got there when it opened. There was no line and we were in before we knew it. Later that day and the next day in mid-morning, the lines were around the building!

The Doge's Palace was the center of the Venetian Empire. A fact I learned was that Venice was sort of a democracy. Every citizen didn't have a vote. But every member of a noble family (males of course) had a vote and the Doge was voted in. The palace is designed to impress the visitor who comes to seek audience with the Doge and the ruling Council. It is also designed to humble them by keeping them waiting in waiting rooms that are impressive and showcase Venice's power and wealth.

 This is the entrance courtyard of the palace. At the far right in the back you can see the staircase of giants. An important visitor might be met by the Doge standing at the head of this staircase.

This is the view he would see, except with a Doge and his retinue at the top.

Our tour started at another staircase, which led up to the Doge's apartments and important governmental rooms.

A gilded ceiling is impressive. 

How about a marble floor that looks 3-D from on high?

More gilded ceilings on the next flight of stairs.

Then one goes into the various rooms where  one waits. All of them have beautiful paintings and frescoes.

Finally, one is admitted to the chamber where the Full Council sits.

That is where everyone sits and you present your gifts, and your case.

The ceiling of the Full Council chamber.

Looking out over the laguna from a window in the Council Chamber. There was a party going on in that restaurant directly across.

The courtyard from on high, There's that staircase again.

But not all of the apartments were for the visitors. Venice ruled with a iron hand. We saw a judges' chamber where people were brought in for trial. You were arrested when someone denounced you. Very often you didn't know who accused you. You didn't have any legal representation. You were brought before the judges and you hoped they believe you. If they didn't, there was a door right in the chamber leading to the prisons. Savonarola was tried in that chamber and walked through that door.

The way then led through some dark and dank corridors across the Bridge of Sighs. The bridge connects the Doge's palace with the prisons. There are openings in the bridge and one can see the laguna and the pier. This would be your last view of the world outside. The prisons had no windows and were damp and cold. Remember that Venice is close to the water. Some of those rooms were below the water line.

This is the Bridge of Sighs from the other side - the outside. In the previous picture, you see a bridge in front of the laguna with heads of people on it. This photo was taken from that bridge.

After our visit to the Doge's palace, we went on a walking tour of Venice - another audio guided tour. We had the files/app on our phones and used headphones which meant we didn't look too much like tourists. But in Venice, almost every other person is a tourist so it doesn't matter. It is very expensive to live in Venice so many of the people who work there live on Mestre and commute in. There is more space and it is cheaper. The taxi fares are lower for locals than for tourists.

Anyway, the next few photos are from the walking tour around Venice. No specific comments on any of them.

This dark photo is the sign for Harry's Bar. Hemingway hung out here.

Venice's famous opera house - La Fenice. It is pretty spectacular on the inside though we didn't get any further in than the lobby. There is a fee and I didn't want to pay it to see the empty theatre. Donna Leon's first book is 'Death at La Fenice'. The cover of the book shows the inside of the theatre.

 I like reflections and I photograph them a lot.

There are power boats on the canals. Venice has garbage boats, police boats (with flashing lights), ambulance boats, and apparently even a UPS boat. We didn't see that one though we kept our eyes open for it.

Each square has a statue or two. And occasionally (behind the statue) a modern building.

This is a beautiful spiral staircase. The building is private so you can't go in but it is a hidden gem.

The famous Rialto bridge.

Looking down from the top one way.

And the other. It is jam packed with people, especially on the outside of the shops overlooking the river.

From the top of the bridge, on the outside, one side is peaceful and serene.

The other is full of traffic! The boats sometimes wait to go under the bridges because they are narrower than the canal.

After this walk, we decided to do the guided tour of the Grand Canal by taking the #1 vaporetto. We bought a pass that allowed us to get on and off as we pleased.

Most of the ground or first floors of the buildings are not occupied. This is because they get flooded regularly. There is a phenomenon called Acqua Alta, which occurs at high tide. Water floods in between the stones and there are stacks of elevated boardwalks piled in all the main areas. These are put out for people to walk on.

This is one of the bridges that links Piazzale Roma to the other islands.

Piazzale Roma. Buses, trolleys, cars, etc.

This is what the bridge looks like (the one from two photos ago). Parts of the floor are clear.

To the left, you can see the vaporetti stops at Piazzale Roma and a vaporetto. At each stop, there are multiple docks. Each dock indicates which lines stop there. Once you get your ticket, you look at a board that tells you when the next boat is for each line and in which direction and the letter of the dock.

Piazzale Roma is on Santa Croce island. We spent most of our time on San Marco. This is looking out onto Santa Croce.

 We found a little park on Santa Croce near the Piazzale Roma. It is one of the few places we saw trees in Venice.

How's that for a Burger King? Even in Venice!

The Scalzi bridge. There are only 4 bridges across the Grand Canal.

The train station. It is across the bridge from the Piazzale Roma. The trains go across the same causeway to the mainland.

Looking at the Rialto bridge from the vaporetto.

The Accademia bridge. It is really beautiful. It is the only bridge we didn't walk over.

This is the Peggy Guggenheim museum entrance.

The Santa Maria del Salute church.

The Grand Canal empties into the laguna at St. Mark's Square. Across the laguna from the square is the San Giorgio Maggiore church. We went there the next day.

This is the customs house. It is right at the end of the canal.

All this was in the first half of the second day. I'll continue with the rest of day 2 next.