Individual Days - Italy

Venice

September 18, 2023

The Hotel Serenissima provided a hardy breakfast for our group. After eating, we started our Venice orientation tour.

We met our local tour guide, Laura, for a winding, walking tour through the canals of Venice.

The city is built on wood pilings driven down to the hard clay. I would have thought the water would break down the wood, but it serves to petrify it. However, the wood beams are periodically replaced. There are a lot of renovations and repairs being done all over Venice.

New wood piling is being installed.
Gondola under Rialto Bridge

Have you heard the phrase “worth your weight in salt”? Salt was a highly sought-after commodity because it was used to preserve as well as a spice. Salt was a major export that helped make Venice wealthy.

In 1878, an aqueduct was built to bring fresh water to the island.

Laura took us to Cà del Sol – a Venetian mask and costume shop. The artists create masks for carnival and balls as well as for decoration. We got an overview from Ahmit on how masks are made and decorated. The guys in our tour group also got to model some of the traditional mask styles.

Special paper and glue to make paper-mâché mask.
Cutting out eyes - different shapes show different expressions.

We finished our group tour in St. Mark’s Square. The rest of the day was free, so we booked visits to Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica.

Doge's Palace

Cynthia was our guide for the “Secrets of Doge’s Palace” tour. We went behind the scenes to see prison cells, interrogation rooms, the various courtrooms, law libraries, etc.

We also got to hear the story of Casanova’s time in prison in 1755, who helped him, and how he escaped in 1756. We also heard the tale of the guard who ended up taking his place.

Inner courtyard
Lower-level cell - as the tide comes in, the cell would fill with water. Would be very cold in winter!
Cell numbers were upside down Roman numerals which instilled fear and represented they were damned to the underworld.
Infirmary
Torture Room
Ceiling Casanova was digging through to escape. Fortunately, he stopped before he destroyed the artwork.

After we finished the tour, we walked through the rest of the Doge’s Palace. We walked over the Bridge of Sighs to the main prison area.

We saw so many young tourists posing and taking selfies with the Bridge of Sighs as a backdrop. I don’t think they understand what it is. It isn’t a romantic bridge – like sighing because you are in love. This is where the prisoners walked after being sentenced from the courtroom to the prisons. The prisoners would look out of the small openings and sigh as they viewed their beloved Venice for the last time.

Inner courtyard towards St. Mark’s Basilica
San Giorgio Maggiore from Doge’s Terrace
Bridge of Sighs - South View
Bridge of Sighs - North View
Bridge of Sighs

St. Mark's Basilica

What does every Catholic Church need? A relic. St. Mark’s Basilica is said to hold the remains of St. Mark. In 828, two Venetian merchants traveled to Alexandria, Egypt, and stole the remains of St. Mark. The original basilica was built as an extension of the Doge’s Palace and was completed in 832 to house the remains.

St. Mark’s Basilica which now exists was built in 1063. It was built in the Byzantine style to represent the power of the prosperous Venetian Republic. The basilica is known for its gold mosaics everywhere.

Pala D’Oro is Italian for “Golden Pall” or “Golden Cloth”. It is the high altar at St. Mark’s Basilica. The photos do not do it justice. It is covered in gold!

The Loggia dei Cavalli are the 4 horses that were displayed at the Hippodrome of Constantinople until taken from the Byzantine Empire by Venetian forces in 1204. The collars around the necks were added to cover the seams where the looters had cut off the heads of the horses to transport them. The horses were installed on the terrace of St. Mark’s Basilica in 1254. The real horses are now inside the museum with replicas outside on the terrace.

Got to see some of the mosaics up close. Zoom in to see the tiny tiles that are used throughout the entire church.

The original horses from the 8th or 9th century
The golden angel (Gabriel) on top of the tower is a weathervane.
Saints and Angels killing dragons is a reoccurring theme in Venice.

Unfortunately, most Vaporettos were canceled due to a one-day strike of the transportation workers. Instead of visiting the other islands, we just walked around the main island.

Dinner

We switched up our dinner plans and ate a light dinner early right off St. Mark’s Square.

Romantic Evening

After dinner, we attended the Interpreti Veneziani Orchestra at San Vidal Church.

We strolled back to our hotel and enjoyed Venice at night.

We walked 9.8 miles today.

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