Vintage Venice

Day 1: 

We left the Firenze Santa Maria Novella railway station in the morning by Trenitalia train for Venice(Venezia Santa Lucia railway station). Be wary and get down at the correct station and not the similar sounding one ( Vicenza)just before just as did.

We had opted for a hotel in the mail island and in the Castello neighbourhood which is rather quiet in spite of not being too far from the crowded St.Mark’s area. We took a vaporetto( public water taxi) from the railway station to the Rialto taxi stand. Remember you have to walk to your hotel in Venice from the vaporetto stop and since most hotels do not have lift, you should choose your hotel well.The view of the grand canal from the vaporetto is remarkable and you can even see the gondolas in the smaller canals.

The 10 minute walk or so from the Rialto vaporetto taxi stop to our hotel involved crossing number of small bridges, climbing steps and passing through alleys like the one below.

After checking into our hotel, we went to the St. Mark’s area to check out the place. The square is large and the area beautiful.And I would that like in St. Peter’s square in Vatican and the Piazza Del Campo at Siena, take a 360 degree video of the square in your camera.

And the sea looks so serene near the busy promenade.

Armed with the Google map we next headed from near the Palazzo Ducale( Doge’s Palace) to Jewish ghetto. Enroute we passed very thinly crowded ( a rarity in Venice) piazza like the one below with musicians playing ( do remember to drop some coins in the collection box).

Picture: Campo Santa Maria Formosa.

After about an hour of walking through almost deserted lanes, shopping at supermarket ( named Coop , a cooperative,many of whose branches we were to patronise over the next few days), asking for directions we finally reached the Jewish ghetto passing an arch that read” Sotoportego Del Ghetto Vecchio “. A small dark alley leads you into the ghetto. The place is quiet and you will not that buildings here are seven to eight stories high, which is unusual for Venice.

The Synagogues seemed closed and we therefore spent some time in the quiet and main section of the ghetto. There are a few cafes , bakeries and souvenir shops.

If you are seeking some quietness and avoiding the crowds in Venice, Jewish ghetto is just the place.

After that we went round some part of the quiet Cannaragio area which we would explore more the next day.My health app showed that we had walked 14 kms that day and relished the same.

Day 2: We had booked online a skip-the- line ticket to get into St. Mark’s Basilica by paying a small convenience fee if 2 Euros.Just as well as we saw long crowd queuing on the wooden platforms which were put up during the time of high tide. We were advised online to take an entry around 11 AM as the lights inside are switched on that time. We could get in before our appointed time of 10.45 am and saw some lights on inside.Photography is not allowed inside and you have to be satisfied with photographs outsidelike the one below.

Occurred tourists were merrily taking photographs inside. 

The Basilica is open from 9.45 am to 5 pm Monday to Saturday and 2-5 pm on Sundays. In winter the closing time is preponed by an hour. Entry is free.The original Basilica had burnt down in 932 and the new unforgettable structure with walls clad in marbles from Syria , Egypt and Palestine was rebuilt. In the far left portal from the front you can see mosaics from 1270 show St Mark’s body arriving at the Basilica.Just inside by the main door is the “Apostles with the Madonna”.

To visit the ” Pala dOro” you need to pay a fee of 2 Euros. It is well worth it as you can see a gold altarpiece studded with 2000 emeralds, amethysts, Sapphires, rubies, pearls and other gemstones. You need to a further fee of 3 Euros to visit the treasury. There are queues to get into both these attractions but there is no system of purchasing advance tickets.

The interior of the Basilica is truly remarkable If you do not visit the Pala dOro you will need about 15 minutes to visit the inside.

Since we had the day to ourselves we embarked on seeing the free sights of Venice.We first went in search of Casa di Tintoretto. In this offbeat corner of Cannaregio , Tintoretto lived and painted.The corner of Fondamenta dei Mori is unique because of presence of a white statue with a metal nose.

By the entrance to Tintoretto ‘s house is another flamboyant statue of a turbaned Mooridh trader.

On the ground floor of the house there is a studio run by a local.

On the way and back from Casa di Tintoretto, we came across beautiful and deserted scenes in Carnegie as the following photographs shows.

With the help of Google map we next moved to the next free attraction: Scalia Contarini Del Bovolo. Actually going up the towering staircase of swirling arches.The palace itself is unremarkable and the Gothic staircase was tacked to the  outside in 1499.

That night we crossed the Rialto bridge and the following is a photograph of the Grand Canal from the bridge.

That day we had walked 16.4 kms.

Day 3: Today we had planned something not in line with the DIY of our trip. We had booked a Skip-the-Line tour of the Doge’s Palace. The decision to go for this tour was guided by the fact that the online ticket for Doge’s Palace also included visits to some other museums. We were not keen on seeing many museums and therefore looked for an option which would include visit to only the Doge’s palace.We came across this Expedia tour which included a free trip to a glass factory in Murano island as well.It turned out that the tour was actually organised by “Turve Venice City Tours”. The tour started from the clock tower in the St. Mark’s square which is near the Basilica di San Marco ( do not confuse with the Bell Tower which is located in the exit side of Doge’s Palace, as we did).The place is full of activities and confusion as many tours originate from this point.With some difficulty we located our group with an English speaking guide. We were handed our audio guides and entry ticket worth 26 Euros and included visit to the following three museums besides the Doge’s Palace:Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico  and Sale Monumeritall Biblioteca Marciana all located in the St. Mark’s square. So much for a ticket for entry only to the Doge’s Palace!

Doge’s Palace represented the seat of Venetian political power for centuries.Doge’s Palace is known locally as Palazzo Ducale and was the former home of the Duke.This grand Gothic palace was also the prison for nearly seven centuries. 

Large bags are not allowed inside although there is a facility to deposit them for safe keeping on the ground floor.

Picture top: the imposing Palazzo Ducale shot from the Courtyard at the entrance.

The facade is made of white stone and pink marble.We climbed the Scala dei Censori( Stairs of the Censors) to the Doges Apartments on the first floor.

The real highlights are in the lavishly decorated second floor chambers.To reach it you have to walk up the marvellous Scala dOro( Golden Staircase photograph below) and emerge into second floor rooms.

Picture top: Sala Della Quattro Porte( Hall of the Four Doors) where ambassadors used to await ducal audience

The rooms with paintings and ornate ceilings of the various rooms will hold you spell bound. The rooms are so dazzling that I would suggest that you record a 360 degree view on your video.

Picture top: Sala Del Senato( Senate Hall)

Picture top: Higher Council Hall(Sala Del Maggior Consiglio): the ceiling has the biggest oil painting in the worls( started by Tintoretto and finished by his son Domenico. 

You will be able to see dungeons where prisoners were housed and you can also see the graphiti made by them. You can finally cross the Bridge of Sighs which the prisoners crossed to go to the adjacent prisons to complete their time in the dungeons. It seems as they crossed the bridge, the prisoners sighed loudly and hence the name of the bridge. Unlike the Golden Staircase the Bridge of Sighs is pretty ordinary.

Once you are through it may be a good idea to use the washrooms at the ground floor.Our guide had told us that of the three museums to which one can get free entry with the ticket, she would recommend Museo Correr, located at the end opposite to the St. Mark’s Basilica.

We had less than two hours to pass before our free trip to the glass factory in Murano. We used this time to grab a quick lunch and also see the Museo Correr. We would probably not have visited it but for the fact that the entry was free with the Doge’s Palace ticket. The Correr Museum has been laid out ( not very systematically though towards the end)

in various sections that offer an insight into the art and history of Venice.The museum has been been well maintained and is aesthetically very pleasing. The “Imperial Rooms” and the “Neoclassical Rooms” are the highlights.

Picture top: Ballroom which is a part of Neoclassical rooms

Picture top: Dining-room which is part of Imperial Rooms

I would suggest that you use the free washrooms at the museum before you come out for good.

At 2 PM we again gathered near the clock tower and joined other tourists for Turve’s tour to a glass blowing factory in Murano island by private motorlaunch. We got into the motorlaunch from a point off the Doge’s Palace.

Picture top: view from private motor launch 

We reached the glass blowing factory after a comfortable ride of about 40 minutes in the private motor launch.We could see artisans demonstrating their mastery of the ancient art of glass blowing.

After the demonstration lasting about half an hour with commentary in English and other languages we trooped into the showroom where beautiful glass items were put up for display. Unfortunately photographs are not allowed. After using the free washroom facility we parted company from our group and did not join them for the return journey to St. Mark’s.Instead we requested the factory manager to show us the way to Murano which he did very kindly. We walked by scenic routes besides channels and did some shopping in few of the many souvenir shops located in the island. You can imagine the state of the crafts as some shops displayed notice stating that they do not sell Chinese products!

We also stumbled to a lovely sight of blue coloured glass structure called “Comet Glass Star”(Cometa di Vetro) in a square.

We found our way to the jetty from where we caught a vaporetto to Burano island. However be aware of the elderly gentleman at the vaporetto ticket kiosk in Murano trying to push the 24 hour pass to you even if you do not need it.

The trip to Burano took about 15-20 minutes with a stop at another island enroute. Burano lived up to its reputation of beautiful coloured houses in idyllic surroundings.Be aware that the vaporetto kiosk closed around 6 PM and the ticket machine did not accept credit card on the day of our visit. Worse, the machine does not accept high denomination notes like 100 and 50 Euros..

There is not much to do in Burano except to walk about the island. There are a number of shops selling the famed lace products. But we read somewhere that most of the products are Chinese made.You will also be able to see the leaning tower of Burano.

We got a direct vaporetto to St. Mark’s and it was late by the time we reached our hotel. Inspire of our rides in water we had walked 15.3 kms.

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