by

Zoe Enyedy


taly was a trip that grew and grew. It began with a small decision I made to tour Italy with Grand European Tours. After investigating their record with the Better Business Bureau, and finding it satisfactory I told my family of my plan.

Roseann thought that sounded like a good idea, and decided to join me. Both of us liked the plan that we would visit Venice, Florence, and Rome with 3 days in each city. The first day was a conducted tour, and the next 2 days were free to do whatever we wanted. For me, that meant Photography! Roseann liked it too. When we told my son, Art about it, he thought it might be fun for him and Melanie, his wife, to go also; but instead of taking the tour, they would “parallel” us, being in the same city at the same time, but staying in an apartment, instead of a hotel; thereby saving money. We could be together on our 2 free days. It sounded wonderful. With our plane reservations confirmed, and payments made, what could go wrong? We found out.

About 3 weeks before our scheduled departure date, I received a phone call notifying me, that our tour had been cancelled; but they would be glad to schedule us on the one a week earlier. Our flights were frequent flyer redemptions, which are sold out months in advance, Roseann had arranged for a competent person to supervise their business, a place for their youngest son to stay, and more things that simply could not be re-arranged.

Art’s wife, Melanie, is very computer-literate and volunteered for what must have seemed an impossible task: to rent an apartment for 4 people at a very busy time, in very popular places in 2 cities, close to major attractions, with no more than 1 flight of stairs to climb. How she did it is a marvel to us all, but she was successful! Our first apartment was actually 2 small apartments for 2 people adjoining each other, only a 10 minute walk from the Grand Canal where we could catch a vaporetto, or water bus which would take us to any part of the old city. A vaporetto is a large motorized passenger boat which goes up and down the Grand Canal, criss-crossing it from side to side. Buy a ticket from the machine, get on the boat that is going where you want to go, and get on, just like a land bus.

n the afternoon of September 19th Roseann and I left Cleveland, and going by way of Newark, NJ; and Paris, France, finally reached Venice. We looked out the window to try to find the canals as we were coming in to land. They were easy to locate from the air, now if only they were that easy on land…

We finally did locate the dock for the vaporetto, and boarded easily. The wisdom of Art’s insistence on carry-on luggage was very apparent, when we had no trouble boarding. Going down the Grand Canal it was fun to see the buildings just like their pictures, colorful, others very ornate, and gondolas all around. It’s fun to walk into a living postcard!

As our vaporetto went along, it was especially fun to be able to identify the Rialto Bridge from the many pictures I had seen of it in my studies before leaving.

Rialto Bridge

Almost everyone who has been to Italy raves about their gelato. As an ice cream fan, I was eager to try some, and it was not long before we spotted the largest gelato ice cream cone I had ever seen! Talk about a good omen! Despite the fact that it turned out to be a disguised trash can, the gelato from the near-by store was delicious! I wondered why gelato never melts, but never found out.

Venice has many small shops all over the historic area where we stayed, and we went window shopping. Quite a few shops offered masks for sale, to be worn at Carnavale time. It was fun to select which ones were most attractive. One store drew attention to its merchandise by displaying it outdoors. This particular costumed outfit did not appeal to me as a potential partner.

Masked Friend

We first needed to check into our apartment. Just under the doorway on the left is our door. Should you keep walking straight ahead, you would splash right into the small canal at the foot of the 3 steps. There was so much to see and do, we began at once. The first thing to do was to check in to our apartment. Our entry door was on the left side of the small hall. The window in the picture is across the canal that runs between our building and the one across the canal. The window in my bedroom was directly above the canal. We crossed this little bridge every time we left our apartment.

Courtyard of our Apartment

Bridge over Canal behind the Apartment

St. Barnabas Church was quite a busy place. It was an early Saturday evening and people were arriving for the evening mass.

San Barnaba

e walked around, found a grocery store and bought some fresh food. We knew that Art and Melanie would be arriving later, due to their 6 hour layover in Germany. Venice is so far from Seattle that it is shorter to fly the circumpolar route – over Greenland! – than to come across the United States and then the North Atlantic!

We saw another church with people exiting this time. It was beginning to impress us just how old these churches were – even older than our country.

Santa Maria Gloriosa

We crossed the Grand Canal on the Rialto Bridge, and found signs advertising a concert that evening. Roseann dearly wanted to attend an opera while in Italy, and I joined her. The concert was held near the opera house, which was easy to find.

The 9 musicians and 2 singers were all wearing costumes. They did not act, but most stood in place and sang. It was actually very beautiful. Of course, they sang and spoke in Italian, so we understood not a word, but the songs were lovely and the accompaniment beautiful.


Saint Mark’s Basilica

aint Mark’s Basilica, a place of worship and historical association for Venetians, is without a doubt, the leading symbol of the city of Venice, attracting visitors from far and wide because of its special charm and wealth of Oriental features.

St. Mark’s Church was the Duke’s chapel until the end of the 18th century, when it became the city’s cathedral. The first St. Mark’s Church was built in the corner of the ancient Ducal Palace after 828 (that’s right – only 3 digits in the year) when St. Mark’s body was shipped by the Venetians from Alexandria to Venice. In 976 the church was largely destroyed by fire. It was immediately restored by the reigning Doge (Duke). But it was not until 1063 that an unknown architect began work on a much bigger church modeled on the twelve Apostles’ Basilica in Constantinople. In October of 1094, St. Mark’s body was given its final burial in a marble arch in the center of the crypt under the high altar, and the church was consecrated.

There are extensive mosaic decorations in the Basilica, reflecting the Byzantine influence on Venice, which had extensive trade with the east at that time.

Because it was Sunday, we caught a vaporetto, to St. Mark’s Square. It appeared that most of the people in northern Italy had done the same thing. The line to enter the church was hundreds of people long, and moved slowly. When we actually reached the door, we were told we had to go around to the side and check our bags, just like at airports – no photos in the church! I can understand why not during the Mass; but not afterward. By the time we went through that line we had to get back into the entrance door line, and by then all the seats were taken. I just stood in one of the aisles like everybody else. Sometimes one of the people who had come just to see the architecture, would get up and leave, and somebody else would take their seat, but that never happened for me.

A statue of Saint Mark stands at the peak of the front entrance.

Beautiful mosaics above the church entrance

From the balcony, we watched a tour group walking through St. Mark's Basilica. Note the gold ceilings.

Interior view of Saint Mark's cathedral.

fter Mass, we stayed to look around and admire the immense beauty of the Basilica, but still were not permitted any pictures. After retrieving our photo equipment, we toured a small museum on an upper level of the church, where some very old mosaic pictures were displayed. It was amazing to see how a total picture could be formed by placing small pieces of glass or small colored stones into a pattern.

Mosaic of a warrior

Fragment of mosaic depicting two of the three wisemen

There is a complex story regarding the four bronze horses, La Quadriga from ancient times, around 4 BC – 4AD. They were brought to Rome by Nero. The Emperor Constantine stole them and brought them to Constantinople/Istanbul. The crusaders brought them back from Constantinople to Venice. Napoleon stole them and brought them to Paris when he conquered Venice. When Napoleon fell, the Venetians stole them back. Although the originals are indoors in the museum under heavy guard lest someone take a picture of them; there are good copies outside just above the entrance to the main doors.

The four horses of Venice

On another side of the church I enjoyed the view to the Grand Canal and the open sea beyond.

I'm standing on the balcony of Saint Mark's, the Grand Canal is visible behind me.

High above the crowd runs a walkway called a loggia. From there we could look out over the enormous St. Mark’s Square, two football fields long.

Napoleon called this square “The most beautiful drawing room in Europe”


Saint Mark's Square: Bell Tower (Campanile) and Clock Tower

he tallest structure in Venice is the Bell Tower (Campanile). It replaced a shorter lighthouse, once part of the original fortress/palace that guarded the entry of the Grand Canal. The lighthouse crumbled without warning in 1902, a thousand years after it was built. It was rebuilt with the addition of an elevator, which made it possible for me to “climb” to the top. We were having so much fun, we were unaware of the time, and just as the elevator doors opened, the bells rang BONG, BONG, BONG, 12 TIMES for noon.

The Campanile

What an ear-shattering experience!”

From 300 feet up, the view of Venice was wonderful. It seemed a bit strange to be looking DOWN on the roof of St. Mark’s Basilica.

Five domes on the roof of Saint Mark's basilica in the shape of a cross

St. Mark’s Square did not seem as long from this height, as it did when I walked across it.

Saint Mark's square

Santa Maria della Salute was undergoing restoration, but will be beautiful when the repairs are completed.

Scaffolding surrounds Santa Maria della Salute

I would have liked to visit San Giorgio Maggiore across the canal, but there simply was not enough time.

The bell tower, dome and front white facade of the church San Giorgio Maggiore

San Giorgio Maggiore seemed to occupy its entire island.

We had a good look down upon the spires of St. Mark’s Basilica.

From the Campanile, this is the view looking down to the balcony of Saint Mark's

Elsewhere in the square is found the clock tower built during the Renaissance in 1496. Notice the numbers on the clock face which change every 5 minutes. This is a 24 hour clock which also shows the signs of the zodiac.

From the piazza you can see the men of bronze, which swing their huge clappers at top of each hour. In the 17th century, one of them knocked an unaware workman off the top to his death.

The pigeons of St. Mark’s Square are well-known throughout the world.

There are many pigeons in Saint Mark's square

ne evening we went to St. Mark’s Square to see how it looked at night. There were fewer people, but by no means did we have it to ourselves. St. Mark’s Basilica seemed even more elegant by night.

Saint Mark's square and bell tower (the Campanile) lit up at night.

The square itself was not deserted either although the buildings were closed. I thought it held a different kind of beauty.

The basilica illuminated at night.

Lest we become too enchanted, the next morning brought us back to the reality of the vendors - ever present.


The Doge's Palace

nother wall of St. Mark’s Square (actually a rectangle) is the Doge’s Palace, a beautiful building, with a fascinating history. The Doge was the Duke, or ruler of this most powerful half-acre in Europe for 400 years. The palace was built to show off his wealth and power and to remind everyone that Venice was #1. In the center of the courtyard was a huge basin for water.

View from inside the courtyard of the Doge's Palace

The carved well in the center of the courtyard

The Doge's Palace was built with different styles of architecture, reflecting the influence of other cultures with whom they traded. The bottom level of arches are rounded in Venetian Gothic style, whereas the upper level are more pointed in Eastern or Islamic flavor.

Beautiful tiers of arches adorn the interior walls of the courtyard at the Doge's Palace

A small portion of the Doge’s Palace shows its great detail.

Even the most important visitors climbed the Giant’s staircase to meet the Doge. The white marble of the staircase was brilliant even on a cloudy day.

The statues of Mars and Neptune stand at the top of the staircase.

The Doge was elected for life, and lived with his family on the first floor near the halls of power. Take the conducted tour with its one-way path. You will see the stairway with its gold ceiling meant to impress visitors – you will be impressed.

A little farther along is a hallway with another gold decorated ceiling.

Around the palace were letterboxes carved with faces, the letterboxes were called “The Mouth of Truth.” Anyone could put an anonymous note into its mouth, accusing anyone of anything.

The Mouth of Truth

Instead of golden ceilings, those found guilty were led instead to the gateway to the prison, over the Bridge of Sighs, where they supposedly sighed at their last look at freedom.

The prison hallway, and the rough wooden bed inside one of the cells.

An ornate trellis that decorates the window on theBridge of Sighs - prisoners sighed as they got their last glimpse of beautiful Venice through the window as they were marched to their prison cells.

Exterior view of the Bridge of Sighs


The Grand Canal

et’s take a gondola cruise while we are in Venice! Our first step is to select a gondola. It should be easy to find one – they seem to be everywhere. One of these should be suitable.

Everyone knows the Rialto Bridge.

A row of gondolas moored just south of the Rialto Bridge

hat is Venice most famous for? Its gondolas, of course. They are a means of high class transportation, like a limousine is here; and just as expensive too; even more so if the gondolier sings. I never did hear one sing.

There are many gondolas for hire

Evidently we did not appear as valuable passengers to this gondolier, who turned away whenever he saw me pointing my camera in his direction. So I used a little trick I read about. With my wide angle lens on my camera, I pointed at an object far to the left, just barely including the gondolier on the extreme right. When I got home, I cropped off the left side of the picture, and no one was unhappy.

The Reluctant Gondolier

Sadly, Venice is a dying city, which tries to maintain its appearance of beauty and wealth as it sinks into the mud. Many buildings are flooded to the first floor, and their owners have moved to upper floors to live; leaving the lower floor to the waves.

Some of the buildings present a distorted reflection in the water.

To our surprise we saw a statue of a Golden Pigeon being floated somewhere right under the small bridge near our apartment! It must have been intended for some sort of memorial. To a pigeon!


The Outer Islands of Venice

enice is not one island, but a collection of many islands. Roseann and I boarded a ferry to the lesser known islands of Burano, known for its lace, and famous Murano, famous for its exquisite glass making. Murano was originally denied a portion of the main city because of the danger of fire spreading to the entire city from its glass-making furnaces. It therefore set up its headquarters on a small group of outer islands; and did so well many people come here purposely to admire and purchase its products. The residents of both Burano and Murano have painted their homes in bright colors.

The ferry stopped first at Murano, and we found that the homes were indeed brightly painted – for the benefit of the tourists, I suspect.

Brightly painted houses in Murano

In only a few steps we realized that the signs of the shops were mosaics of glass pieces. Imagine the time and patience needed to complete them!

Mosaic Signs

This was a modern day application of an age-old art form.

Some pretty flowers in a flower box looked too fresh and pretty, as if they were out of season, until I realized they were made of glass!

A flower box full of glass flowers

Like everyone else, we enjoyed “window shopping,” and Roseann fell in love with these beautiful pink and white striped glass objects.

Of course, a glass-making city must have some outstanding work of art for its central focus. Sure enough, Murano has this immense blue glass “sculpture” of glass rather than marble to attract the attention of visitors. It certainly was beautiful, but I was impressed that no vandals had broken or damaged it.

e continued on to the church of San Pietro on Murano, which had a lovely glass chandelier.

Glass Chandelier inside the church of San Pietro

The Main Altar was beautiful.

Main altar of San Pietro

A side altar also showed respect and reverence.

Side altar of San Pietro

A painting in the church appeared to depict St. John the Baptist, baptizing Jesus.

e had learned of a Glass Museum in town, and thought it might be worth visiting. Inside the museum, we found many beautiful glass objects to admire; it would have been easy to spend hours examining them all, but we were far from Venice, with Burano yet to visit.

Glass items on display inside the museum.

A giant glass abacus outside the museum.

Murano’s Bell Tower was a convenient guide to the ferry dock; although we learned it is not possible to jay-walk across a canal. No, we did not fall in, but walked as fast as possible for a long way to the nearest bridge to get just across the “street,” the canal to the opposite side from where we started.

The Murano Bell Tower

urano also had brightly painted houses, and Roseann even found a purple one (her favorite color).

The brightly colored Burano homes

This unusual window allowed bright sunshine to come in

It is possible that Marco Polo walked past these shutters. He did come from Venice.

The people’s boats were “parked" along the shores of the canal, just as we park our cars along our streets. This street was especially pretty with the boats, and their reflections.

Gondola reflections in the waters of the canal

The shop owners were beginning to take in their displays, as the sun sank lower in the sky. At the same time, the residents came out of their homes, and took back ownership of their neighborhood once again. It was interesting to listen to their friendly greetings, and talk and gossip of the day, even though we could not understand it. I spent only a short time at one shop whose owner was eager to close up and go to supper. His wares were beautiful indeed.

Evening shadows in Burano

It was a long ride back on the ferry boat to Venice, and then along the Grand Canal to our apartment. We packed our bags for an early start to catch the train for Florence.


Click on a button to read another page describing my trip to Italy.

Venice

Florence (Part 1)

Florence (Part 2)

Pisa

The Vatican

Rome (Part 1)

Rome (Part 2)

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