Venice for Four

Day 21 – Venice for Four

Daily Wrap-Up

One Word
  • Barb: Maze
  • Mike: Venice-go-round
  • Jen: Sun!
  • Lexi: Wander
Two Words
  • Barb: Carved capitals
  • Mike: Sempre diritto
  • Jen: Quilted floor
  • Lexi: A piede
Three or Four Words
  • Barb: Dark Venetian paintings
  • Mike: Look, another church!
  • Jen: Kids pulled on scooters
  • Lexi: Rocks telling stories
One Sentence
  • Barb: I think I could live in Venice.
  • Mike: What’s the deal with San Rocco’s leg?
  • Jen: Venice is a possibility for the Five Years/Five Places plan.
  • Lexi: You can’t swing a dead cat in Venice without hitting a Madonna and Child.

The #1 thing to do in Venice, according to one guide book, is get lost. Embrace the rat-in-maze fate.

We can check that one off the list.

Jolly Green Giant

We spent more time at the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square). Napoleon is said to have described the square as the “most elegant drawing room in Europe,” and if that doesn’t explain why we return here again and again, I won’t attempt to find my own words to explain it. The Basilica di San Marco is here, as well as the Campanile and Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace). Oh, and the Jolly Green Giant that clangs one of the countless time-telling bells.

Bronze statue and bell

The Jolly Green Timekeeping Giant

Bronze sculpture that looks like the Jolly Green Giant in the Piazza San Marco

The bell-ringing Jolly Green Giant in Piazza San Marco.

I love the Jolly Green Giant in his too-short tunic, clanging the bell every quarter hour. Now look at the residence just behind the Giant. I love this, too: the solarium, the terrace, and the rooftop garden and patio with a view (I’m guessing) of the Basilica di San Marco and maybe even the Grand Canal beyond the Ducal Palace. I can almost imagine myself living there for a time despite the massive crowds (and noise, second-hand smoke, and view-spoiling illuminated toys peddled by obnoxious street vendors at night) that gather in the square below. I am enamored with rooftop gardens and terraces in these medieval towns.

Basilica di San Marco

St. Mark’s Basilica is a splendid work of art and architecture, inspired by the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople. From 1075, all ships returning from abroad had to, by law, bring back something to adorn the church, which has resulted in an eclectic blend of styles and art.

Early morning view of the front of the Basilica di San Marco

Early morning at the Basilica di San Marco. One of the problems with these grand old buildings is that they seem to be in perpetual need of cleaning and/or restoration. Scaffolding doesn’t make for pretty pictures.

Again, there is so much to look at on the church, one could spend hours, days, weeks, months, and discover something new and wonderful with each viewing. You can guess what caught my eye: colorful marble, mosaics, intricate patterns. And—oh, my!—you should have seen the marble quilt floors inside the basilica! I have no idea what else the church may have contained; all I saw was the floor.

A side entrance to St. Mark's.

One side of the Basilica di San Marco. While I’m generally drawn to more vivid colors, I loved the soft colors and patterns in the rocks here.

Detail of the Basilica di San Marco

I love the colors of the mosaic at the top, the carved patterns in the arches, and the symbolic representations of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that I have come to recognize.

A pattern on an arch over a mosaic on San Marco

Guess what I’m looking at here: the pattern on the arch over the mosaic.

Detail of the arch pattern over the mosaic.

By itself, it’s pretty, but not really anything special. As part of the whole, however, it’s lovely, but it probably gets little attention compared to the mosaic story-picture it frames.

Palazzo Ducale (Doges’ Palace)

We never went into the Ducal Palace, but we spent a couple of hours at least studying the carved capitals on the many pillars outside. One of our guide books pointed out the capital depicting The Drunkenness of Noah and suggested that another capital here was perhaps the “best capital ever,” but we found others more interesting and to our liking.

Jen and Lexi study the predator/prey capital on the Palazzo Ducale.

Jen and Lexi study the predator/prey capital on the Palazzo Ducale, identifying the different animals.

Sculpted bear head with honeycomb in its mouth.

Detail from the predator/prey capital. The animal threw me off. It looks like a cat to me. But the honeycomb and bees along with the “Ursus” name above make it clear this is a bear.
It was fun to try to identify each of the predators and its prey and to see if we recognized the (Latin? Venetian?) names. And, yes, we have images of each of the predators on the capital.

Another favorite amongst the capitals was one that told the simple story of a man and woman. Spoiler alert: I am going to reveal the end of this story. If you don’t want to know it, scroll past this series of images!

A man pursues a woman.

A man pursues a woman.

Woman signalling "stop" with her hand.

The woman rejects the man, “No thanks.”

Woman accepts the man.

The man offers the woman a present, and she relents, “Weeeeell, all right then.”

Man and woman embrace.

They slow dance at their wedding.

Man and woman in bed.

The wedding night, oo-la-la! (Funny that this panel is so dirty, eh?)

Man and woman with swaddled baby between them.

They have a baby.

Man, woman, and child.

The child grows older. They are a happy family.

The child laid out on a death bed.

The child dies. The end.

Hey, I didn’t write the story.

The ending surprised us all, but Lexi was the only one to rate the story as awful; the rest of us (heartless souls) found it hilarious.

Odds & Ends

We happened upon the best pasticceria we’ve found to date: Tonolo. We created a bit of a kerfuffle at checkout by not knowing how the system works and not speaking adequate Italian, but we stuck with it and got it sorted. The pastries were excellent!

We actually sat down and had pizza for lunch. I’m sorry to say it, but I am underwhelmed by Italian pizza. I know I’m a disappointment to all you foodies who have patiently awaited a delicious account of the fine Italian food we’re enjoying, but, alas, that’s not our thing. It is especially not my thing: I am a picky eater. The only choices I have for pizza toppings here seem to be tomatoes (or tomato sauce), cheese, and basil. While Alaskan tomatoes leave something to be desired, the cheese we make and the basil I grow are spectacular. Nothing I’ve had here beats them. That said, it was delightful to sit in the warm sun with Barb, Mike, and Lexi after walking miles and miles through the maze of Venice.

Barb, Jen, and Lexi at a sunny outdoor table.

Sitting down to lunch.

We were excited to try the highly rated Gelateria Alaska, known for natural and traditional ingredients and methods and exotic flavors, but we wound up being disappointed. The texture was grainy, and the flavors I had were more odd than exotic. Blame my choices: licorice and mint chocolate chip. The owner didn’t care at all that Mike and I were from Alaska, and we discovered no connection between the gelateria and our state.

Door buzzers and mail slot that make a face.

Yep, art is everywhere.

We purchased a “Chorus Pass” that gave us entrance into fifteen member churches. We popped into several to see the grand art.

We also visited the Accademia museum. At the ticket counter, I asked for tickets for three adults and one student. The gentleman behind the counter was surprised to learn Lexi was actually studying in Europe. He quizzed her in Italian about what she was studying, and she passed. He explained to non-Italian-speaking me that they allow European Art History students free entrance. Wonderful! Though I would have been happy to pay for her, too; unlike some other places, I thought fees here were reasonable.

I’m going to share thoughts about the art we’re seeing in another post.

Mike immitating a gargoyle face that hangs above him.

A couple of gargoyles.

Categories: Italy, Travel

4 replies »

  1. Not hilarious. Just sweet and charming (and, okay, a little hilarious) and true to life. People live their lives. And people die. That’s life. It was my favorite capital, apologies to Lexie. (Though they were all pretty awesome, and I could have studied them for a year! And I do admit to being a heartless, or at least unsentimental, soul!)

  2. When I carve my gargoyle, I’d like Mike to model for me! Oh, and Jen, see if you can nab Barb’s shirt; it matches your hat perfectly!