Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Venice

Travel Poster from the 1920s
Venice, for five hundred years 'the Serene Republic' and today the pride of modern Italy, is one of the most romantic and best-loved cities in the world. However, because of this, visiting Venice is fraught with visitor overcrowding. Of course for a first time visit it is essential to see the main sights, but to be pre-armed with some little gems of information can make this so much more fulfilling than just looking at the wonderful sites around you. 
St Marks Square - did you know that St. Mark's relics lie in the Basilica di San Marco? What is interesting is how he came to be there. Of all the objects taken to embellish this jackdaw's nest of a basilica, none is more spectacular than the first, the body of St. Mark the evangelist. Lifted from his tomb in Alexandria, he was smuggled past Muslim customs officials in a basket marked 'PORK', a safe passage to Venice was assured.
The front of the cathedral originally had very little ornamentation, but now displays a cornucopia of objects brought back to Venice by the conquering Venetians. The Venetians were great looters rather than destroyers.
The Four Bronze Horses - the quadriga
The only quadriga to survive from classical times, they were removed from the Hippodrome in Constantinople by the Venetians in 1204. What you see today are copies; the originals shelter from pollution in the Museo Marciano.
The Tetrarchs
The Tetrarchs are situated on the right hand side of the cathedral. Venetians like to believe that these were 4 foreigners turned to stone for trying to steal from the treasury. In fact, the Venetians also removed these from Constantinople. They represent the Emperor Diocletian and his three co-rulers, and were carved in Egypt in the 4th century.
On the same side as the Tetrarchs is a Byzantine Madonna. Black candles used to be lit on either side of her to comfort those about to be executed in the piazzetta.
The three large domes on the cathedral are not quite what they appear to be. They look substantial but are in fact a simple wooden construction overlaid with lead tiles giving a false impression of size and hiding comparatively small domes beneath.
Canalazzo
Canalazzo is what the Venetians call the Grand Canal.  During the Republic there was only one palazzo in Venice, the Palazzo Ducale. Every other house, no matter how grand, was a Ca' short for casa. Today most of the fine waterfront houses belong to embassies from around the world, museums, and art galleries. Many of the houses are steeped in stories and have interesting tales from the past to recount. 


Ca' d'Oro - This is the one Venetian house named, not after it's owner, but after the gold leaf which was lavished on the marble tracery with the facade being painted in vermilion and ultramarine. Can you imagine how wonderful this house must have looked sparkling in the sunlight?

Ponte di Rialto - The first bridge across the rialto was destroyed in the Tiepolo uprising. The second collapsed under the weight of spectators viewing the wedding procession of the Marchioness of Ferrara. The third, a wooden drawbridge, is depicted in a painting by Vittore Carpaccio. In 1524 a competition was called for a stone bridge. Michelangelo, Sansovino and Palladio all submitted designs, but the public debt prevented any work for sixty years, by which time they were all dead. The present bridge opened in 1592, to the design of the appropriately named Antonio da PontÄ—. The cost of the work was recouped by a toll.

The Bridge of Sighs, so called by Lord Byron in the 19th century. The suggestion is that prisoners would sigh as they looked through the grill windows at their final view of beautiful Venice, before being taken down to their cells in the building on the righthand side to be either incarcerated or executed. In the distance can be seen Ponte della Paglia.
Ponte della Paglia - Barges loaded with straw (paglia) used to moor here.
A post impressionist painting of Ponte della Paglia done in 1899 by Maurice Prendergast - The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
All images courtesy of wikipedia and wikipaintings

45 comments:

  1. Awesome post! The city looks beautiful, but really crowded. Thanks for sharing all the information.

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    1. If you ever visit Marie - I hope that you may find some of this information of interest.

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  2. Hallo Rosemary!I havent visited Venice, either in Italy!I would love to!The photos from the sights of Venice is unique! The quadriga from the Hippodrome in Constantinople (thats how we say this city and i like you saying it),looks amazing!And it's good copy!!Wish you a lovely day my friend!
    Dimi...

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    1. Dear Dimi - I always think that Constantinople is a more nostalgic name for the city than Istanbul. I remember visiting the Hippodrome several years ago, and having the spot where the quadriga had once been sited pointed out to me. That was the first time I realised where the horses had come from.

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  3. Hello Rosemary, Beautiful picture of Venice. What a fascinating place where every sight seems to have a special history or back-story to add to its interest. By coincidence just yesterday I was just reading Russell Lyne's description of Venice as "a city of skyscrapers rising out of a bed of jewels, campaniles above Gothic and Renaissance and Baroque gems shaped by love and faith and greed."
    --Road to Parnassus

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    1. Dear Jim - thank you very much for adding Russell Lyne's description of Venice to this post. I do hope that other commenters will read it too. So much encompassed and expressed in so few words.

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  4. What an interesting post. I was 11 years old the first and last time I visited Venice. I loved it and remember falling madly in love with every Gondolier I saw! It is on our list of places to visit soon(ish).
    Thank you for all your lovely comments on my blog and apologies for not replying directly to you but you appear as a 'no-reply blogger'. If you want to send me your email address I can reply direct to you. And yes, the window sill will definitely be staying! M x

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    1. Dear Marina - I do not know why I appear as a 'no reply blogger' - blogger himself seems to make the decisions - I am sure blogger is a male!!!
      However, do not worry, it is lovely to see you here from time to time, I know that you are a busy lady.
      I hope you show your new wooden window when it arrives, it will look lovely.

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  5. Such a fascinating place due to its beauty, art, architecture, history and the infinite amount of stories and secrets it has collected over time. Thanks for the stories you have shared with us today :)

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    1. Sometimes, just knowing a few extra details about a place can make a visit that much more fulfilling and worthwhile.

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  6. Hello Rosemary

    Venice is one of my favourite cities. I have visited frequently and your post has revealed some new facts I was unaware of. Thank you for this historical account of Venezia.
    Helenxx

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    1. Dear Helen - when I visit somewhere new I always enjoy finding out just a few little details of interest that I think might add to the background of a place and enhance the visit.
      As you will know it is actually possible to get away from the crowds once you have taken in the most visited locations.
      Thanks for your visit Helen.

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  7. Dear Rosemary,
    I have never been to Venice.
    The history of St Mark,being smuggled in a basket past the Muslim's ..that is incredible.
    Your posts are always so fascinating and informative.
    I do not know much or if anything really about the Venitians. Now I have learnt that they were looters. Much of what they have coming from Egypt and constantinople..
    I am mesmorized with the painting of victorre carpaccio.. To me it seems, that besides the busy transit of gondolas.. there is one that for me stood out.. its a smaller gondola..I notice they all have tops on them.. therein is a lady in black and if you look closely..you will see a figuere with a cape on the cape is the face of death.. I might be totally off track.. but it could be a funeral !
    Great post Rosemary..
    The architecture of the venitians is most incredible.
    val

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    1. Dear Val - wise observations on the painting. Yes, it is not just a painting of the wooden Rialto Bridge but a story connected with the Legend of the True Cross which you may remember I did a post on. This is one of the miracles of the relic of the True Cross. It was commissioned by Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, a brotherhood in Venice, and I believe they are the people wearing the black clocks with the white insignia on the back. The painting shows the miracle of the healing of a madman through a relic of the Holy Cross. In the loggia towards the top left hand corner, you can just make out a priest holding up a stick over a man dressed in black. The gondolas being used as little ferries with cabins on the top is how they were in the 15th century when the painting was done. The cabins were known as a felze, and were used to provide shelter from the cold in the evenings and protect the upper echelons of Venetian life from being gazed upon.
      Another interesting detail in the painting are the inverted cone chimneys of medieval Venice.

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  8. The cathedral looks amazing. I would like to visit Venice once.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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    1. Wonderful city which I am sure you will visit one day.

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  9. I know I am a bit biased, when it comes to my beautiful Country, but... Venice is "THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN" of Europe! So much beauty in those buildings, so much blue, silver and gold, so much water, so many people, bridges and boats...

    I loved Venice when I went there. It is a monument to art and genius, a proof that man himself create something that is more beautiful than nature itself. An example of how man can overtake the "creator" when it comes to "making," building something extremely beautiful out of cement.

    Venice makes me happy and sad, at the same time. So much sadness attached to some of those bridges: Il ponte dei Sospiri" (The Bridge of Sighs) and Il Ponte di Rialto (The Rialto Bridge.)

    There is a lack of green, in Venice... so much beauty in those buildings and sadness.

    May I quote Shylock, the Jew, in the Merchant of Venice? Having read Shakespeare I couldn't look at the Rialto Bridge, without thinking about this soliloquy:

    (Shylock is walking over The Rialto Bridge:)

    "He ( Antonio) hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"

    William Shakespeare loved Italy and set many of his plays and comedies, there. And what a fantastic, ready made set Venice provided for this most beautiful, clever, intriguing play!

    BUONA SERATA!

    ANNA

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    1. Dear Anna - Venice is the jewel in the crown - what is the expression? see Venice and die. Venice is a little miracle when you consider that it was built on a marshy lagoon constructed on closely spaced wooden piles, and that buildings of brick and stone sit above these footings and have done so for six hundred years. The city in its entirety is now listed as a World Heritage Site along with the lagoon.
      Venice has inspired so much wonderful music, art, architecture, and literature on all continents over the years.
      Thank you for taking so much care in writing your comments, and I hope that others may read what you have written.
      Ciao Anna and thank you again♥

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  10. I've never been in Venice but would love to visit it. The mere fact of it being crowded with people is what makes my husband reluctant of visiting a city like this. But it must be overwhelmingly pretty as well.... If only I could make him realize that ;-) Didn't know the Venetians were looters, next to so many others in earlier days, who just took artefacts from whatever country they conquered to place it in their home country. A shame really but better than destroying indeed. Thank you Rosemary for once again a treasure of information you share here with us.
    Bye,
    Marian

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    1. Dear Marian - once you have done the main sites it is easily possible to get off the beaten track and view beautiful quiet back waters at your leisure without hardly meeting another soul. Of course you need to see the main places, best to try and get there early in the morning and also visit out of season.
      All countries during that period were looters given the opportunity, Venetians were no different in that respect from anyone else.

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  11. Rosemary,what a lovely post about Venice we thought it was such a magical place and quite unique! We found it was wonderful too get away from the crowds and explore hidden corners. I love old travel posters too, they must have encouraged some many to visit or dream of travelling.
    Sarah x

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    1. Dear Sarah - I am so pleased that you enjoyed the post. As you know there are lots of hidden corners in Venice where it is possible to escape completely from the crowds. Most people are visiting for the day, so as I am sure you found out, go early in the morning to the popular spots before they arrive, and then again in the evening when they have left.
      I love travel posters, and I have already done a post on British ones which I intend to show soon.

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  12. Dear Rosemary,

    Your photo's and writing make me want to go to Venice straight away. Never been there myself, but VERY HIGH on my wish list :-)!

    Madelief x

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    1. Dear Madelief - I think it is a place that everyone should visit at sometime in their lives if at all possible. Once the main sites have been viewed then it is time to explore all of the back alleys and canals where the Venetians live, and where the tourists tend not to go.

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  13. It must be beautiful to visit this place but I never did because of the huge crowds, what is just the thing I don't like at all. Great post Rosemary.
    Have a wonderful evening.

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    1. Dear Marijke - there are ways of avoiding the crowds who mainly tend to be day trippers. Visit the important sites early in the morning before the coaches arrive, and then explore the secret places to yourself. Many hidden areas are just as special and beautiful as the places where everyone goes.

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  14. Dearest Rosemary, you make be blush! My best friend is Italian and comes from Venice! She lives in Switzerland and has a house near Venice and asked me to visit for many times - somehow I did not manage. These pics make now planning that visit. Honestly! I must, I want, I will... Christa

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    1. Dear Christa - you have no excuse, your best friend is an Italian with a house near Venice!!! Nothing could be better than to have a local Italian accompany you telling you the best places to visit, to eat, and when to go.

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  15. Thanks for sharing all those interesting facts and tidbits on glorious Venice, Rosemary. I'll have to check out that Prendergast at The Phillips Collection....one of my favorite museums in DC! Another museum I really enjoy is the Peggy Guggenheim on the Grand Canal of Venice.
    Loi

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    1. Dear Loi - if you check out the Prendergast, please let me know what it is like in reality. Glad you enjoyed the tidbits, I think a place is always more interesting if you know some of the interesting facts and some history.

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  16. A lovely and informative post Rosemary - I'm not sure whether I can't wait to visit Venice ...or I don't need to after all those wonderful pictures!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Nilly. Venice is a special place, but best to pick a quiet time. When I was younger it was always considered most appropriate to visit in the winter, but now the whole year seems to be an open season everywhere.

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  17. Hi Rosemary, what a beautifully photographed post. Plus you always add so much more. The tidbit about St. Mark is fascinating. Olive

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    1. Dear Olive - I am pleased that you enjoyed some of my little tidbits.
      My mind likes these little extras, they are the cherry on the cake for me. You can stand in front of the reliquary of St. Mark and find it of interest, may be even wonder how he came to be there? However, to stand before his shrine knowing that he was smuggled out of his tomb in Egypt, and how, makes for a different kind of experience.

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  18. Every country and every city of this world has some beauty...
    But some countries and particularly some cities are beauty all the way!

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    1. How very beautifully worded Demie thank you.

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  19. Dear Rosemary,thank you for your visit!Im curious how you find it!I was going to send you a massage ,i cant find you email,i hope you liked it!Thank you again my friend!Have a nice day!
    Dimi..

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    1. Dear Dimi - I am not sure how I found it. I think I saw it when I was looking in my blog stats in traffic sources. I like it and will put it in my sidebar so that I can see it more frequently. Take care Dimi and thanks for your visit.

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  20. Dear Rosemary, Thank you for this interesting tour of Venice. I must brush up on my history! I knew that the Venitians had a great navy, but didn't realize they ranged as far as Alexandria and Constantinople.

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    1. The Venetians were great traders with the east, so successful were they that Byzantine emperor, Manuel Comnenus, ordered the imprisonment of all Venetians in the empire, because of their stranglehold on its economy. This act led to the ignominious 4th Crusade, in which the Venetians extracted their revenge by diverting an invasion force from the Holy Land to the sack of Constantinople in 1204. The trading posts were now an empire, and for the next three centuries, Venice, at the height of its power, controlled the west's trade in luxuries and spices.

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  21. Glorious photos of La Serenissima, Rosemary. Thank you so much for transporting me back to one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. One day I will go back and spend long enough here to explore it properly.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the trip Perpetua.
      It is definitely a place that requires more time to explore than most of us ever have the opportunity to give. Most people travel into Venice for the day from the surrounding areas, but it is really best to stay in a quiet location within the city and explore it at your leisure.

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  22. lovely presentation of this so amazing city...indeed its very busy, but then the charm is tomanage to escape the crowds:-) last time I was so happy with my tour to Burano...happy rest of the week from tulipland!

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    1. You are right Jana - that is the secret, and as you mention, it is possible.

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  23. in love with marble too! the basket-weave floor is on my list of favs.
    ming green marble Tile

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