A View from Venice

It was dark when we arrived.  I was nervous about finding the hotel but need not have worried.  The pre-booked, shared water taxi was ready and waiting at the quayside by Marco Polo Airport, even though the flight had landed early.   Six of us climbed aboard.   It turned out we were all couples celebrating a special birthday.    Forty, fifty and my husband the oldest at seventy.  The engine sprung to life and, rather disappointingly, the boatman closed the glass doors to save us from the spray.   But there was a swell in the blackness of the lagoon and we bumped along, riding over the wake of other vessels.

After about half an hour, the boat slowed to enter the calm of the Grand Canal and the night rewarded us now with the sight of chandeliers lighting up mediaeval palaces.  The warmth of bars and restaurants spilt out onto paving stones.  No roads but footpaths, steps and bridges everywhere across the network of small canals.   We took a short cut, put-putting gently through one of these before re-emerging at the water bus stop of Ca Rezzione.  Last off and trundling our cases behind us, we turned down an alleyway into a small, dark piazza dominated by a Baroque church.  Two tall figures in cloaks and hats stood with their backs toward us in front of a brightly lit shop window.   The shadow of a huge Great Dane stood beside them.   When they turned, we saw the glitter of eye masks trimmed with silver feathers.  It is “Il Feste”: that is to say Carnival Time and St Mark’s Square will be alive with costumes as well as pigeons.  Just around the corner, alongside another small canal, we find our hotel.

Next morning, welcome sunlight returns.  The air is a little hazy but a nearby bell tower cuts it cleanly with its ringing. How to describe Venice?   It is unique, for sure, whether you love it or hate it, and, as my husband said wonderingly, “just like the photographs”!  We spend ages leaning on the big, wooden bridge over the Grand Canal at L’Accademia, taking in the pinks, creams and terracottas of each stuccoed palace and arched colonnade. We watch the skilful manoeuvres of vaporetti, barges and gondola ploughing up and down blue-green water.  A sudden invasion of Chinese tourists on a flotilla of water taxis causes more adjustments to the criss-crossing and considerable horn-blowing.

There is a flag waving demonstration outside the Academy.  We learn, from an intelligent young man with good English, that the protest is against allowing cruise liners to moor in the Grand Canal.  Apparently, the Minister of Transport who is proposing this, and engaged in a dirty deal, is due here on a visit to the gallery shortly.  We give the young man our blessing and wish him luck, then go inside.

Here there are wonderful ceilings and oil paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, Bellini and many others whose names I instantly forget though the deep rich colours and characterful human figures remain with me.  Later, the Doge’s palace stands out, with its vast rooms, mind-blowing ceilings and wider paintings though the phrase “troppo grando” eventually comes to mind.  I wonder if I am alone in disliking the interior of St Mark’s Basilica?  To my mind, it seems overbearingly sombre and gloomy, compared with the delicacy of the exterior.  I prefer the light circular space under the dome of Santa Maria dell Salute across the water.  This was built to give thanks for the ending of the plague in 1630 and glows with little red lights and luminosity from the usual racks of prayerful candles inside.  But then there are so many churches in Venice, so many Scuoli, so many piazza and everyone must have a favourite.

The evening has grown misty but this only adds to the magic.  An orange ball sinks slowly behind the dome of dell Salute and the water of the lagoon slaps moored gondola next to the grand hotels with their wooden jetties and barber-like poles.  Gondoliers with be-ribboned boaters congregate in a group for cigarettes and laughter.  A band of musicians arrives along the Piazzetta and there is impromptu dancing. Yes we have covered most of the “top Ten” attractions, seen the Rialto, the galleries and museums and food markets, but it is this atmosphere of Carnival which we will remember. Saturated with Art and Culture, we subside gratefully into backstreet trattoria to drink red wine and eat flavoursome pasta.  Viva the Republic of Venice!

 

It was dark when we arrived.  I was nervous about finding the hotel but need not have worried.  The pre-booked, shared water taxi was ready and waiting at the quayside by Marco Polo Airport, even though the flight had landed early.   Six of us climbed aboard.   It turned out we were all couples celebrating a special birthday.    Forty, fifty and my husband the oldest at seventy.  The engine sprung to life and, rather disappointingly, the boatman closed the glass doors to save us from the spray.   But there was a swell in the blackness of the lagoon and we bumped along, riding over the wake of other vessels.

After about half an hour, the boat slowed to enter the calm of the Grand Canal and the night rewarded us now with the sight of chandeliers lighting up mediaeval palaces.  The warmth of bars and restaurants spilt out onto paving stones.  No roads but footpaths, steps and bridges everywhere across the network of small canals.   We took a short cut, put-putting gently through one of these before re-emerging at the water bus stop of Ca Rezzione.  Last off and trundling our cases behind us, we turned down an alleyway into a small, dark piazza dominated by a Baroque church.  Two tall figures in cloaks and hats stood with their backs toward us in front of a brightly lit shop window.   The shadow of a huge Great Dane stood beside them.   When they turned, we saw the glitter of eye masks trimmed with silver feathers.  It is “Il Feste”: that is to say Carnival Time and St Mark’s Square will be alive with costumes as well as pigeons.  Just around the corner, alongside another small canal, we find our hotel.

Next morning, welcome sunlight returns.  The air is a little hazy but a nearby bell tower cuts it cleanly with its ringing. How to describe Venice?   It is unique, for sure, whether you love it or hate it, and, as my husband said wonderingly, “just like the photographs”!  We spend ages leaning on the big, wooden bridge over the Grand Canal at L’Accademia, taking in the pinks, creams and terracottas of each stuccoed palace and arched colonnade. We watch the skilful manoeuvres of vaporetti, barges and gondola ploughing up and down blue-green water.  A sudden invasion of Chinese tourists on a flotilla of water taxis causes more adjustments to the criss-crossing and considerable horn-blowing.

There is a flag waving demonstration outside the Academy.  We learn, from an intelligent young man with good English, that the protest is against allowing cruise liners to moor in the Grand Canal.  Apparently, the Minister of Transport who is proposing this, and engaged in a dirty deal, is due here on a visit to the gallery shortly.  We give the young man our blessing and wish him luck, then go inside.

Here there are wonderful ceilings and oil paintings by Titian, Tintoretto, Bellini and many others whose names I instantly forget though the deep rich colours and characterful human figures remain with me.  Later, the Doge’s palace stands out, with its vast rooms, mind-blowing ceilings and wider paintings though the phrase “troppo grando” eventually comes to mind.  I wonder if I am alone in disliking the interior of St Mark’s Basilica?  To my mind, it seems overbearingly sombre and gloomy, compared with the delicacy of the exterior.  I prefer the light circular space under the dome of Santa Maria dell Salute across the water.  This was built to give thanks for the ending of the plague in 1630 and glows with little red lights and luminosity from the usual racks of prayerful candles inside.  But then there are so many churches in Venice, so many Scuoli, so many piazza and everyone must have a favourite.

The evening has grown misty but this only adds to the magic.  An orange ball sinks slowly behind the dome of dell Salute and the water of the lagoon slaps moored gondola next to the grand hotels with their wooden jetties and barber-like poles.  Gondoliers with be-ribboned boaters congregate in a group for cigarettes and laughter.  A band of musicians arrives along the Piazzetta and there is impromptu dancing. Yes we have covered most of the “top Ten” attractions, seen the Rialto, the galleries and museums and food markets, but it is this atmosphere of Carnival which we will remember. Saturated with Art and Culture, we subside gratefully into backstreet trattoria to drink red wine and eat flavoursome pasta.  Viva the Republic of Venice!

 

 

Comments are closed.