Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Friday, July 08, 2011

Venezia Bound!

Wednesday we packed up early and hit the autostrada towards Venice. Several hour trip - I didn't see much as I was reading the Venice tour book aloud to Dave. We turned in our rental car, and stashed half of our luggage at the Maestro train station - the one on land that services Venice - and hopped on the next shuttle train out to the city, then the Vapporetto (water bus) down to our hotel.

One of our very first views in the city - just down from the train station.

The Rialto Bridge

View from our Hotel room

The 'Anteroom' through which we passed to get to our room. Our room is behind the curved door - yes, those are doors! in the corner. There was one in each corner.

Murano (well, I assume! it is Murano) Glass light fixture in our room.

But enough of our hotel - we headed right out and went directly to St Mark's Square.

The Doge's Palace - It's PINK. Not only that but the streetlights outside are pink tinted too. *squeals*

The Bell Tower - with the mechanized guys at the top ringing out the hours.

We had limited time, so we dove right in with a tour of the Doge's Palace.

The inner courtyard - you can see the domes of the basillica rising in the background.

This stairway is reportedly the one that all guests of the doge would have to climb - with the Doge standing at the top surrounded by statues of fierce warriors (Neptune and Mars?) and under the winged lion that is the symbol of St Mark, and by extension, Venice. All the better to humble your visitors I suppose.

Re-reading my guide book now, I see that this is also the spot where most doge's were crowned. Yes: Crowned. "The doge was something like an elected King -- which makes sens only in the dictatorial republic that was Venice." (Rick Steves' Venice)

The palace was amazing -- as palaces have a tendency to be. But there was a series of rooms that were so impressive I'm not sure any other palace surpasses them. (OK, it's been awhile since I've toured Versailles - I have to admit) Anyways, you go upstairs and are taken through a set of rooms - the doge's residence. The map room is a large room with globes and maps painted on the walls, and the route of Marco Polo traced out. Another map kindly included North America as an island east of Japan.

Then you reach the aptly named "Room of the 4 doors" and you feel the shift into a more municiple purpose. Through one of the 4 doors you get into the Antechamber, then on in to the Doge's Collegio Hall where he presided with his 6 advisors. Magnificent room with gorgeous woodwork and paintings all around and overhead.

Interesting trivia - "frescoes" are painted directly on to plaster. With Venice's humidity these would not have lasted, so the paintings in Venice palaces are painted on canvasses, which were then afixed to the walls / ceilings.

But Wait! That's not all folks, next door is the Senate Hall - just as opulent, but 4 times as big. Here the doge and his cabinet met with the 120 or so men that made up the legislature.

Not done yet - next is the Hall of the Council of Ten, which was made up of 10 judges and the doge and his 6 advisors. This council was known and feared for it's harsh judgement. This wasn't a large room, but imposing with dark wood fixtures. The 17 council members sat in seats around a semicircular stage, the defendant presumably at the center. It's said there was a hidden passage directly from that room to the dungeons. Many an accused entered that room and never exited.

The Council of Ten's mark was "CX", and from then on out we often recognized that mark on the door frames, on the weapons and armour in the armoury, etc.

The most spectacular room was still to come. The Hall of the Grand Council is said to accommodate over 2500 people at once. An unbelievably large space - we were sitting there (yes, this room had benchs that actually allowed sitting) and compared it to the size of our outdoor arena, which is within 5 feet of the dimensions of the room. The room looked WAY bigger. Something about having walls and a ceiling to bound the space. Largest oil painting in the world is on one end of the room - painted elsewhere and transported to Venice to mount.

Here's a wikipedia image of a paiting of that room

Oh, and there was another ballroom off this one... but really - we were saturated. We headed for the extensive armoury exhibit - full of array after array of halberds, spears, swords, axes, maces, cannon.... and many other weapons I can't name. Most bearing the mark of the CX

No, photos were not allowed here either, but there are just some shots I cannot pass up. Interesting how the stirrup leathers come out from under the saddle skirt!

From the Armoury the path leads across the Bridge of Sighs to the prisons.

On the way over, it's almost difficult to discern where the bridge is - except the ceiling is arched. The bridge is comprised of two side by side passages. This one, the northern most, has no windows -- or if there were they were covered by scaffolding.

This shows a great example of the Venetian practice of using their squares to collect rain water as a fresh water supply. The white tiles in the floor were drains that admitted water into a cistern - from which the well in the center could draw.

Thinking no one is getting out of this door...

The prison it self was a lot of hallways of cells on either side. Then you head back over the Bridge of Sighs -- which they have thankfully left at least a tiny portion still uncovered.

Funny, but when we got to Switzerland to stay with our friend Antonella, we talked about another mutual friend's trip through Europe last summer that shared many ports in common with our plan. Antonella pulled up their online photo album - and the Bridge of Sighs looked exactly like this. That's a long time to have this scaffolding up.

I guess there is a saying that if you kiss in a gondola under the Bridge of Sighs at sunset, that you will have everlasting love. (or something like that.) But we were discussing this - and it's a pretty tall order, you know? The "at sunset part"? Because this couple were actually quite close to sunset, but you can't see the sunset from here. So you'd never know if you hit it just right or not...

Back at our hotel to take just a bit of a breather before dinner.

That night we lucked upon Campo Santa Margarita, a lively square in the university area near our hotel. This largish square has several restaurants seating tables out in the square, a couple night clubs, gellatoria, every one of them spilling with people out sitting on the park benches and in the plastic tables and chairs set up by each business. We had a great dinner there, then set out to do as several people advised us - just go walking; get lost in Venice. And at night too -- Venice certainly changes it's atmosphere. It's quiet! No cars, or car horns. I suppose there still is motor boat activity on the grand canal, but a street off the main canal and you are pretty much in walking only territory. Everywhere was well lit. It was really cool.

Musicians in the street playing for the folks inside this restaurant.

And Bed was -- well was merely the task of pulling out the map and figuring out a way back to our hotel. Actually, as it was we had quite inadvertantly ended up at the train station again. So we figured we'd hop on a Vapporreto to get home.

But somehow when the boat pulled away and headed OUT of the grand canal instead of into it, we nearly paniced thinking we might be in for a 45 minute tour out to one of the lagoon islands or something. Yikes! But thankfully no. As a matter of fact, that route headed out around the outside of the city perimeter, and actually was a much quicker route back to our hotel. Very Handy!

Hotels in Venice are expensive, but I'd say there is nothing like staying in the city and getting the chance to see it after dark.



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