Today is the day we were going to Venice! We were so excited to finally get to visit Venice and see a real gondolier in person. First, we had to actually get there from Florence.
We had time to grab a little breakfast first, in our hotels beautiful breakfast room, before we needed to head to the train station.
While we were waiting for the breakfast room to open, we started up a conversation with another lady that was waiting, as well. Once breakfast was ready to be served, we exchanged business cards and went our separate ways. I later found out that who I was speaking to was, Karen Herbst, the owner of The International Kitchen. Karen is recognized as one of the innovators of culinary travel and is on the Board of Directors of the Italian Travel Promotional Council, a non-profit organization working in conjunction with the Italian Government Tourist Office, as well as a member of the Slow Food Organization and the James Beard Foundation.
After breakfast, we called a taxi and headed to the train station. The Florence train station is much nicer than the Rome station and I got to met this little guy.
Again, we booked our tickets early and got a really good deal for first class seats. Definitely, worth the few extra euros.
Getting to the heart of Venice takes a bit of patience. The train ride is about two hours, but your journey isn’t over once you get off the train. Once we exited the train station we had to stand in a long line, so we could buy the Venice Pass. The Venice Pass, like the Rome and Florence Pass, comes in handy and saves time and money. We first stood in the wrong line and although the lady could have helped us, she made us get into another line. After we got our passes, we had to figure out which vaporetto (public water ferry) to get on. We did our due diligence and read all about which one was the best one to take to get to our hotel, which was located in St. Mark Square. Even after all that, we still got on the wrong one. We were still on one that was going to get us to our stop, but it was going to take an extra fifteen minutes and we were going to have to walk over two bridges instead of one once we were dropped off. An extra fifteen minutes and an extra bridge didn’t seem like a big deal. Well, that turned out to not exactly be true.
First, the vaporetto was packed and a 45 minute trip on the water isn’t as fun as you would think when you are dealing with suitcases and a crowd. Second, the extra bridge we had to walk over was all stairs. We had one big suitcase each and a carry on each. Not too big of a deal, except Mom couldn’t lift her big luggage over all those stairs and it was a very hot day in Venice. Just as I was about to try to lift the luggage on my own, a very nice man came right up to me and grabbed my luggage and helped me carry it over the bridge. His friends with him helped Mom with her luggage. Not only did he help us over the first bridge, he and his friends helped us over the second one. I was very grateful to them for helping and after I thanked them and we were on our way, Mom said that his friend had mentioned to her who the nice man was. His name was Bart Dorsa and besides being a famous artist, he is also the grandson of Frank Dorsa, the creator, along with his two brothers, of Eggo’s. It turned out to be a good thing that we took the wrong vaporetto.
It was an interesting morning, but now it was time to check into our hotel and start exploring the city!
Our hotel was conveniently located in the famous St. Mark’s Square.
St. Mark’s Square is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world. It is the largest square in the city and the only one given the designation “piazza”, all others are referred to as “campi”. It is the social, religious, and political center of Venice. It has been referred to, possibly by Napoleon, as “the drawing room of Europe”. The centerpiece of the square is St. Mark’s Basilica, the basilica has a separate campanile (bell tower), that stands in front of the basilica and the Doge’s Palace is to the right of the basilica. Also located along the square are the 12th century Procuratie Vecchie, buildings that housed the apartments and offices of the procurators
We stayed at the Hotel Concordia and it is located just to the left of St. Mark’s Basilica. If you look closely at the picture above you can see a little bit of the yellow building in the far left. You might think that we had to pay an arm and leg for this hotel, but we had found a great deal and I am so grateful. This was the best location to stay in and the staff at our hotel was the best we had while in Italy.
Our room is the one with balcony, I don’t know how we were so lucky to get that room, just the window on the left wasn’t ours. I really enjoyed walking out and watching all the action and I always had to fix the flags, so they weren’t tangled around the flag pole.
The room must have been on a bit of an angle because my bed kept sliding to the right every night.
After we got all settled in, it was time to start our day in Venice.
We didn’t have far to go to for our fist stop on our itinerary, we were going to the Correr Museum, which is conveniently located in part of the Procuratie building.
The entrance for the Correr Museum is located right at the end of the square and is located in the Napoleonic Wing of the Procuratie. The design and initial building work on the Napoleonic Wing dates from the years when Venice was part of the Kingdom of Italy (1806-1814) of which Napoleon was sovereign and his stepson, Eugene de Beauharnais, was Viceroy. This museum was named after the famous Venetian Teodoro Correr who was a member of a traditional Venetian family and a passionate collector. The museum originated when he bequeathed his collection to the city of Venice in 1830. This is a great museum to visit and get a feel for the art and history of Venice.
The museum is broken into five different sections: “Neoclassical Rooms and Canova Collection”, “The Imperial Rooms”, “Venetian Culture”, “Wunderkammer”, and “Pinacoteca”.
The museum is filled with some very beautiful Venetian art and newly opened in 2012 is the Imperial Appartments of the Royal Palace, where the Empress Elizabeth of Austria resided during her visits in Venice.
I really loved the Murano glass chandeliers dating back to the eighteenth century.
Here is a few of the pieces of art that awaits you in the museum.
This painting was actually on loan from the National Gallery in London and was part of a Francesco Guardi exhibition at the museum. Francesco Guardi is considered the last great landscape artist of the eighteenth century.
Antonio Canova was only eighteen years old when he created these sculptures. The beauty of these two sculptures in person are beyond words. It’s unbelievable that someone so young created such beauty and this was just the beginning of his career. We had already seen some of his spectacular sculptures while we were in Rome and his work only got better as he aged.
After finishing up the museum we needed to figure out how to navigate around Venice and find our way to Ca’ Reszzonico.
We past by Chiesa di San Moisè and of course we had to stop and take a few pictures.
There was a wooden church built at this location in the eighth century and was rebuilt in 947 by Venetian nobleman Moise Venier who rededicated it to his name saint, Moses (San Moise). The current church, Chiesa di San Moisè, was built in 1628 and its crazy over-the-top façade was added in 1668. John Ruskin called it a “frightful façade.” W.D. Howells, American ambassador to Venice in the 19th century, described it as “in every way detestable.” Guilio Lorenzetti (author of Venice and Its Lagoon) more kindly called it “a confused, picturesque Baroque structure with superabundant decoration.” There were even more sculptures on the facade at one time, but they either fell off or were so loose they were taken off.
And as if the church wasn’t bizarre enough – in May 1752 during a violent storm, the priest and his server were killed while celebrating Mass when a bolt of lightning came in through the roof and down through the metal cord of a hanging lamp.
In the late eighteen hundreds the church was in danger of being torn down, but a Venetian nobleman, named Count Alvise Zorzi, campaigned to save it. He sent out a pamphlet stating that Venice should maintain a variety of architectural styles whether beautiful or not. I personally agree with him and I’m glad they saved the church. It’s fun to see the different styled church and appreciate it for its own beauty.
We finally made our way to Ca’ Rezzonico.
This Grand Canal palazzo houses the museum of eighteenth century Venice and offers a look into what living in a grand Venetian home was like in the last days of the grand Republic.
Pictures weren’t allowed inside. But the ballroom alone is worth a visit to this palazzo.
It’s not hard to imagine what a Venetian ball would be like while you are standing in the middle of this lavishly decorated room.
The museum is a great look into the sometimes frivolous life of the Venetians of 250 years ago.
Here is a few of Pietro Longhi’s paintings, that are on display at the museum, that are a good depiction of everyday Venetian life as it was in the eighteenth century.
Our room actually had a copy of one of Pietro Longhi’s paintings in it.
Later, we actually get to see the original in person at the Galleria dell’Accademia.
As we were leaving the museum I saw a DHL delivery boat. I had never thought about mail being delivered to houses and businesses by boat and for some reason I was very fascinated by this.
I also thought it was really cool that instead of car garages, they had boat garages.
We had a bit of walk to our next destination, Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, so of course we needed to get a little gelato before we started off.
We finally made our way to the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.
In October 1630, the Venetian Senate decreed that if the city was delivered from the currently raging plague that had killed about a third of Venice’s population, then a new church would be built and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. And true to their word, Basilica Santa Maria della Salute, was built and completed in 1687.
I had a slight altercation with a woman that was asking for money. You will find that almost every church you walk into, there will be someone asking for money here. They do not work for the church, but many people assume the money is an entrance fee for the church. We had just walked right by her, which apparently upset her and she started following us around and talking to us, but I don’t understand Italian. I finally figured out what she was trying to say to me, I didn’t have my shoulders covered. Throughout the whole trip I was carrying a sweater in my backpack, so when we enter churches I could put it on, but I had left the backpack in our room. I had actually forgotten all about that rule, espcecially because other women and men had their shoulders showing. I was not intentially being disrepectful and would have rented a scarf, but his woman was chasing me around the chruch and making me a little less than happy. She actually grabbed my arm at one point and I jumped so fast because I was startled, that she left me alone after that and we peacefully continued walking around.
For a small fee you can visit a room that is dedicated to the artist Titian. Once you enter the room you are given a mirror so you can see the paintings that are on the ceiling without have to crane your neck backwards.
We realized once we existed the basilica, that this was a perfect place to snap a few pictures.
Now we had to back track a little to get to the Gallerie dell’Accademia.
The Gallerie dell’Accademia houses the greats of Venetian painting from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Some of the artisits represented here are, Paolo Veneziano, Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and Tiepolo.
This was the only picture we got in before we were told pictures weren’t allowed. Fortunately, this painting has a very scandolous story attached to it. When the painting, The Lord’s Last Supper, which was the paintings original title, was unvieled it created quite a shock. It was shocking not only for its size (at 42 feet long, one of the largest canvases of the sixteenth century), but also for its rather racy depiction of our Lord and Savior. Veronese had portrayed the holiest of moments as a rousing, druken banquet.
Here’s a few closer looks at the painting:
The church threatened to indict him and charge him with heresy. He quickly re-titled the work Feast in the House of Levi, which mollified the church.
One piece of art I almost cried over not being able to see is, Leonardo da Vinci’s, Vitruvian Man.
The Vitruvian Man is housed at the Accademia, but because of its fragility it is rarely displayed.
It was now time to head back to St. Mark’s Square and grab some dinner. I still can’t believe how much we got in on our first day in Venice and we didn’t even get checked into our hotel until around two!
We got to walk back over the Accademia Bridge and we had a great view of the Basilica Santa Maria della Salute.
I couldn’t resist stopping into this shop and getting a cannoli, after all the walking we did I think we deserved a little goodie.
We finally made it back to St. Mark’s Square and started to look around for somewhere to have our first dinner in Venice at.
Although I don’t recommend eating in the touristy areas, we were pooped, so we weren’t venturing to far out.
We ended up at a restaurant that was located in the alley right behind our hotel.
I had a list of food that I absolutely had to try while in Venice, this was probably not the right place to try those items out at.
The one appetizer I had to have was sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines). I’m pretty sure this place did not do them justice.
Unfortuantely, after my experience with this restaurants sarde in saor, I couldn’t bring myself to order it again anywhere else.
Mom’s dinner didn’t look any better. She had ordered fish and they brought the whole fish to the table, head and all.
I thought I would be safe with a fried fish plate, but I was already still weak in the stomach from the sarde in saor, that I didn’t really enjoy my meal. In fact, after this meal, I swore off fish for awhile.
We had to make one last stop before heading back to the hotel for the night.
If you would like any additional information on visiting Venice, please contact me at: [email protected]
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