Last Thursday we went to Venice with our friends Dyfan and Caroline and their daughter, Sian. It was about a four hour drive from Torino and since their van's radio had been stolen a few weeks before, we were without tunes. After we had exhausted every road game we knew of, Sian pulled out her recorder and graciously entertained us with the music she'd been learning. Somewhere in the midst of it all, we even had a rousing sing-a-long to 'Molly Malone.'
The Grand Canal
Careful on those steps!
Gondolas: so beautiful and oh so expensive.
Gondolier action shot.
Our transportation. I'd like to say we jetted around in the sleek-looking water taxi in the foreground. But no, we took the water bus in the background. It wasn't bad, though; anything to get out on the water!
Speaking of wishful thinking. . .
Bridge of Sighs: sadly, the bridge is scarcely visible. According to romantic legend, it was called the Bridge of Sighs because prisoners being led from the Doge's (or Duke's) Palace to the prison would look out the window and sigh at their last glimpse of. . .advertising.
Can't forget the masks! They were everywhere!
The city of Venice is truly beautiful, but it has had its darker moments. Here's St. Mark's, a church with a checkered past. Although many honest-hearted faithful surely go there now, it seems more a testament to Venice's historical merchandising than to Christ. The church was founded in the ninth century when some Venetian entrepreneurs stole St. Mark's relics from Alexandria; it reached its climax with the loot stolen from Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the Fourth Crusade of 1204.
Big Piece of Loot #1: Bronze horses dating from the fourth century B.C. These horses are replicas--the real ones are in a museum inside the church. The horses have had quite the history: made during the time of Alexander the Great, they found their way to Constantinople, were then brought to Venice, only to be taken by Napoleon to France, and then eventually returned to Venice.
Big Piece of Loot #2: These four figures are made out of porphyry, which is a very rare marble. They date from the late 3rd century A.D. and sympolize the Tetrarchy, a period in which the Roman Empire was divided under four rulers.
Like most European cities, Venice unfortunately had a Jewish ghetto. In fact, it was the first ghetto in Europe, founded in the 16th century. Antisemitism was very strong and the rulers of Venice were debating about whether the Jews should be allowed to stay on the island. As a compromise, they forced all the Jews to move to a smaller island within the island of Venice, on which there was an old foundry. The word 'ghetto' comes from the Venetian word for foundry, 'geto.'
On a lighter note, the pigeons in the piazza were very entertaining!
We spent the morning in Venice, but after lunch we took a boat to the island of Murano, which is famous for its glass. Because John inadvertently convinced one of the shop/factory clerks that we were rich Texans, we got a rich person's tour, which included a demonstration and a look around a ritzy showroom (where we weren't allowed to take pictures).
The demonstration: the guy doing it is a master glass-maker. An apprenticeship lasts for ten years.
Rolling a vase. Notice the glass horse; he had made that only moments before.
Here's a video of him making the aforementioned horse. I would have narrated, but I didn't want to interrupt the guy giving us the tour.
The island of Murano itself was very nice. There were very few tourists, an abundance of glass shops, a really big church and, of course, the requisite Cokes available for purchase.
Like Venice, Murano is divided by a big canal.
Back at Venice. Here's Caroline and Sian showing off their shades.
Here's our travelin' crew. I'm there in spirit, although physically I was behind the camera.
Me on a side canal.
One tired couple. We only spent a day in Venice, but it was a full day!