Grand Tour of Italy Day 5 Venice

 Day 5 Wednesday March 20, 2013
Venezia 2000 Hotel

We checked into the Venezia 2000 hotel last night after dinner at Ristorante Gran Viale. Our room has two single beds pushed together and is on the 4th floor (piano). I actually had the best sleep of the trip so far on this bed. The hotel has wireless but only in the lobby, bar and restaurant areas. So we checked email quickly then crashed about 10:30 PM. We found out that there was big storm back in New England with most of the schools closed, so my niece and nephew were happy to get an email but even more happy that they had no school!!!

We woke to an amazing sunrise (alba). Our room, 402, faces the Adriatic Sea. Down to the lobby to check emails quickly then into the restaurant for breakfast (colazione). We all meet in the lobby for our bus ride to the water taxi area. We have a private boat booked for our ride from Lido to Venice.

Venice (Venezia) is a car-free urban adventure. It is laced together by 400 bridges and 2,000 alleyways. It was born in a lagoon over 1500 years ago as a respite from barbarians. Venice is the capital of the Veneto region. In 2009 there were about 280,000 people living here. The name is derived from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region by the 10th century BC. 

Venice was an important trading center, middlemen for the east-west trade routes (Merchant of Venice). And in 828 AD they smuggled in the bones of Saint Mark (San Marco) and gained importance as a religious mecca. Today the Venetians mostly survive on tourism.  As mentioned in a previous blog, Venice is one of Italy's MOST expensive cities, everything has to be shipped in then boat delivered and hand-trucked to its final destination. If you are not careful an espresso costing 1.50 euros elsewhere could run you 20 euros here.

There are also a huge number of street vendors. Legit and otherwise. It is illegal for street vendors to sell knock-off handbags and it is ALSO illegal for you to purchase them; both you and the vendor could be given HUGE fines. Buyer Beware (Caveat emptor)

Venice is sinking!
Venice has been battling floods since the fifth century. The buildings of Venice are constructed on closely spaced wooden piles. Most of these piles are still intact after centuries of submersion. The foundations rest on the piles, and buildings of brick or stone sit above these footings. The piles penetrate a softer layer of sand and mud until they reach a much harder layer of compressed clay. The sediment was deposited by the Po River. Submerged by water, in oxygen-poor conditions, wood does not decay as rapidly as on the surface.That's how these pilings have survived for so long.

Venice floods about 100 times a year. Usually in October through late winter--called acqua alta. In November 1966 a huge storm raised the Venetian water level about 6 feet (this same storm flooded Florence). If the rains come, the tourist areas are prepared with raised walkways. Like the ones these students are resting on. 

Doge's Palace
Contrary to popular belief the doge was not a duke in the modern sense, nor was a doge the equivalent of a hereditary duke. The "doge" was the senior-most elected official of Venice and Genoa; both cities were republics and elected doges. A doge was referred to variously by the titles "My Lord the Doge" (Monsignor el Doxe), "Most Serene Prince" (Serenissimo Principe), and "His Serenity" (Sua Serenità). These leaders were not leaders for life especially if the city was going through a hard time. The doge would not be re-elected.

The Doge's Palace (Piazza Ducale) is quite spectacular and built in the Venice Gothic style. In 1923 it became a museum (it is one of the 11 museums run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia) and is open to the public (restricted photos inside)
From Wikipedia
The court and the prisons were originally in the Doge's Palace. Prison cells were in the wells and in the Piombi (the leads). Cells in the wells were crowded, stuffy, and infested with insects. Cells in the Piombi, directly under the palace's conductive lead roof, were very hot in summer and very cold in winter. A famous inmate of the Piombi was Giacomo Casanova, who escaped through the roof, re-entered the palace, and was let out through the Porta della Carta.

A corridor leads over the Bridge of Sighs, built in 1614 to link the Doge’s Palace to the structure intended to house the New Prisons. Enclosed and covered on all sides, the bridge contains two separate corridors that run next to each other. Visitors use the hallways that linked the Prisons to the chambers of the Magistrato alle Leggi and the Quarantia Criminal; the other linked the prisons to the State Advocacy rooms and the Parlatorio. Both corridors are linked to the service staircase that leads from the ground floor cells of the Pozzi to the roof cells of the Piombi.

Saint Mark's Basilica (Basilica di San Marco)
It is the most famous of the city's churches and one of the best known examples of Byzantine architecture. It lies at the eastern end of the Piazza San Marco, adjacent and connected to the Doge's Palace. Originally it was the chapel of the Doge, and has only been the city's cathedral since 1807, when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, formerly at San Pietro di Castello.
Sculptures of winged lions can be seen all over the city, these are the mascots of Venice.

Another interesting sculpture is "The Tetrarchs"
In an attempt to stabilize the Roman Empire after the crisis of the third century, the Emperor Diocletian imposed a new Imperial office structure: a four co-emperor ruling plan called The Tetrarchy. This porphyry statue represents the inter-dependence of the four rulers. It was taken from Constantinople, during the Fourth Crusade in 1204, and set into the south-west corner of the basilica at the level of the Piazza San Marco. The missing foot of one of the figures was discovered in Istanbul (near the Bodrum Mosque) in the 1960s, where it is still on display.
Murano Glass Factory

Our group moves on to visit a Murano Glass Factory. We get to see a demonstration of glass blowing (video above) then are taken into the showroom to see that various glass colors and item made by these talented masters. No photos or videos here, trade secrets cannot get out!

Located off the shore of Venice, Italy, Murano has been a commercial port as far back as the 7th century. By the 10th century, the city had become well known for its glass-makers, who created unique Murano glass. While Murano glass-makers have settled and operate elsewhere, some say authentic Murano glass is fabricated only in Murano.

Sometime around 8th Century Rome glass-making in Murano took hold. Asian and Muslim influences can be seen in the details, as Venice was a major trading port. Murano’s reputation as a center for glass-making was born when the Venetian Republic, fearing fire and destruction of the city’s mostly wooden buildings, ordered glass makers to move their foundries to Murano in 1291. Murano glass is still interwoven with Venetian glass.

By the 14th century, glass makers were  among the island’s most prominent citizens. They were allowed to wear swords, enjoyed immunity from prosecution by the Venetian state, and found their daughters married into Venice’s most affluent families. However glass makers were not allowed to leave the Republic. Many craftsmen took this risk and set up glass furnaces in surrounding cities and as far away as England and the Netherlands. By the end of the 16th century, three thousand of Murano island's seven thousand inhabitants were involved in some way in the glass-making industry.

Venice Gondola
The Grand Canal
Many in our group purchased the optional Gondola Ride side trip. The trip was about 30 minutes long, and included wine and music!
More images from our Gondola Ride

We broke for free time and lunch. Jay and I made out way to the Rialto Bridge.
We found a cute little Rosticceria called the Al Teatro Goldoni in San Marco just a little ways from the Rialto Bridge. I had Tortelino a prosciutto, Jay had Insalata Venese with espresso, cafe americano and water. We paid 39.50 euros, a little much but THIS IS VENICE! We even got to eat near George Clooney and Nicole Kidman! (see images)

Next up we hit the Museo Correr
To enjoy the artwork and to walk off that filling meal!

Lots of beautiful artwork but NO PHOTOS.

The group met up again at the foto place and walked to our private water taxi back to Lido. The Venezia 2000 Hotel hosted a cocktail (aperitivo) party for us in the bar with Sangria or a Spritz and some nibbles (cheese, salami, breads, olives)

Spritz is a refreshing drink that is commonly served in the northern part of Italy, especially in Venice, which had influence from the Austrian Empire. Many Venetian towns have their own specific version of this drink. In the last decade, the Aperol Spritz with Prosecco has become the most popular type served in Italy. To date, this drink is hardly known in the United States.

From Wikipedia (some loss during translation but you get the idea!)
There is a unique composition for spritz, but variants for each city in turn interpreted by freely baristas, each with an own particular preparation. A common denominator between the existing variants is the presence of white wine and sparkling water or seltz. Treviso in the spritz is prepared by mixing the base of prosecco and seltz the Campari, Aperol and Cynar or adding a slice of lemon, orange or an olive.

Venice is the most widespread simple spritz, ie without the addition of alcohol reds. In Trentino the spritz is known among both young and as among the elderly, which generally use the product to identify the white synonymous with Aperol. Normally if you order a spritz in Trento, Rovereto or Riva del Garda (the largest consumption center) revenue does not change: it is ice, Aperol, sparkling wine and a slice of orange. The real variant, in several areas, it is the type and flavor of sparkling.

In Trento sparkling Ferrari appears, as in Riva del Garda, while in the area of ​​Rovereto and Val Lagarina addition of several sparkling can be varied by replacing the prosecco. In a variant of the Seltz is replaced by gin.

In the Veneto spritz is truly a popular ritual, which involves from the morning the young and the old. No doubt it is the most consumed and spread appetizer, a traditional medium for socializing and is a symbol of the city intense atmosphere.

Jay and I ate dinner in the bar as we were just too worn out to head back into town for dinner. I had the ciabatta with tom sauce (pomodoro), mozzarella, mushrooms (funghi), brie, cherry toms (pomodorini), arugula (rocket) and  parm cheese (grana)  for 9,00 euros and Jay had the Captain Tuna Rossa Pizza for 8, 00 euros. With water and three draft (Nastro Grandes) the meal costs us 33,50 euros, a little expensive but THIS IS VENICE!

Off to bed for the exhausted tourists...Early morning lobby call for our ride through Bologna on our way to Florence for three nights!!

More images from Venice

Next up Bologna!
Pubblicare domani!!! (Post tomorrow)

Venice March 20 Day 5 
Grand Tour of Italy
Go Ahead Tours 
March 16-30, 2013
Copyright ©2013 Nancy Nutile-McMenemy
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