Sunday, July 03, 2016

Venice in a Day

Sunday, July 3rd, Venice in a Day.

Considering our intense itinerary, today we allow ourselves to sleep until 7:30 and after an 8:00 A.M. breakfast at our pension, we walk to San Marco Square. It is nearly 9:00 A.M. when we purchase our tickets to the Dodge Palace and enter the palatial courtyard. Although the Palace opened at 8:30 we have beat the majority of the tourists and after checking John’s backpack and my purse, we follow the arrows through the ornate rooms of the Palace. The baroque frescoed ceilings and walls are iced and sculpted in a gilded froth and reproductions of Roman sculptures sit on pedestals along the walls. Having seen the real thing, these reproductions are bland. Glass displays showcase Roman coins, ornate jewelry and fragments of pottery. It is the immensity of the Palace where the governing of Venice took place, not the collections housed within that is of interest.

Dodge Palace Courtyard
Dodge Palace Ballroom
View from within the Dodge Palace

 We follow the numbered arrows across the Bridge of Sighs where ill fated prisoners took their last look at freedom before going to the dungeons below. We wind through several floors of dungeon cells; impregnable and depressing with heavy steel bar mounted securely into the blocks of stone before being granted our freedom to exit into the bright sunlight of San Marco Square.

Dungeon doors and window bars
Detail of dungeon bars

John looking out from the Bridge of Sighs
Detail of stone window

Retracing yesterday’s route, we walk to the Zaha Hadid exhibit, get both a senior discount and a student discount and enter the elegant museum. This gorgeous Venetian style building is elegant and airy. Refined and delicate decorative paintings cover the walls and ceilings and when we reach the galleries, enormous and elaborate Murano Glass chandeliers decorate each room.

Staircase to the Zaha Hadid exhibit
Looking out the window

Murano Glass Chandelier

The building and the chandeliers are in great contrast to Zaha Hadid’s work. The exhibit is an excellent retrospective into her design, architecture and painting and we rest our feet and watch a video about her design process and her struggle to be acknowledged as a woman in her field.  After all the classical Roman and Renaissance Art we have consumed over the past two weeks, this exhibit is a refreshing glimpse of a contemporary genius.

Zaha Hadid Sculpture
Zaha Hadid Painting

Airport design
Architectural model for an airport

Zaha Hadid exhibit
John, Zaha Hadid paintings

We stumble upon a back street Cafeteria Bar, the Bacaro da Fiore on Calle De Le Botteghe. We are finally beginning to understand the system of pricing and levels of cuisine in Italy. These Cafeterias are not like our cafeterias but tiny delis with platters of appetizers behind glass that we can point to. They are all made in house, fresh and inexpensive and the Campari, prosecco, wine and beer are affordable. In addition, it is much more fun to be in this environment than at a tourist café where location determines the price and the quality of food is disappointing. There are just 3 stools and two tiny tables and a couple is just leaving one of the tables and the three of us squeeze and sit togetherorder our drinks and a platter of Italian tapas and enjoy the ambience of back street Venice.

Bistro cafeteria bar
We eat grilled eggplant, fried sardines and a various assortment of croquettes stuffed with mysterious meats and fillings. The sardines are not my favorite but the other tapas are delicious and I hesitate to give up our table but we have other museums to visit and walk to the Correr Museum, included in our Doge Palace ticket. After the world class art and museums we have recently visited, this museum is disappointing and after an hour we leave to brave the line to visit the interior of Saint Marks Basilica. After 30 minutes in the sweltering sun we reach the entrance to the Basilica and are told that we must go check our back pack and purse. We walk down a nearby street to the bag check and return to the head of the line and enter this fabulous Basilica. No photos are allowed inside but the tiny mosaic tiles glitter in the dim interior and we circumnavigate the uneven and ornately tiled floors. Aside from Notre Dame in Paris, this is my favorite cathedral/basilica by far. Wanting to memorize and absorb the magic of this Basilica, we circle back around and find the stairs to the terrace above. There are less than 200 steps up to the terrace and we pay our 5 Euros each and circumnavigate the platform that overlooks Saint Marks square and the Canal beyond.

Art, Marty and John, St Marks Basilica
View from terrace of St Marks.

Forbidden photo of interior

According to the Rick Steve’s guidebook, Cathedral Madonna dell ‘Orto is a hidden jewel and we make our way towards this out of the way church. John feeds the pigeons in the square before we pay our entry of 5 Euros each and turn on the Rick Steve’s audio guide and circumnavigate the airy Cathedral admiring the many Tintoretto’s, the airy architecture and Tintoretto’s elaborate tomb guarded by exquisite lions.

John feeding pigeons
Lion guarded tomb, Madonna dell 'Orto

Interior, Madonna dell 'Orto Cathedral
We wander back towards our hotel stopping at a back street café where the timing is perfect and we are allowed to sit and order Campari Spritzers before the prime dinner crowd. A very gregarious British couple gives up their seat for us and when another tired family arrives looking for seating, we slide down and enjoy our game of musical chairs and conversation.
Campari Spritzers, Venice

Happy hour, Campari Spritzers
Fun with olives:)

We wander off in search of dinner and are fortunate to find a not too touristy restaurant where John orders a whole fish and the food is tasty and reasonably good.

Whole fish

Gone fish

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