Saturday, October 3, 2015

Awe . . . Venice

Awe, Venice! -- It was wonderful.  

Our first view of Venice from the train window.
This is our first view of the "streets" of Venice from the back seat of a water taxi.

For our 25th wedding anniversary, Hubby D wanted to go to Venice. At the time I knew several friends that had either just gone or had plans for a trip to Italy very soon. Being the rebel that I am, I convinced D that we needed to do something different. I had this desire to do something no one else would or perhaps could do.

So we went on a weeklong live-aboard scuba diving vacation in Belize. And, if I say so myself, it was fabulous.

On board the dive boat for our 25th anniversary. My, my how time flies!

Hubby D however has reminded me numerous times over the past 9.5 years how much he wanted to go to Venice. 

Venice was at the top of his travel list.

Since we moved to Bahrain we have had opportunities to travel to several exotic locations but for various reasons, Venice has never made the cut.

Finally the opportunity arrived and were able to spend time traveling in Northern Italy just a couple of weeks ago during the Muslim holiday of Eid when Hubby D’s office closed for several days.

We flew into Milan and then boarded a train for Venice. We had great seats in first class with views of the countryside. However D and I agreed it was a longer train trip than we had imagined.

Hubby D took advantage of the train. A little work, some coffee and a great view.  Wow, life is good!

We arrived at the Venice train station just in time for a sunset shot from our water taxi on the way to our hotel, Hotel Ai Reali.

I took this just after we boarded the water taxi. Again, Wow!
Approaching the entrance to the hotel (red poles on left) from the canal. It was fun to enter from the water.
The front door to the hotel from the plaza.

Hotel Ai Reali is a small boutique hotel and absolutely wonderful. Our room was large with a beautiful chandelier, two large windows overlooking the canal and a huge marble clad bathroom with a walk-in shower and soaking tub. 

Later on in our trip I would learn that all the chandeliers in our hotel were hand blown Murano glass. This is my attempt to take a creative shot of the chandelier in our room.
This is the view from below of the chandelier.
Notice D working at the desk . . . ugh, always!

This was a great start to a wonderful time. Awe, Venice!

After unpacking (and, D catching up on his emails) we headed for the Grand Canal to find a place for dinner. 

The Grand Canal lit up at night.
Gondolas lined up outside Piazza San Marco.
During my research for our adventure to Venice, I arranged for a private architectural tour for our second day that would focus on architecture and the history of construction in Venice. So we decided to make it an early evening.

The tour would turn out to be the perfect experience for D and myself.

The next morning we woke to a very unusually quite world. When we opened our windows over the canal you could hear only the voices of children playing, workers dropping supplies by boat or heels clicking on the stone pathways. No cars or trucks, just a very peaceful and calm quiet. 

View out our window on our first morning in Venice.
The architectural tour started early but we managed to have a delightful breakfast with the best croissants I have ever tasted. The coffee was fabulous and eggs cooked perfectly. This delightful breakfast was repeated each morning during our stay at the Ai Reali.

Our architectural tour guide, Francesca shared a great deal of information about the history of construction in Venice and the way buildings were built as well as why they were built that way. 

Notice the bags behind Francesca. These are recycling material labeled and ready to be picked up. Barges traveled the canals for delivery and pick up of all kinds of materials early in the morning. All the bags were taken down to a landing between the buildings. The delivered materials were left on the same landing. It was all handled in an honor system.

Venice is in a lagoon. The city is made up of 188 islands and 150 canals.

Venice’s original settlers abandoned the mainland of Italy and relocated to the remote islands of the Adriatic lagoon in order to evade barbarian invaders — Goths, Huns, and Lombards — in the fifth and six centuries. 

The lagoon’s 550 square kilometers / 210 square miles of salt water (the largest wetland in the Mediterranean) offered protection and an opportunity to found an independent republic, unhindered by the instability ashore.

First they had to develop their own construction methods to deal with the lagoon’s murky water.

This crest was on the side of one of the buildings.  My grandson, BSJ researched the words for me. He told me, " It is in Italian and is a reminder that the building belongs to the Blessed Virgin of the Suffrage of the Dead."
Here is an article on the engineering of Venice. An interesting fact -- there are 400 bridges in Venice.

I snapped this picture of one of the canals as we walked over a bridge close to our hotel.

Under the silt in the lagoon is clay so when a new building was constructed, they would build the first floor by driving wood pilings into the clay. 

The first floor walls made of bricks were completed and then they walked away from the building for an entire year. 

During that year, the weight of the bricks would create the initial settlement of the structure. 

After a year they came back, leveled the floor where it had settled and added the remaining floors.

The buildings have a unique style. Gothic architecture abounds in Venice. In deed Venetian Gothic architecture is a term given to a Venetian building style combining use of the Gothic lancet arch with Byzantine and Ottoman influences. 

This style originated in fourteenth century Venice, where the confluence of Byzantine style from Constantinople met Arab influence from Moorish Spain. Chief examples of the style are the Doge's Palace and the Ca' d'Oro in the city. The city also has several Renaissance and Baroque buildings.

The Doge's Palace

If you want to read more about this here is my source: Boundless. “Architecture of Venice and the Veneto.” Boundless Art History. Boundless, 21 Jul. 2015.

This is a row of restaurants along the sidewalk.

A real mix of architecture.
Gondolas parked in front of buildings.

There are 6000 cisterns in Venice. These were built to collect rainwater. Buildings and homes were built around squares with these beautiful fixtures in the center. 

Cisterns were in almost every plaza we walked through. When the cisterns were used, the indention at the base held water for the animals. The person in charge of opening the cistern in the morning would put water in it for the animals.

This cistern was being used to ripen some eggplants.

The cisterns were used until the occupation of Napoleon and later Austria. The conquerors failed to maintain them and the cisterns became polluted causing the plague - the Black Death.

Francesca showed us numerous buildings that had multiple architectural styles where top stories might not match the original building style of the bottom sections. Once she pointed it out to us, it was easy to see the mix of architectural styles. 

D and I found the tour to be extremely interesting.

As we walked the streets of Venice, I found many wonderful door knobs and knockers. This fish was my favorite.

Here is a video we took during our tour with Francesca.  It shows how commerce is conducted in Venice. The merchants must restock by boat or by hand cart over the hundreds of bridges. If you are reading this in an email, you will need to go to my blog page online to view the video.

On our third day in Venice we toured the glass factory in Murano. The vases and art created there were absolutely stunning -- really stunning!  

Working in the glass factory.

Here is a video I took of the artist working with the glass. If you are reading this in an email, you will need to go to my blog page online to view the video.

I picked out a breathtaking vase that cost $2800 US but I could not convince myself to buy it. Knowing how practical D is, I know he would remind me (kindly but reminding anyway) of the price tag every time he looked at it.  But, it was really, really magnificent. I believe the artist was Alessandro Pianon.

This is NOT the vase I picked out. Photographs were not allowed. It was similar in shape to this but created with shades of blue with a band of etched blue on the side.
We also visited the Venice market. It was visually stimulating and quite busy. These are spice packages.
We saw this dredging barge while we were on the boat to Murano
This is the front door of a residence. All the bells and buttons on all the doors were brass.

If you look close you can see the "highway" in the sea. This is a line of boats going to the island of Murano.

Of course we had to take a ride in a gondola.
One afternoon as we strolled the narrow streets, we came upon a narrow canal with a singing gondolier. People all around stopped to listen.

It was lovely to listen to his voice resonate between the buildings. If you are reading this in an email, you will need to go to my blog page online to view the video.

There were many narrow walk ways between buildings.

Our last evening we had dinner on the Grand Canal at a restaurant named “Florida.” It was wonderful --  all the food and all the atmosphere in Venice was wonderful.

After dinner, we walked to St. Mark's Square (piazza San Marco) and listened to some of the outdoor music. It was a unique and very enjoyable evening. Violins, wine, the stars - what is not to like about Venice.

Here is a video of the music. If you are reading this in an email, you will need to go to my blog page online to view the video.

The piazza was all lit up that night.
This is the water's edge at piazza San Marco.

We had tickets on the train the next morning, but not too early. We had time for one more wonderful breakfast and I splurged with one more chocolate croissant. I am not a big chocolate fan, but I would eat any filling to be able to eat the croissant that went around it. It was amazing.

We took another water taxi to the train station.  I told D he looked like George Clooney did sitting in the back of a Venetian water taxi after his wedding. Our stay was almost like a second honeymoon! . . .   Awe, Venice!
I am not anything close to Amal Almuddin, but I felt really special in Venice. Great memories!
Our taxi was a beautiful and well maintained wooden boat. It was a bit of a splurge at 70 euros each way, but it was really fun to ride in down the canals.
Here is a peek inside the Venice train station.
And, so we were off to La Spezia and our hike along the Cinque Terra. Venice was special however the entire trip to Italy was a feast for the eyes.



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