Europe Photoblogging, Part 17: Venice
By Dwip September 24, 2014, 1:34 pm Comments (0) RSS Feed for this post

This is the Grand Canal in Venice as seen from the Ponte di Rialto, one of the four bridges that cross it.

This is Venice. Everything has a name.

I was in Venice for all of 6/21/04 and for portions of the day on either side of it. I had scheduled myself for two days there and one in Ravenna, but as I describe in some detail in the blog post, Venice and I did not get along particularly well. That said, I think I did the best I could with the time I had.

No map this time, I’m afraid. Thank Google Maps’ inability to handle multiple flights. I ended up flying from Stockholm to London (being back in London was a strange, strange experience, almost like coming home), then from London to Treviso, Italy where I got on a bus to Venice, only to arrive in a rainstorm. Odd experience.

This is Santa Maria di Nazereth, the Church of the Scalzi, a name which will be much much more amusing in about a year when I start reading John Scalzi.

While it’s near one of the other main bridges on the Grand Canal, the main thing I think is cool here is the random boat parking in front. Because Venice.

While the major thoroughfares in Venice are the canals, most of the actual streets in the city are these very narrow pedestrian affairs. Forget driving in Venice, it’s not happening unless you count that guy’s wheelbarrow.

This is one end of the Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Square, the central open space in Venice. At one time this was the center of the richest merchant republic in the world, one of the major sites in Italy since late Roman times.

Can’t lie, it’s also kind of the world’s most famous tourist trap, which also describes Venice as a whole. That’s a big part of why I didn’t get along with it – everything’s awesome, but they’re also trying to shake you down at every second.

This is from the other end of things, showing St. Mark’s Basilica and the Campanile, with the Doge’s Palace in the background.

I’m going to talk about this a little bit more later, but my standing here was a really big deal for me.

This is the exterior of the Doge’s Palace, which you could kind of see the corner of in the previous picture. Before the Doge meme was ever a thing, this is where the main guys in Venice lived and ruled. This being Venice, they also decorated the hell out of it starting in the 12th century on.

We’ll be going inside shortly.

This is a closeup of the Campanile, a 15th century belltower that was entirely reconstructed in 1912. At 323 feet high, it’s the highest or very close to the highest point in the city.

Being the highest point in the city, you can of course pay to go up top and take in a view of the city. This is looking northeast over the domes of St. Mark’s Basilica. It’s pretty representative of the whole – the Venetians do love their red roofs.

This is the far end of the Piazza San Marco. most of the stuff here is pretty upscale if hugely touristy cafes and the like, though there are also a couple of museums scattered about.

We’re inside the courtyard of the Doge’s Palace now, looking at St. Mark’s. Note that it’s just as nice inside as outside – apparently being unfathomably wealthy in the Italian Rennaisance lets you get away with some things.

This is the Scala d’Oro, the Golden Staircase that leads to the Doge’s apartment. Back in the day, you had to really be somebody to get to walk up this thing.

Again, being insanely rich does wonders for your interior decorating budget.

We’re now looking at the upper part of the inner courtyard in the Doge’s Palace. I realize I keep saying this, but you too could decorate like this if you had five centuries or so of mad stacks of cash coming in daily.

This is the view from the Bridge of Sighs that leads from the Doge’s Palace to the prison. The legend here is that if you’re a Venetian convict, this is the last view you’re ever going to see. The reality not so much, but as with so much in Venice, why ruin a good story?

At one corner of St. Mark’s next to the Doge’s Palace is this statue. Made of porphyry, it was made around 300 AD and depicts the Tetrarchy of the Emperor Diocletian.

This is about the moment where the wheels start coming off the car of my personal sanity. Because, look, here’s the thing. If you pick up a book that in some way covers the late Roman period, and any self-respecting book on the Roman Empire, the Byzantines, or the Middle Ages is going to do so, you’re going to see a picture that looks almost exactly like this one. This is to say that by the time I got to Venice I’d spent eight or so years looking at this thing.

I walked up and touched it. I don’t even know what to say about that. Holy fucking shit.

This is one of the doorways into St. Mark’s Basilica, demonstrating how ludicrously opulant this place is. It may well be the richest church in the world, which is why people have been calling it the church of gold since the 11th century.

The point here is that Venice operates on a sort of wealth scale that you’ve never seen before in your life, and I haven’t gotten inside the doors yet.

This is what the interior looks like. If you’re thinking “man, that all looks like gold! Crazy!” that’s because the entire ceiling is covered in golden mosaics. Mosaics that I remind you are made up of tiny pieces of glass. Even in rather dimmer light than this, surrounded by legions of tourists, it’s still just about the most jaw dropping sight I have ever seen.

Also, we’re operating off postcards at this point, because pictures were forbidden. Most places, I didn’t buy their postcards. This one, I bought the damn postcards because seriously would you look at that thing.

This is the 14th century altar screen, made out of marble. Behind it you can see a bit of the mosaic detail. Again, this one’s a postcard, because they do better pictures than me.

This is the dome mosaic, featuring the Pentecost. These mosaics are all very much in the Byzantine style, showing Venice’s very strong Byzantine influences and love/hate relationship over the centuries.

The insane level of craftsmanship goes without saying.

This is more mosaic detail from a postcard, showing the three wise men and that whole story. The main takeaway here is both the level of detail as well as the sheer number of glass tesserae that make up these mosaics. Try and extrapolate the number you see here in this small panel to the entire roof of the place.

I realize I’m basically just gushing at this point, but can you really blame me?

This is the Pala d’Oro, the Golden Cloth (gold and Venice kind of have a thing), which sits behind the altar. It’s mostly Byzantine in origin, though the lower part is very early 12th century and the upper part was created out of loot after the Fourth Crusade captured Constantinople.

I don’t know what I could possibly say about this thing. The Venetians didn’t really operate on any kind of scale you or I would commonly recognize.

Trip detritus this time is minimal, given how little time I spent in Venice. Left to right, top to bottom as always.

* My 6 euro ticket to go to the top of the Campanile. Pricy as hell for what you get, but that’s Venice.

* My ticket to the Musei Civici Veneziani, the Civic Museum of Venice, which does what it says on the tin. This got me into the Doge’s Palace and a couple of other things.

* My boarding pass and bus ticket from Stockholm->London->Treviso->Venice.

* My ticket for St. Mark’s Basilica, which is a very reasonable 2 euros, considering what you’re getting. Some things I begrudged paying the entry fee, but not here. Where else can you see what it has?

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