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More Bridges…

September 20, 2018

Our second day in Venice began with a hearty breakfast outdoors in a little campo near our apartment, then back we went to San Marco. A little tip for anyone wanting to tour the Doges Palace: your ticket also admits you to the Correr Museum on the other side of the piazza, so if you buy your ticket there you can skip the long line at the Doges.

The Correr was having an interesting exhibition on the evolution of printing from the 16th century onward, and it was fascinating to see just how much information was circulating in the known world at that time. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOther permanent exhibits include 15th and 16th century armaments, as well as the usual paintings and sculpture.

As planned, we bypassed the long line and began our self-guided tour of the Doges Palace, with the very helpful Rick Steves’ Pocket Venice. The palace, adjacent and connected to the basilica, served as the residence of each doge and the center of Venetian government. A doge was a noble elected by other nobles to serve as the highest office-holder of the Republic of Venice, and the basilica was actually designated the doge’s chapel. As you enter the courtyard, you see the long ceremonial staircase, flanked at the top by statues of Mars and Jupiter (Photo below is Mars from the rear; I don’t seem to have one from the front, hmmm.) Visitors would have to climb the steps to greet the doge.


The Mouth of Truth served as a sort of mailbox for busybodies wanting to report on their neighbors. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInside, the magnificent 24-karat Golden Staircase led to the doge’s apartments and government function rooms, all adorned with paintings by nearly every Renaissance artist you could name: Tiepolo, Veronese, and  most notably Tintoretto, whose Il Paradiso is the largest oil painting in the world. The sheer volume of art is staggering. The last doge abdicated in 1797, when Napoleon conquered Venice.

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After wandering through the grandiose halls of state, we were sobered by a walk through the stark prison section of the palace, with bare stone dungeons for torturing political prisoners. On their way to be executed, prisoners crossed the small canal via the Bridge of Sighs, so named because supposedly one could hear the sad sighs of the doomed as they caught their last glimpse of the beautiful city.

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This afternoon we hopped on a ferry to the islands of Murano, Torcello and Burano. Murano, of course, is where the famed glass is made, and we watched a demonstration before being ushered into the large store with its vast array of decorative as well as functional glassware (all tours end at the gift shop). There’s really nothing else to see or do here.

On to quiet and less touristy Torcello, where the main attractions are mosaics in the church and simply walking around this quiet island of twenty inhabitants.

Approaching Burano, you notice the brightly colored houses, painted so the fishermen who lived here could quickly identify their own homes as they sailed home. The main street boasts many shops, most of them selling lace (some authentic, some made elsewhere, so buyer beware). At the best-known shop, we watched the lady purported to be the last hand lacemaker in the town. The craft, once handed down through the generations, is becoming a lost art, and competition with machine-made pieces dictates prices that don’t reflect the many hours of painstaking work required to fashion even small pieces (for example, ten hours to make a coaster that sells for €8).

The town’s leaning tower can be seen from the water even before the colorful houses and shops come into view.

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Dusk was coming on as we returned to Venice and found our way back to Cannaregio…

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