Saturday, October 1, 2011

Final Friday in Venice

Today was our last day in Venice, and as much as we have enjoyed our time here, we are ready to move on to Florence and our next adventure!  As I said yesterday, we both think 4-5 days would be plenty of time for Venice--but then I'd rather have too much time than not enough, especially the way we get lost......

Our plan for the morning was to go to the Doge's Palace.  This is a huge palace built right next to The Basilica of San Marco in San Marco Square.  A Doge was the ruling head of the government in the time of the Venetian empire.  The palace dates from the 1400's, and has seen many Doges in it's time.
It is massive in scale, and the visit took us from one end of the palace to the other--up and down 4 floors, including the prison and dungeons.  We spent almost 3 hours exploring the palace.  Again, photos were not allowed in most parts of the palace, but I was able to snap a few in the areas open to photography.  There were some very interesting parts that I'd love to share, but sadly, no photos in those areas!

The palace is designed in a "U" shape with a very large inner courtyard space.  The top of the "U" is the edge of the Basilica San Marco, that amazing church with the fabulous mosaics we visited a couple of days ago.  The palace sits right on the waters edge, and has beautiful lagoon views from the windows.
Here is a view of just part of the exterior:
The detail of the exterior of this building is amazing; elaborately carved decoration covers just about every square foot of it.  Here's just a small sample:

Most of the floors were inlaid marble:

I was able to take a pic of the entrance and the very ornate ceiling:
This ceiling and others in the palace are actually carved and gilded wood!  Each room had a different design, some with very detailed frescos, and others with just the gilded wood carving on a colored background.  All were extraordinarily beautiful.

The palace has many, many rooms.  Each room was used for a very specific function in their government, as was nicely explained on a placard.  One of the most interesting rooms was the map room--it had two huge, beautiful globes--one of the world and one of the heavens.  The walls were covered with painted maps of different countries-as they were in the 1500's!

Another very interesting room was a general meeting room, which the sign said was the largest single room in any palace in Europe.  It was lined with very large paintings, and one whole end wall was a single canvas--the largest canvas painting in the world. It took the artist over 4 years to finish it.

The palace also has a fascinating collection of old weapons and armor dating back to the 1400-1500's.  Some of the metal helmets, shields and even weapons were beautifully decorated.  The full body armor was pretty amazing--just to think of how heavy and awkward it must have been to wear this into battle--not to mention hot!

We also went down into the dungeon and prison area of the palace.  It sure was an interesting contrast to the upper areas of the palace.
The doors are very thick, with very secure looking locks.  I don't imagine  many prisoners escaped from this prison.  If you look carefully, you can see that each cell door has a roman numeral carved above the very short door.

After we finished our tour of the dungeon area, we exited the palace via the "Bridge of Sighs".  Unfortunately, the views from this beautiful bridge inside the palace (over a small canal facing the lagoon) are not worthy of sighs right now-- there is extensive renovation, and it's all covered in blue plastic--darn!

A quick trip back to our apartment for a shoe change, and we are off to explore another area of Venice--this time Piazza Santa Margeurita.  It's a lovely area--not quite so many tourists.  We found a small cafe and had our last lunch in Venice, a shared pizza and beer.  Then we just set out walking, turning down a narrow street or crossing a bridge when it looked interesting.  At one point, we both mentioned that it looked like we were on a campus--and we were!  We kept wandering, not having any destination in mind, but really enjoying this very quiet and authentic part of Venice.

We knew we had been walking for a ways, but were very surprised to look up and see cruise ships--we had walked all the way to the cruise terminal!  Luckily, we easily found a vaporetto stop, and with the help of a nice young Venetian woman, figured out which one was going close to our apartment.

We got off a couple of stops before our usual one, and thought we'd wander along and find another one of those bruschetta "thingys" for dinner tonight.

 Well, we never did find the bruschetta, but we happened upon a lovely small church, so decided to take a look inside.  They were playing some beautiful music which sounded familiar......It was the parish of Antonio Vivaldi.  He had been baptized here, and this was his boyhood parish.  Quite a find on our way home!

We did make a quick stop for a gelato, this time we shared a scoop of dark, bittersweet chocolate--the best yet:

We looked and looked, but couldn't find another of those yummy bruschetta thingys.   We did find this incredible cheese shop though, and thought of our friend Pat E, wishing she could be there to enjoy some cheese!  Just look at these beautiful wheels of cheese:

After a dinner of a very good spinach/ricotta tart and more of those delicious salad greens, our last evening was spent packing and spiffing up the apartment a bit.  We'll be turning over the keys at 8:30 tomorrow morning, and then we'll have our last lovely vaporetto ride down the Grande Canal to the Santa Lucia train station.  It's been a wonderful week in Venice.

Fabulous Florence, here we come!


  1. The palace you visited today was fantastic and what a difference the dungeon and prison are. The cell door was short...good idea to have David stand by it. The cheese shop looked wonderful but that gelato...the dark chocolate...yummo! You fit so much into one day...don't you get tired? Tomorrow the train ride to Florence..what adventures await you! Sleep tight...don't let the bed bugs bite (you have a different version of that Di) and next time we are together...please please tell me the story of Auntie May in the bathroom stall...I love that TRUE story..I am giggling just thinking about it...Love you...Brenda

  2. Cheese...cheese..... I'm dreaming of cheese......