[click here to read part 1 of the Venice blog]
Early in the afternoon, we got on the vaporetto for a day-time Grand Canal tour. We all listened to a Rick Steves audio guide while we cruised down the canal. The audio guide pointed out all the major landmarks and significant buildings and palaces along the canal. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too crowded, so it was a very pleasant ride. Once we reached the end of the Grand Canal, we stayed on our vaporetto and came back up the canal in order to get off at the famous Accademia Bridge, where we visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection Museum. It was really cool to get to see the house from the water before going inside it, since it’s in a prime location, right in the middle of the Grand Canal.
Only my dad, Gracie and I actually went inside to see the collection.
The Guggenheims have become a household name for their philanthropy and patronage of the arts (particularly modern art) in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Peggy Guggenheim, niece of Soloman Guggenheim, bought the eighteenth century palace in the 1940’s, which now houses and shows her extensive private collection. The impressive collection includes the works of Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Robert Motherwell, Salvador Dali, Jackson Pollock, and many many others (all of which were friends of hers). I was completely overwhelmed and taken aback by it all, but loved it all.
I could have stayed all day but the museum closed at 6:00. We met back up with the rest of the family and went to dinner. We ate at a pizzeria called Al Profeta, which was about a 10-minute walk from the Peggy Guggenheim collection.
The family slept in a little later, because we didn’t have to be anywhere until the afternoon. In order to skip waiting in line for a long time, we made online reservations to get into Saint Mark’s Basilica around noon. We ate some brunch and headed out around 11:30.
Saint Mark’s Basilica, most notable because it houses the bones of Saint Mark, was built in the 11th century. It is filled with amazing golden Byzantine mosaic ceilings, as well as a sixth century golden altarpiece adorned with precious jewels. Thankfully, we had read that the basilica was illuminated during a one hour timeframe, so we arrived in time to see the domes brilliantly illuminated by lights. At the end of the one hour period, the lights went off and the beautiful domes became dark. We would have been so sad to not have seen them illuminated! Pictures weren’t really allowed inside the Basilica, but I managed to sneak a few.
After gazing at the ceilings and treasures inside the Basilica, we strolled through Saint Mark’s Square. The square is lined with little shops and cafes; where writers and artists throughout history have come to overpay for coffee and to observe the city. One of the most frequent visitors to these cafes was Stendhal. Stendhal, a 19th century French writer, was the person who Stendhal Syndrome was named for. This “illness” is described as a disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when a person experiences something of great personal significance, particularly when viewing art. I, mostly jokingly, have self-diagnosed myself as having this. So, it was cool to see where Stendhal sat and pondered his experiences with art.
After walking through the square, we headed to the Doge’s Palace, which is right beside Saint Mark’s basilica. This palace is where, starting in the fourteenth century, the doge, or ruling duke, lived and governed. Every room is covered with elaborate architectural details and paintings, most of which incorporated the doge in some way.
Across the canal from the doge’s palace is the old prison. The two buildings are connected by a small, two lane bridge, called the Bridge of Sighs. It is called this because it is said that when convicted persons were transported from the courtrooms in the governmental rooms of the doge’s palace to the prison, they looked out the small openings on the bridge to the rest of Venice and sighed, knowing it was probably the last times they would see the city.
The prison has been left basically untouched since it was in use. We walked around the different hallways and saw the cells where prisoners were held. I would have definitely sighed if I knew that was going to be my fate.
For dinner, we ate at a restaurant near our apartment. We tried several Venetian seafood specialties, including squid ink pasta.
After dinner (around 9), Peter was begging to take a gondola ride. He had wanted to do it all week, but we had all resisted because it seemed too touristy and because we had the pleasure of seeing the back canals during our walks around our neighborhood. We were so wrong! Right as we got into the gondola, the sun began to set and Peter’s face lit up. Seeing his joy and excitement made us love it even more. It was surprisingly very serene – the city was quiet and there was not much boat traffic on the canals. It was definitely worth it to see the city at sunset from the water and to see the sheer excitement on Peter’s face.
Tuesday, July 5th, we take a bullet train from Venice to Florence, where we’ll be for four days.