Thursday, 14 February 2013

Viva Venice - Day 3

Day three started with going on a tour of the Doge's palace. Its an impressive building right off the square, most noticable by the long line of column which many of the costumed visitors for Carnevale rest under to have their pictures taken.

The palace is made up of a large inner courtyard and then upstairs several large chamber rooms where the different councils that used to rule Venice would sit to decide things and punish criminals. Pictures were forbidden inside and each room was monitored very carefully by staff designed to stop any sneaky shots, so I don't have any of the interior.

My favourite part of the tour was crossing the bridge of sighs. It takes you from the largest hall, a room decorated around the walls by the faces of each Doge of Venice throughout history - accept from one who tried to sell Venice and was therefore painted out - to the prisoner cells. Dark, dank and vaguely creepy, it was not a pleasant fate to be sent there.

 An interesting fact - the only person to ever escape from here was Giovanni Giacomo Casanova (pictured above left) after being imprisoned in the Doge's palace for his interest in witchcraft. The tall, dark Italian dandy demonstrates perfectly the spirit of carneval in 18th Century Venice with his well-known life of drinking, partying and whirlwind affairs. Spawning famous portayals of him by the late Heath Ledger and David Tennant (pictured in his role as Casanova in the TV drama of the same name, above.)

The afternoon continued with us setting out to go to the Gallerie dell' Accademia. I thought it was a large art gallery containing exhibitions of modern art. I find modern art can be very hit and miss but do often find it, and the people that go to them much more entertaining than dusty museum art galleries containing painting that haven't seen natural light in decades and can, as they often do in many papal cities, be largely religious themed.

To reach the Gallerie dell' Accademia from Campo Santo Stefano you have to cross a busy wooden bridge. Originally built in cast iron in 1854, it was taken down and rebuilt in wood after being decided it was too low in 1932. It was then however replaced with a stronger replica in 1984. From its top you get impressive views of the Grand Canal that it crosses. So we got to the Accademia and I was surprised to find that I'd mistaken it and the Guggenheim further up - a fact that I didn't know until I was at home again and confronted what I considered a lying tour guide.

I can only recommend the Gallerie dell' Accademia if you are into faded, mostly religious art from between the 12th and 18th century. I think the only paintings I found interesting were those depicting Venice as it once was and the one depicting the funeral of Saint Ursula. A very silly woman in my opinion who took 40 virgins to convert the Germans. you can imagine...did not end well.

The last stop of the day was the Rialto bridge. I wanted to go here for one reason. Shopping! The interior arches of the bridges are lined with little shops selling all sorts of merchandise. One of the best places in the city to get souvenirs for loved ones. A two minute walk back to the hotel, an hours rest and I was back out in San Marco square for one last round of taking pictures of those in costume.

Next day I flew home. Still wish I could have stayed longer. Still great time, great memories.

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