Built on 117 small islands, connected by 400 bridges and over 150 canals atop a forest of wooden pylons, there is no other city in the world like Venice!
We boarded our Eurail train at 7 in the morning and enjoyed the 2 1/2 hour trip through the Italian countryside.
How amazing it is to step out of the Santa Lucia train station and see the Grand Canal! We bought vaparetto tickets and crowded aboard for a trip down the length of the busy canal to San Marco.
past enormous palazzos, many of which have known better days....
to our first view of Piazza San Marco!
then past the Doges' Palace.....
which almost seems to rise from the sea.
This church was begun in 1631 as thanksgiving for Venice's deliverance from the plague epidemic of 1630. The word "salute" means health and salvation. Each year in November Venetians celebrate the Festa della Madonna della Salute by crossing a bridge of boats built across the canal carrying candles and praying for health.
After disembarking from our vaparetto, we wandered back past the Bridge of Sighs...
This bridge connects the Doges' Palace with the prison. Its name reputedly comes from the sighs of prisoners being led to trial. I like the current local legend better - it says that lovers will be assured eternal love if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the bridge!
As we entered St Mark's Square, we passed the Campanile - or bell tower. It was originally a shorter lighthouse that was part of the original fortress that guarded the entrance to the Grand Canal.
Check out this funky picture of the tower Bob took! It looks like it's falling over into the square! Which reminds me of the fact that the tower did collapse into a pile of bricks in 1902 - a thousand years after it was built! The sign near the tower says that the golden statue of the Archangel Gabriel at the top was found right at the entrance to St. Mark's Basillica - standing upright. They are currently working on strengthening the base of this rebuilt tower. After looking at Bob's pictures, I'm glad we didn't take the elevator ride to the top!
Our first tour was the Doges' Palace. This was the home of the ruling duke and Venice's seat of power for nearly seven centuries
It is filled with beautiful paintings, and richly appointed rooms. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures of the interior. The most amazing painting is Tintoretto's huge Paradise which is located over the doge's throne and fills the end wall in the Hall of the Grand Council. It is the largest oil painting in the world!
This is the Giant's Staircase with statues of Mars and Nepture which are symbols of Venice's power. All visitors to the palace climbed these stairs. Inside the palace, we climbed the Golden Staircase to the public rooms.
snuck inadvertently took these pictures before we knew photos weren't allowed.
Here is a picture of the inner courtyard
After the palace, we took a stroll around the Piazza San Marco. Napoleon called the Piazza the most beautiful drawing room in Europe.
Here is the orchestra outside of Florian's - the most famous cafe in Venice and one of the first places in Europe to serve coffee.
This is the clock tower which was built in 1496. The winged lion of St. Mark is the symbol of the city and you see them everywhere.
And here we are in front of some marble lions near the clock tower.
Then it was onward to St. Mark's Basillica. The legend says that in 828 AD Venetian merchants smuggled St. Mark's body out of Egypt in a barrel of lard to avoid inspection by the Muslim authorities.
Here are two of the four famous gilded bronze horses on the facade (actually copies - the originals are in the St. Marks museum). These famous horses were made during the days of Alexander the Great, taken to Rome by Nero, then to Constantinople by Constantine. They were brought to Venice from Constantinople by crusaders.. Napoleon took them to Paris but they were returned to Venice when he fell from power.
From 1075 there was a law that all ships returning to Venice from abroad had to bring back a precious gift to adorn the House of St. Mark. This explains the riches of the interior! There are over 8500 square meters of mosaics - many made with 24-carat gold! The inside literally glitters! This pictures shows one of the exterior mosaics.
We strolled the streets around this area and just enjoyed a little quiet time.
Finally we visited the beautiful Frari church. It is located on a quiet little square and features art by Donatello, Bellini, and Titian as well as monuments to Titian and Canova. Again, no photos allowed inside.
After dinner in a nearby cafe, we headed back down the Grand Canal in the beautiful evening light.