NoeHill: Venice to Malta in 2002

Friday 24 May: La Notte, Piazza San Marco

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Mediterranean 2002: Venezia


Two Lions of Venice, Italy. Two Lions Contemplate the Grand Canal from the Ca' d'Oro Piano Nobile
Another cloudy day. Following breakfast at the hotel, we visited the Ca' d'Oro (House of Gold: gold leaf once adorned its facade) situated on the Grand Canal north of the Rialto Bridge. This palace, a mix of oriental and Gothic styles, was built in the 15th century and was one of the most luxurious buildings in an era of great wealth and ostentation, at the height of Venetian power. Like many palaces, great homes, and official buildings on the Grand Canal, its formal entrance was directly on the canal. That of the Ca' d'Oro, intact but no longer used, is especially impressive. The palace changed hands many times over the years and deteriorated greatly. Finally, near the end of the 19th century, a wealthy baron purchased and restored the building. He donated the palace and his collections to the state in 1916 and it is now a museum.


Rio di S. Alvise, Venice, Italy. Rio di S. Alvise
We walked through the Cannaregio sestiere in search of the church of Sant' Alvise, who shares his name with our own Alvis. It's location is somewhat remote, on the Rio di Sant' Alvise. We found its campo deserted except for a lone singer, possibly still in his cups from last night, or just starting out early. Anyway, he was loud. So loud we could hear him from inside the church. Campo Sant' Alvise is quiet and solitary, devoid of tourists or locals this morning. The church was built in 1388 but the statue of Sant' Alvise, above the doorway, is all that remains of the original decorations. Extensive rebuilding took place in the 17th century. The interior, also deserted today, is pleasantly conventional with a number of interesting paintings, including three by Giambattista Tiepolo.


Venice Photo Album: Sant'Alvise

Chiesa di Sant Alvise
Chiesa di Sant'Alvise
La salita al calvario
La salita al calvario
Giambattista Tiepolo
Campo Sant'Alvise
Campo Sant'Alvise


The Zaterre on the Giudecca Canal, Venice, Italy. The Zaterre on the Giudecca Canal
We strolled through the Cannaregio but found it rather ordinary. It's a working class neighborhood housing nearly a third of the Venetian population. No constant bustle as at the Rialto or San Marco. Few tourists find their way here, and if they do they move on quickly. It seems authentic, with quiet, almost deserted back streets, and wide, lazy canals.

Back to the Canal di Cannaregio, once a major gateway to Venice. Until the construction of the rail and auto bridges, most traffic to and from the mainland passed through this canal. It is still very busy, crowded at all times with barges, vaporetti and taxis. The Ponte dei Tre Archi (Bridge of the Three Arches), built in the 17th century, is unique. A very elegant structure, it proved unpopular in Venice because its arches slowed traffic and blocked the view from the canal towards the lagoon. None like it was ever built again.

In the afternoon, we went our separate ways, Al in search of photo subjects, Bob to the Zaterre for a quiet read along the canal.

That evening we discovered the Trattoria ai Cugnai, just around the corner from the hotel. The restaurant is apparently operated by three sisters, or grannies as one traveler wrote. Our meal was better than average and we were served by a funny, fluttering waitress who good-naturedly hectored her customers, all tourists, into ordering the day's crab special. She was rather quaint and kooky, and everyone enjoyed her. We would revise this opinion in a couple of days.


La Piazzetta di San Marco, Venice, Italy.
La Piazzetta di San Marco
After dark, the clouds lifted and we had a full moon. It seemed a good time to see Venice at night. Through the Accademia to San Marco, stopping often to experiment with digital night photography. The full moon and high tide had caused half of the piazza to flood, and the reflection of the buildings off the water was a wonderful sight. The piazzetta was also partially flooded as the water from the lagoon lapped over the edge of the walkways.


Piazza San Marco Orchestra Piazza Orchestra
In the piazza, only two of the usual three "dueling" orchestras were playing. These are small groups, usually 5 to 8 musicians, working in front of a restaurant. You can't sit down to listen unless you order something. (For that matter, there is no place in the whole Piazza San Marco to sit except at a restaurant.) The music from the orchestras would often overlap but they didn't play too loudly, and were far enough away from each other, that listeners weren't distracted.


La Piazza San Marco Piazza San Marco
The orchestras usually play the schmaltzy stuff that good-humored tourists like to hear. But occasionally there can come an unforgettable happened tonight. One of the orchestras began to play New York, New York. At once, I could feel the entire piazza swell, aroused by this song that has come to symbolize the strength and spirit of that city. People clapped in time, hundreds sang along, and many spontaneously began to dance in the Piazza. No matter their nationality, everyone seemed to know the words! The scene brought a lump to my throat. A year ago, when I heard this tune, I thought of Sinatra, Minnelli, and the Yankees. Since September 11, for me and for millions of others, the music evokes so very much more.


Venice Photo Album: I Canali

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