21 June 2015

The Grand Tour...of Venice

My second day in Venice dawned very cloudy (not a precipitous start to my avowedly poncho-less existence). The plan was to meet Dr. Rosen, a UTD art history professor, at the Piazza San Marco to begin a tour of Venetian churches and artwork. We rose early, afraid of getting lost, and took the vaporetto to San Marco. The church and Doge’s Palace are gorgeous! Delightfully unsymmetrical and different than anything else I have seen in Italy. Because of our temporal fear, Natalie and I arrived quite early. We then went on a search for food. I had, I kid you not, the best breakfast ever that morning! Two fresh, hot Nutella filled croissants and a latte machiatto (which has become my go to drink). 

Soon Dr. Rosen arrived and we explored the piazza, standing under the cover of the library to avoid the showers. After a detailed look at the architecture of the piazza, San Marco and the outside of the Doge’s Palace:

we moved on to the Dominican church San Giovanni e Poalo. The architecture on the inside reminded me of the Duomo in Florence. Compared with other churches in Italy it is relatively unadorned, most of the walls are made of simple brick. 

There are gorgeous paintings and many tombs embedded in the building’s walls. Dr. Rosen once lived in Italy, so he was very knowledgeable about the structure and the history behind all of the artwork. It was so nice having a guide (as previously stated, Venice is not a particularly easy city to navigate). After the Dominican church we headed over to Santa Maria Dei Miracoli, Ezra Pound’s favorite church in Venice, often called the Jewel Box. 

As Dr. Rosen pointed out to us, most structures (like San Giovanni e Paolo) are made of brick and the brick shows through. Santa Maria Dei Miracoli is completely covered in marble, porphyr and other stones so as to render it even more elaborate and gorgeous! Also, in contrast to San Marco which has varied and not in uniform architecture and style, Santa Maria Dei Miracoli was built by one architect who had the sole charge of the building. This central planning figure gives the chapel a cohesiveness and uniformity which is often lacking in Venetian architecture. I also had a cappuccino in the small campo abutting Santa Maria Dei Miracoli. I wasn’t sure I needed more caffeine…but Dr. Rosen said he always recommends more coffee, truth be told I required very little persuasion. Drinking coffee in Italy has been one of the great pleasures of this trip. After we admired the Jewel Box thoroughly, we moved on to the Franciscan church, the Frari. This church possesses some amazing artwork as well, most norably The Assumption of the Virgin by Titian, my favorite Venetian artist. 

The colors and perspective of the painting are reminiscent of Raphael, the illustrious composer of The School of Athens which I was blessed to see in the Vatican museum. I did not like the Frari as much as San Giovanni e Paolo. It was bigger and more elaborate. The architecture did not remind me of the Duomo (which you might recall is my favorite church in Italy). It was lovely, highly ornamented and elaborate. Titian’s painting is the alter piece and was exquisite, but the church as a whole was not my favorite, that is reserved for the Duomo and perhaps the Jewel Box, which, though highly ornamented, is still simplistic in architecture. And with the Frari our tour was done – a full day of touring, right? Wrong! Still much more to do. Natalie was not feeling well, so she left and went back to the hotel. With her loss I was left with a lot of people that had not been to Murano. I was definitely game to go back, seeing as I had not bought half of the things that I wanted the day before. So to Murano we all went, a jolly little group. Amazingly I was able to find all of the things that I had wanted to buy previously. It was so fun! Then Hope, Alex and I decided to go visit the Jewish Ghetto for dinner and have some falafel. Unluckily, we forgot that it was Friday night until we were almost there. Even so, we decided to see if the restaurants were still open since it was still well before sunset. They were not – a tragedy. Instead, in a stroke of irony, we went to a little streetside cafĂ© and had pork chops and French fries with very little ketchup. I am going to be so happy to get back to my large bottle of Heinz, I am so tired of rationing the one to two packets of ketchup I get in Italy.

We then went home to the hotel to pick up Natalie and go find Olga’s house. After wandering for awhile, we found it! Eureka! 

And right after that – it started raining. But I valiantly resisted the hagglers trying to sell me a pancho and instead ended the evening thoroughly soaked, but five euros up – a success to my way of thinking. On the way back to the hotel we stopped by Grom, a gelato place (Travel Tip #9 for anyone going to Italy: GO TO GROM!) that was recommended to Natalie and me by Gaspare, our Roman friend. Hope was impressed, both because that place is just stinking impressive and because all of the flavors and the cones and cookies are gluten free, which meant she could have anything. Then home and time for sleep. A long day, full of fun! Venice just might be my favorite city in Italy! It is definitely tied with Rome as of now…one more day to edge out the Eternal City. Until next time, goodnight from the city of the Winged Lion!

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