Everyone who visits Venice goes to San Marco, Saint Mark’s Square. well, you have to, don’t you. The last time I was there, in 2011, the square was so crowded you had to push your way through the crowd and you could cross the whole space without seeing the ground. This time, there was time to breath. Don’t let the crowds put you off because everyone has to go inside St. Mark’s Basilica, one of the wonders of the World, mysterious and resplendent at the same time with its opulent Byzantine frescoes.
You could, if your neck could stand the strain, spend two weeks here just looking at the images that cover walls and ceiling. Quite literally, every picture tells a story.
You have to visit the beautiful but spooky Doge’s Palace too with its magnificent, if propagandist frescoes by great Venetian artists like Giovanni Bellini (1430 – 1516), Jacopo Tintoretto (1519 – 1594) and Paulo Veronese (1528 – 1588).
Tintoretto’s Paradise covers one wall of the gigantic Chamber of the Great Council. It is wonderful, of course, a miracle of fitting lots of people into the same picture but it is a vision of Paradise where God and Jesus, along with the Virgin Mary and all the company of angels, saints and martyrs, all bestow special favours to Venice. It is a masterpiece of corporate PR.
When you’ve seen the art, you can cross the Bridge of Sighs to the dungeons, just like all those prisoners condemned to torture and death by those very same city fathers praised in Tintoretto’s Paradise. After all that, you might fancy a cup of something, so, very conveniently, one of the most famous cafes in the World is just round the corner in St. Mark’s Square.
Florian’s was founded in 1720 and it is still serving great coffee and tea accompanied by its famous orchestra going through its repertoire of Viennese waltzes and tunes from Italian opera. Late in the evening, when you’ve had a bit more than coffee, you can dance on the street like the young American couple who tried to waltz in 4/4 time to the Grand March from Aida. And why not!
I settled for some excellent English tea with the best macaroons this side of Tintoretto’s Paradise.
They say Casanova used to come here – I can understand that. I’d defy anyone to resist seduction accompanied by Florian’s colourful pastries in a gilded chamber such as this.
It was great to be back in Venice but I’m still not brave enough to go up the Campanile tower even though I’m told the view is worth the terror. I prefer to keep my eyes down.
So, revived, inspired and ever so slightly freaked out, it was time to explore the parts of the city that I hadn’t visited before.
We all recognise the church on the other side of the Grand Canal, Santa Maria Salute. It is one of Venice’s most famous landmarks. I’d seen it many times before but never looked inside.
Actually it’s worth crossing the canal just to see Venice from this side – it must be one of the best views of the city.
Santa Maria Salute looks pretty good up close too.
There she is, the Virgin Mary with her crown and, way up there at the top, her son, also crowned, who has one of the best views in Venice.
Inside, the church is all cool marble and wide open space 0 a magical relief after all those narrow streets, I suspect, for 16th Century Venetians, celebrating the end of the plagues that devastated the city’s population in those years. If you go there at 3.30 in the afternoon, like I did, you can here the lovley baroque organ being played in the church’s traditional Vespers ceremony. It was a joyful place to celebrate 18th Century organ music in Santa Maria Salute’s thrilling acoustics. It was a relief too from the unseasonably high temperature outside – 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 degrees Fahrenheit)
Of course you don’t have to spend all your time in Venice visiting churches and museums. The city itself is a work of art so if you don’t mind getting a bit confused at times, one of the most enjoyably things to do is just to go off on a wander round.
As a simple rule I tried to explore the streets that didn’t have painted signs guiding you to St Mark’s Square or the Rialto. You can go that way too, if you want, on those streets, there will be all the Gucchi, Prada and Dior anyone could possibly desire.
I preferred the little alleys and corridors where you can went your way into a world far from the atmosphere of any other great city.
Sticking near the water helps to ward off the heat…
when you need to recover from exposure to the full power of the sun in one of the many little squares that emerge as if from nowhere.
If you get too hot then there’s always a friendly bar where there was usually a warm welcome.
In the evening, you have to stay out of doors preferably somewhere where you can watch the canal and the people who like watching canals and people too.
Time hangs lazily here and thoughts too linger at the speed of the most leisurely of gondolas.
I too ended up at the Rialto Bridge like everyone else but I decided that I preferred it at night.
Standing there at the end of a long day, the city had never looked so beautiful.
COLIN BELL’S PUBLICATIONS:
Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love
Ward Wood Publishing
October 30, 2013
Genius Floored: Uncurtained Window
Soaring Penguin Press
June 15, 2013
Genius Floored: Whispers in Smoke
Soaring Penguin Press
June 6, 2014
Poetry and short story anthology
A Kind Of A Hurricane Press
The Blotter Magazine Inc.
Three pages of poetry in the American South’s unique, free, international literature and arts magazine.
The Fib Review
My Fibonacci poetry has appeared in this journal from 2009 until the present
Shot Glass Journal
Muse Pie Press
My poetry has appeared in various issues of this short form poetry journal
Every Day Poets Magazine
Every Day Poets
I have various poems of the day published in this 365 days a year poetry magazine.
In The Night Count The Stars
March 1, 2014
An “uncommon anthology” of images, fragments, stories and poetry.