Home > 2011 Posts > Out of the Way in Venice

Out of the Way in Venice

November 14, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Some Venice is good. More is better. I stand with millions of enchanted visitors behind Pietro Sarpi who wrote in 1621: “Esto perpetua!”  Be thou perpetual.

The Bridge of Sighs is where prisoners of the Serene Republic caught their last glimpse of freedom through small, triangular openings in the stone latticework.

The photo to the left is what they would have seen. Taking it, I was reminded of Lord Byron’s poetic 1818 description:

I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As if from the stroke of an enchanter’s wand:
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand
Around me , and a dying Glory smiles
O’er the far times, when many a subject land
Look’d to the winged Lion’s piles

The folks standing out in the sunlight can’t see that anyone is crossing to the dungeons. Taking time to linger a few moments on both bridges, reflecting a bit, can be a profound experience. At least, it was that way for me. The lattice openings really are quite small. And very sturdy.

The title of The Doge, elected ruler of Venice for a thousand years, was Roman and comes from the Latin ‘Dux’, that became Duke in English. The city always saw itself as Roman, a part of the Eastern Roman Empire. At least until the Turks finished taking what the Arabs didn’t and Constatinople fell in 1484, with Venetians fighting on its walls at the end.

The photo to the right is of a large scale sculpture at Venice’s Naval Museum. It’s the Doge on his gilded State Galley. He’s performing the annual ceremony of symbolic marriage to the sea.

Being a former Navy type, I was fascinated by what I saw at the museum. But, my bride, who is an artist, was also captivated. I’m guessing that you might be as well. Not many folks have a feel for just how powerful and extensive Venice’s Empire was in its time.

The exhibits and artifacts here do a good job of conveying that.

The opera house in Venice is called Teatro La Fenice, the Phoenix. And, it’s gorgeous. Most Venetians who attend still arrive by gondola in all their finery.

The photo to the left is of the building’s side. Despite several attempts to get tickets ourselves on different visits, the performances have always been sold out. Once you’ve seen the interior and heard the acoustics of even a small rehearsal, you’ll understand why.

After our last visit to Venice, I broke down and bought a couple DVDs of performances there as consolation prizes. I recommend them highly. I also encourage you to stroll around La Fenice and go inside. My guess is that you will become lifelong fans as are we.

Surprises are everywhere in Venice. Like this ‘Old Street’ tucked under a long row of 20th century apartments. I took the shot for two reasons: I like old stuff, and the light seemed particularly interesting at that moment. Which is true more often than not most places in the city.

Before my first trip to Venice, I’d read Maurice Rowdon’s observation:

The whole course of Venetian art can be seen as a blissful attempt to define Venetian light, until with Tiepolo in the eighteenth century there is only the light left. There is no subject any longer, not even much of a feeling, just the fullness of the light, glittering, searching, flooding everything.”

And it’s true. Each new image becomes another attempt to capture the light, even for a raggedy 21st century photographer. Fun, frustrating and totally addictive!

Then there’s the darker side of Venice. As I noted in an earlier post, the Omerta crime organizations also do their deeds in the north of Italy.

Based on a bad recommendation from a guide book, my bride and I had dinner one night at the restaurant at the end of this street. The food was cold and the service was horrid. Was the owner late or holding back on his ‘protection’ payments? Were those guys enforcers, arriving shortly after we did to correct the situation? From the sounds inside, did they choose to emphasize their concern by ‘rearranging’ the kitchen? This time?

We were never in any danger; the visit was apparently ‘just bizness’. But, if you spend enough time in any place, no matter how lovely, human nature is bound to pop up at least once in awhile.

I should mention in all fairness that this was the only bad meal we’ve ever had anywhere in Italy. Wish I could say that for my home town.

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