This post is a continuation of my ongoing series documenting our vacation in Italy. Day 2 of our Italian sojourn started with prayers that the predictions of heavy rains and flooding turn out to be incorrect. But on looking out of our hotel window I was a worried man as it was dark grey clouds as far as the eye could see. We slipped on our rain gear and had a hearty breakfast at the hotel Fontana and walked out in the rain.
We walked first to St Mark’s square where preparations were being made for the expected flooding with temporary elevated walkways being placed all around the square. We took a photo with the Bridge of Sighs and of an absolutely empty St Mark’s and started our walk across the island to the Fundamenta Nuove Vaporetto stop on the northern shore of the island.
The plan for the morning was taking a ferry to visit the island of Burano in the lagoon. I hoped that the bright pastel-coloured houses lining the canals would lift our spirits (and my photos! )on this otherwise colourless day. The walk was only possible with a map provided by the hotels otherwise it is very easy to lose your sense of direction in the narrow lanes of Venice. We managed to reach the vaporetto stop after a few unintentional detours inspite of having a map!!
The Venetian lagoon has 4 islands on the tourist map, Murano with its glassworks, Burano with its lace and coloured houses, Torcello with its abandoned church and the small island housing the San Michelle cemetery. We only had time for 1 and since we had no intention of shopping and would be seeing more than enough churches on this tour we decided to go to Burano. On reaching Burano the rain had abated for the moment and we got a chance to click photos at the canal. It seemed so peaceful after the midday crowds at Venice.
As we walked to the main square and church through the market street it started to rain again. It was time for the Sunday morning mass and all the residents filed into the church leaving the square very, very empty.
Burano is a very small island and we soon reached the opposite coast and waterfront where inspite of the pouring rains we saw a sight which gave us hope – some sun and a patch of blue skies peeking out from behind the thick blanket of clouds. It was a beautiful sight and lifted our spirits immensely.
It continued to rain on in Burano but as we got into our Vaporetto heading back we started to see more and more patches of blue sky and as we neared the Venice the sun was out in all its glory and it put a big smile on our faces.
So finally we got our wish and clicked photos of Venice with blue skies and sunshine, with the added bonus of white clouds making for great skies for photography. We didn’t know how long this would last, so we took photos of each other and selfies on every bridge over any canal on our way to our next destination Scuolo Grande di San Rocco and the Frari Church.
The Scuolo is a building made to commemorate the fight against plague, by dedicating a building full of art to St Roch or San Rocco. I had seen photos of this place online and it looked super grand. So I had to go there and I dragged the better half with me. The lower hall has Tintoretto paintings and an altar of Mary, nothing spectacular about it. But as we started to climb the staircase to the upper storey I knew it would be spectacular from the part of ceiling we could see from the staircase.
From then on, I was trigger happy. Unfortunately space constraints won’t allow me to post multiple photos here but I felt it was a grander spectacle than the Sistine Chapel we saw later on in our tour. Fully – gilded ceiling with Old Testament paintings from amazing perspectives, walls lined by the customary biblical paintings showing the life of Jesus. A separate room with a superb crucifixion painting by who else but Tintoretto!! He had painted the whole freaking building. Lots more area than the Sistine!!
I didn’t want to leave but the better half wisely reminded me that it was still sunny outside so we should see some more of Venice in the sun. So, I reluctantly trudged out and went right into the next building!! That was the Frari Church. Most churches in Italy have removed their original art which they store in a museum some where. The Frari church has left all its original art in situ making it a church and a museum. It has Titians famous Assumption of Mary painting along with a lot of other art. The church has recently started allowing photography inside which i didn’t know. So I wasted some time before I started clicking photos. Photos of art are always second best so I decided to go another way and depict the spaces in which the art is displayed.
After all the art in the Frari church it was time for a quick take away lunch as art doesn’t satisfy that hunger and a walk to the Academia bridge which is a wooden bridge across the Grand Canal. The bridge is quite recent but the views it gives are really special especially with the sun and great skies that we were so lucky to have that day. So we munched as we walked and reached the bridge, jostled for space and clicked photos. But the results are worth waiting your turn for.
We took a photo of the rickety – looking bridge which was built as a temporary structure but retained till present date. It’s not as beautiful as the Rialto but it has its own elegance and usefulness and is as crowded as the Rialto. The sun had brought out the waiting hordes, so everything has its advantages and disadvantages!!
Walking past the Academia bridge is the most prominent and visible structure of all Venice, the La Salute church. That was the next logical stop for today and we went inside the last church for this city. The La Salute church has a spacious but bare interior and the floor mosaics form an interesting pattern.
The skies and pretty gondolas made for pretty pictures and despite the fact that I had taken a lot of gondola pictures I took a few more outside the church. I am going to miss these photogenic gondolas!
It had been a long day where we had traversed the island from end to end and beyond, seen beautiful canals, superlative art, churches and had the luck of seeing Venice in the sun after having lost all hope just a few hours back. It was dusk now and we wanted to recharge our batteries at the hotel for an hour before we ventured out for our last activity in Venice, The grand canal Vaporetto tour after dark with a Rick Steves Audio Guide. We rested for an hour and went on the slow vaporetto up the grand canal listening to the information of the palaces and churches lining the grand canal and watching the structures beautifully lit up. Most of these are now luxury hotels that I can only afford to look at from outside and peek into its windows from the Canal below! We took the fast boat back and got off at the St Mark’s stop.
It was time to say goodbye to the beautiful city of Venice. It had been a memorable 2 days in the island city. The weather gods had tried to ruin it for us but we are two hardy Mumbaikars to be put off by some rain. We had a complete Venice experience from aqua alta to sunshine. Now it was time to move off to Florence and its art and cathedral early next morning but there was still time to take one last gondola photo ( OK OK a few till I got it right!)
So till my next post from the Renaissance city of Florence,
PS – Thanks to the grammar Nazi, Shridhar Rao for helping me reduce my cringe worthy grammatical errors ( His words, not mine..)