And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. – 1 John 5:11-12
Venice is one of my “Bucket List” destinations, one I’ve thought about visiting for a long time, ever since I read stories about the explorer Marco Polo (1254-1324) and his trade route to the East.
Venice is not the capital of commerce it once was, but the city still retains its storybook allure and its almost fantastical, fairytale personality. I felt excitement bubble up inside me as we rolled into the train station; and, when we walked out into the sunshine, my first view of the Grande Canal did not disappoint.
Again, having Andrew and Alicia as tour guides and interpreters proved a Godsend. We made our way through the maze of narrow streets, crossing canal after canal, until we found the particular “off the beaten trail,” “non-touristy” restaurant the young people were looking for.
“Look Dad!” Andrew said a few minutes after we were seated. “A table full of Gondoliers just came in. You know it’s good local food when the Gondoliers eat here.”
Well, I couldn’t argue with that. The menu was in Italian – no subtitles – and there were none of those tell-tale food pictures you see at the tourist traps. I also couldn’t argue with the remarkable plate of muscles on pasta I was served, or the wine, or the cappuccino.
Good stuff all around. I can’t stress enough how important local food is to the complete travel experience. Ask a small-business owner; follow a trucker to the cafe; tail the gondolier to the restaurant.
Ask a small-business owner; follow a trucker to the cafe; tail the gondolier to the restaurant.
HISTORY: Satisfied, we crossed the Ponte di Rialto and made our way to the Frari Basilica, a remarkable church featuring – among other treasures – a statue of John the Baptist by Donatello, and a Madonna by Bellini. The inside was beyond ornate, but – somehow – it kind of worked, producing a remarkable effect that was worshipful.
The irony, to me, is that a church so ornate, so rich, so gaudy, was built and maintained by a Franciscan order. Having just left Assisi, where Frances entered the life of a friar in protest of his father’s riches in cloth and commerce, it was interesting to see how the commercial wealth and excess of Venice shaped the public face of faith just a few years later.
Next we walked to the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, built as a thank you by survivors of the Black Death.
From Santa Maria we crossed the Grande Canal by gondola and entered St. Mark’s Square – the Piazza San Marco.
Talk about a concentration of “Kodak Moments” in one place: The square, the clock tower (Torre dell’Orologio – 1499), the cathedral, the Doge’s Palace, the Grande Canal, the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore. All right there!
We then wandered back to the Ponte di Rialto, found appropriate local refreshment, and cut across some circuitous route to the train station.
PHOTOGRAPHS: Everywhere we turned I found myself tempted to stop, frame a shot in my Nikon, and add another image to the growing collection. But I let a lot of them pass for a couple of reasons:
First, I’m trying to take photographs that tell the story I’m experiencing, rather than just because the image is beautiful. Second, I’m making an effort not to let photography interrupt the story Rebekah and I are living together.
Every vista in Venice tells one more element of the fascinating story that is this city; from the rich palaces, to the obscure backwaters, to the modern-day cruise ships towering over the skyline.
These photographs are just where my lens, and my interest, happened to be pointing; but – if you want to really listen to the spirit of Venezia – then you are going to have to spend a day or two there yourselves.
Happy travels – DEREK