The Construction of the Fourth Bridge
Probably you don't know that in Venice they are building a new bridge on Grand Canal, which name will be "Ponte Calatrava" ( Calatrava's Bridge).
The new bridge will connect Piazzale Roma, the city when you leave your car, with the opposite side near the railway station.
The name "Calatrava" is about the owner of the project.
Actually if you go to Piazzale Roma, you can look how the costruction goes on...
architecture over mud
When I was a kid I thought Venice was an island, later I realized that it’s a city built upon about 100 small islands located in the saltwater lagoon! The way that the buildings had been built so we can still see them is a technique that I guess they tried and fail many times centuries ago before they found a solution. Watertight stones and closely spaced wood piles were used as a base. I wondered why the wood don’t decay and they told me it’s because of the absence of oxygen between the wood piles so without the oxygen the bugs that will eat the wood cant survive. These piles are going down 8 meters under the lagoon floor.
You can see old photos or scale models of the city from the 16th century and you can recognize the city you see today! I saw many old maps and 3d drawings of Venice and I could easily recognize many buildings and definitely the general layout of the city. Most of the palaces, monasteries and old storehouses have turned into hotels, shops and museums but the buildings are the same from the outside and that’s the great thing in Venice, you can walk and have a touch of previous era, of course the hordes of tourists will spoil the picture sooner or later. Most of the people that work in the historic city of Venice don’t live there because of the high rents, they live in Mestre (4 out 5 of the general population of Venice) with a modern non picturesque architecture.
There are many church towers that have a slight inclination because of the instability of the subsoil. San Giorgio dei Greci in Castello is one of them. Apart from the huge square of San Marco I came across many small ones. A small square is called campo and usually it has a well(pic 1) in the center that used to be the drinkable water for the surrounded buildings. The rain water was pushed from stone water pipes in a figuline tank filled with sand that worked as a filter. There were also downpipes on the roofs of some buildings that carried the rain water into the well. There were laws to keep clean the well so animals and dirty pots weren’t allowed there. The facades of the building at the campos are usually very simple while the ones that face the canals are more decorated! This is happening because the visitors were arriving by boat.
If you take the vaporetto at the Grand Canal you can admire many beautiful facades and all the building one by one, I did it twice because you cant walk along the Grand Canal although there are some small promenades you cant have a general view like in pic 3. The majority of the Venetian houses are usually 3 story buildings but I saw some with more stories at Ghetto area. One interesting view for me was seeing the hanging ropes between two opposite houses over a canal (pic 2), it’s a clever way for putting the washed clothes to get dry. Last time I saw this was in Corfu (that is influenced from Venetians anyway).
The architecture styles vary depending on how old is a building. Those from the 13th century are the oldest and the Byzantine influence is obvious. They have colonnade at the basemant and several apses along the first floor. The majority of the palazzos are in gothic style (14-15th century) and Doge’s Palace is the one that you admire in depth. There are also buildings from 16th century (renaissance style) and 17th century (baroque style, usually they try to put everything on the building, masques, statues, angels etc Most of the times the result is kitch enough for me… the water reaches the buildings and sometimes it gets inside... (pic 4)
The Grand Canal
The way to really see the treasures of the Grand Canal is by a Vaporetta (water bus). The main Actv lines are: no. 1, which sails from Piazzale Roma to Lido with lots of stops on the way; it is very slow (it takes half an hour from start to finish).
There are two circular routes, nos. 41(anticlockwise) and 42 (clockwise) which travel around the whole of the city from San Zaccaria to Piazzale Roma via Giudecca, Cimitero and Murano. There are also nos. 51 and 52: they travel as far as Lido with fewer stops; the 82 also leaves from Lido to Rialto and finally arrives at San Zaccaria stopping at Giudecca, Piazzale Roma, Tronchetto and Ferrovia.
I'm sure those directions are quite confusing, I will try to find a map which shows the routes, that would be much easier to follow.
Local fishmarket rules
"Lunghezze minime permesse per la vendita
del pesce delle seguenti qualita"
Without doubt the fish sold on the public markets is fresh.
But there are also official rules about the minimum lenght those fresh products should have
You’ll only need essentials
Backpacks are the best to store and transport your stuff in, believe me. I use my trekking backpack for all trips, not only hiking ones, but also for city trips. Remember that you’d have to transport your luggage from a boat stop to your hotel and you need to walk over many bridges. I saw so many travellers who had problems in dragging their suitcases (even with rolls) through the narrow calles.
Ladies: bring (hand) bags for your belongings, if you intend to visit San Marco Basilica ! Without any discussion, visitors (who have queued for hours) arriving at the entrance of San Marco Basilica, will be sent back by the guards to drop their backpacks at a specific place, and must start queuing again = see photo 3. Pack shoes where you can walk miles with and won’t feel them at any time (the shoes that is). You’ll need them, and even with good shoes your feet will be happy to have a rest in the evening. Bring some good foot cream as well, to prepare your poor feet for the next days’ marathon.
Bring appropriate clothes, and try to leave shorts and spaghetti tops at home, or in your luggage, if Venice is only part of your travel in Europe. Remember, you are in Italy and the people are very much religious; too much flesh (arms and legs) is insulting Italian church habits . Without any discussion, you will be rejected if you intend to visit a church in spaghetti tops or shorts !
Bring a Raincoat (instead of umbrella), as you will be better protected and won’t kill people or pricking out others’ eyes if you are with umbrella among the masses on Piazza San Marco. Plus, if there is rain and wind, your umbrella will be destroyed within seconds (and not mentioning the eyes of other visitors). There are enough supermarkets and beauty shops to stock up whatever you need to buy or forgot back home. Thanks to Chiara, I now know that a nice shop to buy beauty stuff is Bottega Verde, something like the Italian version of Body Shop. It is located in Strada Nuova, in Canaregio, north of Ponte Rialto (see photo). I didn’t use up my stuff, so I only did window shopping, but it looks like a great shop to satisfy your needs.
Venezia has a lot of pharmacies, so you can get any OTC stuff. If you need personal prescription medication, it is always better to bring these from home.
Bring sunsreen in summer and mosquito repellent as well. Oh yes…. this is maybe the most important item to fill your luggage with. Bring enough cards or a possibility to store your photos. You will end up with more photos than you ever can imagine (I took around 3000 or 5 GB in 12 days). There is no problem to buy cards in Venezia, and also no problem get your photos downloaded on a CD. I didn’t try this, as I had my notebook with me, but this is my own personal attitude. Do not forget your wide angle and tele lenses. You will need them ! Wide angle is a must when driving along Canal Grande, and tele lens to zoom in the magnificent details. Fish eye lens, however, is something that won’t work here, as it completely destroys the fine lines of this incredible buildings. If you intend to stay on Lido on one of the camping, yes, you’ll need to bring these. If you intend to come to Lido for some swimming, yes, you also need to bring beach stuff.
Bring binoculars, if you intend to do wildlfe watching in the laguna. Books… yes, you will need them, as it is very much magic to read books about Venezia, sitting on a campo and sipping wine, Spritz or a coffee. I brought some guide books and some books to read while there. As a fan o Donna Leon and her Commissario Brunetti, I brought her newest paperbacks “Blood from a stone” and “Through a glass, darkly”. The latter is about Murano’s glass industry, and I have already written about why this is an important book to bring on Murano