Visit the island of Burano. ...
Visit the island of Burano. Unlike Venetian buildings, the houses on Burano are painted in beautiful bright or rich colors. (The island is 40 minutes from Venice on the same ACTV boat line that serves Torcello). It was traditionally a center of fishing and lacemaking, although tourism is now another source of income.
Churches of Venice
Venice has innumerable churches. The most famous is of course the St. Mark's Basilica, but there are many interesting, lesser known churches.
One afternoon a VT friend of mine and me wandered around the Cannareggio and Castello district and we had a look at the Baroque style Jesuits' Church, the Dominican Church Santi Giovanni e Paolo and the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli which represents the Venetian Renaissance style.
If you like architecture – get John Ruskin
I might have heard his name already some time ago. But it was only after my visit in Venezia that I found his books mentioned on some websites. What a pity that I didn’t discover him earlier, or well, maybe not, as he and his writings got me even more hooked on La Serenissima and her magnificent soul. So next time I’ll visit her, I have his books with me and follow his footsteps, maybe – or surely – I will discover even more of her hidden gems and spirit. Born in London in1819, John Ruskin was an artist and a poet, and already in his teens, when he wrote articles about the poetry of architecture. Over the years he got dedicated to Gothic style and wrote “The Seven Lamps of Architecture”, followed by “The Stones of Venice”. The latter has 3 volumes (for 180 USD), but there is also a short version available, to get an idea of his investigations in the city. He must have made sketches of literally every palazzo, arch, campanile, church, bridge, … well, stone. I had to smile when I realised that he also went around each of the columns at Palazzo Ducale and made sketches of each of the capitals; something I also did, but lazy me used my camera.
For a more practical and today’s approach I highly recommend the book of Sarah Quill “The Stones revisited”. She went to Venezia to take photos of the building he has described, and thus wrote a modern guide through Ruskin’s Venezia. The book is fascinating to read and also helped me to identify some of the lesser known palazzi, I took photos of during my trip along Canal Grande.
In addition, there is a shorter version of “The Stones of Venice” available, which I also recommend to buy if your likes are architecture. And there is also a fascinating website of architect Jan-Christoph Rößler, who wrote about Venezia’s architecture and describes a lot of the palazzi:
The Art and Architecture of Venezia
The books I have mentioned above, are available at Amazon:
The seven Lamps of Architecture
The Stones of Venice
The Stones Revisited
My Venetian Mystery / solved
In Venice I saw round plates with two animals carved into them , once on a church and another time on a house in Burano. I have no idea what they symbolize.
Update from May 2007:
With a lot of help from VT member Trekki, and after looking in many books about Venice, I think I found the answer.
There are three types of plates, called "tondo","patere" and "formelle", depending on their shape, a full circle or a combination of a circle and a rectangle.From 13th century on they were used as ornaments.
They're showing various subjects, ranging from simple ornaments like flowers for example to
meaningful messages. Since most people couldn't read or write, a sort of picture language was used.
The "Physiologus", a book written in 2nd century explained animals,real ones and mythical ones, talked about their special characteristics and then used these animals in an allegory for the early christian church.
This book was very influential in the European culture up to the end of the Middle Ages.(To a certain extent even now, think of Disney's" Lion King". It's not called "Elefant King" or "Warthog King".)
the phoenix - resurrection
the eagle and the lion - courage, empire, kingdom
the fox - paganism, also voluptuousness
the snake - evil, lying
the pelican - willingness to make sacrifices
In some of the plates in Venice a fight between good and evil is symbolized.
In others two evil creatures are fighting each other, which was to indicate to evil spirits that some of their kind have already arrived at this house, so, please stay away, no need for any other bad spirits.Two good animals in a plate were considered extra protection for the house and its inhabitants.
The plates I saw at a church were put up there later, after they had been taken down from a private home.
Any I was in Venice in April and it was gloriously warm and sunny so light clothing was appropriate. It can be chilly in Spring though so it's probably best to make sure you take something a bit warmer just in case. Everything is available, although in stores in central Venice, prices are likely to be higher than in those away from the tourist circuit. The nearby lidos are popular with toursists because of the sandy beaches. Even if you're staying in Venice itself, there are regular ferries to these areas so it's probably a good idea to take swimwear, just in case.