Travels in Italy: Doing the math……Venice/ Venezia
According to Venetian official statistics approximately 16 million people visited the province of Venice in 2011, with increases projected for 2012-13. Most if not all visitors, come to visit the central island Venezia in order to see and be in the heart of the city. Geographically the city center which includes St. Mark’s Basilica, St Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace, the Rialto Bridge, as well as the homes and businesses of Venetians exists on a land mass that is roughly six square miles. These six square miles are criss-crossed by the Grand and the not-so-grand canals which invite tourists to explore the nooks and crannies of a medieval powerhouse that still displays its heritage.
However, as a frame of reference, visitors should do the math. Public access to the six square miles of the central part of Venice is reduced by the areas occupied by private housing, businesses and by canals. Effectively the 80,000 to 100,000 daily visitors and the 40,000 to 60,000 local residents or business employers and employees are competing for approximately one to two square miles of open space. Regardless of the crowds it should be noted that while tourists may travel stem to stern in seemingly endless lines of gondolas, on Venice’s solid ground no car, bus or motor scooter challenges a visitor’s right to live long and prosper. In Venice the trucks, cars, and buses come with keels and rudders. All vie for space on and in the canals. Gondoliers weave their boats and passengers through the Grand Canal water traffic much like carriage driver guide their clip-clopping horse drawn carriages through any busy city’s tourist center. To paraphrase Shakespeare, in Venice all the water’s a stage, During the day Venice presents its water stained past in the guise of Palazzos, bridges, towers and churches, all accompanied with a cacophony of sounds and foreign languages (theirs and ours). At night a pleasant surprise awaits visitors who stay in the city. When diners and partiers head home residents and tourists experience Silence, perhaps modern Venice’s most subtle reminder of renaissance times, Silence, no horns, no engine noises, no canal traffic, and minimum ambient light. Consequently, from an open window looking out over the tiled rooftops of ancient Venetian homes, my wife and I could see stars and pick out the Dome of Saint Mark’s and the Campanile by the light of the same moon viewed by princes, popes and the popolo when the Grand Canal was grand.
Did we see everything? No…but we gave it a game try. We took the waterbus up and down the Grand Canal. We visited the highlighted sights. We walked and walked and walked, sort of like exploring a maze. We succumbed to the most unnecessary tour book advice offered, “In order to experience the real Venice get lost and wander its back streets and canals.” Wittingly and unwittingly we did get lost, but then again Venice is an island. So unless we were lost AND wet, we figured it was a safe bet that we would find our way back to our rooms. (end of chapter one)
If I can give any advice to a person going to Venice it would be to wander away from the big canal and get lost. Yes, get lost... Because by finding your way around, you will discover so many wonderful things to see... The real Venice, the old Venice, the hidden Venice. I cannot imagine going to Venice and just riding the boat to the end, wandering with all the tourist back to the train station following the signs to show the way....Please, you must get away from the main thoroughfare and get away to where the people live. Bring your camera and you will find shots to bring home to remember!
Stop along the way and have a cappuccino at a small bar, walk and discover the many small bridges, the canals and the terraces of Venice. You can always get back to the crowds later, but you won't forget your walk....
People are always saying "part of the charm of Venice is just wandering and getting lost." Well...I do agree with the wandering part but have a solution for the "getting lost" part. I found a downloadable walking tour of the Dorsoduro area of Venice. This is the area where most of the Venetians live so it is much less touristy than the other areas of Venice. The tour starts in the Campo outside the Church of San Pantaleone and gives you turn by turn directions. Not only does it guide you thru the Dorsoduro area but also gives you the history of some of the churches and artists. It also gives you the choice of whether to hear the history or continue on with the tour. The Dorsoduro area is so beautiful and quiet. It is not like the other parts of Venice. There are no touristy shops or stalls, there are no gondoliers offering the "best" tour in Venice, there are no huge crowds to fights your way thru. There are just the canals, the churches and the peace and quiet you would find in any private neighborhood. We were able to go into churches and be the only ones inside, we were able to walk down streets and be the only ones on it and we were able to stand in front of a gondola factory without having to "jockey for position" in order to get a good view or picture. If you are really interested in "seeing" Venice then I highly recommend taking your ipod (or MP3 player) with these tours downloaded and just take your time and enjoy yourself. Check out pocketvox.com for their tours. You'll love them.
Also known as San Barnabas bridge
Apparently there are other bridges in Venice called Ponte dei Pugni, but this is the only one with marble/ Istrian stone footprints, marking the places where the boxers stood. (Please see 2nd photo)
It spans the Rio San Barnaba
These bridges were built in the days before parapets were required.
The fights were common practice, and were sanctioned. It was seen as a way to allow the working classes to use their aggression on each other, rather than turning it against the state!
The fights took place between September and Christmas each year.
Neighbourhoods chose their champion fighters, to scrap for the honour of 'their patch' or arguments were settled between individuals, on similar bridges around Venice. There was a formal etiquette involved in offering the challenge and in initiating the fight.
The opponents would meet in the centre of the bridge to fight, they placed their feet on the foot prints as the starting position. the losers falling into the water below. Fighting involved Bare knuckles, or the use of steel tipped stiffened rush lances. These lances were banned in 1574, after a particularly gruesome battle, that had been arranged to co-incide with the visit to Venice of King Henry 3rd of France.
These fights were well attended by crowds lining the banks, cheering 'their man ' on, or shouting threats and abuse at the rival opponent and his supporters (a bit like today's soccer supporters!) so it's hardly surprising that after the fight had finished, it generally became a free for all, known as the frotta It wasn't unusual for multiple fatalities to occur - either by drowning in the canals or from the extent of their injuries.
The bridges were the site of many battles between the Castellini and Nicoletti.
The inhabitants of the area of Dorsoduro around the church of San Nicolo dei Mendicoli, which was considered the San Marco of the area, were known as Nicolotti, and those who had their HQ in Castello were identified as the Castellini.
The battles between the 2 neighbourhoods became so violent, that they were finally banned by law in 1705.
The fighters places on the bridge have now been taken over by tourists taking pics.
The time I visited, I think I was the only non local on the bridge trying to get a photo of the footprints - there was plenty of to-ing and fro-ing by locals hurrying across the bridge, with Christmas preparations in mind!
Vaporetto - CA' REZZONICO
I passed by this small bridge quite a few times, during my visit Christmas 2006, as it was near to my hotel. It is at the end of the Fondamente Osmarin.
I quite liked this bridge, particularly as, a few times in the evening, a gondola passed by, with an accordian player, and the gondolier was singing.
The Rio San Provolo is the canal that it straddles
Fondamente Osmarin is the place to go for hand made carnival masks. Ca de Sol (Castello 4960)and Renzo Marega (4968) are two of the shops that specialise in quality masks.
This area is between Plazza San Marco and the Greek (Greci )Church.
From P. San Marco, exit by the Piazzetta Leoni, cross the bridge, with its view of the Bridge of Sighs to your Right, continue through Campo SS Fillipo e Giacoma, and continue forward along Provolo, as the street curves to the left, you are nearly here!
From San Zaccaria Vaporetto stop, head up Calle S Zaccaria, through the campo in front of San Zaccaria -( I recommend stopping for a look around this church), Exit the campo by turning Left, then turn Right into Campo S Provolo, and You're very nearly at the bridge.
VAPORETTO - SAN ZACCARIA
Wait for the evening and then go walking around. We found that we mostly had the streets to ourselves. The magic of Venice just gets to you in completely different way when you´re all alone in a small alley that ends in pretty small bridge and the lights are reflecting in the water. There are various signs directing you to Rialto, Railway station etc. so you can always find your way back.
I DONT WANT TO BE RUDE, BUT IM GONNA TELL YOU TO GET LOST !!
GETTING LOST IN THE BACK STREETS OR IN THIS CASE CANALS OF VENICE IS A REAL MUST DO...STICK THE GUIDE BOOK AND MAP IN YOUR POCKET AND TAKE A WALK..JUST GO WHERE THE MOOD TAKES YOU AND I BET YOU WILL HAVE A FANTASTIC TIME GETTING OFF THE BEATEN TRACK AND GETTING A TASTE OF THE REAL VENICE.. PLUS YOU GET TO LEAVE ALL THE CROWDS BEHIND..IF ONLY FOR A WHILE.
ITS IN THESE LITTLE BACK STREETS WHERE YOU WILL FIND THE BEST LITTLE RESTAURANTS..AND THAT PERFECT SPOT TO SIT AND WATCH THE RESIDENTS OF VENICE GO ABOUT THEIR DAILY LIVES..AND MAKE SURE YOU BRING YOUR CAMERA BECAUSE AROUND EVERY CORNER YOU WILL COME ACROSS THAT PERFECT PICTURE MOMENT.
SO WHEN IN VENICE TAKE A BREAK FROM THE MAIN SITES AND GET LOST..
IT'LL BE ONE OF THE FEW TIMES IN YOUR LIFE THAT YOU'LL BE GLAD YOU DID..
Palazzo Mastelli (House of the Camel) sometimes also called Palazzo del Cammello, Campo dei Mori, Cannaregio. On the other side of the canal from the church Madonna dell'Orto.
In the small and very busy streets of the Mercuries of Venice, between the St.Marco and the Rialto Bridge you can see a relief of St.George and the Dragon. These narrow streets are famous for being a busy shopping area, but as I am not that much into shopping my head was looking up instead of into the shops. And it is fascinating what you will find by doing so. I was really happy to spot this relief of Saint George and the Dagon on the Campo San Zulian. This is certainly not the only "St.George and the Dragon" to be found in Venice, but this one of the two that I 'bumped' into.
Another well known relief of St.George and the Dragon can be found at the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. My second find however was at San Toma (see third photo). This relief of Saint George and the Dragon was taken (if I remember correctly) directly after getting off from the Vaparetto at San Toma.
St.George and the Dragon is a famous legend that tells of a terrible dragon that demanded human offerings from the town of Selene as its price for not destroying the town. The day that the King's daughter was to be sacrificed, St.George comes riding by. He promises to kill the dragon if the town's heathen inhabitants convert to Christianity.
The legend of Saint George and the Dragon is famous and is widespread through the whole of Europe so I keep my eyes open these days if I can spot signs of this old legend in the places that I visit. You can read more about the legend of Saint George on this website:
The "Ponte Chiodo" (Nail Bridge) is unique as it is the only bridge in Venice that has no parapet. The name of the bridge comes from the surname of the noble family which owned the bridge in the past.
The bridge leads to a dead end, so the chances of having to cross this bridge are rather slim, unless of course you made reservations at one of Venice’s rather well known B&B called "3749 Ponte Chiodo", which is located on the other side of the bridge.
The most logical explanation that this little bridge it is still without a railing, unlike all the other bridges in Venice, is that it doesn’t lead to a public street but ends up a house. An interesting fact is that all the first Venetian bridges were without a parapet, but the railings have been added over time. I can guess why, as I probably would be one of the first to stumble over my feet and take an unwanted dive into the water if there were no railings. So I didn't take any risks at this bridge, and only admired it from a distance ;-)
Although this little bridge is not that hard to find, it is easily overlooked when exploring the district of Cannaregio. The bridge spans over the little "Rio San Felice" Canal, at the point where it merges into Canale della Misericordia. To get here is easy: walk south along "Canale della Misericordia", and then cross the first bridge that leads eastward. Head on 50 m and there it is. (Thanks Ingrid for giving me tips and directions to this unique little bridge!).
Walking from Campo Santa maria Formosa by the bell tower of the church of the same name, and then by the canal to the north, having the canal on the left side, leads to Ponte del Paradiso, and the street called Calle del Paradiso. Above the entrance to the street there is Arco del Paradiso – Gothic arch built of Istrian stone, surmounted by a triangular spire decorated with statues of the Virgin of Mercy and Madonna. Madonna holds her mantle wide open to protect a devout couple kneeling in prayer. The sculpted arms on each side of this scene are those of the famous Venetian families Foscari and Mocenigo. Members of both families had been Doges of Venice. On the canal side there is Foscari coat of arms and a single kneeling figure at the feet of Virgin. The arch probably commemorates the marriage of the daughter of Michele Foscari – Pellegrina Foscari and Alvise Mocenigo in 1491. The arch would therefore date from the end of the 15th century, though its style is closer to works of the late 14th century, which is one of the many evidences of the conservativeness of Venetians, slow to embrace the new Renaissance style, common in other parts of Italy. Anyway, according to the tourist info sign the arch is dated to 14th century.
Due to damages of Arco del Paradiso caused by the centuries long exposure to the open air, the restoration and conservation works had been undertaken and completed in 1993 and 1994. The restored and protected arch is now on its original place.
Before we went to venice we studied our Lonely Planet and decided we would explore as much of venice as we could.
We visited the Sotoporto Ghetto which was the first ever Jewish Ghetto. The buildings are still the traditional 7 storeys high and all the Jews in Venice were forced to move into there in the early 20 Century. Well worth a visit if you want to get away from the hoards of tourists elsewhere.
After here there is a nice canal to wander down through the other side of the area.
This bridge is unusual, as it has no parapets.
Originally Venices bridges were all designed like this, but as more and more of the citizens were falling off the bridges into the canals, railings and walls were added. Apparently 'Il Gazzatinno' - Venices daily paper used to print daily charts of the people who'd taken an acccidental dip the previous day.
This, and the Devils Bridge on Torcello, are the only remaining examples of bridges without parapets in Venice.
The bridge leads into a B&B 3749 Ponte Chiodo Which looks a nice place to stay
Vaporetto Station -Ca'd' Oro.
Probably best to check the hotels web site (click on link above) for detailed explanation of how to find the hotel, then the bridge should be nearby
This is a must if you appreciate art.....Vittorio Constantini is an amazing glass artist who recreats nature in the smallest of detail.......He has a large wall hanging of a collection of simply beautiful butterflies....cases of every bug you can think of......even sea life...the glass jelly fish is unbelievable...don't miss his spider web........He is located on Calle del Fumo about half way toward the water where you would catch the boat to Murano......on the right if you are coming from the Rialto....... walk NE of the Rialto bridge......it is a short walk from there up a wonderful street that is very narrow and full of other interesting finds.....the printer on the street is fun too....vintage looking stationery.....and full of creativity...there are fewer tourists and more real ambiance......
Most of his work is not for sale.....it is like a muesum......He doesn't speak English well but his wife does......you may want to call ahead to be able to see him at work.......He has taught glass art all over the world....
I've love to wonder around Venice without a map. You will come across all types of interesting squares and things and may get away from the crowds. You will find good locations for taking pictures.
When I get lost, I just follow the big yellow signs to St Mark Square or to the Train station, or to wherever a big landmark is near where I want to do. I love when signs point in two opposite directions for the same landmark. :)