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20 May 2020 - Day 39 – Venezia

After posting last night, I rechecked my VIaHero guide that Elisa had prepared, and I needed to catch the waterbus between 8 and 9, so I was up a bit earlier. I hadn’t booked breakfast when I booked the room, so I knew I’d need to grab something on my way to the “bus stop”. Fortunately, the walk from the hotel to the waterbus is only 175 meters. And Baldin Romina, a bakery, is midway and sold bottled water and stuffed croissants. At the dock I got a 20€ “one day pass”, and at 8:35 boarded a #4.1 bus to Murano Colonna, the closest point of the 7 islands comprising Murano. Elisa’s suggestion to get a seat near a window was spot on – I had a good view from a starboard seat.

At the #Murano bus stop, I followed Fondamenta dei vetrai (Glassmaker’s Street). Bustling with tourists visiting the authentic glass factories and shops, selling Venetian (rather than Chinese) glass souvenirs.

Half a kilometer on, I reached Chiesa di San Pietro Martire, a gothic church recommended by Elisa. With a plain brick exterior and separate brick bell tower, the interior has three aisles with some beautiful art hanging on the walls.

Crossing a bridge, I continued walking along the canal until I reached Vetreria Artistica Colleoni. One of the older glass factories, I had a small group tour reservation at 11:30. Being the last of the morning’s 20-minute demonstrations “by an expert glass master of modeling glass with blowing and sculpture techniques”, we were able to run a bit over our timeslot with some hands-on attempts. After our time by the furnaces, there were a lot of options for sale in the showrooms.

Elisa allowed time for a lunch break, so I selected the middle choice, Osteria Ai Cacciatori, which sits on a canal between the two islands I’d visited. Selling points: a great view, great food, nice people. Ordering at the counter, the food is heated (if necessary) and brought to your table. Good Wifi too. Plus I grabbed an extra bottle of water, to be hydrated at my next stop.

Returning to the dock, I queued and boarded the #4.1 again, to ride a single stop to the nearly-rectangular, man-made (expanded) island in the middle of the lagoon. At the stop “Cimitero”, I was able to visit the #SanMicheleCemetery. I knew Igor Stravinsky was buried here, having read his biographer Robert Craft’s books, and I wanted to visit his grave site to pay respects to his memory. The musical muse for the greatest choreographer I’d experienced, the Balanchine ballets and #Stravinsky music had played important roles in my musical education. Many others had graves here, and Elisa included both a map and a list: Ezra Pound, Joseph Brodsky, Igor Stravinsky, Jean Schlumberger, Christian Doppler, Frederick Rolfe, Horatio Brown, Sergei Diaghilev, Luigi Nono, Catherine Bagration, Franco Basaglia, Paolo Cadorin, Zoran Mušič, Helenio Herrera and Emilio Vedova. I added Diaghilev to my list of must-see graves.

Stravinsky: Unremarkable. A simple slab with a name, a cross, bordered by a red marble frame. Flowers, small stones had been left. #Brodsky: A monument, with name in Russian and English, and lifespan dates. A bordered enclosure with ivy, a lantern and a rose bush. Pound: a memorial stone in the ground, surrounded by ivy. Doppler: a memorial stone in the section wall. #Diaghilev: a reconstructed monument, with unused pink ballet slippers tied to it. The only church on this island, San Michele in Isola is at the northern most corner of this diamond, quite near the sole drop-off point.

Rested and composed, I returned to the waterbus depot and waited on another #4.1, this time getting off at San Marco-San Zaccaria. This put me in #Castello, the largest of the six sestiere of #Venice.

My route was to walk along the waterfront (Riva degli Schiavoni) in an easterly direction across 5 major bridges. I enjoyed the small shops to my left as the view across the lagoon to the lighthouse of St George and the Palladian church. Crossing the Ponte de la Veneta, my route turned me inland over a filled-in former canal, now the Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, which Elisa noted is the widest street in Venice.

And it is a major shopping district, albeit somewhat off the tourist path. At its end, a canal remains, with small boats moored alongside the seawall.

My next objective, not part of my ViaHero itinerary, took me on the right side of this canal. A narrow pedestrian way, I was deep in a residential neighborhood as I came to a longer bridge and crossed to another island. Moving from the waterfront, I wended my way through alleys as I headed to the Campo San Pietro de Casteo, a garden in front of the Basilica di San Pietro di Castello. A wide expanse of grass, with benches along the pathways, the garden backs to the white stone bell tower and the ex-cathedral.

With three chapels set into where side aisles would be, the nave faces three high altars under a whitewashed plaster barrel roof. However, the two side presbyters are magnificent, with the one on the right, that for the reserve sacrament, is over the top. Not that the central main high altar isn’t as well. This minor basilica had been the cathedral for #Venezia from 1451 until 1807, when the Doge’s chapel, St Mark’s was elevated as cathedral. Neglect followed the change, and bombing during the first World War furthered the destruction. It has been restored through efforts of choral groups.

Elisa had added Scuola Dalmata dei Santi Giorgio e Trifone as an extra place if time permitted. It was 4:30, and the small church was a kilometer and a half, or 25 minutes away. It would close in an hour, so I double downed and returned the way I’d arrived, walking a bit more briskly down Via Garibaldi to the lagoon front. After the third bridge I was directed (by Google Maps) to go inland, as I was on the proper island. Bypassing two other churches, I arrived at this three-story church on the corner of a narrow street and a canal. More of an art museum than a church, panels with paintings cover the ceiling, and lined the walls above dark wood wainscoting, with red drapes blocking the intrusion of the afternoon sun. I’ll copy Elisa description of this, of her favorites in Venice:

The church itself goes totally unnoticed and it's not a tourist destination, so it's not necessary to book the entrance in advance. The ground hall has on its four walls the paintings commissioned to Carpaccio, inspired by Jacopo da Varagine's "Golden Legend" (a hilarious book, in my opinion - the vision on Christianity is really outdated, still it is an important book to understand religious paintings).

St. Augustine in His Study St. Jerome and the Lion Funeral of St. Jerome St. George and the Dragon Triumph of St. George Baptism of the Selenites St. Tryphon and the Basilisk

The upper hall has a wooden ceiling with painted decorations and other paintings of Jacopo Palma the Younger school. At the altar is a Patron Saint of the Scuola with, at its sides, two panels of St. Jerome and St. Tryphon. Entrance is 5 Euros.

My dinner reservations were for 7:30 at ai Barbican. I had time – I could walk the 2 kilometers (30 minutes) back. Or, with my pass, I could walk north to the water and hope to find the right ferry going in the right direction. I opted to walk. The stroll took me past churches, a few museums, the house of Marco Polo, and over 13 bridges. Up to the room, I swapped from the light jacket to the heavier, changed shoes and socks, and headed out to the S. Marcuola-Casino waterbus stop. Catching a #1, we puttered down the Grand Canal, and I got off after passing under the Ponte di Rialto. Stair step turns, I was soon standing at the canal where the restaurant stood.

Elisa had recommended it as “one of the most authentic restaurants in Venice, frequented and loved by locals”, and it looked fabulous. Her recommendation included two dishes to try, if they happened to be on the menu. I sort-of lucked out: neither was individually listed, but there was a seafood platter starter which included both baccala mantecato and sarde in saor, along with octopus, shrimp, salmon and squid. Fortunately, lunch had been light, so I was ready for a pasta primi, bucatini alle vongole.

Being that Venice is a port, I’m on a roll with seafood, so for my secondi, it was the fresh catch, grilled, with eggplant and endive. And with it all, a corvina, a white wine from the Veneto. Lovely. No cheese or dessert – just too full.

After dinner, I was close enough to the Piazza San Marco to stroll. St Mark’s was stunningly well lighted, and the midweek crowd under control, as the cruise ships had recouped many of the hordes. I’d had an email from a buddy across the pond, who suggested a drink at Harry’s Bar Cipriani, which is at the opposite end of the plaza, and so I headed there and got a grappa, which the menu called a Brandy Italiano and, with tip, only set me back 20€.

The ferry terminal out front was a stop for the #1, and my pass was still good, so I rode back down the Grand Canal one more time to the Casino stop I’d begun the evening at. A pleasant stroll back to Alle Guglie, and I am back in my room. Charging, downloading, journaling all done, I’ve got just this last bit and I can upload to the blog before crashing for the night. And I think the only thing I missed on my list and Elisa’s was the Scala and Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. Next trip?

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