Saturday, March 14, 2009
Venice -- acqua alta
On the first morning, I heard bells -- loud, warning type bells, but then I checked, it was about seven and of course there had been no rain the day before. My husband slept on. A bit later, more bells.
After breakfast, we went out and my husband remarked at how high the water level was -- practically lapping over the steps. We went into St Mark's Square and there were puddles. The duck boards were down. Taking an executive decision, my husband began to march to through a puddle. Then I wished he hadn't. We were at the tail end of an acqua alta and my shoes were more than a bit damp.
The doge's palace was perhaps, unsurprisingly, not crowded. We spent a lovely morning walking through room designed to impress and intimidate. One needs to remember that the Venetians were awfully good at liberating things -- St Mark's body, the lion and the four horses were all acquired in service of the state.
By the time we arrived at St Mark's, the lights were on, illuminating the mosaics. They are overpowering and I was pleased when the lights were turned off. The shifting natural light highlights different mosaics at different times of the days. The Pala d' Oro needs to be seen -- all gold, enamel and precious jewels. Some bits from the treasury were not there as they were loan to the British Museum for the Byzantine exhibit. St Marks, for a variety of reasons (see above) has a lot of Byzantine gold...
We then took the 2 waterbus from its San Zaccaria stop, down the Guidecca canal, past the industrial complex, and then down the entire length of the Grand Canal. By getting on at the start, we were able to snag a good seat at the back. It goes slow enough so you can appreciate the palazzos etc.
After our little trip, we walk around and discovered Santa Maria del Giglio, right near the Gritti Palace. Because Venetian law forbade the erecting of statues, the Barbaro family paid for the rebuilding of the church and the facade has portraits of them as well as maps of their battles. Santa Maria is part of the Chorus card churches -- you pay one fee and then can visit 16 different churches. The card is valid for up to a year and is a good deal. There is a very good painting of the Madonna and Child with the Young St John, attributed to Rubins, plus some Tintorettos.
We then went for a drink at the Gritti Palace before having supper at Al Covo. Al Covo is mentioned by Donna Leon's Death in a Strange Country -- Brunetti eats there. The food is certainly good -- they go to the market and then make whatever looks fresh. We had monkfish for the main and I had the gnocchi with calamari sauce for a starter. My husband enjoyed the pear cake dessert and I had a selection of cheese. Al Covo is hard to find btw (we got lost twice) but worth the time and effort.