Mauro e-mailed me and we fixed a date to meet at his workshop in Venice. We drove till Venice on an early morning to arrive at the time he usually opens, and after parking our car (no cars in Venice, just boats), the hunt began. It was really like a treasure hunt, because Venice it’s totally a place on its own: no regular and stardard streets there, you have just the name of the “sestiere” (the district – Venice has 6 of them) and the house number…not many informations, even if I looked on Google Maps…..
But the walk through the “calli” (alleys), canals, bridges and “campi” or “campielli” (squares or little squares), was really nice, we choose a good day, not too cold and the sun was bright…..
San Giacomo in Rialto is a church in the sestiere of San Polo. It has a large 15th century clock above the entrance, a useful item in the Venetian business district but regarded as a standing joke for its inaccuracy. The Gothic portico is one of the few surviving examples in Venice. It has a Latin cross plan with a central dome. Inside, the Veneto-Byzantine capitals on the six columns of ancient Greek marble date from the 11th century. According to the tradition, San Giacomo is the oldest church in the city, supposedly consecrated in the year 421. Although, documents exist mentioning the area but not the church in 1097. The first document citing it dates from 1152. It was rebuilt in 1071, prompting the establishment, in front of the church, of the Rialto market with bankers and money changers. The system with the “bill of exchange” was introduced here, as clients went with such a bill of exchange with a credit inscribed from one banker to another. In 1503 it survived a fire which destroyed the rest of the area, and was restored from 1601 by order of doge Marino Grimani. Works included raising of the pavement to counter the acqua alta (high water).
Two gondoliers in their typical customs looking for clients near Rialto
Here it is, the Canal Grande seen from the Rialto Bridge.
The Rialto Bridge is one of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal and it is the oldest bridge across the canal, and was the dividing line for the districts of San Marco and San Polo. The first dry crossing of the Grand Canal was a pontoon bridge built in 1181 by Nicolò Barattieri. It was called the Ponte della Moneta, presumably because of the mint that stood near its eastern entrance. The development and importance of the Rialto market on the eastern bank increased traffic on the floating bridge, so it was replaced in 1255 by a wooden bridge.This structure had two inclined ramps meeting at a movable central section, that could be raised to allow the passage of tall ships. The connection with the market eventually led to a change of name for the bridge. During the first half of the 15th century, two rows of shops were built along the sides of the bridge. The rents brought an income to the State Treasury, which helped maintain the bridge. Maintenance was vital for the timber bridge. It was partly burnt in the revolt led by Bajamonte Tiepolo in 1310. In 1444, it collapsed under the weight of a crowd watching a boat parade and it collapsed again in 1524. The idea of rebuilding the bridge in stone was first proposed in 1503. Several projects were considered over the following decades. In 1551, the authorities requested proposals for the renewal of the Rialto Bridge, among other things. Plans were offered by famous architects, such as Jacopo Sansovino, Palladio and Vignola, but all involved a Classical approach with several arches, which was judged inappropriate to the situation. Michelangelo also was considered as designer of the bridge. The present stone bridge, a single span designed by Antonio da Ponte, was finally completed in 1591. It is similar to the wooden bridge it succeeded. Two inclined ramps lead up to a central portico. On either side of the portico, the covered ramps carry rows of shops. The engineering of the bridge was considered so audacious that architect Vincenzo Scamozzi predicted future ruin. The bridge has defied its critics to become one of the architectural icons of Venice.
We kept walking, admiring this stunning and unique place……
till Campo San Bartolomeo, where hubby wanted a photo with Carlo Goldoni…..
Finally we reached Mauro shop, and it seemed like I’ve known him for years because of what I read about him on Britt’s blog……we talked for a while about Venice, Murano (where he lives and the real capital of the glass industry), his work and what he wants to do in the future, venetian traditions, and so and so…..eventually we left him or he wouldn’t had the time to fix our broken duck!
The gondola is a traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat, well suited to the conditions of the Venetian lagoon. The gondola is propelled like punting, except an oar is used instead of a pole. For centuries gondolas were the chief means of transportation and most common watercraft within Venice. It is driven by a gondolier. In modern times the iconic boats still have a role in public transport in the city, serving as traghetti (ferries) over the Grand Canal. They are also used in special regattas (rowing races) held amongst gondoliers. Their primary role today, however, is to carry tourists on rides at fixed rates. The gondola is propelled by a person (the gondolier) who stands facing the bow and rows with a forward stroke and is usually very skilled, followed by a compensating backward stroke. Contrary to popular belief, the gondola is never poled like a punt as the waters of Venice are too deep. Until the early 20th century, as many photographs attest, gondolas were often fitted with a “felze”, a small cabin, to protect the passengers from the weather or from onlookers. Its windows could be closed with louvered shutters—the original “venetian blinds”. After the elimination of the traditional felze—possibly in response to tourists complaining that it blocked the view—there survived for some decades a kind of vestigial summer awning, known as the “tendalin” (these can be seen on gondolas as late as the mid-1950s, in the film Summertime). While in previous centuries gondolas could be many different colors, a sumptuary law of Venice required that gondolas should be painted black, and they are customarily so painted now. It is estimated that there were eight to ten thousand gondolas during the 17th and 18th century. There are just over four hundred in active service today, virtually all of them used for hire by tourists. Those few that are in private ownership are either hired out to Venetians for weddings or used for racing. Even though the Gondola by now has become a widely publicized icon of Venice, in the times of the Republic of Venice it was by far not the only means of transportation: on the map of Venice created by Jacopo de’ Barbari in 1500 only a fraction of the boats are gondolas, the majority of boats are batellas, caorlinas, galleys and other boats – by now only a handful of batellas survive, and caorlinas are used for racing only. The profession of gondolier is controlled by a guild, which issues a limited number of licenses (425) granted after periods of training and apprenticeship, and a major comprehensive exam which tests knowledge of Venetian history and landmarks, foreign language skills, and practical skills in handling the gondola typically necessary in the tight spaces of Venetian canals. Every detail of the gondola has its own symbolism. The iron prow-head of the gondola, called “fero da prorà” or “dol fin“, is needed to balance the weight of the gondolier at the stern and has an “S” shape symbolic of the twists in the Canal Grande. Under the main blade there is a kind of comb with six teeth or prongs (“rebbi “) standing for the six “sestieri” of Venice. A kind of tooth juts out backwards toward the centre of the gondola symbolises the island of Giudecca. The curved top signifies the Doge’s cap. The semi-circular break between the curved top and the six teeth is said to represent the Rialto Bridge. Sometimes three friezes can be seen in-between the six prongs, indicating the three main islands of the city: Murano, Burano and Torcello.
It was lunch time and we found a nice restaurant hidden in a very small campo…..they had gluten-free pasta and I choose linguine with prawns and eggplants
and hubby had spaghetti with prawns and scallops
This is the Fegato ała venesiana: a high-class Venetian plate of liver, chopped and cooked together with chopped onions….
hubby loathes liver, he liked better an octopus salad…….
We had a few hours to kill, so we walked till Piazza San Marco, to admire the Basilica. We’ve been already inside (I’ll try to digitize some old photos for another post about Venice) and the line was too long, so we just strolled around to take photos……
The first St Mark’s was a building next to the Doge’s Palace, ordered by the doge in 828, when Venetian merchants stole the supposed relics of Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria, and completed by 832; from the same century dates the first St Mark’s Campanile (bell tower). The church was burned in a rebellion in 976, and restored or rebuilt in 978. Nothing certain is known of the form of these early churches. From perhaps 1073 the present basilica was constructed. The consecration is variously recorded as being in 1084-5, 1093 (the date most often taken), 1102 and 1117, probably reflecting a series of consecrations of different parts. In 1094 the body supposed that of Saint Mark was rediscovered in a pillar by Vitale Faliero, doge at the time. The building also incorporates a low tower (now housing St Mark’s Treasure), believed by some to have been part of the original Doge’s Palace. The Pala d’Oro ordered from Constantinople was installed on the high altar in 1105. In 1106 the church, and especially its mosaics, were damaged by a serious fire in that part of the city; it is not entirely clear whether any surviving mosaics in the interior predate this, though there is some 11th-century work surviving in the main porch. The main features of the present structure were all in place by then, except for the narthex or porch, and the facade.
The basic shape of the church has a mixture of Italian and Byzantine features, notably “the treatment of the eastern arm as the termination of a basilican building with main apse and two side chapels rather than as an equal arm of a truly centralized structure”. In the first half of the 13th century the narthex and the new façade were constructed, most of the mosaics were completed and the domes were covered with second much higher domes of lead-covered wood in order to blend in with the Gothic architecture of the redesigned Doge’s Palace. The basic structure of the building has not been much altered. Its decoration has changed greatly over time, though the overall impression of the interior with a dazzling display of gold ground mosaics on all ceilings and upper walls remains the same. The succeeding centuries, especially the period after the Venetian-led conquest of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade of 1204 and the fourteenth century, all contributed to its adornment, with many elements being spolia brought in from ancient or Byzantine buildings, such as mosaics, columns, capitals, or friezes. Gradually, the exterior brickwork became covered with marble cladding and carvings, some much older than the building itself. The latest structural additions include the closing-off of the Baptistery and St Isidor’s Chapel (1300s), the carvings on the upper facade and the Sacristy (1400s), and the closing-off of the Zen Chapel (1500s). During the 13th century the emphasis of the church’s function seems to have changed from being the private chapel of the Doge to that of a “state church”, with increased power for the procurators. It was the location for the great public ceremonies of the state, such as the installation and burials of Doges, though as space ran out and the demand for grander tombs increased, from the 15th century Santi Giovanni e Paolo became the usual burial place. The function of the basilica remained the same until 1807, after the end of the Venetian Republic, when the basilica finally became subject to the local bishop, the Patriarch of Venice, though from the 12th century he had had a throne there, opposite the doge’s. The transfer of the Holy See was ordered by Napoleon during his period of control of Venice. Before this, Venice’s cathedral from 1451 was the much less grand San Pietro di Castello.
The Horses of Saint Mark (you can see them better in the pic below) were installed on the balcony above the portal of the basilica in about 1254. They date to Classical Antiquity, though their date remains a matter of debate, and presumably were originally the team pulling a quadriga chariot, probably containing an emperor. By some accounts they once adorned the Arch of Trajan. The horses were long displayed at the Hippodrome of Constantinople, and in 1204 Doge Enrico Dandolo sent them back to Venice as part of the loot sacked from Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade. They were taken to Paris by Napoleon in 1797 but returned to Venice in 1815. After a long restoration, since 1970s the originals have been kept in St Mark’s Museum inside the basilica and the horses now on the facade of the cathedral are bronze replicas.
In front of the south wall of the Basilica are two rectangular pillars always known as the Pillars of Acre. They were thought to be booty taken by the Venetians from Acre after their great victory over the Genoese there in 1258, but this traditional story has also had to be revised. The pillars actually came from the church of St Polyeuktos in Constantinople (524-7), and were probably taken by the Venetians soon after the fourth crusade in 1204. The ruins of this church were discovered in 1960 and it was excavated in the 1990s, when capitals were found, which matched the pillars.
The Bell Tower of St Mark is not attached to the basilica. The tower is 98.6 metres (323 ft) tall, and stands alone in a corner of St Mark’s Square, near the front of the basilica. It has a simple form, the bulk of which is a fluted brick square shaft, 12 metres (39 ft) wide on each side and 50 metres (160 ft) tall, above which is a loggia surrounding the belfry, housing five bells. The belfry is topped by a cube, alternate faces of which show the Lion of St. Mark and the female representation of Venice (la Giustizia: Justice). The tower is capped by a pyramidal spire, at the top of which sits a golden weathervane in the form of the archangel Gabriel. The campanile reached its present form in 1514. The current tower was reconstructed in its present form in 1912 after the collapse of 1902 The initial 9th-century construction, initiated during the reign of Pietro Tribuno and built on Roman foundations, was used as a watch tower or lighthouse for the dock, which then occupied a substantial part of the area which is now the Piazzetta. Construction was finished in the twelfth century, during the reign of Domenico Morosini. Adjoining the base of the campanile is the loggetta built by Sansovino, completed in 1549 and rebuilt in 1912 after it had been destroyed by the fall of the campanile. The campanile suffered damage by lightning on many occasions. It was severely damaged in 1388, set on fire and destroyed in 1417 and seriously damaged by a fire in 1489 that destroyed the wooden spire. The campanile assumed its definitive shape in the sixteenth century thanks to the restorations made to repair further damage caused by the earthquake of March 1511. These works, initiated by the architect Giorgio Spavento, then executed under the direction of Bartolomeo Bon added the belfry, realized in marble; the attic, on which was put the sculpture of the lion of Saint Mark and Venice; and the spire, in gold leaf. The work was completed on 6 July 1513, with the placement of the gilded wooden statue of the Archangel Gabriel in the course of a ceremony recorded by Marin Sanudo. In the following centuries numerous other interventions were made to repair the damage from fires caused by lightning. It was damaged in damaged in 1548 and 1565. In 1653, Baldassarre Longhena took up the restorations. The campanile was damaged by lightning again in 1658. More work was done after a fire caused by a lightning strike on April 13, 1745, which caused some of the masonry to crack, and killed several people as a result of falling stonework. The campanile was damaged by lightning again in 1761 and 1762. Finally, in 1776, it was equipped with a lightning rod. In 1820, the statue of the angel was replaced with a new one by Luigi Zandomeneghi In July 1902, the north wall of the tower began to show signs of a dangerous crack that in the following days continued to grow. Finally, on Monday, July 14, around 9:45 am, the campanile collapsed completely, also demolishing the logetta. Remarkably, no one was killed, except for the caretaker’s cat. Because of the campanile’s position, the resulting damage was relatively limited. Apart from the logetta, only a corner of the Biblioteca Marciana was destroyed. The pietra del bando, a large porphyry column from which laws used to be read, protected the basilica itself. The same evening, the communal council approved over 500,000 Lire for the reconstruction of the campanile. It was decided to rebuild the tower exactly as it was, with some internal reinforcement to prevent future collapse. Work lasted until March 6, 1912. The new campanile was inaugurated on April 25, 1912, on the occasion of Saint Mark’s feast day, exactly 1000 years after the foundations of the original building had allegedly been laid.
Each of the five bells of the campanile had a special purpose. The Renghiera (or the Maleficio) announced executions; the Mezza Terza proclaimed a session of the Senate; the Nona sounded midday; the Trottiera called the members of the Maggior Consiglio to council meetings and the Marangona, the biggest, rang to mark the beginning and ending of working day. They are tuned in the scale of A.The Campanile is currently undergoing a major set of building works that are forecast to last a few years. Like many buildings in Venice, it is built on soft ground, supported by wooden piles. Due to years of winter flooding (Acqua Alta), the subsoil has become saturated and the campanile has begun to subside and lean. Evidence of this can be seen in the increasing number of cracks in the masonry. In order to stop the damage, a ring of titanium is being built underneath the foundations of the campanile. The titanium ring will protect the campanile from the shifting soil and ensure that the tower subsides equally and does not lean, However it is still possible to climb the campanile during these works. Galileo Galilei famously demonstrated his telescope to the Doge of Venice Antonio Priuli on August 21, 1609 from the Campanile.There is a plaque commemorating this event at the viewing area of the tower.
The Clock Tower in Venice is an early renaissance building on the north side of the Piazza San Marco at the entrance to the Merceria. It comprises a tower, which contains the clock, and lower buildings on each side. Both the tower and the clock date from the last decade of the 15th century, though the mechanism of the clock has subsequently been much altered. It was placed where the clock would be visible from the waters of the lagoon and give notice to everyone of the wealth and glory of Venice. The lower two floors of the tower make a monumental archway into the main street of the city, the Merceria, which linked the political and religious centre (the Piazza) with the commercial and financial centre (the Rialto). On a terrace at the top of the tower are two great bronze figures, hinged at the waist, which strike the hours on a bell. One is old and the other young, to show the passing of time and, although said to represent shepherds (they are wearing sheepskins) or giants (they are huge figures of great mass, necessary so that their form can be recognized at a distance) they are always known as “the Moors” because of the dark patina acquired by the bronze. The bell is also original and is signed by one Simeone who cast it at the Arsenal in 1497. Below this level is the winged lion of Venice with the open book, before a blue background with gold stars. There was originally a statue of the Doge Agostino Barbarigo (Doge 1486-1501) kneeling before the lion, but in 1797, after the city had surrendered to Napoleon, this was removed by the French, who were purging the city of all symbols of the old regime. Below again, is a semi-circular gallery with statues of the Virgin and Child seated, in gilt beaten copper. On either side are two large blue panels showing the time: the hour on the left in Roman numerals and the minutes (at 5 minute intervals) on the right in Arabic numerals. Twice a year, at Epiphany (6 January) and on Ascension Day (the Thursday 40 days after Easter, counting both days) the three Magi, led by an angel with a trumpet, emerge from one of the doorways normally taken up by these numbers and pass in procession round the gallery, bowing to the Virgin and child, before disappearing through the other door. Below this is the great clock face in blue and gold inside a fixed circle of marble engraved with the 24 hours of the day in Roman numerals. A golden pointer with an image of the sun moves round this circle and indicates the hour of the day. Within the marble circle beneath the sun pointer are the signs of the zodiac in gold (these are original and date from the 1490s), which revolve slightly more slowly than the pointer to show the position of the sun in the zodiac. In the middle of the clockface is the earth (in the centre) and the moon, which revolves to show its phases, surrounded by stars which are fixed in position. The background is of blue enamel. The smaller blue circles in the four corners are not now used. Below the clock is the archway, two storeys high, through which the street known as the Merceria leaves the Piazza on its way to the Rialto.This section of the Merceria is known as the Merceria dell’Orologio (of the clock). The buildings on each side have been let off separately as shops and apartments since the early 18th century. On the other side of the tower there is another great clock face above the arch, visible to people walking down the street towards the Piazza. This is a simpler affair, again surrounded by a marble circle marked with the 24 hours, but in two series of 12 hours each. The sun pointer, marking the hours, is the only moving part on this side.
The Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) is a palace built in Venetian Gothic style, and one of the main landmarks of the city of Venice. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice, opening as a museum in 1923. The oldest part of the palace is the façade overlooking the lagoon, the corners of which are decorated with 14th-century sculptures by Filippo Calendario and various Lombard artists such as Matteo Raverti and Antonio Bregno. The ground floor arcade and the loggia above are decorated with 14th- and 15th-century capitals, some of which were replaced with copies during the 19th century. In 1438–1442, Giovanni Bon and Bartolomeo Bon built and adorned the Porta della Carta, which served as the ceremonial entrance to the building. The name of the gateway probably derives either from the fact that this was the area where public scribes set up their desks, or from the nearby location of the cartabum, the archives of state documents. Flanked by Gothic pinnacles, with two figures of the Cardinal Virtues per side, the gateway is crowned by a bust of St. Mark over which rises a statue of Justice with her traditional symbols of sword and scales. In the space above the cornice, there is a sculptural portrait of the Doge Francesco Foscari kneeling before the St. Mark’s Lion. This is, however, a 19th-century work by Luigi Ferrrari, created to replace the original destroyed in 1797.
Nowadays, the public entrance to the Doge’s Palace is via the Porta del Frumento, in the waterfront side of the building. In 810, Doge Angelo Partecipazio moved the seat of government from the island of Malamocco to the area of the present-day Rialto, when it was decided a palatium duci, a ducal palace, should be built. However, no traces remains of that 9th-century building as the palace was partially destroyed in the 10th century by a fire. The following reconstruction works were undertaken at the behest of Doge Sebastiano Ziani (1172–1178). A great reformer, he would drastically change the entire layout of the St. Mark’s Square. The new palace was built out of fortresses, one façade to the Piazzeta, the other overlooking the St. Mark’s Basin. Although only few traces remain of that palace, some Byzantine-Venetian architecture characteristics can still be seen at the ground floor, with the wall base in Istrian stone and some herring-bone pattern brick paving. Political changes in the mid-13th century led to the need to re-think the palace’s structure due to the considerable increase in the number of the Great Council’s members. The new Gothic palace’s constructions started around 1340, focusing mostly on the side of the building facing the lagoon. Only in 1424, did Doge Francesco Foscari decide to extend the rebuilding works to the wing overlooking the Piazzetta, serving as law-courts, and with a ground floor arcade on the outside, open first floor loggias running along the façade, and the internal courtyard side of the wing, completed with the construction of the Porta della Carta (1442).
The Piazzetta di San Marco is (strictly speaking) not part of the Piazza but an adjoining open space connecting the south side of the Piazza to the waterway of the lagoon. The Piazzetta lies between the Doge’s Palace on the east and Jacopo Sansovino’s Biblioteca (Library). The Piazzetta is marked by two large granite columns carrying symbols of the two patron saints of Venice. The first is Saint Theodore, who was the patron of the city before St Mark, holding a spear and with a crocodile to represent the dragon which he was said to have slain. This is made up of parts of antique statues and is a copy (the original is kept in the Doges Palace). The second (eastern) column has a creature representing a winged lion — the Lion of Venice — which is the symbol of St Mark. This has a long history, probably starting as a winged lion-griffin on a monument to the god Sandon at Tarsus in Cilicia (Southern Turkey) about 300 BC. The columns are now thought to have been erected about 1268, when the water was closer and they would have been on the edge of the lagoon, framing the entry to the city from the sea. Gambling was permitted in the space between the columns and this right was said to have been granted as a reward to the man who first raised the columns. Public executions also took place between the columns, with the prisoner facing the clock on the tower as to see the time of his Death.
We walked behind the Basilica, crossing a canal, as to have the rear view of Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs), the further one on the photo below.. The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars. It passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. It was designed by Antonio Contino (whose uncle Antonio da Ponte had designed the Rialto Bridge) and was built in 1600. The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge name, given by Lord Byron in the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells. In reality, the days of inquisitions and summary executions were over by the time the bridge was built and the cells under the palace roof were occupied mostly by small-time criminals. In addition, little could be seen from inside the Bridge due to the stone grills covering the Windows. A local legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile toll. This legend served as a plot line for the movie A Little Romance, featuring Laurence Olivier and Diane Lane.
We received a call from Mauro, his restoration work was done, so we retraced our steps, without forgetting to look around….
Back to the Rialto Bridge we did a little shopping (see hubby in the middle with a small bag?)…….
And there we were again, at the shop
See how narrow is the alley where the door to Mauro shop is? It’s called Calle dei Morti (Alley of the Deads) as the sign on the wall cites…..
Too bad there were people inside so we couldn’t talk a little more, Mauro had just the time to wrap my duck and say goodbye.
A little more walk to the Ponte degli Scalzi literally, “bridge of the barefoot (monks)”, one of only four bridges to span the Grand Canal. The bridge connects the sestieri of Santa Croce and Cannaregio. On the north side, Cannaregio, are the Chiesa degli Scalzi (Church of the Barefoot or Discalced Monks) and the Santa Lucia (Ferrovia) railway station. Designed by Eugenio Miozzi it was completed in 1934, replacing an Austrian iron bridge. It is a stone arch bridge.
Ponte degli Scalzi is located close to the site of the fourth bridge over the Grand Canal, popularly known as Ponte di Calatrava (Santiago Calatrava is the spanish neofuturistic architect who designed it) although it was formally inaugurated as the Ponte della Costituzione. Construction was delayed in part due to controversy over its modern style, but the basic span was finally in place on August 11, 2007, and the bridge was opened for public use on September 11, 2008. The stairway on the bridge is paved with pietra d’Istria, a stone traditionally used in Venice, alternating with tempered glass steps illuminated from below by fluorescent lights. The parapet is also tempered glass, terminating in a bronze handrail with concealed lighting. The bridge has received heated criticism and seen inauguration delays and walk-outs, which originated from three main grievances: the lack of wheelchair access, lack of necessity and its modernist-minimalist style being incompatible with Venice’s decorative medieval architecture.
Anyway, that was the end of our day in Venice, a full and tiring one, but we were ready to go home with our eyes filled with beautiful images. One more goodbye to the lagoon city, before heading to our car. See you soon Venice.