Tag Archives: Italy

St. Mark’s and The Doge’s Palace

One of the sites in Venice that stuck with me was the Basilica of San Marco (St. Mark’s) and it’s piazza (square). It’s an icon for the city and features embellishments pillaged from other cities. It was the most crowded destination and unfortunately we didn’t make it inside but the exterior was an ornate masterpiece.

My travel companions stopped to pose for what has become my favorite photo of the trip. Scott, Jenny, Ken, Rupert, and Anthony were a joy to travel with. Thanks to them, I laughed until my stomach hurt every day. They were a considerate and wise bunch and I’m glad I got to share one of the most exciting times of my life with each of them.

The square was full of pigeons and the tourists enjoyed letting them sit on their arms and feeding them, but we saw them more like rats so we laughed when a tourist was covered in them for photo ops.

The Doge’s Palace, the home of the Doge or supreme authority of the Republic of Venice, was originally constructed in the 1300-1400’s in the gothic style. In addition to a residence, it also served as a government meeting place for the Republic until Napoleon arrived in 1797.

Photos were not allowed inside the Palace, but this central courtyard gives you an idea of our ornate and grand the decor was. I’ve never seen more life-size statues.

Some part of most major sites in Venice are in the process of restoration or maintenance. The scale and difficulty are shown in this photo of scaffolding around just one peak of the building. If you look close, you can see a person on the scaffolding. Whenever I visited a site like this palace, I tried to imagine the Venetians physically constructing it without cranes, electricity, or any modern invention. The sheer number of humans and time invested must have been staggering.

The palace also originally contained the court and prison of Venice and once housed the infamous Casanova. Later a prison was constructed  next to the palace and was connected by the Bridge of Sighs, named by Lord Byron because the bridge offered prisoners their last view of Venice, and their last sigh at its beauty, before descending into their imprisonment.  

Anthony waves to me while my other companions take in the prisoners final view of Venice, the view shown below.  

This view from the Bridge of Sighs includes a peak at the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and its church dedicated to St. George, shown below, and now housing a famous library and art gallery.  

We didn’t make it out to this island, but it’s just one of many attractions on my list of excuses to return to Venice someday.

Tomorrow I’ll share photos and stories of Venice’s main thoroughfare, the Grand Canal.

The “Streets” of Venice

One of the reasons Venice was one of my favorite cities in Italy is because everywhere you look, there are beautiful, rustic buildings in warm, rich colors, each sitting in front of a scenic canal or pedestrian-only street (calle), post-card ready. The hundreds of stone arch bridges that span the small canals reminded me of the lovely covered bridges of the midwest: not merely a causeway, but each a work of art and no two exactly alike. 

Venice is a city for photographers. I could have taken a new photo every 50-feet of the trip, and practically did at first before I realized we’d never make it to any destination at that pace. I was reminded of my first Northern British Columbia kayaking trip in the 1990’s. At the trip’s start, each time we saw a bald eagle, everyone would point and shout, “bald eagle!” By the end of the two-week trip, bald eagles felt as common as crows and we instead would say sarcastically, “oh, look, another bald eagle.” Although I wasn’t in Venice long enough to see a new canal and think, “just another bald eagle,” I eventually did stop taking pictures of every one we passed.

The masks that were for sale in tourist shops, and this oddly Chuckie-esque display of dolls (their eyes followed me!) reminded me of Venice’s history as the original home of Carnivale, an annual festival held in Venice that starts 40 days before easter and ends on Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras (Martedi Grasso), the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras as celebrated in New Orleans and the practice of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, is based on this event. The masks that were traditionally worn to hide any form of identity between social classes have become a major tourist item in Venetian shops.

Of course, Venice would be what it is without gondola rides. Our group didn’t choose to take one, but we saw others enjoying them all day long in the little canals. We were told a ride could cost around $80 U.S., and for an extra $80 you could add an accordion player and singer. These two gondoliers exchanged heated words in italian about communication and turn taking as they passed under the bridge. The gondoliers have a precise etiquette among them, that involves calling out as they approach bridges and corners to avoid collisions in these tight spaces. The boats are very special in that the hull is not symmetrical, so they can be paddled with an oar on only one side. Because of their unique design, they reportedly cost more than $15,000. Before going on the trip I watched a documentary about how difficult it is to become a gondolier, a secure and coveted profession in Venice.

Tomorrow I’ll write about the day we spent exploring La Piazza de San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) and the Doge’s Palace of Venice.

Beauty of Venezia (Venice!) From Our Windows

I had such a great vacation in Italy that I thought I’d share it here.

I don’t have any pictures of the interior of the third-floor apartment we rented in Venice, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was pretty amazing. It was located near the corner of Sestier de Canaregio and Parochia del SS. Apostoli in the Fondamente Nove Neighborhood. From our bedroom window, we could see the island of Murano, the island where most glassblowing in Venice was relocated to in order to avoid uncontrollable fires. Murano is in the distance on the left in the photo below of my first Venetian sunrise below. I had trouble sleeping the first couple of days because of the excitement and the nine-hour time difference. I shared the purple room with the lovely Jenny from Seattle.

The 360 view out the rest of our windows was overwhelming. All of us spent a lot of time in the morning just leaning out the windows, breathing in the moist salt air, and soaking up the sites.

Outside our bathroom window was a quiet marina.

On the edge of the marina was a beautiful building that reflected the morning sunrise in the windows. I geeked out and took too many pictures of this building every morning. The trees in the photo below were common in Italy and this photo in particular reminds me of a Monet painting.

Also out our bedroom window was this interesting building. I loved waking up to the silhouettes of the statues. I’m assuming it’s a chiesa or church, although I never actually walked over to check it out. Just in front of it, I could hear children playing at the nearby school.

Out another bedroom window was a more classic view of Venice, with brick buildings in mustard, terra-cotta, and pink. We were told that the choice of colors of buildings was restricted in Venice, but with this beauty, I can’t imagine anyone would mind. The building on the right shows clearly the effects of aqua alta or high water that occurs periodically in Venice. Occasional storms with sustained high winds cause the water levels to rise for periods of hours to several days, causing damage to the stucco and brick exteriors

of most buildings. Venice is a city in constant repair.

With views like these, it’s a wonder we ever left our room. But of course we had many memorable adventures wandering through the unforgettable Venezia. Tomorrow I’ll share some more photos and a story or two of my favorite city in our trip.

I’m Back!


I made it back safe and sound from my two-week trip to Italy. Read about how the hubby and kids fared while I was away over at Easy to Love, and see the first of my photos.

The Village of Manarola, part of Cinque Terre (5 villages), Italy.

Beginning tomorrow, I’ll post here daily about my trip, so check back often if you’re interested in vicarious living your way through Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre and Rome, Italy.

A domani.

I’m Off to Italy!

Today is my last post for a couple weeks…unless I find an internet cafe in Italy that I can’t resist.

This past week I read an interview in Entertainment Weekly with Neil Patrick Harris. He said, “I feel like it’s important to have three lives. Your professional life, you personal life, and your private life….You need to be as forthcoming about your personal lie as you can be, because if people are intrigued by you, then they’ll want to know more about you….I’m in the Howard Stern camp of full disclosure. He doesn’t talk about how he had sex with his wife that night, but he talks about having sex with his wife….You want to be able to have some transparency with people who are watching you tell stories.”

I always struggle where that line lies. What is private? What is professional? And with blogging, what is personal?

The longer I write here, the more personal information seems to come out.

I’m headed off to Italy tomorrow morning, with a friend from high school, leaving the kids and hubby at home. I can tell already that they’ll be fine without me. I could barely get them to hold still long enough last night to sit through my last round of snuggles.

I’ll be gone for two whole weeks, touring through Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Rome. When I’m with my high school friends, a different side of me appears, a side that hides in my role as get-it-all-done wife and mommy. When I’m away, I’m my most irreverant, sassy, and even politically incorrect, and I am so looking forward to that freedom.

I can’t promise I’ll post while on vacation, but if I do, I’ll do it here first. I hope that the next two weeks are as productive, relaxing, and educational as mine will be. Don’t forget to make time for yourself. If you don’t, no one else will.