Saturday, April 18, 2020

A Walk Through Venice

We arrive in Venice by train and step out into the sunshine along the Grand Canal. Our view across the canal into the city is dominated by an eighteenth-century church, the Chiesa de San Simeon Piccolo.

We turn left along the canal for a short distance, passing the Chiesa Santa Maria degli Scalzi – don't be tempted to go inside, it's insanely over the top Baroque and we want to save ourselves for other, better churches so as not to get altarpiece fatigue –

until we reach the Ponte degli Scalzi, a footbridge across the canal, taking a moment to enjoy the view along the canal.

On the other side we proceed straight down the Calle Lunga, a narrow alleyway, and then turn left down the even narrower Calle Bergami S. Croce. This brings us to a narrow canal called the Rio Marin. We cross the canal on a small bridge and turn right down an embankment called the Fondamenta Garzotti.

We pass the sixteenth-century Palazzo Soranzo Capello, which these days houses the district superintendent of archaeology and historic buildings. Nice office space.

It also has a spiffy garden where I suppose the archaeologists lunch on nice days.

Continuing along the Rio Marin we cross the canal on another delightful bridge and turn right onto the Calle de l'Ogio

This brings us after a short distance to the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, founded as a confraternity in the 13th century and now an art museum.

Inside are many treasures, should you be in a museum mood.

From there it's just a short stroll to our first really famous monument, the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Perhaps it's not so spectacular on the outside, but on the inside –

This is a temple of art, and of artists. The most famous work is Titian's Assumption of the Virgin but there are so many

many, many

and tombs – Titian is buried here, along with many other Venetian grandees.

From the Basilica we turn down the Campo dei friari toward the ponte dei friari.

We cross the bridge over the Rio dei Friari and turn right on the embankment called the Fondamenta dei Friari – really the friars seem to have dominated this whole neighborhood.

Then left down the Rio Tera Caza, which I suppose must be a filled-in canal, then through a warren of narrow alleys to the Rio de San Polo

Which we cross on the Ponte San Polo

Into the Campo San Polo, one of Venice's largest squares

There is another famous church here, Chiesa Rettorale de San Polo,

full of paintings by Tiepolo and so on.

But we must scurry onward to the famous Ponte de Rialto, completed in 1591, and there cross the Grand Canal again.

Here we take a bit of a detour, turning left through the Campo San Bartolomeo

And crossing two more small canals to come to a little Venetian wonder, the Chiesa Santa Maria dei Miracoli, built in 1481-1489, a Renaissance masterpiece.

From there we walk south along the Rio della Fava (the Canal of the Bean), passing Santa Maria della Fava (St. Mary of the Bean – really)

and make our way down the Calle Flubera to the Calle Dei Fabbri, cross a small bridge where all the gondoliers will harass us and promise us the best, most wonderful tour of the city

and into the heart of it all, the Piazza San Marco

Here we behold the wonders of the Doges' Palace

And the Basilica of St. Mark, built in the 11th century

When Venice was still in thrall to Byzantium.

Of course they loved Byzantium so much that in 1204 they sacked the city – maybe this was their way of announcing they had achieved adulthood and no longer needed a parent city to guide them – and brought home many treasures, most famously these four horses that became their symbol.

You are perhaps thinking by now that this must have been some hike, but the whole route laid out here is, according to Google, less than 4 miles (6 km). With a break for lunch, which we will of course take, it would be an easy day's stroll, so many wonders are packed into the little space of Venice.


pootrsox said...

There is a wonderful mystery series, by Donna Leon, set in Venice that is as geographically granular as this wonderful little tour route you have written up.

There are I think 25 volumes, about Commissario Brunetti. They are all wonderful, and can really be read in almost any order. One or more is regularly $1.99 on kindle.

I only allow myself 1 or 2 at a time, so I can savor the Venice Leon knows so well, having lived there for decades.

G. Verloren said...


"Of course they loved Byzantium so much that in 1204 they sacked the city – maybe this was their way of announcing they had achieved adulthood and no longer needed a parent city to guide them – and brought home many treasures, most famously these four horses that became their symbol."

From all I've read, it really was "just business".

Venice actually had a faily amicable relationship with the Byzantines - they did a lot of trade with Venice, and they were a valuable buffer against the Turks, and also something of a religious counterbalance to the Pope who the Venetians were frequently at odds with.

But then a bunch of German princes approached Venice saying they were putting together a massive army to go on Crusade with, and they wanted to place an order for a fleet big enough to transport that army to the Holy Land, because past experience had told them that marching across Eastern Europe to get there tended to be extremely slow and cause massive problems with the locals.

The Venetians said, "We're flattered that you came to us, and yes we are the best in the business, but we're still just one city with limited shipbuilding capacity. A fleet big enough to handle the number of troops you want to transport would take us a full year to construct, and we would be unable to do literally anything else for the entire year. You're asking us to devote essentially our entire economy to this project for the next year - we'll do it, but the price is going to be very high."

The Germans said, "Sure! That gives us a year to get all the troops in order, set in provisions, and collect the funds for your payment, which will easily pay your price." They then spent the next year trying to collect on promised campaign contributions from various allies and members of the crusade, and finding out that while lots of people were happy to profess their support for the Crusade, when it came time to actually pay or provide troops, something always came up at the last moment and they couldn't really afford it at the moment, but maybe next year?

So the Germans show up in Venice at the appointed time with a fraction of the troops they expected, and could they maybe get a partial refund since they wouldn't be needing all those ships after all? "What? Are you insane? No! We had a deal! We put our entire economy on the line for your little Holy War! If you don't pay us, we go under! Our very survival is on the line! We're getting our money one way or another! We are taking you to the Holy Land, and you are going to fight your war, and we're coming with you make sure you do and to collect the loot you earn to pay off your debt!"

The princes hate this, but it's either that or walk across Eastern Europe.

G. Verloren said...


And so the fleet sails out, but things keep going wrong - bad weather, screwed up plans, in-fighting between the princes, et cetera. It's misstart and misadventure one after another, and everybody is angry with everybody else, morale is awful, resources have dwindled to almost nothing, and the Crusade looks like it's on the verge of collapsing several times before it even really gets going.

But then they get word of the Byzantines having a dispute over succession, and there are promises made of rich rewards if the Crusader army comes and helps one side win out over another, and it's on the way to the Holy Lands anyway, and if it works it solves everyone's problems and makes everyone happy, and so of course they go.

And then of course everything goes wrong. It's this whole big thing, and in the end the claimant they back doesn't keep his promises to pay them, and the Venetians just throw up their hands and decide, "Screw it! We've got an army, Costantinople is in total disarray but still full of treasure, our survival as a nation depends on us getting paid, the Byzantines betrayed us anyway, and the common soldiers are just as pissed about not getting paid as we are and will follow us rather than their own commanding nobility! Sack the city!"

And so they did, and so the Crusade survived long enough to continue into the Holy Land proper and blunder about ineffectually for a bit longer, while the Venetians sailed home ships laden with treasure to keep their economy afloat and grumbled about needing to remember to insist on payment up front in the future.

Susi said...

This is why I visit everyday. Thank you!