(Prints of Ugo Baracco’s etchings (see above) of Venice are available at Gallery 71, NYC)
Our third and final day in Venice was about being tourists. During our first two days my daughter and I had seen the Grand Canal of Venice and its palazzos from the vaporetto several times on our way to and from certain sites. We had been to the roof-top viewing platform of the T Fondasco dei Tedeschi (a department store) to enjoy an aerial view of the Grand Canal and a panoramic view of the city. We had explored neighborhoods I had not seen on my first visit to Venice ten years ago.
Rooftop view from T Fondaco dei Tedeschi (Trip Advisor)
Now it was time to focus on the main attractions of Venice: Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Cathedral, the Bridge of Sighs and the Doges Palace. We had signed up for a tour of the Piazza and the Cathedral and Doges Palace on that final morning. As I stood in the Piazza San Marco with my daughter I tried to absorb the experience on a cellular level, thinking I would probably never get back to Venice.
Although you can remember certain details and have certain images in your mind of a place you have visited, you can never really reproduce the actual experience of being there…which is why we travel to have the real experience. The light will never be the same; your excitement will never be the same. The excited buzz of the tourists standing in the piazza, trying to take it all in, is impossible to recreate. This is both the appeal and frustration of travel: we are all just passing through. The experience cannot be packaged and brought home with us. This is what makes travel so special.
I was excited about revisiting St. Mark’s cathedral and seeing its amazing, unique frescoes on both the inside and outside of the cathedral made from tiny gold-leafed tiles that reflect light in the way only pure gold can. The melding of eastern and western architectural and artistic elements within the cathedral reinforces the importance of Venice as the crossroads of the world in its time. The multiple domes atop the cathedral distinguish it from other the pointed arches of other major European cathedrals.
The ubiquitous statues of St. Mark and the symbol of Venice, the winged lion, present in the Plaza San Marco and throughout the city serve to remind us of the uniqueness of Venice.
I enjoyed revisiting the palatial rooms of the Doges Palace, the seat of Venetian government, and once again imagined the merchants of Venice and government representatives seated on the rigid wooden benches that surround its great hall. I loved walking across the Bridge of Sighs connecting the palace to the prison and imaging, for the second time, the despair of those who were sentenced to die in this morbid, concrete, windowless, underground prison adjacent to the Doges Palace. Venice is one of the few places in the world where history really comes alive for me everywhere I turn because its history is so accessible.
Our morning tour of the Piazza San Marco was followed by a short afternoon tour of the neighborhood north of the Piazza. Our tour culminated with a gondola ride in the late afternoon…a cliche, yes. But one I enjoyed sharing with my daughter.
For our final evening we had tickets for a concert of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at La Pieta , a small church on the Grand Canal adjacent to a home for abandoned children where Vivaldi taught violin lessons to the girls who lived there. But we had a couple of hours to spend before that evening engagement. As we began walking, we came across a wonderful perch quite near Piazza San Marco: a canal-side, open-air restaurant that sat at the very opening of the Grand Canal. Our first thought was to have a drink and relax while taking in the view, but we ended up eating dinner there because the setting was so amazing. We had the requisite Bellini cocktails, dined on seafood and watched the sun set over the canal.
We took a short walk following dinner and came upon an area where artists were selling their wares. It immediately felt familiar and I recognized that it was where I had bought a beautiful etching of the Grand Canal on my previous trip to Venice. And even more amazing, I recognized the artist, Ugo Baracco (Incisore in Venezia), standing by a display of his work. I told him that I had met him ten years ago, that his print was hanging in a place of honor in my living room, and that I love looking at it. We perused his current collection, chose a beautiful small print of a gondola on the canal for my son as a gift, and my daughter bought a print for herself. Seeing the artist again and talking with him was a magical experience for me.
It was nearly time to attend our concert nearby. I was excited about taking my daughter back to the same church, Chiesa della Pieta, where I had heard Vivaldi’s Four Seasons performed ten years ago. The group of musicians performing that evening were a well-known chamber group in Venice: I Virtuosi Italiani. They were brisk, snappy and very engaging. My daughter is a violinist so it was a special treat for her to hear Vivaldi’s music being played in Venice in a church next to where he had actually performed many times.
Our final day in Venice was nearly over. We got back onboard the vaporetto and took one last, dreamy ride along the Grand Canal back to our hotel. To add to the emotions of the occasion, there was a full moon hovering over us in Venice that night. Venice was even better than I remembered it, the second time around.