Monday, May 26, 2014

Venice Day 3: Museums

We woke up a little fuzzy headed after our wine drinking evening but had to get ready and leave in time for our Secret Itineraries tour of the Doge's Palace at 9.55am.  We made it there with a few minutes to spare!

Our guide met us in the Doge's Palace Courtyard, told us a little about the Palace and Venetian history.  It was a nice introduction before we entered the prisons.   We could imagine, from her descriptions, how unpleasant it must have been to spend any time there accompanied by rats, dank, darkness, etc...  We walked through the prisons upstairs to the tiny chamber where she said the real governor of Venice worked.  I can't remember the term she called him but he was a commoner elected by one of the Councils and had more power than the Doge.  This chamber was very modest.  There were loads of stories about Casanova who I was really not that interested in, honestly.  The rooms were a little warm.  Overall it was an excellent tour that I highly recommend. 

After the Secret Itineraries tour, we got coffee and drinks before touring the Palace on our own.  I know we visited this magnificent Palace on our previous visit in 2000, but hubby and I did not remember it being so astonishingly magnificent.  It really is an amazing place (no photos allowed inside).  The art, the history, the ceilings, the grandeur, the space, the amazing "Paradise" oil painting by Tintoretto in the Higher Council Hall.  All of it unbelievable and unforgettable.  It's a must see, again and again.  I know we'll return on a subsequent trip...

The Stairway of the Giants

View from a Palace window

Taken from inside the Bridge of Sighs
Overwhelmed and foot sore, we headed out to find lunch. We ended up at a Rick Steves' recommended place on Calle de la Rasse, Birreria Frost, which was as good as described. We enjoyed watching  a man named Mario flirt with the staff and the locals tease him mercilessly.

After this it was time for St. Mark's Basilica. We took Rick Steves line avoidance advice and deposited b-i-l's small backpack at the nearby church so we could all get in quickly. They only hold the bag for an hour, though, which made for a quick tour of the Basilica.

This church was hard for me to understand. I think it's because it's based on the Greek cross and is very different from most other churches we've seen. It would probably be a good place to have a guide (who, per posted signs, are not supposed to tour groups around the church but were doing so with impunity). No pictures allowed but I did sneak one...  It was not super crowded when we visited.

My very patient b-i-l oriented and toured us around the Basilica using the Rick Steves guide. We were awestruck by the magnificent golden altarpiece and enjoyed the treasures in Museum upstairs. I loved getting closer to the magnificent mosaics--that was where they finally made some sense to me. We walked out on the balcony, where the replica horses are under restoration, and enjoyed the fabulous views. Then our hour was up so we headed out.

Inside St. Mark's Basilica

After a stop at a nearby bar for a refreshing spritz, we decided to get our money's worth out of the Museum Pass by touring the Correr Museum. In St. Mark's Square they were setting up for the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics; the choir and some dancers were practicing. Cool.

The Correr Museum was an unexpected treat. We had no preconceptions of this museum but were all quite impressed. I think what made it extra special was seeing the restored "Sissi rooms"--where the Empress Elisabeth of Austria stayed in 1856. Her home, Schonbrum, outside Vienna, was one of the first palaces we toured in Europe so it was a wonderful to find her in Venice!

The rest of the museum was also very impressive. We were fortunate to see Titian's tiny self portrait which was on special exhibit. This museum deserves to be more than an afterthought because it certainly has all the goods!

View from the Correr Museum (we briefly visited this garden)
By now we were pretty tired but the day was not over! We saw an artist with beautiful watercolors of Venetian scenes and spent a good while picking out some pieces to take home. We checked out the adorable gardens behind the Correr Museum on the waterfront. We wandered back over to the Doge's Palace and took pictures of the early evening skies (and ran into Betty from our cicchetti tour!).

We finally took the vaporetto back to San Toma, dropped our stuff off at the apartment and had dinner at a nearby restaurant that had pizza on the menu.

After a quick stop at "our" bar for a nightcap and calls home (thanks to Skype and their free wifi), we ended our wonderful day in Venice.


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