After leaving Museum Correr, there was still time to walk around Venice, so we headed to the Piazetta San Marco. On our way there we noticed that a particular place under the Procuratie Nuove was specially crowded and we could hear the sound of beautiful Classical music. It was the famous Caffé Florian, opened since the 29th of December 1720 and considered the oldest Café in Europe. It was opened as “Alla Venezia Trionfante” but soon its name was changed by the users to Caffè Florian in honour of its owner.
The caffé is expensive and we could not sped time sitting there (there was a long cue waiting) as we wanted to see as much as possible, but it transpires history and tradition. During its existence it was a witness of the magnificence and fall of the Republic of Venice, the secret conspiracies against France and the Austrian era of ruling; According to their website, its elegant rooms were used to treat the wounded during the 1848 uprising.
Also according to them, “Besides being the most famous coffeehouse, Caffè Florian was the only meeting place of the time that admitted women, which explains why Casanova chose it as his “hunting ground” in his continuing quest for female company.”
When getting to Piazetta San Marco we did turn left to Riva degli Schiavoni (named after the Slavic merchants involved in the delivery of meat and fish at the local marinas), and got to Ponte della Paglia, that dates from 1847, but the original structure is from 1360. It crosses the Rio de la Canonica or de Palazzo, and from there you have a beautiful view of Ponte Dei Sospiri. The bridge divides two districts: San Marco and Castello (Venice is divided into six districts called Sistieri: Cannaregio (where the Santa Lucia train station is), San Polo, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce, San Marco, and Castello.
So there we go, all happy strolling around and deciding that, contrary to huge majority of the people that goes to Venice, we would not get lost. Right? Nope, wrong. We turned left on one of the canals, and then walked, and turned right, and left, and so on, and soon we had no clue where we were, and then, YES WE WERE LOST. It was quite a blow in my pride of being a person with an excellent sense of direction. Yes it was. I was pissed of. BUT soon it all went away. Not only because we did see beautiful details of Venice that otherwise we would not, but also because we found a very kind Venetian that took the time to detour from his way and help us get to Piazza San Marco, while I chatted with him about how it is to live in Venice, to which he said: its crowded, its beautiful, its Venice, I would not leave here and live anywhere else. I could only but agree. Venice is fascinating, even if you get lost. Still, it is.
After getting to Piazza San Marco we were now starving and decided to treat ourselves with a beautiful dinner at Principessa restaurant, at the Savoia & Jolanda Hotel.
From there, already dark we headed to our hotel, tired but extremely happy as Venice was so much more than I expected.
Next day we woke up early, had a good breakfast and checked out from the Hotel. Luckily the staff at the Opera was amazingly friendly, and not only they took care of our luggage until our departure but they also gave us some tips to move around.
We had decided that we would start with the campanille and then go to Rialto. We left the hotel and, OH LORD, a glorious, sunshine, day revealed. Everything around us looked so much different from the heavy rain inundated calles from the day before.
The campanile was built in 1173 and went through many renovations and upgrades. The total height is close to 100m, and contrary to other towers and campaniles, this one has a lift. The price is high – we paid 8 euros per person, but the view is breathtaking and worth it. The campanile has 5 bells in total, each with its own role, being Marangona the only original bell.
At the base of the Campanile there is Loggia di San Marco Campanile built in the 16th century by Sansovino. It is a beautiful marble structure with statues and portraits.
July, 14, 1902 – the tower collapsed on the square and it was destroyed along with the loggia. It was rebuilt on the 25th of April 1912.
Galileo Galilei used the campanile as an observatory and in 1609 he demonstrated his telescope to the Lords right there on the campanile.
As it was still early, the cue had only a few people and we soon got to the Tower, and what a view it has. a 360º view over Venice that surely takes your breath away, and if I was not yet in love with Venice, there was now no turning back, from falling totally in love.
From the campanile we still walked around before heading to Rialto. The day was beautiful and the Piazza was soon getting crowded.
We walked a bit along Riva degli Schiavoni turning right at the end of Piazzeta San Marco. Riva degli Schiavoni is the main waterfront, with many kiosks and restaurants, and magnificent views of the lagoon, Basilica San Giorgio Maggiore, and the constant movement of gondolas, vaporettos, boats, in a charming chaos.
The beautiful Santa Maria della Salute Basilica was built in the 17th century by a very young and almost unknown artist named Baldassare Longhena.
In the 17th century, almost 50 000 people died in Venice due to the plague. In 1630, the senate made an plea to God, to stop the plague, promising to build a church in the honor of Virgin Mary “. The plague did stop and they honored their promise constructing the basilica in Dorsoduro district, right where the Grand canal merges with the basin of St Mark.
Rialto Bridge connects two districts in Venice, San Marco and San Polo. The present bridge was constructed between 1588 and 1591, and replaced the old wooden structure Until 1854, it was the only crossing point of the Grand canal. The bridge has three passages, being two outside balustrades, and a central and wider one lined with (very expensive) small shops.
With a heavy heart, and no will at all to go back, it was now time to return to the hotel to get the luggage and head back to Florence (me) and Portugal (Ruth). Next post will be our departure from Venice and my last day in Florence, so stay tuned