Thursday, October 22, 2009


Venice is fantastic. I don’t know where to begin.

The 1500-year old city is vast—when you wander the sprawling sestieri (districts), it just keeps going—yet it never feels bigger than a large town. And there is not a single modern building in sight.

Venice is a tourist’s feast. The canals are as picturesque as you have been led to believe, and are never clichéd. The art is such sumptuous gluttony that another Tintoretto invokes an offhand, “oh, more paintings.” And the shopping (for those inclined) is comparable to Paris (both in scale and price).

Yes, Venice is expensive. The average price of a simple trattoria meal is €20. I was fortunate to find accommodation in a resedenzia for €50 per night—a simple room with no breakfast—because it is off season, and that is as cheap as you’ll find.

Visiting in the off season is the way to go. There are still plenty of tourists, but they don’t overpower the city as they do in peak season. Trying to pilot the narrow streets swollen to bursting with mile after mile of people is an arduous way to relax, as Mai Li and I found in Florence one year when we unwittingly arrived on a long weekend.

After catching a vaporetto, a public ferry, down the length of the Grand Canal the first morning of my arrival, I spent the entire day in Piazza San Marco. I took some furtive photography—disallowed—of the dazzling golden mosaic-tiled ceiling of the Basilica San Marco, now the cathedral of Venice but which for 700 years of gobsmacking opulence was the private chapel of the doge (duke and elected head of state).

I depleted the next three hours spending not enough time wandering the warren of rooms in the doge’s palace, the seat of the Venetian government. The walls and ceilings of every room are filled with paintings by Veronese, Tintoretto, and Titian, culminating in the cavernous Sala del Maggior Consiglio (Grand Council Hall) which hosts Tintoretto’s Paradiso, one of the world’s largest oil paintings. It is a mindboggling experience. One room that did stand out for me was the Chamber of the Magistrato alle Leggi, which, to my surprise, is today used to exhibit several works by Hieronymus Bosch.

1 comment:

MilazzoMan said...

Venice in the off-season would be ideal, a wise decision.

Although I can never think of Venice in the off-season without remembering "Don't Look Now". Bumping into Julie Christie wouldn't be a problem, but you may want to keep an eye out for the mini-Little Red Riding Hood. She may still lurk, ready to take vengeance on those who defy photo-taking prohibitions!