18th September: Day Three
I got a really good night’s sleep, the air conditioning in our holiday place really went the distance. After some small breakfast we set off back towards the lagoon. To get there we needed to take two buses, one would arrive nearby the campsite and would take us to the train station in the Mestre. The second one would take us from the station to the lagoon-city, which from here-on-out I’ll refer to as Venezia. The buses took a while to arrive (I thought that we’d get reduced service because it was Sunday), it took about an hour to get from our campsite toVenezia.
I had a number of places on my itinerary, Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) was the major stop I wanted to make today. It was important to pace this carefully in case we ran out of things to see and do before we headed off to Rome. Venezia has a very claustrophic feel to it which I think stems not from the layout and architecture of the city but from the sheer amount of people that come to the place. Venezia is a “Honeypot City” in the purest sense of the term, which means it attracts a lot of tourists. As we made our way to St. Mark’s Square we came across a small museum that was apparently the former workshop of the legendary Leonardo Da Vinci, the workshop is located near Scuola Grande di San Rocce, about 10-15 minutes walk from Venezia Santa Lucia. Since the entrance fee was small we decided to give it a look, turned out to be worth it too. The museum gave us a lot of information despite it’s small size, here I learnt that Da Vinci first came to Venice in 1499 when he was forced to flee Milan as the French overthrew Ludovico Sforza. Most people associate the name “Leonardo Da Vinci” with paintings but there’s much more to his career, he was an exceptional inventor and a genius engineer truly working several centuries ahead of his time. Here in the museum we saw the military designs Da Vinci conceived; the first tank, glider, helicopter, mortar, machine gun, and even submarine. When you consider that half of these designs were not even followed-up on and built properly until 400 years later you’ve got an idea of how brilliant this man was.
(I was unable to take pictures in this museum otherwise there would have been an accompanying picture)
We passed some more interesting landmarks on our way to St. Mark’s Square with some odd architecture which I can now explain. As it was evolving into it’s own city state Venezia became a massive trading hub for foreign traders discovering Europe. This is where east and west really met on good terms for the first time. Venetians formed trading relationships with the Arabic world and with eastern Asia. This trading relationship eventually became a cultural relationship as Arabic and Asian traders found new homes in Venezia where they were welcomed by the Venetians. For it’s time seamless cultural intergration like this was unheard of and was welcomed by the Doge (Venezia’s head of state). Therefore by the time Venice had fully developed the resulting architecture was a mix of ‘Classical’, ‘Arabic’, and ‘Oriental’ which came to be known as “Venetian Gothic”. The influx of Asian traders and settlers in Venice could be attributed to three Venetians I’m sure everyone has heard of: Marco, Maffeo, and Nicollo Polo. These three merchant travelers set sail from Venezia around 1254 and explored the Arab and Asian worlds, documenting their travels and bringing back goods they had traded overseas. Venetians were sceptical of the Polo’s stories but were astonished to learn they were true when merchants from these mysterious lands began arriving in Venezia. This city has a massive amount of history behind it: Economic, Political, Social, and Architectural.
We eventually arrived at St. Mark’s Square, another historical place for Venezia. The square gets it’s name from St. Mark’s Basilica that overlooks much of the area, it is situated right next to the Doge’s Palace. These two landmarks show off the “Venetian Gothic” style I just wrote about (Notice the ‘arch’ style of the picture to the left) and you could be forgiven for mistaking St. Mark’s Basilica for a mosque, you really could. There is some funny history behind the Basilica, around the year 828 Venetian merchants traveled to Alexandria in Egypt to trade with the locals. Whilst there they stole relics apparently belonging to Saint Mark the Evangelist and brought them back to Venezia unnoticed. From that point onwards Saint Mark became the Patron Saint of Venezia. Is your city missing a religious figure of it’s own? Steal one then! Cheeky…
I was getting annoyed by the masses of tour groups marching around the square holding national flags above their heads shouting into megaphones at this point so we went to check out the Basilica itself to get away from the noise. I wonder how Venetians put up with this, if I was annoyed by the “Honeypot Site” in a matter of minutes then I cannot imagine what it must be like for the natives. The line for the Basilica was huge (Probably because it was a Sunday) so we decided to give it a miss for today and head back to the campsite, we had been walking for almost 4 hours straight and were tired out. We got the bus back to the campsite this time rather than risk another nightmare repeat of yesterday. We went back to the same Pizzeria again where I had the Carbonara Pizza, something that is better on the plate than what it sounds like on the menu – seriously. We stopped by a convenience store nearby and got some beers in, which we went through as my dad and I chatted about life and debated on many things as the evening drew on.
Back to Venezia tomorrow, hopefully it’s not so crowded this time.