Friday, December 28, 2012

Because the Doge Said So

We awoke the next day fired up for some awesome sightseeing. Our intention had been to go over to Saint Mark's, then the Doge's Palace, and then see what time it was when we were done to assess our next move. Unfortunately, we didn't get up in time to get in line at Saint Mark's before the cruise ship crowd, so we switched up the plan and went next door to the Doge's Palace, then set our eyes toward the lagoon and the islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello.
The Doge's Palace, adjacent to Saint Mark's Basilica (which had once been the private chapel of the Doge), was just as opulent as you might imagine for a person who ruled one of the wealthiest trading cities in the world. Huge, gothic on the outside, baroque on the inside, and beautiful. Complete with the largest globe I think I've ever seen inside a building. Pretty sure it was at least an Elizabeth and a half, possibly two Elizabeths tall.
These steps are the Giant's Staircase, guarded by statues of Mars and Neptune.

Attached to the palace is the prison, as trials were carried out in the palace. To get to the prison, you must cross the Bridge of Sighs, so named because this is the last view criminals would get of Venice until they were released. *sigh*

After wandering about in the Doge's Palace, tagging along on a few tours, and seeing lots and lots of different swords and other armaments, we headed to the vaporetto stop to make our way out into the lagoon. First stop: Murano. Murano is the home of Venetian glassmaking. Glass used to be made in Venice proper, but the fires of the ovens were deemed too dangerous for the densely populated area, so glassmaking was moved to the islands of the lagoon, particularly Murano. Beautiful glass artwork is on display in the middle of the pedestrian-filled streets (well, sidewalks). Tons of shops sell glassware produced on the island (and sometimes not produced on the island). You can see artisans crafting intricate glass animals or beautiful colored vases. You know those beads for your Pandora or other glass charm bracelet? They make them in Murano. And you can buy them pretty cheaply there. We had fun shopping for Mr. B's mother and sister.

 Next stop, Burano. We walked down the streets, looked at the colorful buildings, and ate some gelato (I know, you're shocked), and then walked by a tower that looked like it was about to fall any second. While Murano is known for glass, Burano's claim to fame is amazing lace. It was very popular in the 16th century, but fell out of favor by the 1800s. Queen Margherita established a lacemaking school in the latter part of the 1800s to revive the art. We stopped at the Lace Museum to see the process. A group of ladies were upstairs, speaking rapid Italian while making lace. It was wonderful to see.

Then, of course, we went shopping. This lovely lady wa working in her shop and indulged yet another annoying tourist who wanted a photo with her while she worked.

When then hopped back onto the vaporetto to head over to Torcello, either the first or one of the first islands in the lagoon to be inhabited. It has the oldest church in the lagoon, which we were too late to tour inside, but enjoyed walking around the outside.

Torcello is also home to a colony of cats. They manage the rodent population on the island. And have fun houses.

We were practically alone on Torcello, walking along the canal, past the cats, to the cathedral. We saw two other people the whole time we were there. A little creepy, but extremely peaceful.
The vaporetto took us back to Venice proper, and we took a nice long ride along the Grand Canal, occasionally stopping to take a photo or look at an interesting building. Then it was time for dinner, more gelato, and sleep.
In our next installment: Will Elizabeth get busted for taking photos in Saint Mark's? Will they get their moonlit gondola ride? Will they make it through the Venetian maze to get their bags and get to the train station in time? Tune in!

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