Venice La Serenissima

Trip Start Apr 13, 2011
Trip End Apr 30, 2011

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mv Aegean Odyssey

Flag of Italy  , Veneto,
Friday, April 29, 2011

We woke up to a nice day and must have docked late at night as we were at the San Basilio Pier when we got up for breakfast. Today, we are going to do a lot of walking in Venice and we are so excited.
Whether it is your first time or fifteenth in Venice, it is easy to get lost amid the labyrinth of bridges, footpaths and waterways, but save that pleasure for later. We had a great guide who took us this walking excursion, uncovering its treasures as he shared his tales. We travelled by boat down the beautiful Guidecca Canal to the heart of Venice, St. Mark’s Square, and disembark at the bustling Riva degli Schiavoni. The pigeons in St. Mark's square immediately bee-lined for Olga, who was screetching of fear and joy.
We walked to St. Mark’s Basilica, a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, and admire its fašade mosaics and golden dome, both superbly restored to their original grandeur. Then we enjoyed a guided excursion of the Doge’s Palace, a 14th-century Gothic masterpiece with pink marble exterior and lacy stone arches. For nearly a thousand years this was the seat of Venetian government and the home of the Doges. We could hardly believe all the fabulous art-filled apartments and salons. In the Great Council Hall, Paradise by Domenico and Jacopo Tintoretto fills an entire wall, a witness to centuries of trials and intrigues. We glanced at the lagoon through the grillwork of the Bridge of Sighs, supposedly named for the convicts who crossed from court to prison, on a walk across to the old prison cells where Casanova once languished.

We had some free time and had afwonderful lunch with Keith and Michael along the Grand Canal. Weahter was glorious and we took a short gondola ride through the side canals. Never made it to Harry'sbar for a bellini. We took a water taxi back to our ship for some packing.

We had a very unique and special evening visit to look forward to. With our guide we went to experience
Venice and St. Mark’s by night. If there is one memory to take home with you, it is the sight of St. Mark’s Basilica, the cathedral of Venice, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this remarkable building at its very best.

St. Mark's was reserved for Voyages to Antiquity guests who will be treated to a private excursion and the breathtaking sight of the famous mosaics illuminated in a spectacular light show. The church was built in 828 as a tomb for Saint Mark, whose body was spirited out of Alexandria hidden in a casket of pork, a bit of intrigue you can see memorialized in the mosaics above the church door. After a 976 fire, the church was rebuilt and served as the Doge’s private chapel. As such, it was a place of immense wealth and power that it became known as the Golden Church or Chiesa d’Oro. For example, the four Horses of St. Mark in front are replicas of the Roman sculptures inside, brought back by the Venetians after the sacking of Constantinople. These horses originally had giant rubies in their eye sockets. The interior reinforces the jewel-encrusted Byzantine effect with its galleries high above the naves, massive chandeliers and over 40,000 square feet of mosaics. Works by Tintoretto, Bellini and Mantegna – to mention a few – adorn the walls. The Treasury brims with wealth from centuries of conquest. A visit here is an unforgettable glimpse into the heights reached by La Serenissima, as The Most Serene Republic of Venice was called.

What a day and evening to never ever forget. It was truly magical.
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