Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Italy Sketchbook. Day Two...Morning in Venice

Our second day in Venice was very busy. We started the morning with a tour of St. Mark's Square, or Piazza San Marco. It was a wonderful tour with a native of Venice as our guide. Before I get into the portion of the tour in St. Mark's Square, a bit of info she shared about gondolas...that have always been painted black.

Also, gondoliers have always been male. Currently, one woman is in training to become a gondolier. Her father was one as well. When asked how the Venetians felt about this, she all honesty...that most people feel that gondoliers are more than just men driving a boat - they have almost a mythical status, and have always been male. I got the impression that as a female Venetian she wasn't all that thrilled with the idea.

As our tour got started we talked a about the Basilica, which housed St. Mark's tomb. The remains were stolen in the night...there's even a mosaic depicting the theft!
The outside of the Basilica has more than 400 columns, of all different kinds of precious marble. It really was beautiful.When large buildings were being constructed, trees were buried under the ground to give additional support. Many refer to this as "the forest under Venice". There was a great picture in the square depicting how trees were placed close together, buried in the ground as the base for the heaviest buildings. It was also explained that if someone cut a tree down without authority, they were hung on the next closest tree and left on display for three days. (Our guide explained that this is also why it is considered bad luck to walk thru the two columns at the edge of St. Mark's mirrors walking between the two trees where the accused would hang) We then went inside Doge's Palace, stopping in the courtyard to admire the architecture. In the lower left, you can see one of many large well heads that were used to collect fresh water. Providing fresh water to the people has always been a challenge for the Venetian people. If one was caught tampering with the precious public supply, they would be hanged.

A beautiful staircase in the courtyard.
This carved face shows one of the elements of Venetian government. If you wanted to accuse someone of a crime, you would write the accusation, sign it, and have two others witness it. Then, the accusation could be placed in the mouth. If the accusation proved to be true, the accused would face justice and the accuser would remain anonymous. However, if anyone ever falsely accused someone, everyone who signed that paper would be in big trouble. I'm pretty sure more hanging from a tree was involved...

Inside Doge's palace...the gorgeous LaScala d'Oro, or Golden Staircase. (Photographs were not allowed after this section.)

Me standing next to that amazing staircase in the courtyard.
After our tour of the square, we were invited to take a boat ride to the Murano Glass factory. Once we made sure that we would get a ride back (there are many free rides over there - but you have to buy some glass if you want a free ride back!) we decided to hop on the boat and head over to the factory. The view from the boat heading away from the square.
Inside the Murano Glass factory, we watched as a master glass artist, who I believe over 40 yrs of experience, create a vase and a small glass figure. Glass blowing is becoming an endangered art in Murano - in the 1960's there were over 60 glass artisans, now they have only 15. It's sad to think that these respected artists (click on the Murano link to learn more) have fallen prey to a common problem - to study to be a master glass maker requires time and commitment, often with very little pay, and many of today's youth are unwilling to do that. As our guide said "most want to play soccer".
I have my own theory as well...our whole tour of the factory was one long sales' pitch to buy, what I thought, was very "dated" and "tacky" looking glass. Very little was said about the history of the factory, it's place in the Venetian history, it's legendary glass making techniques. The master glass blowers must feel like they are trained monkeys at this point, shilling for the tourists who pour thru rather than creating "art". But I digress...(oh and there's the one shot I got of inside the showroom before I was told "no pictures!")Waiting outside the factory for our boat.

The sidewalk and shops near the glass factory.
Well all that was before 1:PM! I will have to share our afternoon in Venice watching the Regata Storica in the Grand Canal in my next post!


Robin Pedrero said...

I love this post!!!! I can feel the ambiance of Italy....mmmmm

Victoria Webb said...

I didn't even know you were in Italy... these are fabulous photos. I haven't yet gotten to Venice, but it's on my list. Italy - molto bellissimo e everything tastes great too!
Ciao Kristina~

Krystyna81 said...

Hi Robin and Victoria...thank you for your comments! I'm sure as my fellow artists you did exactly what I did the whole time I was in Italy...kept thinking about "how soon can I come back?!?!?"