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Passport to Italy: Venice Day Two

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First thing this morning, we had breakfast at our B&B. All the guests ate here in this room:

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On the menu was homemade croissants, pastries with chocolate filling, Tuscan bread, honey/jams, slices of cheese and slices of ham.

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Now the best thing on the menu was the coffee; espresso actually. I hate espresso here in the States, but in Italy… I loved it! It is so creamy and smooth and not at all bitter. Just a nice strong coffee flavor. Davide (the owner) would give us two cups of espresso every morning because of how much we loved it!

This day was dedicated to exploring the city and doing the touristy things.

We first went to St. Mark’s square and visited St. Mark’s Basilica. Venice brought Byzantium art to the West. The architectural idea of St. Mark’s Basilica is from Constantinople. The present day church started to be built in the 11th century! Now this is an old church!

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The mosaics in this church are gorgeous! More than 8000 square meters of mosaics cover this church. It took 8 centuries to complete them. These people had some patience! The floors, walls and ceiling are covered in mosaics. The floor was very interesting because it looked like waves. It was not flat at all! This is because of all the earthquakes and Venice sinking.

We were very lucky in our timing of our visit because we went when they turn on the flood lights. Without these flood lights, the church is very dark and you can’t really see the mosaics that well. But when these lights come on… the mosaics just shine.

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The Pala d’Oro, the high altar piece, is recognized as one of the most refined and accomplished works of Byzantine craftsmanship. You can see why. This piece has almost 2,000 precious gems!

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One of the most impressive things we saw in the basilica was the sculpture of 4 bronze horses. They were really beautiful. They looked very real; you can even see the veins. But the coolest part was that the carbon dating on these horses places their construction in the second century BC! Isn’t that amazing?! Historians believe that the horses made their way to St. Mark’s somewhere in the 1200s as spoils of war when Constantinople was conquered.

After looking around inside the church we were able to go onto the church’s balcony. From here we had a lovely view of the square, clock tower, bell tower and the Doge’s Palace (a doge was Venice’s version of an emperor).

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In this picture you can kind of see their glass windows. They were so old!

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Very dangerous roof. An older gentleman fell on this roof. 🙁

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After exploring the church we went next door to the bell tower. There has been a tower (watch tower/lighthouse) since the 12th century. Although the tower has been reconstructed several times because of earthquakes and fire damage, the present form is from 1912. From this tower is a spectacular view of Venice and the surrounding islands. It was a bit foggy and cloudy the day we went, but the view is still awesome.

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St. Mark’s Square. See how it is narrower at one end? That is so that the square looks longer than it actually is.

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The city of Venice.

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One of the surrounding islands.

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Fun fact that us nerds loved was that the Galileo Galilei demonstrated his telescope to the Doge of Venice in 1609. There is a plaque commemorating this event pictured here. So cool!

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For lunch we went to another wine bar, but this one was so amazingly cool! This wine bar is the oldest wine bar in Venice – Cantine del Vino Gia Schiavi. It is off the beaten path and full of locals.

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All the locals order wine and sandwiches to go and stand along the canal and eat their lunch.

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We sat down at a well to finish drinking our wine. Venice had these wells all over the city. For centuries they have been an essential element of Venetian daily life. Usually located in the middle of squares and courtyards, on higher ground, the wells supplied the population’s freshwater. The wells collect rain water and filter it. They are still used today! Amazing!

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And of course our traditional feet picture!

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After lunch we did a grand canal tour via the vaporetto. We downloaded Rick Steves’ App before we left so we had audio tours for all the big attractions in Italy. Rick Steves is awesome!

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The vaporetto is an easy and cheap way of seeing the palaces on the grand canal.

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Here you can see a dilapidated palace thats has been abandoned. Many Venetians can not afford to buy these palaces and fix them up. There are extremely strict rules regarding remodeling all the buildings in Venice. It is just too expensive. A 1,000 Venetians leave Venice every year because life here is just too expensive and difficult. Soon the only people left in Venice will be tourists. 🙁

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The tour ended at St. Mark’s square. Here is a good view of the Doge’s Palace.

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After the tour we strolled around Venice – getting lost in the city. Getting lost isn’t too big of a deal. Venice is small and you are on an island! 😉

This is the walkway going around the Doge’s Palace.

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Strolling along you can see gondoliers floating under these beautiful bridges. Here is the Bridge of Sighs.

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We saw laundry being hung across alley ways and streets. These streets are the ones you want to walk down because they smell so clean and fresh!

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We stopped by their arsenal. This was Venice’s shipyard. Here they mass-produced ships on a grand scale. It was one of the earliest large-scale industrial enterprises in history. Venetians could build 3 large naval ships a day! Wow!

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For dinner we found a restaurant far off the tourist track near our hotel. It was called, Ristorante Il Migliore. Here we had the best risotto we have ever eaten in  our lives! Risotto Primavera.

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As we were eating our dinner, two guys came by and starting playing music. It was quite romantic! (Sorry it is so blurry! They were quite enthusiastic!)

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This is what the restaurant looked like. We ate at that little table set for two to the left of the photo.

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And this concludes our second day in Venice!

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