Friday, 15 July 2011

Venice, Italy - Part 1 (San Marco)

Venice - without doubt the most photogenic City I have ever visited. I could be excused for saying Venice is a photographers paradise, and if you're a photography buff yourself then you'll know what I'm getting at if you ever have the pleasure of visiting. I made two trips to Venice within the space of three days - the weather was overcast on the first visit and sunny/cloudy on the second. Weather aside, I intended to make the most of my time here, especially as it may have been my first, second and last visit to this unique place. Water-girt Venice rises on an archipelago of small islands separated by a dense network of waterways, which were rectified down the years, noticably changing the original conformation. Venice lies four kilometers from the mainland and two from the open sea. The longest of the canals, and the widest, is the Grand Canal which divides the city into two main parts that are connected by three bridges - the Bridge of the Scalzi, the Bridge of Rialto and also the Academia. Forty-Five internal canals run into the Grand Canal, which can all be navigated with small boats or gondolas. As many as 350 bridges connect the various zones of the city. Piazza San Marco is a gem among gems in the the field of Italian architecture. This large open space has the Basilica of San Marco, the Palace of Doges and the Logetta (clock tower) on each side. It was here that I made my way into Venice from the boating station after docking a few minutes earlier. The boat trip across from Punta Sabbioni lasted approximately 25 minutes and cost 9 Euro's for a return ticket. The place was crammed with tourists like myself, eager to see what Venice had to offer. The Clock Tower in Piazza San Marco was built between 1496 and 1499 and is undoubtedly one of the most photographed monuments in Venice, mainly because of the two moors that strike the bell at the top of the tower every hour. The Campanile of San Marco is dominated by the lofty bell tower that reaches 100 meters high. Queue's for the tower stretched from its entrance across the way towards the Basilica but I didn't fancy waiting in that lot, opting to explore the more photogenic areas of Veneto instead. Mind you, the view from the top would have been well worth the wait in the queue.

From the Piazzetta I took a swift left turn past the Campanile and into St Mark's Square. Either side of the square is decked with tables and chairs - sit on a chair at your peril! How about 20 Euro's for two cups of coffee - not likely. If you've got money to burn then dive in, but surely no cup of coffee in the world is worth that kind of outlay. Then again, you're paying for the location, a prime spot in the heart of Venice, and that obviously comes at a price. A small orchestra played for the paying customers as they sat watching the world go by. Waiters in white dinner jackets and dicky-bows tended to the customers, lending a rather finishing touch to the art of exclusivety in St Mark's Square. It was interesting to see just how many people were sitting in the restaurant seats - they must have mare money than sense! There was an abundance of Japanese and American tourists among the crowds in St Mark's - many of them formed part of a group that were being guided around the area, enjoying an informal and factual account of ancient Venice up to the present day. I noticed a flyer on the boat across to Venice that advertised a forthcoming open air concert in the square by Sting, former frontman of pop group The Police. The show was billed as Symphonicity, and what a place to play live in on a potentially warm Summer's night. I wonder how much those tickets were going for?

From the Square I headed through the Napoleonic wing, a long walk where exclusive (and very expensive) shops lined the route on one side, with columns along the other that led back into the Square. The first part of Venice had been seen and what an eye-opener it was - a kind of 'How the other half live'. From the Napoleonic Wing I walked through an arch and into Calle Larga, a typical narrow street with high buildings that had plenty of character. At this point the exploration of Venice really started to kick in and I had the feeling I was going to do some serious damage with my camera. It was now time to invite my 10-22mm wide to the party...

To be continued.