8 pm. I decide to go for a walk to St. Mark’s Square. The night is cool and foggy. I set out from the hotel near the Academia. Following the signs ‘per S. Marco’, I navigate through the maze of alleyways between the buildings, cross multiple bridges over the canals, the anticipation building as I near the famed square. I pass through the final archway of the Western Building in the Square and come out into the middle of the Square itself. The fog is so thick that visibility is limited to about 50m. The U shape of the three buildings defining the square are lit with parallel rows of lights that appear out of focus. Silhouettes of people appear and disappear. There are perhaps twenty of us in the square. I head east towards the clock tower. Slowly another building takes shape. As I walk closer, the definition of the front facade of the Basilica gets stronger and I can make out various shapes of color on the marble columns. I get to within 50m of St. Mark’s Basilica and notice the frescoes above the arches, each one containing a different story. But it is the various marble columns that really get my attention. Each one is a different color and different type of marble. The detail is stunning. I marvel at the building for a few more minutes and then slowly turn to walk back to the western end of the square looking back at the facade receding into the darkness. As I reach the end of the square I look back once more and the Basilica has disappeared into the night.
Was that a dream or reality? That first night in Venice set the mood for my three days there. The fog continued for the entire time that I was there, but instead of cursing it I found that it added to the serenity that is Venice.
I arrived after a 10 hour train ride south from Basel, through the Alps (very clear and great views of the mountains if only for a few seconds in and out of tunnels). Just North of Lugano in Switzerland we were greeted by smog (probably from Milan). This haze continued for the next 6 hours to Venice, where it was fog. The following morning I went back to the Basilica to see the inside. This was equally gratifying. The crowds were thin and so I was able to wander around the inside without having to be shepherded through the lines. The ceiling inside is an incredible mosaic of various Biblical scenes. The area is about the size of a football field, and is the original pixilated artwork, with each piece about the size of a contact lens. Now that takes patience. I also went up to the lookout above the entranceway, which allows you to also look at the ceiling in more detail. The marble floor is also mosaiced and is undulating due to the sinking of the clay below. Next Stop the Doge’s Palace. Again very impressive artwork and ceiling frescoes. A requisite walk over the Bridge of Sighs to the Prison completed the tour. I finished off with the Academia itself. This contains a large number of paintings by Bellini, the Venetian Art God!
I also visited the Frari Church which in my humble opinion has better works by Bellini as they are more vivid and appear more three dimensional. I decided to spend my other time walking around Venice, getting lost several times, but seeing many other sides of the city. This is one place I would definitely come back to again!