From Rome, we took the train to Venice. It was a pretty trip, particularly through the Tuscan countryside. though nothing like the spectacular train journeys we would take later in the trip.

Right before arriving in Venice, the train stopped at Maestre, an ugly industrial suburb outside Venice proper. Then it rolled over a quay, pulling into Santa Lucia station. The station was like any small train station, and I had no idea what to expect next. But when I stepped outside the station, this is what I saw.

Venie-from-Train-Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I realized at that point that every cliche I had heard about Venice was true. It was certainly unlike any place I’d ever been before, and throughout the days I was there, I continued to be astounded by the beauty of the city. That beauty was evident everywhere, in the buildings, the sculpture, the canals with their ever changing reflections, and even a worn brick wall that had weathered to improbable colors.

Venice-Reflections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brick-Wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the interesting aspects of Venice was that it could be quite quiet and peaceful despite its hordes of tourists. As soon as you stepped away from the main tourist areas and started to walk the back streets, the feel of the city changed. It became easy to imagine the Venice of another time in those quiet streets.

We stayed in Giudecca, south of the main neighborhoods of the city. From the fondamente (the small path alongside the water), you could see Dorsoduro and St. Marco, areas crowded day and night. Giudecca, however, felt like an ordinary neighborhood, filled with small apartment blocks and lines of washing hanging out to dry. At night, walking along the back lanes to our B&B, we rarely saw anyone. We later discovered that Guidecca was home to a luxury Hilton and a small showroom selling beautiful home decorating fabrics made from original Fortuny designs.

On one of our days in Venice, we decided to visit Burano and Murano, two islands not too far from the main part of Venice. Once a fishing village and a place where women made handmade lace, Burano now feels a bit like a recreated village whose raison d’etre is tourism. Still, despite the fact that the food was bad and the lace on offer in the many stores is made in China, Burano was very pretty. Its distinguishing features include brightly colored houses and charming little canals. It also has a leaning tower similar to that in Pisa, though smaller.

Bike-in-Burano

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burano-Tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Murano is famous for its glass. Glass has been made on the island since the 13th century when glass making was moved from Venice to Murano because it posed a fire hazard to Venice’s wooden buildings. Although some Murano glass is now imported from China or made for a mass market trade, the island still contains some working factories as well as many glass showrooms selling beautiful pieces along with lots of kitsch.

As I peered into the open doors of one of the factories, a worker hammed it up for me as I took his photograph.

Glass-Factory-Murona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A brief walk through some back streets of Murano yielded a very modern sculpture, quite different from the more sedate sculptures seen in Venice proper.

Modern-Sculpture-Murano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two other places stood out for me in Venice. One was the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, and the other was the Jewish Ghetto. The Guggheim Museum sported a wonderful collection of contemporary art, including works by Picasso, Dali, Klee, Rothko and Moore, among many others. The collection is housed in Guggenheim’s former palazzo, located on the Grand Canal. It is very varied and consists of both sculpture and paintings. The art works are thoughtfully presented and not crowded together, allowing visitors to savor each piece. The buildings comprising the museum are quite beautiful, increasing the pleasure of the viewing experience.

Visitor-Looking-at-Sculptures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the canal entrance is a wonderful statue by Marino Marini, aptly called The Angel of the City. The “angel” looks upon the canal in exuberant joy.

Statue-in-Front-of-Guggenheim

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The museum also contains a restful courtyard and some amazing views across the Grand Canal. Below are some pictures taken through a decorative scrollwork window covering.

View-from-Guggenheim-through-Scrolls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close-Up-View-through-Scroll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venice’s Jewish Ghetto has a long history and some powerful, though disturbing art. From the 16th to 18th centuries, Venetian Jews were forced to live in the ghetto, once the site of a foundry. (The word “ghetto” originated from the Italian spelling of “gheto”, the Venetian word for foundry.) Shakespeare made this neighborhood famous through his references to it in The Merchant of Venice.

Unlike in the rest of the Venice, the buildings in this area are very tall, some  7 floors high. The height of these buildings resulted from so many people being forced to live in such a small area. Several synagogues were housed in the top floors of some of these buildings.

Tall-Buildings-in-Ghetto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While not outwardly different from the rest of the city, the area’s main piazza contains remnants of the area’s history. Surrounding the Casa di Riposo Israelitica, the site from which Venice’s remaining 250 Jews were deported during the Holocaust, are memorials commemorating the fate of Venice’s Jews. The bronze sculpture panels designed by Arbit Blatas, a Lithuanian-born sculptor and painter, depict the brutality of the Nazis against the Jews.

Memorial-Plaque

 

 

 

 

 

Arbit-Blatas-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arbit-Blatas-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today the Ghetto area is just an ordinary neighborhood in Venice filled with people enjoying the day. It still remains as a center of Venetian Jewish life and is also visited by many tourists interested in its history.

Child-in-Jewish-Ghetto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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