Northern Italy in Autumn (Wednesday)

October 30 – November 6

Saturday ** Sunday ** Monday ** Tuesday ** Wednesday ** Thursday ** Friday ** Saturday

Wednesday – Venice
Distance walked – 19.5 km

We had a plan for the day! We were going to return to Arsenal and explore further. The water taxi was once again at our service and we were quickly on our way through the Grand Canal. It was interesting to see it again and again, as there was so much to see, there was always something new to notice.

Someone was getting gondola training this morning

We got off at the Rialto dock and the goal was to walk to the tail of the Fish. We failed at this goal, meandering our way for a while, only to find ourselves at the back fin (this Fish analogy is quite handy). Fortunately, there really are no “wrong turns” when you’re on holiday, and it is pretty much impossible to get lost in this city.

I poked my head into one of the many churches

Yesterday I mentioned that each “island” had its own water collection infrastructure. I finally understood what I was seeing in each “Campo” (See this link for the naming conventions of Venetian streets and squares). The round well-like structure was actually a cistern. The Campo was paved in such a way that rain water was collected, drained into the ground below through blocks with holes, and gradually filtered into the cistern water source. Larger islands might have two or more cisterns, but there was always at least one somewhere.

Cistern with drainage

The cistern just outside of our hotel

Based on the naming convention link above, this isn’t a canal, but a rii (I’ll still refer to them as canals, though)

Venetian graffiti

Dan helps out a couple by taking their photo for them

Architectural detail

Campo Santa Maria Formosa

We hadn’t gone into many shops so far, as we really didn’t have any intentions of buying anything. I wanted to check out the masks and fancy clothes, but the sight of “No Photos!” signs in the windows of such shops made me even more reluctant to go in. But when I saw the sign that read “Welcome to the Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World”, I had to go in.

Libreria Acqua Alta

Bookstores always fascinate me: so much information and knowledge and creativity, all crammed into one space. But they also frustrate me: Book covers with alluring names and artistry without a real clue as to what’s under those covers – and most importantly: never enough time to find out. This store was chock full of potential. If one could find what you’re looking for.

An old gondola now serves as a “boat shelf”

Books can raise your spirits – literally!

The shop was bigger than I expected and had multiple rooms. In the far back corner of one room, I noticed a door open to the canal. The water lapped disturbingly close to the level of the floor. I can think of no greater enemy to a bookstore than water. I hope that the owner has a plan to protect his inventory against future high tides.

The backside of the bookstore, with the gondola and brick “book wall” on the left. Oh, and we’re here as well

The deliveries never stop

These guys had a tight fit because of the high tide

Ancient doorbell pulls – “Avon calling!”

An interesting – and more modern – doorbell set up

I love the faces!

Make way for the ambulance! (I only heard a siren once, and that was late at night from my hotel room)

We decided to check out what was in the “Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni”, where “Renaissance paintings & sculpture by renowned Venetian artists adorn this former meeting house.” As with most places that we entered, we had to wear our masks and show our digital Covid certificate. The attendent inside took our money and handed us laminated leaflets that gave detailed descriptions of the paintings before us. They were all originals by the famous local artist Vittore Carpaccio.

The Dalmatian School

Inside the school

Ornate ceiling

George kills an innocent Dragon

Ok, sometimes I just have to laugh at the details

Wondering what this sounds like (from The Vision of St Augustine)

Back outside we tried once again to reach the tail of the Fish. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.

I love how the righthand side shows how much more it has been used

We poked our heads into another church, San Francesco della Vigna

We suddenly found ourselves at the top of the Fish! We had succeeded! So now what? We followed the path that hugs the edge of the island, headed towards the tail and planned on catching the next water taxi to the Arsenal dock. Unfortunately, our timing was not with us and the taxi motored by before we reached the dock. While it would not have too bad to stand around and wait for the next one, we choose to keep walking. There’s always more to see!


We were sneaking up to the backside of the old Arsenal, meandering through empty yards lined with brick buildings and along unkempt lanes. Up until now I had been very impressed with the cleanliness of Venice, with very little litter to be found even in the waterways. But here it looks like the trash got blown into bushes and no one has bothered to come and clean it up. It isn’t visible in any of my photos though – who wants to see pictures of trash?

We found the art installation!

Surprise! We had found the Arsenal proper. There was a small boat that would ferry passengers over to the other side of the lagoon every 15 minutes and the captain asked if we wanted to cross. Not yet – we still had to see what was over here. Like this submarine.

As we were waking back towards the ferry dock, someone asked if we were interested in entering the ARTE LAGUNA PRIZE – a showcase of artists from around the world. It was particularly interesting because each artist could submit anything they wanted, regardless of medium or message. This made a a wide variety of pieces to look at (and listen to, in some cases)

I’m visiting an artist exhibit and I take photos of the old furnaces!

There were some fun interactive installations, and quite a few that went right over my head. Still, it is always interesting to see what people consider “art” and how they try to transfer thoughts and emotions from their mind into something that is shareable.

We exited the art show and walked back to the ferry dock. Now that we were ready to ferry to the other side, the boat Captain was at lunch. Hmmm – not a bad idea at all! We went to the little cafeteria nearby and had a quick sandwich ourselves before returning to enjoy the spacious below-deck seating. It was a short ride – no sooner had he turned the boat around than he was angling towards to the dock on the other side.

The leaning tower of Venice (one of many)


As you probably noticed from my photos and every other photo on the internet, Venice has a problem with disintegrating bricks. While many buildings were built with a layer of Istrian stone at the water level, such as these shown here:

…many buildings didn’t layer their Istrian stone quite as high. Plus, the bricks above the white stones still suffer from moisture that comes up from the water below. Over time, the bricks crumble into dusty bits that color the ground below, like this:

Venice used bricks to build with because they were essentially cheap and light. But unfortunately, they are not very durable – at least under these conditions. I found this site that goes into great detail about the structure of brick and how it was used in Venice. It was interesting to see the various stages of decay throughout the city.

Historic flood levels

Flood prevention techniques

Theft prevention technique

During last night’s research, Dan learned that there was an interesting entry in the “Time Space Existence” Biennial Architecture show that he wanted to see. We spent a lot of time wandering through the tail of the Fish to find it, knowing that “it” was somewhere around there.

Giardini della Biennale, a park in the tail of the Fish

Why is there a statue of a man dressed for the Arctic and surrounded by sled dogs in Venice? Find out here

Our hotel had given us a map/brochure for the Time Space Existence exhibit, but the map – to be honest – was crap. We thought that we had narrowed the location down to the Giardini della Biennale, but when we couldn’t find it there, we gave up and started to walk towards St Marks Square.

Ah – no people!

And then we found it: A 3D printed bridge

This bridge was printed with the assistance of the ETH (based in Zürich) and I was also intrigued to see something 3D printed with masonry. Everything I had ever heard of before now had been printed with plastic. It was a great design! Unfortunately, the park that it was in was temporarily closed for tree-trimming, so we had to satisfy ourselves with views from outside the fence.

The view across the water to Giorgio Island was nice, but I thought it would be interesting to go there and have a view across to the Doge Palace. We hopped on the next taxi and motored our way over. It was delightful to have so few people around. I honestly don’t know what Venice was like before Covid hit, but I was selfishly pleased with the current situation.

Looking back across to the Doge Palace and St Mark’s Campanile

Church of San Giorgio Maggiore

Giorgio Island was small and there really wasn’t much to see there. The tower (Campanile di San Giorgio) is usually open for tours (a nice view, apparently), but it was closed today. Without much more to do than look at the boats in the marina, and the loading of a boat with pink boxes, we headed back to the dock for the next water taxi.

Loading an art exhibit that recently concluded

Leaving the San Giorgio taxi dock behind

The line of islands that parallel the belly of the Fish were unknown to us and based on what we could see from the water taxi, it didn’t look like we were missing out on much. Sure, there were some nice buildings to be seen from the waterfront, but in general it looked like it would be very similar to the neighborhoods we walked through in the “head of the Fish”: more modern and less-distinctive architecture.

I loved today’s clouds

Waiting our turn for docking

We stopped at the local Coop and picked up some items for tonight’s dinner. Our lunch at the cafeteria at the Arsenal was still with us and we didn’t want to indulge in a big meal before our big plans for tonight: A Symphony orchestra performance! We had bought our tickets ahead of time and now it was just a matter of showing up and enjoying ourselves.

It was a direct taxi trip and we got off at the nearest taxi stand. From there it was a delightfully easy walk to the venue. A line was already out the door and we took our place in it. It appeared that people with tickets already were mingled in line with those who still needed to buy tickets. Still, it was nice to know that our seats were guaranteed. I had no idea what to expect for an auditorium, but surely it would be grand!

There was some art on display while we waited in line; I liked this one

I admit that I expected something more “theatre-like” and less “folding chairs in a room”. But still, it was a nice room, the chairs were fairly comfortable and the view was good. Now how would it sound?

It sounded wonderful! The orchestra members were all very skilled and the choice of music was pleasing.

The musical score was predominantly Vivaldi (in particular Le Quattro Stagioni – The Four Seasons), with the inclusion of Pachebel’s famous “Canone“. I was already familiar with most of the selection and it was fascinating to see it being performed live and up close. The time went by quickly but clearly the musicians had worked hard during the performance and I have no doubt that it was “long enough” for them.

Leaving the stage

It was wet when we left the symphony but we decided to walk back to our hotel. Enjoying the solitude and quiet, we meandered (without too many “wrong turns”) our way to the head of the Fish.

Look at those white-edge steps – visible even in the rain and dark

Ready for the next high tide

An almost completely empty St Mark’s Square

More high-water platforms at the ready

Dolce & Gabbana store

Mini mannequins!


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