Every day since we arrived, we have walked through St. Mark’s Square and seen the line-ups to get in to the Basilica. They are unbelievable! So today we headed out early and were practically first in line at the entrance. Although we had to wait 45 minutes before the doors opened, it still felt less stressful getting in before the crowd.
On reflection it was good that we left this church to the end of our visit to Venice. It truly was magnificent almost to the point of grand opulence! It is so hard to look at all the wealth of art and gold mosaic and marble covering the whole building. You can’t help but think what it has all cost to build and maintain. Yet at the same time Venice and the Catholic Church has surely supported the arts by commissioning all these wonderful works. The original bronze horses that used to stand above the entrance to the Basilica are now stored inside the museum on the upper floor and were the best part of the visit. I even braved going out on the roof to see the copies of the originals! Although I clung to the church walls as best I could. There is considerable shifting and settling of this building to the point that I was relieved when we exited. It would not take much of an earthquake to unsettle this building. Walking on the main floor was like riding a vaporetto.
Our visit to the Doge’s Palace, the seat of government for the city of Venice for centuries, was also wise to save until our last day. This too was the most magnificent palace that we have seen on this trip. The exterior is of white limestone and pink marble, with porticos, loggias, and a series of balconies is a superb example of Venetian Gothic architecture. Construction of this building began around 1340 so it was here on the landscape of Venice during Vivaldi’s time. Without going in to tremendous detail here, we spent most of the morning moving through the doge’s private rooms, the rooms where the doge and council met and also where prisoners received their sentences. All the rooms were adorned with some of the most magnificent paintings of the Italian Renaissance, including work by Tintoretto, Pietro Lomgardo, Titian, and Guariento. The most moving visit was our walk through the interior of the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs) that connected this grand palace to Venice’s prison. This is where prisoners walked across and sighed as they saw their beautiful city for the last time.
I also finally got to view the Vivaldi museum, called Piccolo Museo Antonio Vivaldi. It is just around the corner from our hotel. Today we were lucky to get an appointment, as the museum is not open very often. There are plans to move it to the Sainta Maria dell Pieta Church in the near future but for the moment it is almost hidden from view. The Pieta is an Institution of Public Service and Charitable and Educational Communities to manage children and mothers with children in the tradition of the Mercy Hospital was founded in 1346 and even continues today although with some slight updating of their original mandate. For centuries it has been a home to abandoned children. In Vivaldi’s time is was also a music conservatory where the young orphans studied various musical instruments and sang. I took a picture, just minutes ago, of the spiral staircase in the rear of our hotel that was used in the 1700’s for the students to climb up to the music room for their lessons and rehearsals. I feel like we have really completed our tasks now that I have seen this museum because it has archives of ledgers of students and their instruments, a collection of old instruments and the written scores in Vivaldi’s own hand.
While Olivia went on to climb another tower, the clock tower in St. Mark’s Square, I lingered in the garden lounge of our wonderful hotel. It is quite the oasis in this very busy city. Even without cars, bicycles and motorbikes, the pedestrian traffic, the constant hum of motorboats and the visual stimuli is quite exhausting. This hotel really is a great escape right in the centre of it all.
One of the most famous representatives of Art Nouveau, Gustav Klimt, had an exhibition here in Venice and we could not miss it. Organized by the Venice city museums it was in the Correr Museum just at the far end of St. Mark’s Square. The collection on display presented the development and the evolution of Klimt’s work in architecture as well as painting and at the same time we had the opportunity to walk through yet another grand building.
Today is our last day in Italy. Early tomorrow morning Olivia and I and my Giovanni Grancino violin will drag ourselves to the Marco Polo airport and return home. So for now, we say farewell to this “City on the Water”, to all these romantic canals and waterways, palaces and churches, elegant bridges and villas that were once the home town of Antonio Vivaldi. You have inspired us and filled us with renewed inspiration and energy.