Saturday, January 19, 2013

Venice, Day Two - (1)

In my post of December 4, 2012 "Flying to Venice" which you can see by clicking here I related our first afternoon in Venice. The next morning I looked out of our window, which fronted Canal del Gaffano and watched some people walking below.  Gondolas were on the canal already and other people were sitting along it, eating breakfast.  (Click on collage twice to see better.)
It was strange in a way not to hear cars driving by.  All was quiet.  As I mentioned in my post of December, because of my husband's illness we did not think we were going to Venice until six days before our departure so I had not done much planning.  That morning we were not sure where to go and what to see, so we opted to walk around and get a "feel" for the city.  As we walked, I looked at all the buildings, up and down, and realized how old they were.
I had seen pictures of Venice before showing bridges, but you have to be there to fully comprehend how much water there is.  There are no streets really, just a maze of narrow walkways and alleys with many little bridges.  You can suddenly come up to a larger area called "campo" or place, often in front of a church, or you can as well end up at a dead-end looking at a canal, as we did below.
We did not have a map but looked at signs on top of buildings, giving us directions to places we did not know.
Below, we ended up again at a canal.  Actually, many are landing areas where people can board their boats, or get deliveries.  Since there are no roads everything is delivered via the water, goods and services.
The city of Venice is located in the Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay of the Adriatic Sea.  It has been inhabited since ancient times but it was during and after the fall of the Roman Empire that many people settled here, seeking protection in the marshlands from the unprotected open countryside and Barbarian invasions.  There, early inhabitants discovered land just above the water line - about 118 small islands which had been made by tree trunks embedded into the silt.  They covered them with stone slabs, planks and millions of Alpine pine wood pilings.  Because they were driven deep into the silt oxygen could not enter the wood bringing microbes and rot.  The foundations petrified into the compressed clay-mud.  Below is a French map of the Venetian Lagoon.
In the 15th and 16th centuries further hydraulic projects were made that stopped the natural evolution of the Lagoon into marsh again.  The network of 160 canals is very vulnerable to changes in the sea and groundwater levels.  Venice is fragile, and sea level rises because of global warming could have a tremendous impact on this city.  As it is, the saltwater from the Adriatic can soak the soft permeable bricks and, with time, destroy them.
It is bewildering in a way to look at all the ancient houses, knowing that they have been unchanged for centuries.  I don't believe that there is another city like this.  There are many cities in the world with "historic district" or historical monuments, but not a whole city which has not been changed or renovated along the way.  I was thinking about the city where I grew up - Paris - well it has been changed many times.  Below is a painting by Hubert Robert showing houses on Pont Notre Dame being razed in 1786.
Demolishing Buildings on Pont Notre Dame in 1786, painted by Hubert Robert, French 1733-1808

The oldest hospital in Paris called "Hotel Dieu" founded in 651 used to be on the southern side of Notre Dame Cathedral, on the island of the Cite (cathedral built in 1160 finished in 1345.) The backside of the hospital faced the left bank of the river Seine- see early 19th century engraving below and 1860 photo.
 When Baron Haussmann renovated Paris between 1866 and 1878 the hospital was remodeled, away from the main "parvis" (courtyard in front of the cathedral) - this gave a better view of Notre Dame from the Seine, as can be seen in the painting below.  The Paris of Les Miserables is not the Paris we know in 2013.
 Notre Dame de Paris 1888, painted by Frederick Childe Hassam, American 1859-1935

I found some fun old photos taken by Charles Marville (1813-1879.)  The City of Paris commissioned him to take pictures of Paris in the 1860s to document the old streets, avenues, buildings, etc., that were being demolished by Baron Haussmann, the Paris Prefect, to modernize the city.  Below is the Place du Carousel in Paris, before and now

and the Place de l'Opera then and now (old photos courtesy Ministere de la Culture.)
 Actually many people do not know that there was another river in Paris.  It is called "La Bievre."  It still exists but now it runs under Paris, in the sewers.  It runs in several French departments and used to run in the 13th and 5th quarters of Paris, but it was totally covered in 1912.  Below are some vintage postcards showing this river when it could be seen in Paris.
I am getting away from Venice when I talk now about Paris (about 700 miles/1127 kms away) but this was to show how other cities have changed, but not Venice.  We kept walking in the little alleys, as shown below.
We walked along the canals and over the bridges.
It was a lovely, sunny day but not too warm.  Sometimes, we could walk no further as we were facing a larger canal, so we would stop and look at the waterbus going by.
It was more a "stroll" than a real walk as I stopped constantly to take pictures.  At every corner was another canal with a picturesque view.
 Stepping down a small bridge we saw the entrance to a university called "Universita Ca' Foscari."  It is housed in a Gothic palace built in the 15th century by Francesco Foscari.  It offers an international program to the PhD level.  We walked inside the entrance courtyard as I could see a bench - and we sat a few minutes.
 It was getting warmer and we stopped when we passed by fountains.
As you walk you have to watch where you step as the old stones are uneven.  I also like to look up to see all the diverse windows.
 We had a good breakfast at our inn that morning but after all that walking we were tempted by some luscious looking gelato.  So we stopped and bought some.  More to come after this little stop...


DJan said...

Oh! Oh! Oh! I so enjoyed this tour of Venice, with a stopover in Paris, then and now. Your eye is exceptionally sharp, catching things that almost anyone else would miss. And then you shared these with me, to my enrichment. I enlarged almost every one of them to study the differences between historical periods. Thank you for giving me this lovely gift, VB! I wondered which gelato you chose... :-)

Cloudia said...

yes, our rivers get paved over - a shame. YOU are the first one to make me realize there is no traffic sound of city life in Venice!

Happy Aloha to YOU
from Honolulu,
Comfort Spiral
~ > < } } ( ° >
> < } } ( ° >

Ann said...

oh,i have enjoyed this post so very much!!!!
thank you for letting us take this "walk" with you,through Venice!! it is a city of great beauty. how amazing to see these buildings and all that have been present for so very long.
the architecture is beyond amazing!! the windows you photographed are so charming.
thank you for sharing!! i really am so glad you and your husband were able to take this trip!!!

Al said...

What a great series of photos, the unique feeling of Venice (at least as I imagine it) comes across very well. This is very high on my list of places to visit.

Kay L. Davies said...

How wonderful to see your beautiful photos of Venice. We'll be visiting there at the end of next month, and I'm glad to see it hasn't fallen into the sea yet, as so many people keep predicting.
Thanks for the delightful preview.

The Solitary Walker said...

I love just wandering about without a map in Venice. You can get temporarily misplaced, but not really lost. And you come across all kinds of things by accident.

Amanda said...

You are making me miss Venice! It is one of my favorite city to visit.

Frances said...

Vagabonde, it was so pleasant to stroll around Venice along with you all. I am not sure that I'd ever before known about the tree trunks, etc. being the building blocks under beautiful Venice. Thank you for that information.

Your photos are quite wonderful, capturing much of the visual feast I also loved when in Venice long ago.

I did know about the river now hidden under Paris, but did not remember its name. Merci bien!

Which gelato flavors did you all choose? I would have had difficulty with choosing just one.


Perpetua said...

Vagabonde that was so much worth waiting for and I'm already looking forward to Part 2. Your photographs are superb and you look at everything with the eye of an artist. You also capture the unique feel of Venice so well in your words - the lack of noise, the pleasure of wandering at will along the tiny streets and over the little bridges, the sense of being somewhere uniquely beautiful - it's all there in this splendid post. Thank you.

David said...

Vagabonde, It's great that I can tour Venice via your photos and commentary. We haven't been anywhere in Europe other than the UK...mostly Scotland. Otherwise its been Australia and New Zealand plus Canada and the good old USA. I'm looking forward to your next installment! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Putz said...

when you stopped over in paris, you should have just stayed, and stayed and stayed

Jojo said...

I'm so happy that you were able to make this trip! Your photos are beautiful. In some ways Venice doesn't look real with the waterways and gondolas. We've seen it so often in the movies that it seems more like a movie set!

Fennie said...

I've never been to Venice and by chance I was talking about this omission with a friend who was here today for lunch. Your pictures help to fill the gap. Thanks also for the information on Paris. I hadn't known about the Bievre - the equivalent of London's Fleet river, I expect.

Wanda..... said...

I appreciated my time here so much. Wonderful always.

Barb said...

Always, I leave your blog yearning for something yummy (gelato). Your photos of Venice make me want to book a trip! It really doesn't look overly crowded when you were there. I see many children on the walkways. A wonderful stroll through a romantic city of waterways.

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

Venice is my second favorite city, and you have in this one post told me more about my favorite. I knew of La Bievre, but did not know its location. E Atget has a photo similar to one of the postcards you displayed. The lower right one shows two people who are either washing a cloth or are working with a leather hide. Fascinating!

Your tour of Venice leaves me wanting more... along with another trip to that city.


Anonymous said...

Qu'importe les saisons! On ne se fatigue jamais de Venise, et tes photos sont merveilleuses.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

What a GREAT GREAT Treat, my dear...I have never been to Venice and will never be able to go---So, this was as if I was traveling along with you...What an AMAZING City this is! All the Canals and all the different kinds of Boats...And the Buildings....So Very Beautiful!
I wouldn't mind a bit of that Gelato right now! (lol)

Pat said...

I think Venice and Paris are my two favourite cities. Thank you Vagabonde for the lovely photos.

Anonymous said...

✿ ❊ ✿ ❊ ✿ ❊ ✿
Un petit coucou amical en passant chez toi chère Vagabonde !!!

Cette publication sur Venise est SUPERBE !
Tes photos donnent envie d'aller flâner dans cette ville pleine de charme !!!!

Hum ! miam ! les bonnes glaces ! :o)
Je t'embrasse bien fort
et je te souhaite une bonne journée
✿ ❊ ✿ ❊ ✿ ❊ ✿

Rosaria Williams said...

You are so attentive, capturing the usual and the unusual. Many thanks.

PeterParis said...

I have spent quite some time in Venice, but seeing this makes me wish to go back again... off season and off the main streets (canals). Every corner is a delight, even in acqua alta! :-)

Nadezda said...

I love your story about Venice. I've been there but very short time and couldn't see as much as you. I've read with interest, thank you! said...

Dear Vagabonde.
I enjoyed reading so much about your trip to _Venice..
You have hi lighted some things I didnt know about it.
Although I have been to Italy, never been to Venice. I think I will have to put it on my list, such a cultural city.
Your photos are so explicit of where you went and the bridges and sidewalk cafe's.. great indeed.
I loved your narrative about Paris.. I think only a Parisian would know about the other river.
How incredible those old photos are.
Your comparison were incredible.. Paris has moved on and Venice is still the same.
what tales those walls could tell..
Nice post.
Happy tuesday.

Fripouille said...

Hi Vagabonde, and what a delight it has been to read this super entry and see the photos. I must say you post deliciously and tastefully presented articles. 'Le French touch', perhaps?

As to Venice itself, it's one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Fragile too, given the long-term climatic threat to its existence in its present form.

Venice should be at the top of any 'must see' list for anyone visiting Europe for the first time.

Again, lovely post this, and thanks.

Arti said...

A beautiful post... great photography! Just curious what kind of camera you used to take these pictures. I'd been in Venice a couple of times, oh, years ago. Have always been amazed by Venice, a city in water. Did you go to Florence? That's another beautiful city. Your travel posts make me want to go visit Europe again. I do hope I have the chance to go back. BTW, what do you think of Downton Episode 3 aired last Sunday?

Ginnie said...

You are really tempting me again, Vagabonde, to go back to Venice. Maybe that's the big trip Astrid and I will take in 2014. We're doing the Amsterdam-Budapest river cruise this year and can hardly wait (the end of March). But it's never too early to start thinking about our NEXT trip. Hmmmm. Venice may be calling?!

Jeanie said...

This is an incredibly meaty post and fascinating. Venice is one of those cities that have intrigued me, but I've never been. Love how you integrated the Venetian and the Parisian. Lots of good info and fabulous photos as always, especially of your vintage cards. I need to look at my collection because I have one like the Notre Dame card (or very similar, same era!) Love those. Our big postcard show is coming up in early April and I can't wait!

I'm so glad your husband was able to travel. We found on our Utah trip that although it was spur of the moment with little time to really plan, sometimes that makes you appreciate it all the more -- it really IS new in every way! Happy day!

Jocelyn said...

Venice is such a maze, isn't it? When my family stayed there a couple of years ago, I was surprised every time we successfully refound our hotel at the end of the day. The character of Venice is so unique that I felt like I was starring in a tv show when we were there; it was like being on set.

Your photos and descriptions are delightful!

Friko said...

It is so good to know that you and your husband are managing these trips so well. Cities like Venice are balm for the soul, you seem to have breathed it in with all your senses.

Best of luck and may you long be able to continue your journeys.

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

What a wonderful informative and great photos. Some of our best trips to Europe have been some where I didn't do as much planning. Sometimes you can push yourself too much wanting to see it all.

joyce said...

I like the pictures where the canal looks more like a river. I did not realize there were no streets whatsover, I have been to Amsterdam where there are streets and canals intermingled, but this looks so cool. I wouldn't want to go charging down an alley in the dark without knowing what's at the end of it though...I might end up in the drink!

Miss_Yves said...


Dee said...

Dear Vagabonde, I have always wondered how Venice was formed/came to be and how the buildings stood in water for so many centuries. Thank you for helping me understand through this wonderful, informative posting, which is so enhanced by your photographs.

As I looked at your pictures, I came to appreciate even more the detectives in a series of mysteries that Donna Leon has written about Venice to international acclaim. I never truly understood about the city as I read those novels. Now that you've been there perhaps you'd enjoy reading them also--if you don't already. Peace.

Kay said...

Ah yes! Gelatos! That's one of the most wonderful things we tried when we were in Italy.

Laryssa said...

Great pictures!

bevgiiw2 said...

LOVELY photography - THANK YOU!
bev morse (get it in writHing!)

airport hotel Venice said...

Phistaccio gelato is absolutely mouthwatering.

Margaret said...

I love the detail in your words. Thank you. And in Venice, I think it must be impossible to take a bad photo. I hope you document all five days of your trip.

Emm in London said...

Oh wow, this is lovely again but really powerful compared with the destruction of old buildings in France. Conversely, there was little in South Africa that is older than 125 years old simply because the city was only founded in 1986!!!

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