Tour Day 3
Our last day in Venice is full of art and culture. We spend the morning with a local guide at the Gallerie dell’Accademia. My traveling companion and I have spent our entire adult lives going to Art museums—me, to study, and him, let’s just say he’s been dragged along for the ride. But we have never been to a museum with a guide, and it is truly a mind-opening experience. We see and understand so many things we would have passed by with a cursory glance. We don’t try to view everything. We take a simpler, sane approach to museums, and focus on a few pieces.
The Accademia displays a strong collection of Byzantine art—diptychs, triptychs, and polytychs.
Venetian art at the Accademia is outstanding. The museum displays masterpieces by Bellini, Tiepolo, Tintoretto, Titian, Vasari, Veronese. Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man is owned by the museum. We especially like the painting Feast at the House of Levi, by Veronese, with its product placement of Murano glass goblets. I discover more putti for my naked baby angel collection.
We find ourselves saying the same thing we say every day on this tour: “This is the best thing we’ve done so far.”
We board a water taxi and travel to the islands northeast of Venice. The bright blue sky and wind in our faces feel invigorating as we pass through the Grand Canal. We view the Basilica San Marco and the Doge’s Palace from the water. We pass long, skinny Lido, where many Venetians live. It seems strange to see cars there. We leave the canal and enter the lagoon. We learn about the MOSE Project, large flood control gates that have been under construction for many years. Venice and its Lagoon are designated a Unesco World Heritage Site. But it is obvious that the city is a living museum of history and art, and needs protection and preservation, even from being overrun by tourists such as ourselves.
We pass by the glassmaking island of Murano, and stop at Burano, the lace making island. This is where you find the iconic images of multi-colored buildings along the canal. The effect is cheerful. We have lunch at Trattoria da Romano: spaghetti with clams, cheese, wine, and heavenly grilled vegetables. We indulge in tourist shopping; this is a great place to purchase lace scarves, or other items made of lace. Later, at the hotel, I discover that two of the scarves were made in China, but no matter. We are happy to help out the economy of this small island. Too soon, we have to leave Burano for the next island, Torcello.
The first Venetians settled in Torcello. Fleeing barbarian invasions on the mainland, people in the region took shelter on the island around 450. It is hard to imagine that this deserted island was once home to about 20,000 people. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta dominates the landscape. We respect the request for no photography. We keep our voices low. The ancient church was founded in 639, and contains the earliest mosaics in the Venice area: a beautiful Byzantine Virgin, a Crucifixion, a Last Judgement, numerous saints. We light a candle. The newer 11th century Church of Santa Fosca sits nearby.
On the way back to the boat, we pass Locanda Cipriani, the other attraction on Torcello. This inn and restaurant has hosted an amazing list of royalty and celebrities: Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Charlie Chaplin, Arturo Toscanini, Maria Callas, Marc Chagall, Peggy Guggenheim, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Julia Roberts, and a legion of others. Queen Elizabeth II once pulled up on the Royal Yacht Britannia. We spot no stars—the place is closed today.
Now Torcello is our favorite thing so far.
“This is the best thing we’ve done so far.”
We return to the hustling main part of Venice for our last night. My traveling companion and I have our favorite meal—cheese, bread, salad, and wine, at Vino, Vino. We take our last walk through St. Mark’s Square as the sun sets, holding hands.
In the morning, we say arrivederci to Venice. Our group boards the water taxi at the Rialto stop, and we head for the bus station. We are not sure if the water taxi is taking the long way, but we are given one last glorious tour of the Grand Canal, and of Venice’s early morning bustle. We spot one of a legion of the behemoth cruise ships that dock at Venice for day trippers. The figures are frightening. Hundreds of cruise ships stop in Venice every year. Thousands of passengers can flood the city from just one ship. Close to two million cruise ship passengers descend on the Central Park-sized city per year. We wonder if Venice can survive.
Venice is more magical than we could have imagined. We take a last look at this fairy tale of a city, grateful to have experienced Serenissima’s decaying beauty, grace, and charm.