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Day 4 in Italy: A Journey Down the Grand Canal

IMG_8455 This morning, while the girls were sleeping,  I woke up early to write the blog and then went out into the little streets of our neighborhood in search of a cafe.   It was nice to see locals going to work and shop owners starting to open up.  The tourists will descend later on in the morning, but not quite yet.

Obviously, I realize that we are also tourists, and there is nothing bad about tourists.  But we live in New York City where we are bombarded by 56 million tourists a year.  So when we go anywhere on vacation, we try to stay in uncrowded places.   Last year, we found the perfect apartment in Paris and I think we’ve been really lucky so far in Italy.  Venice is super crowded, but our little apartment is in a quiet corner of Dorsoduro, so we are happy.

That balcony is off of one of the bedrooms. Before we leave I will take a picture of Lena standing there.

So on the agenda today is to visit a museum…a former grand Palazzo (palace), a beautiful old church (surprise!) and then we have a private boat tour down the Grand Canal for the afternoon.  Let’s get started.

We decided to go to Ca’Rezzoncio, a beautiful Palazzo right on the Grand Canal.  It was originally built in the 1650’s for the Bon family, but they lost all of their money, so the Rezzonico family bought the unfinished palace and it was completed around 1756.  The house was built in and decorated in the Baroque style…which is the very gilded, fanciful, showy style of architecture and interior design.

The house changed hands over the years after the Rezzonico family died one time it was a Jesuit college, then rented out to aristocratic families…a Count bought the place…a few artists and poets lived in studios within the house…and in the 1920’s Cole Porter (famous composer/songwriter “I’ve Got you Under My Skin”, ” I Get a Kick Out of You”) rented the place for the equivalent of today’s $55,000 a month, where he had lavish, over-the-top parties.   Today, they have the place decorated as it would have been in the 1760’s when Venice was full of ladies in tall, white powdered wigs, and when men wore stockings and high heels and powdered faces.   It’s a beautiful, grand house full of lots of lovely furniture and stunning Italian Baroque art.  This is definitely one of those places where you wish the walls could talk!

This is a ceiling fresco
If you recall my blog from last year when visited Versailles in Paris…pictures of the Hall of Mirrors? Well, all of that mirrored glass came from right here in Venice.
A detail from a painting on the wall gives you an idea of the fashion at the time this Palazzo was in it’s heyday.

Lena found this little creature amusing.

A beautiful, old gondola from the 18th century.
View from the piano noble.

After touring the Palazzo, we began wandering around the area (and having a way too early in the day gelato).  We stopped by the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari…usually called the Frari Church.  This church was completed in 1383 and is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (for those of us non-Catholics…this is when Mary’s earthly body went up into heaven).  It’s chocked full of beautiful artwork, but most notably for 16th century Venetian master Titan’s “Assumption of Mary” at the high altar.  I am not going to get into any lengthy descriptions of the church…as I’ve said before, I think pictures speak volumes.

The painting in the middle is the famous work by Titian.

This church was stunning…but I suppose I say that every time we visit an old church!  After our visit to Frari, we grabbed a pizza in our neighborhood and then jumped on a vaporetto to meet up for our tour.  This was a “private” boat tour provided by “Walks of Italy”, but it wasn’t exclusively us…there was another family of 3 on the boat.  But it still felt quite exclusive.   We basically toured all of the different districts/neighborhoods that make up Venice, and ended by going down the Grand Canal and then out to San Giorgio Maggiore island to visit the great Palladian church of the same name.

The yellow boat on the bottom is an ambulance boat and that white building in the background is Venice’s hospital.

Going under all of the bridges requires a LOT of ducking down….This is our boat driver (and the rest of us ducking down).

The famous Rialto Bridge

This is where they hand craft the gondolas.

And we finally arrived at San Giorgio Maggiore island and Church.  This famous renaissance church was designed by famed architect Andrea Palladio and was completed in 1566.

We were given a private tour of the interior and then free access up the bell tower for an incredible view of Venice!  The interior of the church was stunning, and these days rather than an active church, it is used more for private exhibitions, including several works of modern art that are on display.   But there remain some very important works of art, including works by Tintoretto at the high altar.

This is the original angel that sat atop the bell tower of the church. It is wood with bronze cladding.

The modern art work on display.

After touring the interior, it was up to the bell tower.  The view was beautitul and quite dramatic as a thunderstorm was developing in the distance.

We ended our tour of San Giorgio Maggiore and headed back on the boat and back to San Marco Square.

On our way home on the vaporetto, there was a very strong thunderstorm…we got soaked and watched seagulls attack pigeons that got water-logged and fell into the Grand Canal (yikes!).

We had another lovely dinner at a restaurant just below our apartment and called it a day.

Tomorrow includes more tours and possibly a gondola ride (I don’t think you can leave Venice without doing this).

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