After a (too) short time in Florence, we hit the road again on our Italian holiday. We were headed to Venice – a city of gondoliers, romance and at night, a little bit of mystery. We were a couple of hours on the bus and once we reached the area of Venice, we had to change on to a ferry to take us the rest of the way. My first impression of Venice was not a good one. The weather was quite dull and looked like it was going to rain, which made the whole experience of coming into Venice a gloomy one; I found the area around the Grand Canal to be a little bit smelly and there were just too many people for me to be bothered with. I was still quite sick as well so that didn’t make things any better. After a short walk along the canal, we found ourselves in St Marks Square (Piazza San Marco) which was, in a word, breathtaking. The buildings lining the square were nothing like I had ever seen – even in Rome. What once must have been all blinding white, was now covered in centuries of dust and grime, making them almost look like it had survived a fire (which they may have). One end of the square is dominated by the church of St Mark which is an impressive feat of early architecture. Sadly though it was covered in lots of scaffolding when we were there, so we didn’t get to see it in it’s full glory. We passed quickly through the square, on the way to our hotel, which was only two streets back from the square (according to our guide in Florence, a hotel that close to the square was quite a coup!). The Hotel Bonvecchiati was really beautiful and I would recommend it to anyone looking to travel to Venice, particularly as it’s so close to everything. It was definitely one of my favourite hotels we stayed in and we had a great view out onto the canals from our window.
After a little refreshing break in our hotel, we met our guide in the lobby of our hotel and did a walking tour of the city. Once I was in the back streets of the city and away from the main canal, my mind was completely changed about Venice. It has an entirely different feeling to it from anywhere else I have ever been. The twists and turns of the narrow streets made it feel ok if you were to get lost (which my mum and I did at one point!) and there was always something interesting to see and be found. We walked around the city with our guide for about an hour and a half, concluding with a trip to the Murano glass factory where we saw some glass blowing (definitely go there if you’re ever in Venice) and then had some free time to ourselves. Some of our group went on a gondola ride, but mum and I decided not as it was a bit expensive and we had something better planned! A few months before we were due to leave, I saw a story in a Sydney newspaper about an exhibition being held at the Galleria dell’Accademia. Why it was in a Sydney newspaper I will never know – I’m going to put it down to fate.
The exhibition was called Leonardo Da Vinci: The Universal Man and was an exhibition of his sketches spanning his entire artistic career. A vast majority of the sketches had not been on display anywhere in the world since the 1980’s, so it seemed to me that this was something not to miss and was rather more important that a boat ride. The drawings were everything from prepatory sketches of some of his most famous pieces (like The Last Supper) and studies on the anatomy of humans, plants and animals, as well as designs for various contraptions, including an early tank. Also included were some of his personal books which had notes in the margin made by him in his famous backwards hand writing. But perhaps the most exciting thing on display was The Vitruvian Man, the famous sketch detailing the proportions of the human body. Seeing such a famous piece by one of the worlds masters of art and invention was on a whole other level from anything I had ever experienced – I’m getting little chills now just remembering it! Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take any photos of the exhibition, but at least my memory is still in working order! But despite the excitement and thrill of seeing things made by Da Vinci’s own hand,the gallery also had many other beautiful artworks and it was lovely just wandering through the halls viewing them. Make sure you click through the gallery here to see the photos properly!
After our little gallery tour, we headed back to our hotel to get ready for dinner and got lost on the way back. It had begun to get dark by this time and everything looked different. But it was quite fun and as the light from the shops spilled out onto the streets, the city seemed to become more alive and the atmosphere had that feeling of mystery about it I mentioned earlier. But dinner! It was at a Venetian restaurant and that’s about all I can remember. I would love to tell you more about it, but all I can remember is the copious amounts of wine I drank, washed down with some limoncello at the end. It was the limoncello that put me over the limit I think. I do recall wandering the streets after with my mum trying to find somewhere to get a Venetian mask, but I didn’t end up finding one until the next day. I was quite hungover and tired the next day, and I am immensely grateful that most of that day was spent in the bus and not needing to move too much!