Day 12 - Tue, Apr 30 - Venice to AssisiApril 30 in Italy ⋅ 🌧 10 °C
It was another 8:30 a.m. departure. Simone drove us to the closest point that buses and vans can get to the old city of Venice. There we took a water taxi right to San Marco Square. It was another perfect day for sight seeing - a bit cool but sunny with no threat of rain. There were three things that we wanted to do - see San Marco Church, take a gondola ride and look for a tie for Doug to wear at our son Patrick’s wedding in early July. We scored 2 out of 3!
The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark (Italian: Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco), commonly known as Saint Mark's Basilica, is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. It is the most famous of the city's churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. It lies at the eastern end of the Piazza San Marco, adjacent and connected to the Doge's Palace. Originally it was the chapel of the Doge, and has been the city's cathedral only since 1807.
For its opulent design, gold ground mosaics, and its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, from the 11th century on the building has been known by the nickname Chiesa d'Oro (Church of gold). It achieves an Oriental feeling of exoticism, partly through blending Byzantine and Islamic elements, but remains unique, and essentially a product of Italian workers of all sorts.
In 828, relics believed to be the body of Saint Mark were stolen from Alexandria (at the time controlled by the Abbasid Caliphate) by two Venetian merchants with the help of two Greek monks and taken to Venice. A mosaic in St Mark's Basilica depicts sailors covering the relics with a layer of pork and cabbage leaves. Since Muslims are not permitted to eat pork, this was done to prevent the guards from inspecting the ship's cargo too closely.
In 1063, during the construction of a new basilica in Venice, Saint Mark's relics could not be found. However, according to tradition, in 1094, the saint himself revealed the location of his remains by extending an arm from a pillar. The newfound remains were placed in a sarcophagus in the basilica. The relics of St. Mark, now the patron saint of Venice, are interred under the main altar of the cathedral.
Even though the cathedral didn’t open until 9:30 a.m., there was already a long line up when we arrived at 9:15 a.m. Waiting in line gave us time to watch San Marco Square fill with people and street vendors. We eventually got in - no photo taking allowed so you will have to take my word that the mosaics are incredible. The building gets little natural light, so it's hard to see the incredible details. The ceiling and the upper walls shine with gold - they are lit at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. - alas, too late for our schedule. I particularly liked the mosaic floors - I would have loved to take pictures because so many of the designs would make fabulous quilt patterns.
Our next objective was to take a gondola ride through the canals. We hopped into a gorgeous black and red one and enjoyed the leisurely ride. It was fascinating to see the boat traffic work without stop lights or roundabouts - lots of friendly shouting and warnings. Because it was morning, there was a lot of commercial boat traffic. As there are no cars or trucks allowed in the old city of Venice, everything - absolutely everything from toilet paper to milk must be brought in by boat. The boat must be loaded by hand at the commercial terminal near where Simone dropped us off, and then it must be unloaded by hand (technical name: “hand bombing”) at a tie up point. (We saw the hand bomb of a case of juice boxes go NOT as planned.) At the tie up point, goods are loaded into little wagons (they look like rickshaws) which are pulled by very strong men who thunder through the streets and alley ways chanting, “Attentione!! Attentione!! It’s a completely different way of life from anything that we have ever seen before.
After our gondola ride, we wandered the streets, looking at ties. We just haven’t found the right one yet. We will continue our search at every future stop. Like pros (or perhaps with a bit of luck), we found our way back to the water taxi stand and waited and waited for our reserved taxi. No show. Karen phoned Simone who put the giddy up on the driver who arrived shortly. Back to the van and our rendezvous with Simone.
We began our journey south - destination - Assisi. For the first two hours, We paralleled the Apennine Mountains that run down the centre of Italy like a spine. The land was mostly flat - this is farming country. We passed fields of grapes and apple trees and vegetables and grains. Then we entered the mountains and wound our way up and down valleys and through many tunnels. It was fascinating to see rows of grape vines clinging to the sides of mountains.
After 4.5 hours, we finally arrived in Assisi which is located on a mountain. The hotel we are staying at for just one night is the same one I stayed at during my 2016 Italy visit. This hotel has a wonderful terrace that gives glorious views of the valley but it’s raining right now. Perhaps it will clear for the morning.
Dinner will be in the hotel dining room. It’s been another good day.Read more