Sunday, 13 November 2016

Letter from Venice (27) 13-11-16

I make for the Piazza San Marco via Santa Maria Formosa with the intention of finally carrying out the visits to the Palazzo Ducale and to the Basilica itself I have been delaying in the hope of a diminution, in mid November, of the tourist numbers queuing to visit these locations. Walking down the Calle Barberia de le Tole I notice a twenty-yard long line of duckboards set out near to large puddles at the side of the street. The water can only have come up through the drains. As I near to San Marco Indian hawkers wave plastic packets at me and point further down the Calle to huge puddles. I change direction and aim at the Piazza from another direction. This time I reach it but, almost immediately, have to mount the duckboards. Some people splash in the foot of water that covers the entire square wearing the light blue or orange plastic overshoes, reaching half way up their calves, that the hawkers were selling. The duckboards are wide enough for one person traffic in both directions as long as no one stops to take photos. A policeman watching from another duckboard blows his whistle loudly if anyone is foolish enough or selfish enough to do this. I arrive at the front of the Basilica where a notice announces that it will be closed all day due to religious ceremonies taking place. The water laps at the doors of the covered porch and some spills inside.

I double back and take a different line of duckboards heading further towards the Doge’s Palace. It reaches Sansovino’s Biblioteca Marciana opposite the Palazzo and I am able to alight from the boards and duck under the arcade that leads down towards the Molo and the seafront. Amazingly, although the sea laps over the edge of the Molo where Gondole are tethered, there is a space of around twenty yards here between the sea and the Piazzetta which is completely dry. To my surprise, at 11 am there is no queue at all outside the pink and white confection of the Palazzo and, delighted, I enter by the Porta del Frumento on the Lagoon side and visit the immense building. It includes the largest room in Europe, La Sala del Maggior Consiglio, which, in its turn, has the largest canvas painting in the world completely covering one end wall, Tintoretto’s Paradiso with its five hundred painted figures. Many gilded and carved rooms are decorated by Tintoretto and Veronese. I cross the Bridge of Sighs and see the prison cells. I leave by the Porta di Carta and then take in lovely late fourteenth century carvings of Adam and Eve and the Drunkeness of Noah on the two southern corners of the palace, the latter sculpture easily viewed up close from the Ponte di Paglia on my way to taking the 4.1 home from San Zaccaria.

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