Gondole for everyone !
The venetian Gondola was the main type of transportation for Venetians, even outside the city..we can say until the invention of motorboats. But that was in particular for very rich people, a kind of limousine ;)
First mentioning of gondola was in the far 1094. That was a very important year, it was the same year when St. Mark’s Church (Basilica di San marco) was consecrated.
Ancient gondola in Ca' Rezzonico museum
It is 11 metres long, made up of 280 different pieces of wood and is painted with seven layers of black paint. It can be steered by a single gondolier with just one oar!
What about colours?
At the beginning you could decorate and paint your gondola however you wanted. Didn't you know that? We don't think you knew that because the typical gondola nowadays is a black gondola!
Hovever, wealthy noble and rich families could even risk bankruptcy in order to maintain their appearances and have colourful and unique gondolas. So they kept on to decorate their gondole.
Back in the past, gondolas were covered up with a wooden cabin called felze.
The Venetian Senate ended this extravagance mood of decorating trought a law to evem ban decorations and to make all gondolas black... gondole that everyone knows.
Today Venetian people are not using gondolas anymore.. but tourists can take a gondola ride pretty much anywhere in the city. The price is fixed, it’s 80 € for 30 minutes during the day and 100 € during the night.
There are also wedding gondolas…
… or funeral gondolas.
But the ones we are still using and that we love the most is the so called "traghetto". Traghetto means "ferry boat", a public service across Grand Canal. The faster way to cross it! This is a very cheap service, just 2€! Of course this will last only few minutes, but that’s the way locals doa. and finally you can share a gondola with Venetian people.
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Curious remarks in Venice: Palazzo Grimani di San Luca
This palace was built in the mid-16th century for the procurator Gerolamo Grimani by the architect Nichele Sanmicheli and completed after his death by the architect Gian Giacomo de' Grigi, known as the Bergamasco.
A legend connects these large openings to an episode rekating to a young Grimani. The young man wanted to marry a young lady of the Tiepolo family, so he asked for her hand, receiving this reply from her father:
"It shall never be said true that I gave the hand of my daughter to a desperate man that has no palace on the (Grand) Canal".
At that, young Grimani promiused that he would have built a house with windows larger that the doorway of Ca' Tiepolo, and so it was.
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Where? San Marco, fondamenta della Chiesa 4041
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Discover Dorsoduro, Venice - The Pugni Bridge !
Departing from Campo San Barnaba, turn left. After a short walk along fondamenta Gerardini, you will come to the "barca", a floating fruits and vegetable shop.
But let's talk about the Pugni bridge. In the past, until 1705, the citizens of Venice were divided into two different factions, the Castellani (those who lived in the Castello, St. Mark - San Marco and Dorsoduro zones) and the Nicolotti (who lived in the Cannaregio, San Polo and Santa Croce areas).
Clashes were frequent and often took place on the city's bridge. These fights, which at times involved hundreds of people, were not repressed or punished by the government, who merely decided the rules. The congflicts could only take place between September and Christmas and they followed a precise set of rules. Once the challenge had been made, referees were chosen, as was the bridge where the fight would take place. On the chosen day, each faction would arrive to a roll of drums and the sounding of trumpets and would present its champion who either fought alone or in small groups.
The real war only began after this. It consisted of a gigantic free-for-all with hundreds of men battling to get to and claim the centre of the bridge.
Fisticuffs were allowed and, until 1574, sticks too. These were sharp people died. The picture you found on the bridge is the shape of a foot which marked teh contestant's startimg point.
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The feast of the Salute - 21st November and the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute.
In 1630 a plague broke out in the city. It was devasting and very contagious. It was said to have started with a carpenter who lived nearby and went to work at San Clemente, an island in the lagoon. The ambassador of the duke of Mantua, who had fallen ill, was kept on the island in isolation. Soon the disease spread to Venice killing a great many people. In October 1630, doge Nicolò Contarini (1630-1631) made a vow to the Madonna: if the plague stopped, he would build a magnificent church dedicated to her. Shortly afterwards, the epidemic died down.
It was decided that the sanctuary should be placed in one of the most pretigious areas of the city, right in front of the basin of St. Mark. On 1 April 1631, doge Contarini laid the foundation stone and, to celebrate the occasion, coins were monted with the image of the doge (who died the following day!) and these were put in a hole in the centre of the curch. Hovewer the shape of the curch had not been decided yet. Something unique was needed, a building no one had ever seen before, and with lots of light. A competition was held.
The design that won was by a young architect called Baldassarre Longhena (1598-1682) and it was decidedly original in comparison with the traditional Venetian churches.
The exterior is white, in Istrian stone and it is covered by a dome. The entrance door, framed by four columns, is enormous and it is opened only on November 21st, the feast day of the Madonna della Salute.
Over a million stakes were used for the foundation of the curch! In 1687 it finally opened and doge Marcantonio Giustinian promised that in future the doge in office and his retinue would make an official visit to the curch on NOvember 21st each year, crossing the Grand Canal on a bridge made of boats. The feast of the Salute is still one of the most important appointments on the calendar in Venice!
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Let's discover Piazza San Marco - Saint Mark's square!
All the squares in Venice are called "campi" except the most important of all, Piazza San marco, Saint Mark's square.
This square was the centre of political life and all the buildings that surround it were connected to the governement of the Serenissima. It was here that all the most important feasts, celebrations and games in the city took place. In the IX century the doge decided to move his residence here and he had a kind of castle built, the Palazzo Ducale.
In those days the square was much smaller than it is now. In the centre there was a canal, the Batario rio, beyond which there was an orchard "brolo", with vines and fruit trees. Where thne Clock tower stands now there was a sanbuca tree, which the merchands used for tying up their horses. There was a bell tower too, but it was about half the size of the present one and it was mostrly used a watch tower.
The water of the lagoon went aroud the doge's palace-cum-castle, beside the bell tower and as far as a small church, which was the doge's private chapel. Over the centuries the square changed, Artist Gentile Bellini (1429-1507) painted a picture of the procession that took place in the square on April 25th (St. Mark's feast day) 1496.
It is like a photograph of the past. The Palazzo Ducale had by then lost its fortress look. The best defence of the city was the lagoon, which separated it from the enemy like a wall.
During our tours we don't cover San Marco square but during your Venice holiday we'll give you a lot of info related to all Venice points of interest. What are you waiting for? Choose our free tour FREE WALK IN VENICE!