It turns out that Venice is not built on top of water after all. We met with this very nice tour guide today called Fiona who’s from Venice but spoke perfect British English (and German) and she told us about the history of Venice and then led us around the city. Venice is composed of number of small islands and city is built by placing wood and stone on top of those islands to make them better suited for carrying buildings. Ironically enough, the part of Venice that was once the highest point in the city, the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) is now the lowest inhabited part of the city and regularly gets flooded.
After another full day of walking around Venice, I can safely say that it is one of the most amazing cities on the planet. Florence may be considered the birthplace of the Renaissance but Venice is truly amazing. It’s really wonderful when you find yourself walking through these narrow streets and suddenly you’re in an open courtyard (a campo) surrounded by beautiful buildings and architecture from different periods. And that is just the beginning of it.
Throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance period Venice has been a center of both trade and military activity (especially naval conquests throughout the Mediterranean). The results of this are obvious everywhere, especially in the art and architecture. When visiting the largest Franciscan church in Italy, the Santa Maria dei Frari, it is possible to get a glimpse of the evolution of Venetian art and architecture gathered under a single roof, albeit a rather large roof constructed over 150 years. The church looks large, but very unassuming from the outside and gives absolutely no indication of the wealth of art and history that it holds within.
In many ways this is perhaps similar to Franciscan ethos of service without pomp and grandeur, reserving wealth and richness for the inside rather than external display. However, the wealth and splendor on display on the inside does make one question why an order of friars vowed to poverty would accept such immensely expensive additions to their church, even if technically they owned none of it. At the same time, it’s probably a testament to the fact that the world is so much complicated than simply right and wrong and that sometimes you simply have to accept the system and bend it to your purpose than fight against it.
I’m currently fighting against my camera and trying to figure out whether to keep a paper journal or just spend money and print out my blog posts later. Tomorrow is yet another jam packed day with a boat tour out to more Venetian islands and a Vivaldi concert in the evening. The day after we leave Venice for Florence and I don’t know what the Internet situation will be then. It might be a few days till my next post so till then I’ll keep journaling, reading, writing and paying attention to two awesome professor and a bunch of interesting fellow students.