April 16th, 2019: Venice, Italy – along the Canalé Grandé and across the Bacino di San Marco to the San Giorgio Magioré church!!!

This morning I awoke earlier than Mandy again, and took a long morning walk by myself to buy Italian bakery treats again at the marvelous, previously-discovered bakery, Pasticceria Tonolo in the San Polo siestre (district), only 3 minutes by foot from our apartment in the Ca’ Badoer deiBarbacani. Then on to the fashionable San Marco siestre (district – the siestre San Marco includes St. Mark’s Basilica, as well as the island home of the San Giorgio Magiore church, across the Bacino di San Marco from St. Mark’s), across the Ponte di Rialto bridge over the Canalé Grandé to the post office to mail postcards, gifts and letters and on to another well-stocked art supply store.

The Ponte di Rialto bridge over the Canalé Grandé, as seen from a vaporetto

We enjoyed our bakery treats together back at the apartment in a leisurely fashion. From the apartment, we cut north through our San Polo siestre (district)’s San Polo Square, heading back towards Venice’s main Stazzione Santa Lucia and the vaporetto (water bus) stop at the head of the Canalé Grandé. We took the main line under the new Santiago Calatrava Ponte della Costituzione bridge at the train station, heading straight down the Canalé Grandé, bound for the San Zaccaria vaporetto station on the other side of the Palazzo Ducalé.

The new, controversial span over the Canalé Grandé, the Ponte della Costituzione – known more familiarly as “the Calatrava bridge,” which was installed in 2008, was designed by the famous contemporary Spanish architect and structural engineer, Santiago Calatrava

We slowly drifted past crumbling palazzi along the Canalé Grandé, as we admired the amazing Venetian light on the waters. We were amazed by the sheer number of gondoliers, along with many other kinds of boatmen on many kinds of boats.

A bearded gondolier guides his customers across the Canalé Grandé. Note the nice, non-slip, athletic shoes he is wearing
A young gondolier guides his gondola across the Canalé Grandé to pick up customers
A gondolier making his way through a narrow Venetian canal on his way to the Canalé Grandé

We soon passed the Guggenheim Collection, Peggy Guggenheim’s former mansion, a low-slung palazzo on the Canalé Grandé – a building strange in Venice for its lowness. We then passed what European travel guru Rick Steves calls the “Catholic wedding cake church,” Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. “The church makes good on an official appeal by the Venetian Senate directly to the Madonna in 1630, after 80,000 Venetians had been killed by (the black) plague. The Senate promised the Madonna a church in exchange for her intervention on behalf of Venice – no expense or effort spared.” (courtesy, Lonely Planet)

European travel guru, Rick Steves, dubbed the 1630 Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute the “Catholic wedding cake church.” In all seriousness, the church was built following the loss of 80,000 Venetian souls to the Black Plague, as an offering to the blessed Virgin Mary to protect the city from future calamities

After arriving at the San Zaccaria vaporetto station, we switched to a different vaporetto to cross the Bacino di San Marco to the island home of Andrea Palladio’s (considered one of the most influential architects of all time) San Giorgio Maggiore church, home to a tall campanile (bell tower) affording incredible views back to the main islands of Venice, especially the central district of San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale, Basilica di San Marco, Campanile di San Marco and the Piazza di San Marco from on high. Construction of the San Giorgio Maggiore church lasted from 1565 to 1611.

The beautiful Palladian church, San Giorgio Maggiore and its accompanying campanile, as viewed through one of the ancient prismatic glass windows of the Doge’s Palace
Andrea Palladio’s (considered one of the most influential architects of all time) great San Giorgio Maggiore church, as seen from across the Bacino di San Marco, from the Piazetta di San Marco on the Riva degli Schiavoni (bayside of the Venetian lagoon)
San Giorgio Maggiore church is much simpler, more geometric and less ornamental than the earlier churches we visited in Venice

San Giorgio Maggiore church is much simpler, more geometric and less ornamental than the earlier churches we visited in Venice. After touring the church interior, we stood in a short cue to take the elevator ascending the campanile for a breathtaking view of greater Venice.

The bells at the top of the campanile (bell tower) adjoining the San Giorgio Maggiore church. The view from here of Venice, the great surrounding laguna and the faroff Adriatic Sea was marvelous

We could look out to the Adriatic Sea, far beyond the laguna surrounding Venice. When looking back across the city of Venice, I was struck by how many low buildings there were, built close-together, with the occasional bell or church tower rising above it all.

The imposing façade of the Palazzo Ducalé, with St. Mark’s Basilica behind, and the Campinilé di San Marco, lined up along the Riva degli Schiavoni, with the compact city of Venice lying behind. You can just make out the “Bridge of Sighs” to the right of the Palazzo Ducalé

After the campanile, we strolled along the San Giorgio Maggiore island bayside promenade, observing the city through the yacht harbor.

The Piazetta di San Marco and buildings lined up along the Riva degli Schiavoni, as seen through the San Giorgio Maggiore island yacht harbor

We even saw the Palladian former monastery which now houses the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, which has even hosted a G7 Summit, and international and UNESCO conferences. On the grounds of the former monastery we also found a stunning glass museum, Le Stanze del Vetro, with a temporary art installation, the large glass sculpture ‘Qwalala,’ by Pae White outside the building.

Mark at an art installation on the grounds of the former San Giorgio monastery, a large glass sculpture ‘Qwalala,’ by Pae White
Mandy at an art installation on the grounds of the former San Giorgio monastery, a large glass sculpture ‘Qwalala,’ by Pae White

The monastery was even home to 3 secreted inner gardens, including a beautiful, green labyrinth which we admired from atop the San Giorgio Maggiore campanile.

A labyrinthine garden on the grounds of San Giorgio Maggiore’s former monastery

Also from the San Giorgio Maggiore campanile, we watched as a huge cruise ship slowly made its way down the wide Rio dei Carmini, between the Dursoduro district on one of the main islands and the Giudecca district on the outlying islands. The ship eventually made its way past the Palazzo Ducalé and the Campanile di San Marco on its way to the Adriatic.

An impossibly huge cruise ship makes its way down the wide Rio dei Carmini, between the Dursoduro district on one of the main islands and the Giudecca district on the outlying islands, as seen from our perch atop San Giorgio Maggiore church’s lofty campanile
A huge cruise ship, making its way down the wide Rio dei Carmini to the laguna and the Adriatic Sea beyond, made the islands and buildings of Venice, by comparison, seem tiny
A ship making its way down the wide Rio dei Carmini passes the Palazzo Ducale and the Campanile di San Marco

I was overcome by the sense of what an unlikely city Venice really is – perched as it is, so ephemerally on the laguna. We rounded out this memorable day with another marvelous dinner at a true Italian trattoria. Tonight Mandy had delicious eggplant parmigiana, while I had crab gnocchi, served complete in an appetizing crab shell!

Fresh from an authentic Venetian trattoria, Mandy’s mouth watering eggplant parmigiana dish
My crab gnocci, a favorite of our authentic Italian trattoria

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