Doge's Palace and Arsenal

Trip Start Feb 05, 2010
Trip End May 20, 2010

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Where I stayed
Private Apartment

Flag of Italy  , Veneto,
Monday, April 12, 2010

All prices in euros per person.

The park near our apartment is the largest park in Venice. We see a sign at a dock about Venice's rat eradication program. If you see a rat, you are supposed to report it. In the past, rats were killed by imported Syrian cats.The only wildlife we have seen are pigeons.

Today we visit one of Venice's top sites the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace). If you have a museum pass, you can bypass the long line. There were lots of Doges including one whose image and name have been erased because he committed treason and had his head chopped off. We
decide to try an audio guide for the first time (90 minutes). Cost is 5E or 8E for one guide with an extra set of headphones. We later realized we could have just plugged in our iPod headphones. Using the guide forces us to stick together. There are about 32 rooms plus the prisons. We were there over 3 hours. There is also a tour for 10E which covers other parts of the Palace. The cafe has a good ambiance and is not expensive.

I'm glad we have the guide because there is a lot to learn about the power of a Doge, politics, the judiciary and battles. Venice was a great power (at one time) and thought highly of itself. Venice is
often portrayed by a beautiful woman in paintings. I don't generally find weapon collections that interesting, but there is an excellent one here. I was impressed by the wall covering that was leather inlaid with gold color. The Doge always had twenty four attendants, of which eight had to be always on hand. I wonder why he didn't just use the telephone when he needed something.

The palace also had a room which, at the time, was the biggest room in Europe. It also has one of the world's largest oil painting – Paradise (25 x 81 feet). The prigioni (prison) were cold with heavy
doors. Casanova escaped from this prison. From inside the Ponte dei Sospri (Bridge of Sighs), we look out at the tourists looking at it. Currently it is being renovated so only a little is visible. Instead, tourists get to see a huge watch ad with Julianna Moore as the model. In fact, lots of Saint Mark's square is being renovated and is covered with scaffolding and ads so its not at its best.

In Saint Mark's square there are some notices that say sitting is not allowed and others that say sitting and eating is not allowed. Does this mean you can eat standing up? I hope so, so I can eat my gelato. Some people, including us, disobey this rule and are not told off. A small group of teenagers lying down, however, were told to get up. There are portable walkways stacked around the square in case of flooding. These make good seats.

After lunch and gelato (we tried melon and banana flavors), we took a short vaporetto ride across the lagoon to the island of San Giorgio. The area by the dock is a peaceful spot to look back at St. Mark's Square and there is a good view from the campanile (belfry). It is 3E to use the elevator to the top – no stair access. It was high enough to see a long way, but not so high as to be scary. The church itself, inside and out, wasn't particularly interesting to me.

We return to San Marco vaporetto stop and walk back to our apartment. We cannot find any internet stores or wi-fi spots – very strange.  Near the Arsenale vaporetto dock is the Arsenale (just past Naval Museum). The Corderie building is very attractive on the outside with statues of lions which were booty taken from Greece. The lion is part of the logos of both the city of Venice and the Region of Veneto.

There is also a lovely clock and a sundial. The sundial is unusual in having a correction for the time of the year built into it. There is also a wooden bridge which was meant to be temporary but locals liked it so it stayed. At their peak, the Arsenale shipyards employed 16,000 people and could make a galley (ship) in 24 hours. Hemp rope and sails were also made here. Now the area is mostly empty.

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