Ah, Venice

Even though I vowed that Venice would be all about pleasure, I did have one major sightseeing event planned. Some time ago I signed up for the “Secret Itineraries” tour of the Doge’s Palace. It seems that, while audiences and public events were happening in halls like this

the powerful decision makers were actually operating in rooms like this.

Inside the walls of the palace is a maze of small rooms that housed secret archives, the offices of the council of 10 and cells for wealthy/political prisoners. It was from this part of the palace that Cassanova famously escaped. This tour was only opened to the public two years ago, and they only take 20 at a time, three times a day. Here are some of the cool/terrifying things we saw:

See that cabinet in the corner? It opens into a concealed passageway that we took to get there.

These are the beams holding the ceiling up. We’re in the Doge’s attic.

This little device was used to hoist prisoners up by their arms until they confessed. Lovely.

Cassanova’s cell. He and a priest in the next cell tunneled out through the ceiling, then onto the roof, into the main hall and out the front door the next morning. Since they were well-dressed, no one thought to stop them.

After the behind- the-scenes look, I cruised around the palace in general. “Opulent” is the adjective I’m gonna go with. 

It had been raining steadily all morning, but by the time I crossed the Bridge of Sighs and exited the prisons, the sun was out. 

This bridge got its name from the legend that prisoners would get their last look at Venice here before they were locked away.

After a quick but it was off to the Dorsoduro neighborhood where my only goal apart from exploring was to find Commedia Dell’Arte masks. This was a form of theatre popular from the Renaissance forward. Every troupe improvised lines around general plot constructs which involved the same set of stock characters. An actor would often play one character for most of their career. 

This is Brighella. He is a higher class servant who is conniving and speaks badly of others. A general malcontent. Think Thomas from Downton Abbey, Season 1.

  I decided to treat myself for dinner and made a reservation at Oliva Nera. This restaurant is owned by a lady named Isabella and run by her family. My parents had stayed in a flat she owns when they were in Venice. As it turns out, their flat was just up the street from mine, and the restaurant was barely 50 yards away. And what a dinner it was. From start to limoncello, I’ve rarely had such a good meal. 

Isabella’s son talked me into limoncello with a simple “My mother makes it herself”. Sold.

And because I decided Venice would be about pleasure, I went for a post-dinner ride down the Grand Canal on the vaporetto. I was not disappointed. 

This city is magical. You’ll get lost over and over and it won’t matter. Everywhere is full of music and light and the sound of lapping water. Tomorrow: Burano


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