The town of Sirmione, in the Veneto region of Italy, is comprised of a peninsula jutting into Lake Garda. Encircled by dramatic mountains, the fresh water lake is the largest in Italy – and perfect for swimming. Continue reading
This June, I traveled through the Veneto region of Italy. Unlike many of my other trips this year, I had a companion! My best friend from back home just so happened to be in Italy for a wedding. Naturally, we took the opportunity to meet up and explore! Continue reading
Venice is jam packed full of churches. Scattered throughout the island, these churches each have their own history. They have now become a main tourist attraction, and many charge an admittance fee. Almost every street has a church on it, or at least that is how it feels looking at a map, but unless you are consciously looking around you may miss it because they churches are so deeply embedded into the urban fabric.
Here are some of the notable churches that I visited while in Venice:
San Marco Basilica
This 11th century basilica acts as one side of the large Piazza San Marco. Arguably the church of Venice, it is constantly swarmed by tourists. I happened to be there on Palm Sunday (note the palm leaves in one of the images above), where they had a ceremony in the morning, although I am not entirely sure what happened due to the sea of heads in front of me.
Alright, so this isn’t a church but it is located adjacent to San Marco Basilica. This is a palace built for the Doge (the highest official of Venice – not the internet meme…)
San Giorgio Maggiore
Designed by Andre Palladio in the 16th century, the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore resides on the island San Giorgio Maggiore. Almost the entire island is dedicated this massive church. It can be seen from San Marco Square, however sometimes the fog is so thick you can only faintly make out the shape.
Santa Maria Gloriosa Dei Frari
I just happened to walk by this church and was impressed by its size. This is one of the churches that charges for admission, so I did not shell out to tour the interior but I did take a peak and saw the huge vaulted ceilings.
Torcello, the last of the islands in the Venetian Lagoon that I visited, is the lowest populated with only 11 permanent residents. Most of the island is untamed nature, however there is a group of buildings from 11th and 12th century including the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.
And in case you were wondering, even on this almost deserted island, there are still plenty of souvenir stands ifyou have a burning desire to buy little magnets or bracelets to commemorate your time.
Burano is another island in the Venetian Lagoon, known for handmade lace and the brightly painted houses. A main industry of the island was fishing, and the houses were painted bright colours so they could be seen through thick fog. I was told different theories to explain the colour scheme, one being that each colour is associated with a particular family, and another saying that it is actually in accordance to a strict pattern enforced through government (although I failed to see any logic in this ‘pattern’).
As you approach Burano, there are smaller islands with crumbling ruins. While Burano continues to thrive, the monasteries of these islands have long been abandoned and the waves and wind erode what used to be. I would have loved to explore these islands, however I don’t believe it is particularly safe to trapeze through ruins, and I don’t think there is a way to access them without your own boat.
Murano is a small island (or series of islands) in the Venetian Lagoon known for glass making and glass blowing. Glass manufacturing was moved to Murano centuries ago to protect the central city from potential fire hazards and, I have been told, to protect the secrets of the trade.
While I was there, I got to witness a demonstration of glass blowing. It was interesting to watch him work, moving quickly and fluidly – it is clear he had been doing this his whole life. It is a dying art, with no new generation to take over once the current generation retires.
I was particularly impressed when he made this horse in a matter of minutes. It was so beautiful – until someone brushed the table as they walked by and the figurine toppled over and smashed on the floor. Although, seeing glass go from being pulled and stretched to smashing a minute later was a testament to unique quality of the material.
This past week I traveled to the islands of Venice to enjoy warm weather and an abundance of Italian gelato and pizza. The whole city feels like it is designed for the tourists with souvenir shops down every street, overpriced gondola rides, and the perpetuation of a historical and romantic atmosphere. And with that, swarms of crowds!
Despite the eerie feeling that this city has turned into a giant tourist attraction, I was still absorbed into it and loved walking along the narrow streets. Every detail of the city added to the character.
The charm of the city during the day continues past sunset when the dim reflection of the moonlight on the water turns into an entirely poetic experience. And it is through these little details that Venice is able to enchant you, and suddenly you realize that all of the great things people say about Venice are true. Despite the crowds and frequent smell of sewage, you fall in love with the city.