I engaged the daughter of our host as a guide. Her name is Anita Conte, and she knows the city like a book. She took us first to the Piazza of St. Mark for a general view of this celebrated square. It is enclosed by imposing buildings which appear to form one vast marble palace, blackened by age and the elements. The two or three storied palaces were once the residence of the nine procurators, the highest officials of the Republic after the Doge. The ground floors of these structures consist of arcades and contain cafes and shops. The piazza is the heart of Venice.
On summer evenings, all who desire to enjoy fresh air congregate here. A large flock of pigeons enliven the palace. Grain can be bought from peddlers, and it is fun to see them cluster around you to pick the feed from your hand. On a Clock Tower are two giants in bronze who strike the hours on a large bell, and we were just in time to see this.
The square Campanile (Tower of St. Mark), which collapsed in 1902, is now being rebuilt, the bronze statues which adorn the old tower have been mostly preserved and will be replaced.
We next visited the Rialto Bridge, which is 159 feet long and 72 feet wide, consisting of a single marble arch of 90-foot span. It is flanked by “Cheap” shops. It is on the site of the ancient city of Venice and is mentioned by Shakespeare in the “Merchant of Venice.” Our little lady guide showed us the “Scala Minelli,” which you probably did not see as it is in one of these narrow side streets. It is part of an old palace and is a curious spiral staircase in a round tower of lstrian marble, built in the year 1499.
We took a look into the Cloister of San Stefano, with some old frescoes, which is now occupied by soldiers. The Palace Tranchette, owned by a millionaire Jew, is said to contain fine windows and a staircase which cost him $25,000, a snug little sum for a staircase which he does not make much use of as he is very seldom “at home.”
Well, we had enough for the morning and went home for lunch. After lunch, we hired a gondola by the hour and went to meet Grace and Miss M., who are stopping at the Bauer but missed them. We went to the S. Maria Forinosa where we admired the far famed picture of S. Barbara by Palma Vecchio. It is fine, the shape as well as the diadem, and garments are all regal in their execution. In a little chapel upstairs, we saw a Madonna by Sassoferrato in which the child is especially fine.
From here we went to the S. Giovanni and Paolo. The church contains the monumental Tombs of the Doges, whose funeral service was always performed here. Here I saw some of the best sculptures in execution as well as in their grouping. On the one of the Doge Morenigo, it says on the sarcophagus in Latin, “From the spoils of his enemy.” There are fifteen statues in this. Another mausoleum, the one of General Bragadino, who defended a town in Cyprus and had to capitulate to the Turks, shows a picture (scene) of how he is being flayed alive by the Turks. One of the Chapels contains six immense tablets with reliefs in the bronze of scenes from the life of S. Dominic.
I saw some windows here which were made in 1814 to restore those that had been destroyed, also a fine picture of Christ with St. Andrew and St. Peter, by Roico Marconi of which I am trying to get a copy as it is such a good Christ face. I also procured a fine photo of the Birth of Christ, which is a fine piece of sculpture by Giovanni Bonazza on one of the mausoleums.
We then rowed through the Lagunes [sic] and passed the cemetery to Murano where we saw them make Glass Pitchers in fancy forms. Murano, a small island has been, since the 14th century, the seat of the Venetian Glass Industry, the followers of which were held in high esteem. We also watched them make pottery, and we bought a little vase as a souvenir.
Going home, we passed through innumerable little canals, and I was very much astonished to hear the buzz of a Planing Mill in an old aristocratic residence. It seems almost a pity to see these beautiful old palaces converted into hotels and warehouses. “Sic transit gloria mundi”? Well, I must say goodnight. Tomorrow is Sunday, and I am glad of it. A day of rest will feel good.