Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Venice, the Basilica & Museo Marciano, 18.10.05

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 10, 2006


A splendid day! We began with a successful quest to buy a post office box to send home some more bits and pieces, and then it was back to San Marco to see the Basilica and Museo Marciano. Even with our passes the queue was woeful, but once inside we jettisoned the tour groups and headed up some perilous stairs to the museum, from which you can look down into the church and admire all the vaults covered with gold mosaics. They are mainly from the 13th century and are breath-takingly beautiful. They’re mostly Old Testament scenes from Genesis and the story of the Creation, along with scenes featuring Moses and Joseph. From up in the museum you can see them up close and glittery and the details are amazing. The women have little sandals and beautiful smiles; their hairstyles are lovely. The little stones of the mosaics are all different sizes to fit the designs, though none are much bigger than the end of a pencil, if that. There’s a beautiful mosaic of Mary’s family tree, but alas, I couldn’t get a postcard of it.
Nor could I buy a postcard of Pilate washing his hands in the ten tapestries depicting the Stations of the Cross. Why 10 and not 14? Did I miss some? I don’t know. I was also most impressed by the restored stone Madonna that was smashed into 1400 pieces (did they count them all?) when the bell tower fell down in 1902. We loved the beautiful ‘chorus books’; in those days they had staves but not bar lines. There was also a three-stringed violincello made in 1545, given back to the Basilica when the musician died – apparently that was the custom. Other treasures included glorious gold ornate missals and other manuscripts; all just wonderful to see.
From the museum you can go out onto the balcony and take the obligatory photo with the four horses, but the real ones, inside, are gorgeous when you can see them close up. You can see their cheeky faces and their sturdy powerful bodies and each one is different; they weren’t all cast from the same mould.
 In the afternoon we made an abortive effort to visit Galleria Ca’Razzonico, not having noticed that it was closed on Tuesdays but it didn’t matter because we had a lovely time browsing around. We spent an earnest twenty minutes choosing a pair of leather gloves for me (that don’t go with anything I own), tried unsuccessfully to buy some bananas from the fruiterer, and smirked at the Venetian version of a garage. Unsurprisingly, we couldn’t find anything that would suit as a souvenir for Carl…We photographed ‘our’ Piazza, San Maurizio, and took some restorative time out with our feet up before heading out again for our last night in Venice.
 For dinner, we returned to Cafe Osteria Enoteca, and had a most enjoyable meal. For entree I had prawns and Tim had Pilgrim scallops & funghi, washed down with ‘Cocktail Venetian with sparkling wine and Aperol’ (of which we have become quite fond). We then had a 2003 Barbera Clerico Freigne with red mullet & funghi for me, and a duck breast with orange for Tim. The service in this restaurant is excellent, the food is modern Italian, and the atmosphere calm and sophisticated. No bellowing tourists or waiters at all!
Next – off to Monterchi in Tuscany!

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