DSC_0284We are weeks behind on the blog, but it is spring in Perugia. The streets are waking up: restaurants and bars have brought back their outdoor seating, and the Corso is full of families enjoying an afternoon gelato. Can you blame us for not sitting inside at our computers? We’ll try our best to catch you up on what we’ve been doing.

Our first taste of warmer weather came three weeks ago in Venice. We had four days of sunshine and warm breezes as we traversed the canals. We managed to see some of the main attractions, such as St. Mark’s square and the Peggy Guggenheim, but mostly we spent our time outside either on the water or walking through the back canals.

Here are a few pictures from the trip.

 

We spent the first afternoon riding/walking around.

The Grand Canal:

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Canneregio district:

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Back ‘streets’ at sunset:

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Simon got to celebrate his actual birthday with fresh seafood and tiramisu:

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We began the second day by taking the elevator up to the top of the campanile in St. Mark’s Square (no steps for Micah to count).

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Our kids seem to like heights. Here they are on the balcony of St. Mark’s Basilica:

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Everyone is waiting for the hour to change on the clock tower:

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Venetians had clocks everywhere. This is the clock tower in St. Mark’s…

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..and here is another clock on the Porta Magna, the entrance to the Venetian Arsenal (where they built their fleet):

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After the Square,

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View from the balcony of the basilica towards the Grand Canal.

the Basilica,

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The interior of St. Mark’s Basilica is covered with ca. 8000 m2 of mosaics, most of which use gold glass tesserae for the background. Unfortunately, most of the Medieval mosaics have been replaced.

and the Doge’s Palace,

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The Lion of St. Mark over one entrance to the Doge’s Palace. The Venetians brought the remains of St. Mark from Alexandria and interred them in the Basilica. The Lion symbolizes the power of the State in Venice. He holds an open book with the words “Pax tibi Marce, evangelista meus” “Peace be with you Mark, my evangelist.” The lion is everywhere in Venice. Micah counted 21 just in the square around the Doge’s palace.

we hopped on a traghetto (hoping Micah would consider this a substitute for a gondola ride) and crossed the Grand Canal to the Dorsodura district.

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Micah declared the ride ‘too short’ (he had already figured out the ratio of cost/time to ‘quality’ of the various forms of water transport in Venice). We tried to make up for it by getting gelato at Gelati Nico, recommended to us by Jakob’s history teacher.

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After fortifying ourselves we spent the rest of the afternoon at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. Micah enjoyed hanging out in the garden (where Peggy Guggenheim is buried along with her 14 dogs). Jakob wanted to see all the galleries; and Simon tagged along (as he does in museums). His reward came a little while later as we sought out a mask making shop (also recommended by Jakob’s teacher). By the end of the trip, all the boys had found masks to suit their personalities:

 

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Simon’s mask is a Medico della Peste (The Plague Doctor) decorated with a musical theme; Jakob chose an undecorated mask that he plans to elaborate with his own design; and Micah’s mask is, well, orange.

But wait, the day was not over. Simon does not ask for much (compared to his brothers), but this was his birthday trip and he was keen to see a concert. So, we got tickets for I Musici Veneziani, a small orchestra that performs Vivaldi 18th century costumes. After dinner, Pedar took Simon and Jakob to the concert; Micah and I went to bed.

We took it easy the next day. The morning began with a long vaparetto ride out to Murano and back around the eastern end of Venice to the Biennale area. We were headed for the Naval Museum, but we took our time playing in the park,

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eating lunch, and enjoying gelato on the Riva dei Sette Martiri

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that the museum closed by the time we got there. Something to save for next time.

Micah finally got his gondola ride:

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Micah is happy. Is the gondoliere checking his messages?!

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We spent the rest of the day wandering through the back canals towards Canneregio for dinner and sleep.

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Simon ordered baby octopus for his appetizer. We also had a whole roast fish, but somehow forgot to take a picture of it.

Friday morning we had a few hours before our train. Canneregio is home to the Jewish Ghetto of Venice.

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The center of the Jewish Ghetto. The ghetto is its own ‘island’ within the district of Canneregio. The Ghetto was established in 1516. At its height nearly 5,000 people lived there, with only 2 square meters of space per person. The buildings of the Ghetto are several stories higher than other districts of Venice. The gates were locked at night until 1797 when Napoleon’s soldiers tore them down.

Today there are only a few Jews who actually live there (they are spread out through the rest of the city) but the neighborhood preserves five synagogues and a museum of Jewish life in Venice. We took a tour that included three of the five synagogues: the German, the French, and the Spanish (the Italian and Levantine synagogues were not accessible to tourists because they were in use). Although all the Jews lived together in the Ghetto, there were different restrictions for the Ashkhenazi (from Eastern Europe) because they had been brought to Venice by the Doge to serve as money lenders and changers for the Venetians. Despite their wealth, they were not allowed to display it conspicuously. The German, French, and Italian synagogues are less ornate than the Levantine or Spanish spaces, and they employ marmarino (crushed lime and marble) as a substitute for real marble.

The German synagogue from the outside:

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The synagogue is on the upper floor, identifiable by the five windows, which may symbolize the Five Books of Moses (the Torah).

The French synagogue, also called Canton, perhaps because it is in the corner of the Ghetto, perhaps after the name of the family that founded it, is the only synagogue to have painted scenes on the walls. There are eight ‘episodes’ from the Torah. In accordance with Jewish tradition, the scenes are a-figural (except for Moses’ hand, which is visible as he strikes the rock on Mt. Horeb) identifiable only by details in the landscape.

The Spanish synagogue was the most elaborate of the five. It was established in 1584 but is preserved today in its baroque 17th century version when it was redesigned by the Venetian architect Baldassare Longhena, who was also responsible for many churches in Venice. The interior of the Spanish synagogue includes features more commonly found Christian architecture, such as the Corinthian columnar façade of the ark (aron). Since the Spanish Jews had no restrictions on their spending, this synagogue is replete with marble fixtures.

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It was finally time to catch the train back to Perugia.

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Micah got to ride on the “silver arrow”.