Greetings from the gorgeous and decaying city of Venice. The WXXI Travel Club is on the last leg of its tour of northern Italy. We floated in a few days ago and visited several major sites, including the Doge’s Palace, the epicenter of European power and money for four centuries.
We crossed the Bridge of Sighs, so named by Lord Byron since political prisoners were said to sigh as they crossed over it into a horrific prison. We visited Murano Island by boat this morning and marveled at colored glass. We rode in tandem on gleaming black gondolas, serenaded by an exuberant tenor and accordion duo. More than once my fellow travelers have been moved to tears by the beauty of this place. My nose is pink from too much sun, and the weather’s been perfect.
”Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go,” wrote Truman Capote. Exactly. It will take me a long time to absorb my impressions.
I’ve been repeatedly struck by a sense of history, especially upon seeing the glittering, 900-year-old bling that is the Golden Altarpiece at St. Mark’s Basilica. I’ve felt humbled and thrilled hearing the riotous bells of Campanile, a tower rising about the rooftops near our hotel. We think we have some advantage over the past because we are alive now. But maybe this is not so. The guy who started the Saint Petronio in nearby Bologna was commissioned in 1360. He took thirty years to draw up plans. The architect laid the foundation stone in 1390 and the building was finished three hundred years later. This is a kind of vision, commitment, and assurance I hardly fathom.
There’s a spirit of optimism, too, I find inspiring. In Florence, architects planned for a great dome they couldn’t yet engineer. Like John F. Kennedy announcing a trip to the moon, they trusted that someone like Filippo Brunelleschi would eventually come along and figure it all out. The dome's designer met an engineering challenge and created a masterpiece.
Last night, we sat in St. Mark’s Square and listened to a salon orchestra play a tango. Colored lights whooshed into the air, water lapped the docks. We are magical beings, I thought, both at home and abroad.