Being a bike rider on a Bicycle Adventure Club tour is a bit like doing the “20-minute Louvre” in Paris – you’ve been there, and seen lots of stuff – but, no time for exploration and reflection. (This is not a criticism – merely recognition that many bike people are not interested in a leisurely tour of the museums and cathedrals of every city visited. Indeed, one could spend the summer in the northwest of Italy and still feel that the visit had been far too cursory.)
In an effort to spend some time in Venice, we elected to add 2 extra days: a bit of wandering near our hotel (Atlanta Augustus) on the island of Lido, a visit of the island of Murano (home to the glass artisans of Venice), a walking tour of Venice (history in the context of architecture), and a boat tour of Venice (architecture in the context of history).
8 Centuries of Practice
The artistry of the current generation of glass blowers is still extraordinary. Liquid sculpture that exploits inherent transparency and translucent flows of light. Marvelous inventiveness beyond what any machine can produce. The intersection of true visual creativity and consummate technical skill.
These skills have been protected since the end of the 13th Century when all the glassmakers were sent from Venice itself to the island of Murano. Part of the rationale for the relocation was to avoid a fire within Venice – a potential catastrophe. Part of the rationale was to ensure that no artisans would be able to escape to establish a competing source of glass anywhere else in Europe. Photography of the majestic pieces is, consequently forbidden. And, of course, the price for a piece of beautiful sculpture often contains a comma amid the numerals…
History (a footnote)
The creation of one of the most influential sea powers ever within the Mediterranean area is the subject of books – and, impossible to compress into a coherent blog entry.
But, the intersection of religions, cultures, and technologies has been an impetus to progress since earliest times. The Venetians combined all of their skills with their extensive knowledge of the surrounding countries to develop a prosperous civilization. Even the Crusades, at the end of the 12th Century, were used to augment the power of a growing nation-state.
(When Crusaders arrived to take possession of the fleet of boats that they commissioned for the transport of soldiers and the capture of Jerusalem – and, blithely announced that compensation would be made after the successful conquest of the Islamic rulers of the Middle East – the Venetians explained that there were other payment options.
Consequently, the Crusaders, ostensibly intent on returning Jerusalem to Christian control, became the mercenaries of a pragmatic maritime power. And the epicenter of Christianity, Constantinople, fell to the Venetians. Indeed, much of the magnificent art and decorative sculpture of Venice is the booty of that ad hoc military-religious campaign.)
And, did we mention the Basilica of St. Mark? Interior photos not permitted. But, references abound.
Three days of wandering about Venice is not enough!
Next entry: navigation – not Venetian maps of the world in the 14th century, but how to get from point A to point B by bicycle.