Day 22 - Venice

Grand Canal at morning rush hour

Today we got up early to head down to St Mark's Square to see the St Mark's Basilica.

It's a very interesting place. In the 9th Century, the Venetians discovered that they were missing out on Christians making pilgrimage from Western Europe to the Holy Land. So around 828, the 'powers that be' of Venice organised a raid by two Venetian merchants with the help of two Greek monks to steal relics believed to be the body of St. Mark from Alexandria, in Egypt. Once captured, and returned to Venice, the first church of St Mark was built next to the Doge's Palace. Now, Christian pilgrims (and more importantly, their gold) flocked to Venice to pay respect to the relics of St Mark.

It's a bit of a recurring theme, as the Basilica grew, with items from foreign conquests being 'incorporated' into the body of the church. Even stone columns from foreign palaces and temples make up the facade of St Mark's. As I said, it's a strange place. I wasn't allowed to take photos inside, which is a shame, because it is absolutely covered in gold mosaics, so you will have to settle for some outside shots of the various stolen booty that is now part of the church. 

We also took a trip to the top of the St Mark's Campanile. This isn't the original; it's a replica. The original bell tower just collapsed one day in July of 1902. Thankfully, no-one was killed in the collapse, except for the the tower caretaker's cat. Rest in Peace, kitty. 

After St Mark's, we had some lunch and went for a gondola ride. It's a shocking rip off; AU$115 for about 20 minutes, but hey, when in Venice! The kids absolutely adored it and thought it was amazing. So much so, that we continued to walk around the Grand Canal and even took another Gondola ride. This time we took a traghetti, which is essentially a short ferry ride across the canal...in a gondola...at the much more reasonable price of AU$11.

After trawling the shores of the Grand Canal, we wandered back to our apartment to pack our stuff and get ready to take the train to Milan the following day. Not sure what we were thinking, only staying in Venice for a day and a half, but to be honest, it was hard work dodging rude tourists, avoiding street hawkers and people wanting us to 'sign a petition' and kinda getting screwed on the price of everything. It's an amazing place, but it's also a captured audience and there is someone eagerly waiting to take your Euro at every turn.