We woke to the sound of sweeping, and when we went out, we stepped into a sparkling city of alleyways, piazzas, and canals.
The first thing on our agenda was to grab a quick breakfast (fruit, water, and bread) at the shop around the corner from our hotel, and then proceed to the Palazzo Ducale (the Doge’s Palace), by way of the vaporetto down the Grand Canal.
The Palazzo Ducale was the historical residence of the Doge, and the government seat of the Republic until Napoleon took charge of Venice in 1787. Today the Palazzo is a museum and a very popular tourist destination. Our plan was to arrive early, before it opened, to avoid the lines.
Photography isn’t allowed inside the Palazzo, so I only have pictures of the exterior and the courtyard, and while they’re stunning enough, I wish I could show you the treasures inside: the grand staircase, the gilded detailing, the terrazzo floors, the tapestries, the walls and ceilings covered, edge to edge, with paintings and frescos by Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese.
But most of all, I wish I could show you the Sala del Maggior Consiglio (the Hall of the Great Council). This is the room where the council met, in all its numbers, to decide the law of Venice. At the time the hall was built, it was the largest room in Europe (today it’s still among the largest in Western Europe).
Its size and opulence are stunning. Breathtaking. You can get some idea of it yourself by watching this panoramic video. First, let the video tour you 360º around the perimeter of the room, then click the ^ button at the bottom of the video window to tilt the view up to the ceiling.
Every inch is covered by massive, gilt frames, inset with paintings depicting the victories of the Venetian army against those of the mainland. How that heavy ceiling remains aloft, unsupported, is completely mystifying.
In a city of wonders, built on the sea, I suppose defying gravity is just no big deal.