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Eight Nights and Dazed in Italy, Part I

July 1-3, 2004

Buon giorno, Italy!

Venice 2 | Florence | Rome | Orvieto | Cinque Terre

Venice 1

Venezia, in northeast Italy, our favorite city in the country. Unique and beautiful, a city of 118 islands.

St. Mark's Square and Basilica

Piazza San Marco, the city's grand main square, complete with pigeons in the daytime and dueling orchestras in the evening, even when it's raining. Nearly two football fields long, with 16th century Renaissance architecture on one side and 17th century Baroque architecture on the other. Loved by Napoleon, who enclosed it with the neoclassical end in the distance. Now with shops of Venetian glass and jewelry.

St. Mark's Basilica: Completed in 1094 (that would be the 11th century) and adorned through the centuries. Decorated with 43,000 square feet of colorful and gold Byzantine mosaics. Now inside, with no pictures allowed, are larger-than-life bronze horses from fourth century, B.C., and other ancient treasures, as old as A.D. 500.

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Photo of group members at San Marcos Basilica.

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Campanile di San Marco

The rebuilt 300-foot bell tower in St. Mark's Square, tallest building in the city. The bells are deafening, at least when you're standing beneath them at ring-time, waiting for the down elevator.

The counterclockwise views: St. Mark's Square; an unidentified church steeple; the crown-shaped dome of La Salute Church (Santa Maria delle Salute); the 16th century Customs House (Dogana da Mar); the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in the Venice Lagoon; the Venice Lagoon waterfront toward Santa Elena; the domes of St. Mark's Basilica; laundry drying outside a Venetian rooftop home but no sign of canals anywhere; and a happy couple going Venetian blind with the brilliance of it all.

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Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale)

The powerful seat of the Venetian government for 400 years, beginning about 1340. Inside the palace: living quarters for the doge, Venice's ruling duke; giant meeting halls for Venetian nobility; huge oil paintings to aid their egos; and their armory to force respect and power. Some things don't change, unfortunately.

Moses stands at right on the Grand Staircase in the inner courtyard. The guy on the left looks like Paul Newman, according to Rick Steves. Across the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) to the prison, powerful bars cover windows of the many hard, dark cells.

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To Venice 2: Santa Elena, Grand Canal, canals, gondolas ...

Venice 1 | Venice 2 | Florence | Rome | Orvieto | Cinque Terre

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Copyright Gary and Donna Larson, Seattle, Washington. Updated Feb. 17, 2007.