Our last day in Venice began with a walk in the early morning sun so that we could see Piazza San Marco free from the madding crowd. It was a little busier than when we did the same thing four years ago, but was nevertheless worthwhile because it was bearable.
We made the return trip to Ca Angeli for another good breakfast, and then it was off to see places as yet undiscovered – this time, the Dorsoduro, the main attraction being the stunnng church, Santa Maria della Salute. As we hustled our way along the “yellow road” on our map, the crowds thinned quite quickly and we knew we had made a good decision. We had discussed among ourselves our feelings about returning to this great city – like being on a movie set for some of us, but for me personally it was the fulfilment of a second pilgrimage, and I enjoyed every minute of it -except for the crowds, which this time seemed to take the gloss off being in the city centre – maybe because I am four years older! However the Dorsoduro excursion was such a good decision – quieter and really colourful and we saw the daily routines of Venetians along the way- we loved seeing the barge loaded with fresh fruit and veges, which were being sold to people directly from the boat; and watching how goods are transported by a single man, trolleys loaded to the max, lifting then pushing in an unerring rhythm, up copious sets of stairs in the calle.
We passed the Guggenheim as we headed for the church – and it wasn’t what I was expecting. It is situated on a quiet canal, behind a high, well manicured hedge, with pretty shady trees. The feature entrance gate was intriguing, having large stones, set randomly between the grill. It is a very understated and pretty space from the exterior, but we did not go inside.
Continuing on, we found our way along some very pretty canals, reminiscent of those on Burano, and finally Santa Maria della Salute loomed majestically in front of us. It is open to the public free of charge, and there was a beggar standing in front of the amazing heavy doors at the entrance. The interior was as stunning as I had expected it to be, yet somehow understated compared to other large churches I have seen in Italy. Huge pillars support the dome – their gigantic size strikes you as you walk around the octagonal floor space. In the central space (lacking pews) an enormous incense burner was suspended from on high though I am not sure if the is a permanent feature. In pride of place, the high altar is majestic. The church was built in celebration of the subsidence of the Great Plague which took the lives of so many Venetian citizens – it is a fitting tribute. The exterior facade bares stunning sculptured images – impressive to say the least. I was mesmerised and would love to have been able to sit down and quietly absorb the ambience – but there was a bit more to cram in …
Back in our neighbourhood we went off in search of a quiet place to eat and it is amazing how quickly you can find a bit of a haven away from the oppressive crowds. Today it was in Piazza San Polo, where we found a smaller ristorante, under huge green shade umbrellas. It was so laid back, we decided we would seek out dinner in this area too. We duly went in search of a place later in the afternoon. We stumbled upon a quiet bacari beside a canal and had a late afternoon aperitivo and cicchetti – shrimp and octopus and breads- delish! As we sat there, we noticed the pretty osteria on the other side of the canal, and we returned there later for a very simple home-style meal. It was a delightful way to end a very busy three days in the vibrant and somewhat crazy and challenging milieu that is Venice in late summer …next stop? Saint-Tropez.