Friday, February 22, 2013

Enjoying the Venice Carnevale (3)

 Our first day in Venice was a stark contrast to the night before.
The sun was shining, the sky was a glorious blue and it had stopped raining.
So we headed out at about 10am for our tour at the Palazzo Ducale at 11:45am.
You can also visit the place by yourself but we joined the Secret Itinerary tour that takes you into areas not open to those with the normal entrance ticket.
This is the wider lane that leads to the main shopping area in our district. You will observe that the lane is still wet from the rain.
As this is a residential area, there was not much going on at 10am on a Sunday morning.

 A group of friends dressed for the Carnevale. Most masked participants are really sporting and willing to pose with you. I have never come across this some parts, people expect some money.

 We got on the No1 vaporetta that was headed to San Marco, the centre of attraction for Venice, with or without the Carnevale. Both the No1 and 2 ply the Grand Canal and No1 is considered the slow boat; stopping at all the boat stations. No2 is the "express bus" so you must check where you are going before boarding.
If in doubt, ask the crew.
Important note: You must validate your ticket at the machine in the boat station before you board the vaporetta. With the 7-day ticket you only need to validate once as that marks the date and time of the first use.

On the route, we saw many interesting buildings with different styles as Venice has Greek, Islamic and Roman history dating more than 1500 years. 
 The photo (left) shows gondolas in their parking lots. The right photo shows part of the Rialto bridge, this area is good for cheap buys.
You can negotiate for a slight discount if you buy a lot from the smaller shops.

Gondolas and water taxis make up the smaller craft that ply the canals. There is another type called "traghetto" that have a strange practice - passengers are supposed to stand while being rowed a short distance; usually at a canal crossing. The fee is between $1 to $2 compared to the vaporetta fare of $6 for a ride (valid for 60minutes).($ to represent Euro)

This is the Grand Staircase of the Palazzo Ducale, the official residence and office of the political head of the Venetian state - at its height of empire, Venice was a powerful seafaring nation.
Visiting delegates would climb this impressive staircase to be welcomed by the Ducale, who would be waiting at the top of the stairs. 
The group of about 12 who went for the Secret Itinerary tour conducted in English that lasted for about 80 minutes. During the planning and on tour, we found Rick Steve's book on Venice a very helpful guide. There were 3 Romanian couples in this party and they all spoke excellent English. 
In fact on the flight into Treviso, I was seated next to a young Romanian couple who were going skiing. They had lived in the UK for a few years and Romania will soon join the EU.

Being the official palace of the head of state of a powerful city nation, the Palazzo Ducale(PD) had really beautiful finishing for the interior areas that were open to the public. This was the main stairwell inside the PD.
The photo at right shows how the state managed to control its interests.
This is a "letter-box" for informers to report crimes anonymously so that the "secret police" could investigate.

Sometimes, torture was used and judgements given after the trial was conducted.
We were taken to a room where the prisoner was strung up with hands tied behind the back for a few minutes.
This basic torture is called "strappado".
We were not allowed to take photos during the Secret Itinerary tour. 

This photo was taken in the Palazzo Ducale Museums. Can you guess what that is?

After the tour, we headed outside to where the action was. It was a riot of colour Venetian style. These gallant gents posed with my wife. They would have made good bodyguards!

There were a few stalls in the square selling costumes and masks for those who had the urge to join the masquerade.

The costumes were varied; from the wealthy merchants to hermits, from bubble bees to masked courtesans; we even saw a Star Wars trooper!

Carnevale has a nice family feel about it and even the children were not left out.

Away from the main centre of activity, we crossed a few bridges in search of a quick lunch.

Here a private water taxi sails away from the Bridge of Sighs in the background.
That is the white bridge linked to the Palazzo Ducale that leads to the jail.

We also saw these 2 ladies posing near a lamp post. If you think about it, Carnevale would be a fantastic opportunity for cross-dressers. With a mask and a dress, nobody would recognise you!

This last shot of San Marco basillica was taken at about 7:15pm when the sun was setting. Those mosaic tiles had some gold infused in them and hence the brilliant colour.
We were out and about from 10am to almost 10pm when we returned to our hotel. With all the walking and bridge crossing, I reckon we would have walked at least 6km on the first day.

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