Wandered through one of the most beautiful cities in the World; so amazing it seems like a living dream, except you can actually breath the sea.
Where would you go if several tribes of barbarians were trying to loot and destroy your hometown? In 400 A.D. people from the area of Mestre solved the issue by swarming the hundreds of small islands which are now generally referred as Venezia. Their culture sparkled thanks to the great position of the settlement, and the small town became a glorious city gathering goods and influences from all over the mediterrean, ranging from the eastern pearls of bizantine churches to the sweetest wines of the eastern alps.
Our vacation expedition began when the sun was still sleeping well behind the curtains of dawn, at 5.30 am the car was already crunching asphalt on the highway.
From 7.30 , when Venezia was lazily waking up after a friday night, the city opened its arms embracing and digesting us through its countless bridges and alleys.
I was expecting a touristic place, a sort of Disneyland of the italian culture, but the real face of the city is that of a real living place. People are living in Venezia and even if this may seem obvious to the 99% of people, I dare you to really think about this. When we wandered throught the dawny streets we met some garbage boats collecting trash from the windows facing the canals, grannies buying two tomatoes and one carrot for their soup, workers discussing the outcome of a recent footbal match and many other “regular activities” just fitted in the context of a town founded on a bunch of swamped islands.
As I was still metabolizing this consideration I got grabbed by the arm and dragged to the one of the symbols of the city: the Cathedral of San Marco. It is well known there are only two chances to get inside, one is to wait for hours in line, the other is to be the first in line. Opening times are 9:30-17:00, and we were the second couple in line at 9:00.
This picture was taken in the afternoon, when even pidgeons doves started to come and look at the sunset-lighted facade.
From the facade to the interiors the bizantine influence is narrating the Bible with tons of mosaics telling stories from the Genesis to the Passion. Being with the first people getting inside we had a clue of what the cathedral looks like without crowds and groups.
The floor is a seamless tide of embedded stones, and when you read tide really think of it as a tide; due to the swampy nature of the terrain all the buildings in the city are crooked and flexed toward more stable configurations (this is why it will always looks like the pictures are slightly rotated).
The feeling is that of a living story, where even the smallest corners have something to tell and some history to teach from their edges rounded by the touching of millions.
A sort of game we played inside was that of reading the walls like it was done during the medieval age, when people learned the Bible from the mosaics; the details are all written on these small painted and goldened stones, the way a hand is folded, or the looks of the portraited saints are all the fine elements of the story disclosed by the ceilings.
We got out as people started to swarm the cathedral, and began wandering.
Venezia can really devour you, processing your steps one by another as the bridges becomes less and less populated, with the seabreeze fading while reaching the many hearts of the city.
There wasn’t any specific plan apart from staying away from the crowd and becoming one with the city, so we moved down the coast to the lower limit of the main island (which is just an ensemble of smaller islands), reaching the outskirts of the city.
The feeling of being in a real city comes also from the smallest details, like a vase of flowers by the window. (Thanks to the sweetest model for the picture)
Starting from about 10 am the city got populated by tourists, mostly from China and Japan. The tour of Venice by gondola is one of the most poetic and touristic attraction, for a 30 minutes tour the very cheap cost is of 80€ (standard pricing for a daily tour of half an hour, after 5 p.m. the lil’ price goes to the even more cheap 100€); but what gave me the funniest feelings is that the majority of those who decided to take this investment were just greeting all the other strangers taking pictures of them. It was a self sustained tourism. And gondoliers really enjoied the atmosphere.
On contrast, another (way more exciting but surely not cheaper) way to see Venezia from the canals is to take a kayak tour.
Murano is famous in the World for the fancy glassware, and moreover is like a small Venezia with way less people, so it came up like a natural prosecution of our tour.
The following picture comes from a church we discovered by chatting and walking with a local granny, who drove us with her talking into the depths of the city, we were chatting about life, love and steps (Venezia is full of steps) and at some point we reached a church where she invited us to go take a look. This wooden statue wal lighted by the only sunray breaching through the narrow alleys,and my attention fell on the feets. I love the feeling of humanity coming from these details.
We concluded this amazing wandering with a take-away pizza, eating on a small pier of some working gondolier. With such an amazing view of the Rialto bridge it has become mandatory for me to get back to this swampy, bent and beautiful city.
Coming home from this amazing experience I wanted to tell a story using my pictures, although some pictures are already telling a story by their own, my goal was to experiment with something like Duane Michals did with his sequences. The first idea that came into my mind was to use different vertical views of the canals to tell the different faces of the same city.
The result is not really what I was going after, but to be honest it has been kinda difficult to work on a project like this one when the pictures were already taken without having the common objective in mind. Indeed, the perspective is not the same one in all the pictures and you can easily see it by looking at how differently the vertical walls are bent at the edges of the frame, also the proportion between water and walls is not always the same (but this is also due to the different spacing of the canal, and capturing them with a fixed proportion having a fixed lenght lens was pretty impossible). Also the lighting conditions are different from one picture to the other, and the progression between darker and less-populated canals to more enlighted and populated ones is not very well represented. But I am very happy with the results, and I think this could be a happy new experimental phase in this passion.
Oh man, how I would like to have much more time to spend into photography. As this entry is coming to life I have just ended a workshop by the cinque terre, and can’t wait to enjoy the second part of the passion, enjoying the pictures.
Shooting and not looking at the pictures gives you a lot of after-presents for the time when you’ll open your pictures, and it feels like living again the moment.