"In Venice Tasso's echoes are no more
and silent rows the songless gondolier;
Her palaces are crumbling to the shore,
And music meets not always now the ear;
Those days are gone - but Beauty still is here.
States fall, arts fade - but Nature doth not die,
Nor yet forget how Venus once was dear,
The pleasant place of all festivity,
The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy."
Lord Byron "Childe Harold" 1817
My travel companion Ingrid came over yesterday and we watched videos of Venice. Both of us are getting real excited about our trip in mid May. I've been reading travel books and deciding the main points of interest I'd like to see. Of course, there are hundreds of things to see. I can't think of another more romantic or exotic place to visit and it will be a dream of a lifetime to be there. But as a travel writer, I like to focus on possible article slants, so I usually do some research about a place before I visit to make sure that I won't miss out on something important.
I've visited a lot of the Venitian sites in Greece and so I've always been interested in the connection between those two countries. I've also been planning to do a story about Lord Byron's Greece and before going there he spent some time in Venice. So I've decided to focus on various places of interest in Venice that may follow those themes.
I'm fascinated by the number of writers who found Venice was their Muse. I'm hoping I will too. George Eliot was a frequent visitor. Her poem "The Spanish Gypsy" was influenced by the works of the artist Tintoretto. Byron arrived in Venice in 1816 and moved into the Hotel Gran Bretagna on the Grand Canal where he lived for nearly five years. Richard Wagner lived in Venice where he composed the second act of Tristan and Isolde. He died in the Palazzo Vendramon-Caleogi in 1883. Georges Sand left her husband in 1831 and embarked on life as a writer spending much of her time writing in Venice. Guy de Maupassant thought Venice would be a place of surpassing grandeur but amazed, found it to be "tiny, tiny, tiny! -- an old charming, poor, ruined place on the point of crumbling into the water" Henry James found it melancholy and memorable. "The deposed, the defeated, the disenchanted, the wounded or even the bored, have seemed to find there something that no other place could give."
So here's a list of some of the places I hope to visit:
The Jewish Ghetto : I'm thinking of The Merchant of Venice. The word 'ghetto' came from the cinders piled where founderies were set up in Canneregio. The Venetian word "to smelt" was gettare, hence the name "geto veccio" (old foundry) for the first site and "geto nuevo" for the second. With the arrival of the Jews in the 14th and 15th centuries, the meaning and prounciation changed as the "ghetto" became the place assigned to them.
Palazzo Vendramon-Calergi - The palace became the property of the Calergi, a family of Cretan origin. Composer Richard Wagner lived and died here in 1883. The palace is now a casino.
Campo dei Mori - Where the fondaco, houses used by Arab merchants are located. Palazzo Mastelli is the estate of three Moorish brothers (spice traders) who came in 1112 to escape civil war in the Peloponnese. The name "Mastelli" came from the thousands of buckets of gold sequins mastelli, the merchants possessed. Nearby is Tintoretto's house where the artist died in 1594.
Corte Seconda Del Milion - Marco Polo lived here until the time of his death in January 1324. (The house was burned down in 1596 but the courtyard remains.) Teatro Malibran is thought to occupy the place where the house stood. This theatre as named after Maria Malibran an opera singer who arrived in Venice from Paris in 1835. She stayed at the Grand Hotel near Palazzo Contarini-Fasan where the legendary Desdemona was said to have lived. With this in mind, Maliban sang Rossini's Othello and later donated her fees to the bankrupt theatre (formerly called the "Fenice")
The Church of San Michele Cemetary where famous writers, musicians and royalty are buried including Igor Stravinsky, Serge Diaghiliv of the Russion Ballet and poet Ezra Pound.
The Greek community at San Giorgio Dei Greci. There were about 4000 Greek residents in Venice in the 15th century. Now there are only about 100. Most were merchants, book publishers, artists, scribes and literary scholars.
The Grand Hotel Danieli (former Palazzo Dandolo,) built in 14th c.) one of the world's most famous hotels. Amont the famous literary guests here were Dickens, Wagner, Balzac, Proust, Debussy, Cocteau, and George Sand who ended her famous love affair with Alfred de Musset here after he found out she was having an affair with his physician.
The Church of La Pieta where Vivaldi taught from 1703. He was the violen master and occasionally choirmaster and resident composer.
The Arsenal with it's two giant lions brought from Greece in 1687. Here is where Venice's naval ships were built and maintained. The Naval Museum is nearby.
Palazzo Benzon Where lord Byron was a habitue of the Contessa Marina Querini Benzon's literary salons, along with other famous writers of the time.
Palazzo Mocenigo (18th century) where Byron lived 1818-19 while writing Don Juan
San Lazzaro Degli Armeni Monastary where there is a room in the museum devoted to Lord Byron who regularly visited the convent (to study the Armenian language.)
It may sound like a lot to see in the few days we'll be there, but Venice is small, and I am told you can walk across it in an hour (if you don't get lost. But then, getting lost in Venice will be a lot of fun!)