May 21. A GLIMPSE OF VENICE'S NAVAL HISTORY
We visited the naval museum at the Arsenale where there are models of all thetypes of ships, gondolas and fishing craft used in Venice over the centuries. As I've always een interested in naval history, and since I've been covering Venetian ports in Greece where the Venetian navy once ruled the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, I found the museum fascainating.
The displays included elaborate centuries old models of Venetian ships and gode's ceremonial barges all ornatedly gilded. The Venetian ship builders were renown for their fabulous deisigns.
There were a number of gondolas, the oldest types to newer ones. Some very ornate. One of the dongolas on display was once owned by Peggy Gugenheim who has a gallery in Venice.
The Arsenal is the old shipyards where the republic's navy was docked. The entrance is flanked by marble lions stolen from Greece. The shipyards once employed some 16,000 shipbuiders who could assemble an entire ship in only a few hours.
Afterwards, we caught a vaporetto back to San Marco for a visit to the fabled Harry's Bar, noted for it's peach/sparkling wine Bellini cocktail touted as 'the best Bellini in the world' At 20 euros it isn't We had a much tastiers one down on the Riva later for 6.50!) All sorts of celes and writer such as Ernest Hemingway used to drink at Harry's Bar. According to reports though, Papa siad it was 'a sissy bar' fit only for the likes of Scott Fitzgerald. We found it pretentious -- a small, non-descript ar highly overpriced. But we had to have a Bellini there, just because...
It seemed fitting to finish our last day in Venice, after touring the naval musem. on a gondalo trip. It's hard to describe the serene feeling you get as you cruise soundlessly along the canals. At each corner the gondoliers shout "ohye!" (no horns to honk). The sleek black gondola slides through the water gracefully without a sound. Imagine Venezia as it used tobe! It's an experience worth every cent of the 100 Euro (an hours trip) We cruised by an old doge's residential palace, the site of Marco Polo's house, the home of the fabled Casanova, and later slid under the Bridge of Sighs, past the grated windows of the prison where Casanova once languished.
We topped off the evening at a reasonably priced cafe on the Riva, sipped 'the best' Bellini, a bottle fo red wine, ravioli, lemon gelato dessert and amaretto for 65 Euro. A pefect ending to a perfect Venezian holiday.
NEXT: Off to Greece!