Dear Readers, I love exploring the lesser known parts of Venice – they’re quieter than the main St Marks/Rialto route march, and they tend to be places where Venetians still live and work. Today, we had a wander around Dursoduro, which is home to the Gallerie d’Accademia, probably Venice’s most famous art gallery, though the weather was so glorious that we stayed outdoors for most of the time. This part of Venice was the first to be colonised (once the Venetians had moved on from the island of Torcello, which is truly the birthplace of Venice), and the name ‘Dursoduro’ means ‘hard back’ – the land was much less marshy than in other places.
I love just walking alongside the water here, gazing over at Giudecca and admiring the oleander. The super yacht in the first photo is the Lady Marina, owned by Sergio Mantegazza, owner of Globe Travel. He is worth $3 billion, and the yacht cost a mere $50 million. How the other 0.5% live, eh.
The ever-present herring gulls (of which more later) are using one of the super yacht moorings as a place to rest (and would probably nest there given half a chance).
We are on a mission, though, to find the Campo St Margherita. I’m not quite sure why we love this square so much, but one reason is definitely the people-watching. We settle down at a table outside our favourite sandwich bar, and the elderly man a few tables over starts singing in Italian with his friends. The song mentions ‘Venezia’ and ‘St Marco’ and so we assume it’s a local ditty. When he finishes we all clap, which encourages him to greater and greater efforts. More people sit down, most of them with very small fluffy dogs – pomeranians seem like particular favourites. We are close to the university, so students sit earnestly at another table, discussing ideas. Remember when we used to be earnest and discuss ideas? More of this, please. Several people are pushing wheelchairs, containing husbands or wives or friends – Venice is a difficult city for people with limited mobility and I can’t begin to imagine how they manage, although the chance to sit in the sun with an Aperol spritz and discuss the state of things with passing friends and neighbours must make up for a lot.
In front of us, on the left, is the fish stall, which has been here every time we’ve visited. Eager seagulls wait on the roofs of the adjoining buildings. The fishmongers stand behind the stall, gutting and chopping up fish, including a large swordfish, and the gulls wait their chance to steal some guts or a fish head, while their youngsters urge them on with those high-pitched musical cries that seem so out of place coming from such a large bird.
I am not sure what the small shaggy shrub in the photo below is, but every dog that passed decided it was an ideal place to lift a leg.
The building below is very handsome, but has been falling gently into disrepair over the past twenty years. When you see the prices of property you can see why Venice is in crisis – who can afford 380k euro for a one-bedroomed flat?
Across the Campo, there’s the deconsecrated church of St Margherita. The bell tower lost its top in 1808 when the structure was declared unstable, and the whole building is now an auditorium for the local university. I have a suspicion that while most of Venice is actually a very sleepy place (you could hear a pin drop around Cannaregio after 11 p.m.), this square is probably lively until the wee small hours.
Now, I assumed that the statue in the recess above the door would be St Margaret (the church is named for St Margaret of Cortona, whose lover was murdered and who subsequently became a nun, like you do) but as this is clearly a chap, and he’s standing on a crocodile, I suspect that he’s St Theodore, who is also represented on one of the plinths outside St Mark’s Square. The crocodile is meant to be a dragon, who was slain by the saint. St Theodore was patron saint of Venice until he was displaced by St Mark and his winged lion. No wonder he looks fed up.
But as we head back towards home, as usual it’s the quirky things that catch my eye. For instance, is this sign, seen in a shop selling Venetians prints from the 1930s, an instruction or a warning? Incidentally if you still fancy a cappuccino and it’s past twelve and you don’t want to look like a tourist (hah! As if we can avoid looking like tourists) you can order a latte macchiato instead.
And lots of the shops are closed because there’s going to be a power cut (especially pertinent as my husband is, he won’t mind me telling you, an energy-nerd, and it’s his sixtieth birthday today)
And how about this, in a used bookshop? I have certainly met plants who are more useful than some people, what with them sequestering carbon and producing oxygen and all, but this does seem a little harsh.
And then we get to a place where the canal does a sharp left turn, and I couldn’t resist recording a little piece of the goings on for you. I love the tourist gondola, the water taxi and the boat carrying a collection of chairs all trying to negotiate the corner.
And finally, we get to the bridge which crosses the Grand Canal close to the main train station, and I can’t resist taking a photo in each direction. We usually manage to avoid the number one vaporetto which plies its slow and crowded way up and down the Grand Canal, but only because we’ve already done it once. What an extraordinary water way this is! It makes me a little sad to consider how underused the Thames is now, although in its heyday it would have been extremely busy.