Dear Readers, it’s fair to say that we’ve probably had the best of the weather for this week – today there’s a bit of mizzle, but we’re promised downpours tomorrow, and thunderstorms on Friday. In addition, there’s a transport strike on Friday which means some vaporetto lines will run and others will not, in a Byzantine combination of times and conditions that even I am having trouble intrepreting. Never mind! We shall make the best of it as always, and Venice is such a walkable city that a little bit of vaporetto/weather-based inconvenience will be as nothing.
Today, we crossed the lagoon on the number 2 vaporetto to have a wander around in Guidecca, a long, thin strip of land which is actually about a dozen tiny islands, each joined by bridges. First up was a coffee in the Hilton Hotel, which is based in the old Stucky flour mill which has dominated this part of the coast since it was built between 1884 and 1895. Stucky was a Swiss businessman who made his fortune in flour and pasta – the mill was steam powered and pumped out ridiculous quantities of both commodities. Stucky was rich enough to buy the Palazzo Grassi as his home in Venice, and was the richest man in the city. Alas, in 1910 he was murdered at Santa Lucia station in Venice by a former mill worker with mental health problems. Today the building is a very fancy hotel, with a shop that sells Rolexes and its own water taxi landing stage. It’s glitzy but strangely un-Venetian – you could be at any five-star hotel anywhere in the world, in spite of the extraordinary location. What happened to vernacular, and to quirky?
By now the water is slopping over the dock, and I see that high tide will bring the water up to a maximum of a metre, which means some places will be underwater. But here on Giudecca we seem to be mostly ok, provided you walk away from the edge.
It seems that the weather is very tough on the street trees here though, what with all the inundation in salty water and the wind. The tamarisk below is definitely the worse for wear.
And then it’s off to the Il Redentore church, which was built to a design by Palladio and was consecrated in 1592. The church was built to give thanks for deliverance from the plague that raged through Venice in 1575/6, killing 46,000 people (about 20 % of the population). Whenever I think about how crowded some streets are it puts me in mind of what it must have been like to live here during this time.
The church was taken into the care of Capuchin monks after its consecration, and one of their conditions was that they could receive no profit from looking after the building. This meant that rich people could not pay to have elaborate tombs built here, and the monks could not spend their time praying for their souls. What this has meant in practice is that the church has been preserved pretty much as Palladio intended, without the Baroque flourishes that decorate so many other Venetian churches. There is a single nave with three chapels on either side depicting scenes from the life of Christ.
There is an ornate-ish altar, and a round dome.
During the third Sunday in July the Festival of the Redentore takes place, with a pontoon bridge constructed from Zattere on the other side of the Giudecca canal to the church. The Doge and the Senators used to walk across this bridge, which was originally constructed from boats, and would go to Mass in Il Redentore. The Festival is still a huge celebration, with a massive firework display, after which young Venetians head off to the beach at the Lido and wait for dawn. That must be something to see but strangely enough it doesn’t make me want to be in Venice at the time – too many people, too much noise and hubbub. The Venice that I love is a place of misty early mornings, quiet courtyards, narrow streets and people going about their day-to-day business. But then, the city has always been all things to all people, and I suspect that everybody has a ‘real’ Venice all of their own.