Venice: The devil is in the details

It’s now been three months since I returned from Venice, and I’m still sorting through my photos. But here’s the second installment of what I have so far. Missed the first? Check out The Life Aquatic.


Today, Venice is a mere shadow of her former beauty. Centuries of tides and sea water have taken their toll, and the entire city is slowly sinking.

Sotoportego dei Mori 1310879 FB

Window detail 1320020 FB

And although the locals are doing their best to fend off the wall wrinkles …

Wall cream 1320027 FB

… everything is in a state of disarming disrepair.

Fondamenta 1320016 FB

Corte Scala Mata 1310799 FB

But if Venice is crumbling back into the sea, at least she’s doing it with style.


Gondola Pittori 1350392 FB

Bits of stucco have fallen off most of the buildings, exposing the structural brick below.

Calle de la Bolza 1310663 FB

Mascaron 1330360 FB

In some cases, all that’s left is brick.

Pigeon and window 1310810 FB

This is the entrance to the Hotels Rossi and Guerrini, both run for generations by local families.

Hotels Guerini e Rossi 1310998 FB

Hotel Alboretti 1330963 FB

But while the hotels loudly broadcast their presence, private homes in Venice are usually hidden behind tall walls — or beautiful wrought-iron gates.

No pubblicita 1310959 FB

Chiesa S Girolamo 1310737 FB

Almost no one in Venice has a garden, but they still find a way to “garden.”

Beautiful house entrance 1320066 FB

This is someone’s idea of a cactus garden, no doubt …

Potted plants 1310900 FB

… and someone else’s idea of an herb garden.

Window garden 1310863 FB

When we did eventually see an actual garden, we HAD to photograph it. Check it out … lawn furniture!!

Venice back yard 1350156 FB

Drying laundry is another favorite pastime in Venice.

Laundry day 1310814 FB

The clotheslines are connected by two pulleys …

Venice wakes up 1310815 FB

… so you simply pin your garment to the upper line, pull on the lower line, and repeat as necessary until everything you own is dangling precariously over the murky, stinky seawater.

Laundry day 1310979 FB

To non-Venetians, some of these traditions may seem a bit crazy. But remember: This is a city that lives with one foot in the past. You can still sense the Middle Ages as you walk through the “sottoportegi” that connect the buildings, and past the ancient wells in the tiny neighborhood squares.

Sotoportego dei Mori 1310887 FB

Charming courtyard 1350356 FB

Some 16th century wood beams still stick out of the buildings, as well.

Medieval beams 1310837 FB

But in spite of time’s ravages, the architectural details still bear witness to Venice’s wealthy, influential past.

Lion detail 1310800 FB

Statuette 1310896 FB

Regal entrance 1320029 FB

The winged lion — which represents St. Mark — is the city’s official symbol.

Simbolo di Venezia 1320025 FB

In fact, Venice has a long Catholic tradition, which is why dozens of “Pietá” sculptures dot the city.

Pieta 1350373 FB

Though I’m guessing that the electrician who installed this light wasn’t Catholic.

Ave Maria 1310939 FB

Speaking of lights: The fixtures come in a variety of styles. Some were especially lovely …

Lampposts lighter 1310728 FB

Venice window 1310622 FB

Window1310604 FB

… but what I especially loved was the warm glow they cast on the city as evening fell.

Street scene 1310755 FB

Cafe scene 1310765 FB

Well, that’s all I have for now. But I promise to be back soon with a look at the life of the gondolier — and some meditations for the new year.


    • Ha! Thanks for the very kind comparison to Atget, Xpat. I can’t take too much credit for the thoroughness of my documentation, because I stumbled into these lesser-known areas as a result of getting hopelessly lost. That’s what happens when you combine a ridiculous stamina for walking with a horrible (horrible!) sense of direction. If not for the lagoon, I may have kept going and ended up in Sweden! 🙂

      • Did you happen to stumble across “The world’s most beautiful bookshop” – a treat for me that I can rank with Shakespeare &Co in Paris and City Lights in San Francisco?

        • Aha! I KNEW there was something I’d missed! Now I have a compelling reason to go back. Do you know where this bookshop is, by chance? And did you take any photos of your own? I’d love to see them … in fact, I’d love to see *many* more photos from your own recent travels. In the meantime, happy new year to you! May it bring happiness, health, and lots of wonderful new adventures. Cheers!

  1. What a pleasure to wander through Venice again with you and your eye for detail. I love the Wall Cream – where can I get me some of that?! – and the herb garden especially, but all the photos and memories are a delight.

    As for getting lost – that’s pretty much compulsory in Venice, isn’t it? 😉

    • Haaa! I had the same thought about the wall cream: I could use an entire tub of the stuff!! And you’re so right that getting lost in Venice is pretty much compulsory — as is finding yourself in the same spot, and realizing you’ve just walked in a giant circle! (Especially if, like me, you use the church bell towers as a navigation aid. It took me about a week to realize that many of them resemble each other. Doh!)

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