Venice, the Campanile, engraving by William Miller (Public Domain)
When I climbed into the boat in Verona, I dreamed of making a grand entrance in Venice, like a contessa visiting her territories, cheered by her subjects.
Instead, my cloak and shoes were stained with vomit (thanks to the rough sea), only Papa noticed my arrival, and the only person in awe was me, viewing the sights around Piazza San Marco for the first time.
What sights I saw–among them, the pink-orange Doge’s Palace, the domes and mosaics of San Marco cathedral, the massive piazza, and towering above everything, the Campanile, crowned by a small statue of the angel Gabriel to show which way the wind is blowing! I’d seen drawings of these places in books, but they couldn’t compare with viewing these great monuments with my own eyes.
Was my long trip worth the discomfort? Absolutely! Entranced by Venice’s landmarks, with Papa at my side, and no dust to brush from my clothes and shoes—it’s a memory I’ll always treasure!
(Public Domain image)
When Papa and I left San Marco cathedral one Sunday after Mass, I heard music coming from somewhere down the quai. We walked along the waterfront to investigate. Suddenly Papa stopped and pointed to a large building not far from Piazza San Marco. “It’s the Ospedale della Pieta. The figlie de coro (daughters of the orchestra) must be rehearsing—don’t they sound lovely? After the orphans learn their instruments, they regale our city with sacred music for the rest of their lives.”
I wished I could have brought my harp and made music with them, but Papa said only girls who live in the orphanage can join the orchestra—and it’s certainly not worth spending the rest of my life in the Ospedale, away from Papa.
Other cities have orphanages, but in Venice, orphans learn to make beautiful music. I can hardly wait to hear one of their concerts!
Of course I knew Venice was built on islands, but I never dreamed I’d live in a home with a grand entrance from a canal, or that I’d be able to watch birds dive for fish and gondolas race from my own balcony.
My home, like all palazzi, has two entrances: one on the canal side (where merchants can deliver and store goods on the lowest floor) and one on the land side, where pedestrians can enter from the calle (walkways).
Our rooms are one storey up from the water. Papa and I share the palazzo with another doctor and his family. We have a suite on one side of the portego (main hallway), and Papa has a big office where he sees patients. the secret staircase.
I can’t see our palazzo’s facade from the balcony, but boatmen and their passengers can enjoy its elegant design and graceful arches. Some palazzi even have jewels or paintings on their outer walls facing the canal. I’m glad ours has art and beautiful decorations inside, so I can see them without having to wait for someone to escort me outside. I especially love the secret staircase where I can hide with a book!
Bocca di Leone photo by Berthold Werner, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
As a newcomer to Venice, I’ve found many ways this city is unique. Each week, I’ll tell you about one of them. If you think someone has done you wrong , there’s a secret way to register your complaint—just write it on a card and slip it into a bocca di leone! (There are several around town; one is just outside the Doge’s Palace.)
Papa tells me that denunciations can range from bad business deals to treason, and your chances of getting action on the complaint improve if you sign your name. Not every bocca di leone looks like a lion’s mouth, but they share the name because the winged lion is this city’s mascot.
I wonder if I’d ever have the courage to slip a complaint into a bocca di leone—I’d be afraid someone might take revenge and do the same thing to me. I shudder just thinking about having to defend myself before a tribunal!