Venice, Chioggia and the Po

Let’s start at the end… This is Saturday evening, 18:30, on the banks of the Po river delta:

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We’ve had a gentle couple of days, beginning with a 2 day stopover in Venice. This time around, sanity prevailed as we visited St Marks and The Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa Dei Frari, or the Grey Friars (Franciscans). The original church, built in 1280, shows only remnants today, with major renovations particularly between 1330 and the 1450’s. So, apart from venerable age what’s interesting? The interior is a treasure trove of works by Tiziano Vecellio, more commonly known in English as Titian:

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And, eventually, we made it to the Basilica of St Mark. Hardly any queues, given that we’ve been disheartened in the past by waits of over 5 hours – and a limited time of 20 minutes to pass though! This is Venice’s crowning glory, and, really, simply beyond my ability to describe. Even worse, no photos are allowed, so the 4000 square meters of gold mosaic, laid in irregular patters so surfaces are always reflecting light, form the backdrop to various frescoes and art works, and illuminate the various domes and cupolas, particularly as we visited around noon. To underscore all of this are 6000 square meters of floor mosaics, generally of the most intricate geometric patters that really play with your sense of depth and light. 60 different types of marble are used for this. The only downside? It’s just too much to comprehend – I stand there with my mouth open and my mind trying to make sense of the artistry, wealth and commitment in creating a structure such as this.

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Venice transported the soldiers of the 4th Crusade ( 1202), stopping over at Constantinople and making up for previous insults by the Emperor by encouraging the Crusaders to sack Constantinople … This was such a disaster for Constantinople that it underwent a fairly consistent decline before finally falling in 1453. A thoroughly enjoyable read of these events is Constantinople: The Last Great Siege by Roger Crowley. In any case, apart from being paid transport fees, Venice brought back the bronze horses now adorning St Marks, tons of marble and, indeed, whole columns as well as gold and wealth enough to build an empire. Hmm, reconciling this with the Basilica can take some mental gymnastics!

Heading south we travelled to Chioggia,all of 30km away. Lovely town, called ‘Little Venice’, but it’s two canals are … impressive but limited. A great afternoon walk through town and along the beach – which is seriously getting ready for tourist season – saw us camping overnight for free, thanks to a kind soul who saw we had no idea as to how to interpret Italian parking meters, and gave us a ticket. Quiet night with us as the only campervan in a huge carpark. Woke this morning to find 12 vans parked alongside us. Must have slept well!

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Off early this morning to Porto Tolle on the Po River Estuary. Spent the better part of the afternoon on a great cycle aver the marshlands and farming areas, generally being able to stay on the top of the dikes. In fact, getting up and down the dikes accounted for most of the 26 meter elevation gain over 53 kilometres – crazy, no?

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Hopefully a quiet night parked on the banks of the Po. Our plan is to retrace our route a little to fill up with water, dump waste, and then proceed to the middle of the delta and more cycling. And talking about crazy – earlier this week we were in a blizzard at sub-zero temperatures, today we are at 19°, and I’ve got sunburn!

Some extras (click for caption):

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