|Friday 21st September 2007 Weather:-Sunny 22 degrees
(J) For once we did what we had planned today. The first thing on the agenda was of course to go up the 'Campanile' the 99 metres high bell tower that was built in the 10th century and collapsed unexplainably in 1902. It was missed so much by the locals of the time that they rebuilt it brick by brick, 'where it was and as it was'. It took them 10 years to rebuild so it must have really been a good jigsaw!! Today, thank goodness it has a lift and in no time we found ourselves on top of the world looking down. The view is incredible of course and as we had an audio guide we were able to pick out all the land marks and some good photos were taken.
The second place of interest that we went to see was the 'Basilica di San Marco'. 'No Photos Please' said the signs on view all over the place so we had to make do with a series of postcards and you on the internet miss out. The Basilica is this towns' no1 tourist attraction, so we had to expect long lines but as it was a perfect day weather wise it was a pleasure to slowly snake our way inside. The first chapel was started in AD828 when they bought the corpse of St Mark back from Alexandria, Egypt, where he had died and since then it has been an ongoing project as it has burned down, been demolished and added on to over the centuries until it finally stands as it is now. As we approached the entrance to the Basilica we were first hit with the opulence of the mosaics under the arches and were astounded that they covered nearly all the ceilings of the 5 domes on the inside. Everything glowed as if it was gold. It is slow going if you want to do justice to your viewing and as this will most probably be the only time in our lives that we will be here we took our time and made sure that we did not miss anything. The greatest treasure is hidden behind the altar; it is the Pala d'Oro, a large panelled gold altar piece. As said it is made out of solid gold and encrusted with precious jewels and enamelled pictures. The original was made in 976 and added on to and reworked until the 14th century. It is encrusted with almost 2,000 precious stones including emeralds, rubies, amethysts, sapphires and pearls. Not to forget the main purpose for the Basilica and that is that the remains of St Mark lie under the majestic high altar which is made out of marble. High above the main entrance are the copies of the Quadriga (4 gilded bronze horses) the originals were looted (stolen in my vocabulary) from Constantinople in AD1204, Napoleon then stole them and sent them to Paris in 1797 and they were returned to Venice after the fall of the French empire. So they have travelled a bit! And they are now housed inside the Basilica for preservation and away from vandals also, I expect.
Another area is the treasury which contains most of the booty from the 1204 raid on Constantinople—what was that commandment—'Thou shalt not steal'. Further along we came to an exhibition of human relics, bits of bones, skulls, hands, I could not look closely enough to describe it all, as you may have guessed it was time for me to leave, but not before we had been upstairs to the Galleria where we had close up views of the mosaics on the ceiling of the domes, the original 4 horses and also a bird eyes view of church's interior and exterior.
We decided that was enough culture for today so Herman took me to the local internet cafe' and set me up for an hour of playtime, the number of people looking at the site is increasing as we had 31 hits yesterday. One of the reasons that I spent so much time there today is that we are going to change the itinerary a little bit again; we are dropping Fondi out of our destinations and have decided that we would like to spend a night in Cortona. Instead of just doing a flying visit while we are at Barberino Val D'elsa we would like to wander around the Piazza della Republica at night to suck in the atmosphere. I know that Willie and Rosalie will be interested to know that we will be staying at Le Gelosie B&B on Via Dardano no.6. www.legelosie.com We had not booked anything in Fondi yet so they won't miss us. While I was doing that Herman took off for some time on his own, wandering around streets unfamiliar, he did not stay away long, maybe he got a little nervous for I had the keys to the safe where the credit cards are kept or maybe it is just that it is nearly time to move on. I must admit that the things I have taken a fancy to are very overpriced and knowing my dislike of clutter and our smaller home these days it is easy to walk away from temptation. We have a couple of little things that we still want to do tomorrow and then it will be time to pack again and see if our car is still where we hope it will be---we have not seen it since last Sunday.
We went on our nightly 'passigata' tonight; our travels took us past our local gelato shop and then on to the Rialto Bridge. But now I want you to use your imagination, we are standing on the top of the bridge looking towards the St. Marco Square side of the bridge, the waterside restaurants are filled with people and all the tables are lit up with little table lamps or candles. The scene is very romantic. The bridge is full of people, some cuddling and others just watching the minestrone of water traffic, ferries queuing up to dock, as one gondola ships out another is waiting to use the landing, water taxies are scuttling about, everything on the water is just missing each other. Then thump-boom, thump-boom, thump-boom; two flat bottomed boats with little outboard motors and each with 2 youths on board come into view from under the Rialto-----playing rap music full pelt-----we were all stunned for a moment ,then everyone burst into smiles. About 150 metres past the bridge one of them gunned his little outboard and boiled the water up a little. I hope that the little girlies that they were trying to impress were impressed but if not it, made a lot of people laugh and that ain't bad.