“Let’s see where this goes.” On our way to the Naval Museum (where we saw a woodcut of Jacopo de’ Barbari’s View of Venice, along with antique Gondolas and exquisitely crafted models of historic Venetian boats and fortifications), we walked along the imposing walls of the Arsenale, arriving at its impressive Renaissance city gate with multiple lion statues.
This enormous ship building factory, started in the Middle Ages, served as the city’s commercial engine for centuries. We recalled Dante’s description of the burning pitch to seal the boat hulls as an analogy for Hell in his Inferno. Nearby we happened upon the Scuola Grande di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, a private Venetian confraternity building for one of the foreign communities, with its stunning series of canvases by Vittore Carpaccio and others, including a famous image of St. Augustine in his study. Making it over to the Piazza di San Marco by way of the Bridge of Sighs, we toured the Correr and Marciana museums, commemorating the history of the Venetian Republic and housed in the elegant library building designed by Sansovino. After a break for lunch, the group gathered at the Torre dell’Orologio, where we received a private tour of the still-functioning mechanisms and bells of the Renaissance clock tower.
We then walked across the piazza to the incomparable Ducal Place. In the Hall of Great Council, I was able to see Jacopo Tintoretto’s Paradise and Paolo Veronese’s Triumph of Venice, two monumental paintings about which I had written a paper during The Renaissance in Venice course.
Both paintings were much larger and more striking than I envisioned. Another private guide gave us access to the “Secret Itineraries” including the claustrophobic attic prisons from which Casanova had escaped in the Eighteenth Century. After attending an evening performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata at the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, another sumptuous marble-clad confraternity building, the grand day ended with a visit to a local tavern.