• Nicoletta Fornaro

Winter wanderings in Venice: the Doges Palace, Riva degli Schiavoni and a snack at Caffè La Serra


Have I already told you that in Venice it is incredibly cold? Yes, I have...but I'm afraid you'll hear me say it at least until the end of February. When people think of Italy, they usually imagine hot and sunny weather, but the reality is that -especially in the north- the seasons are quite felt and Venice, in particular, has a constantly horrible climate: damp all year round, sweating hot in summer and freezing cold in winter. To this let's add that now it is also the period of acqua alta -high tide-, so some days we have water falling from the sky, coming up from the sewers and all around us. I suppose you are wondering what does one do on days like this?! For me, museums are the answer.

To be honest, I hadn't actually planned to go to the Doges Palace today, I had just gone out to take some pictures (precisely of the drunkenness of Noah and the curse of Ham, for my mum - she is fixated with that story), but then when I saw that there was nobody queuing (something like a miracle) I didn't resist temptation and decided to go.

The Doges Palace is always an experience; before entering the courtyard you pass through three rooms showcasing stunning columns with richly decorated capitals and recovered parts of buildings. Then you step outside and find yourself in one of the most beautiful examples of Venetian Gothic architectures; differently from the outer facades decorated in marble, the interior red bricks remind us that this palace was initially built as a medieval fortress. It was raining, so I went immediately to the first floor and saw a beautiful couple getting their wedding pictures taken.

When I visit an exhibition with my husband, we take our time, choose some paintings or rooms and look at the details, but today I just wandered around simply enjoying the magic and looking at the amazed faces of the people around me.

All rooms tell the stories of the past of this city and the people that made it so great, but obviously some rooms impress us more and without any doubt the Sala del Maggior Consiglio (Great Council Hall) with the Paradiso by Tintoretto is a place where one could spend all day. So big, so rich and so...gold. I never fail to give a quick look at the portraits of the doges and glance at the black shroud that covers in black the one of the Marin Faliero, the only doge executed for a coup d'etat in 1355.

Currently, in addition to the permanent collection, there are also two temporary exhibitions, one with the Moghul and Maharaja treasures and one on Porto Marghera, which I thought was very clever and well organised. It describes the birth of the industrial pole of Porto Marghera and its relation with Venice. I particularly enjoyed the section on the new materials and the videos of Carosello (an advertising broadcast that used really cool short sketch comedy films with live animation). The exhibition ends on the 29th of January, so if you are here in this period I highly recommend visiting (consider purchasing the Museum Pass or the individual tickets in advance).

I confess that, being so cold, I didn't stay long on the Bridge of Sighs and in the dungeons and if I think of the poor prisoners and the conditions in which they were kept, well I get the shivers.

Last year I brought my class and the boys, although 17 and 18 years old.... well, they loved the dungeons! With the normal ticket you only see parts of the prisons, so in case you were interested in doing the complete tour look at special itineraries tickets and decide which is best for you.

Before leaving I drank a coffee in the cafeteria on the ground floor and admired the Scala dei Giganti. I had an appointment with my mum and brother and decided to take a vaporetto -linea 1. When I got off at Giardini they were already there, so we fled to Caffè La Serra to warm up with teas and snacks.

This lovely glass and iron greenhouse is managed by a local cooperative and one can buy plants, flowers, herbs and -now- Christmas trees and lots of red and white poinsettia flowers. The cafeteria is one of the most relaxing places in Venice and as soon as we sat down we were greeted by one of their two cats, the black one.

It's nice to catch up all together sometimes, especially with Matteo because I don't get to see him much. Anyway, we were all on the hungry side and shared two vegetarian toasted sandwiches with provola cheese and grilled aubergines, two slices of savoury cake with speck, cheese and radicchio, lots of green tea and -to get the full experience- two muffins, one chocolate and one red velvet.

Exactly what we needed: refreshments, relaxation and chats. Here you are surrounded by green, from bonsai to small lemon trees, the background music is low and right for the place and the people that come here usually seek a moment of comfort, so the general mood is friendly and calm. During the day they organise laboratories for children, while on certain evenings there are concerts and special events (Follow their Facebook page for upcoming events).

So if you happen to be in Venice on a cold, windy, rainy day and see water all over the place: don't panic! Seek refuge in a museum, drink a lot of hot tea or coffee and warm up with some comfort food. I hope I've been able to prove that despite the dreadful weather, Venice is still an incredibly enjoyable place and that if you appreciate the small things it doesn't take much to have a good time.

Talk to you soon...

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