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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Venice Masterpiece : the Torre Dell'Orologio in Venice

The Torre dell'Orologio in Piazza San Marco in Venice (the The Clock Tower on St. Marks' Square) is of huge importance, both practical, historical and symbolic in the history of Venice. The clock displays the time of day, the dominant sign of Zodiac and the current phase of the moon and it’s an extraordinarily elaborate timepiece.
The clock tower was created by the father-and-son team of Giampaolo and Giancarlo Rainieri, engineers from Reggio Emilia in Italy. They were commissioned to create ‘the most excellent clock of extraordinary beauty”. 
Upon its completion, on 1 February 1499, the two master mechanics became its custodians, the start of a five-century tradition whereby the keepers lived with their families inside the tower. And this rather contradicts the legend that the Senate, the Doge, had the creators blinded on completing the clock, jealous that they would go on to repeat the marvel elsewhere. 
With a restoration of the clock mechanism by Swiss clock-makers Piaget in 2001, the 500-year-old timepiece is still going strong, keeping perfect time and continue to be a true beautiful masterpiece of St. Marks Square.
From Venice With Love,

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The collapse of the Bell Tower of Venice

The 323-foot (98.6-meter) campanile of St. Mark’s dates back to the 9th century, but it had to be rebuild 1903. On July 1902 the north wall of the tower began to show signs of a dangerous crack that in the following days continued to grow. 

On Monday, July 14, around 9:47am, the campanile collapsed completely with disbelief of the Venetians in the square. Although it buried the Basilica’s balcony in rubble, fortunately, the church itself was saved. Remarkably, no one was killed, except for the caretaker’s cat. The same evening, of the collapse, the communal council approved over 500,000 Lire for the reconstruction of the campanile. It was decided to rebuild the tower exactly as it was, with some internal reinforcement to prevent future collapse. The rebuild of St. Mark’s Campanile started on July 22nd, 1902 and lasted until March 6, 1912. The new campanile was inaugurated on April 25, 1912, on the occasion of Saint Mark’s feast day, exactly 1000 years after the foundations of the original building had allegedly been laid. It was a sad piece of Venetian history that to this day is talked about in Venice, due some controversial dispute about the reasons why the tower collapsed.

St. Mark’s Campanile has a very long history of accidents, before its’ collapse. The towers first run in with mother nature occurred on June 7th, 1388 when it was struck by lightning. Then on October 24th, 1403 the upper portion of the tower was burned after fires lit for a celebration got out of hand. After its reconstruction, St. Mark’s campanile suffered damage from an earthquake in 1511. In the next 500 years, the tower would be struck by lightning and partially burned a total of seven more times. The most damaging of these lightning strikes occurred in 1745 and resulted in three deaths and a large crack running from near the top of the tower down to the 5th window. Finally in 1776, a conductor was installed on the tower rendering it safe from further damage due to lightning strikes.

According to eye witnesses, the first sign of problems with the tower appeared a few days before the collapse. Early in the morning on the 14th when a large crack formed near the northeast top corner of the Loggia Sansovino (the structure at the bottom of the tower) and rose diagonally across the main corner buttress of the tower. Just before the collapse, the sound of falling stones within the bell chamber warned the people in or near the tower to flee, so that no life was lost by the accident.” 

The exact cause of the collapse is unknown, but there are a multitude of probable factors that led to its collapse. First and foremost, the tower’s original foundation “was built on a platform of two layers of oak beams, crossed, which platform itself rests on a bed of clay, into which piles of white poplar were driven.” [5] This foundation was only intended to support the weight of the lower, more solid portion of the tower and was therefore not adequate to support extra weight when the tower was expanded upwards. Experts also believe that the foundation could have been negatively affected by the dredging of the Grand Canal and even more so by the frequent flooding of St. Mark’s square. Other causes for the towers collapse are attributed to its extreme old age and long history of damage from lightning strikes, fires, and earthquakes as mentioned above. All of these disasters took a major toll on the structural integrity of the foundation, internal structure, and exterior masonry of the tower. St. Mark’s Campanile is also believed to have been repeatedly weakened by its constant restorations and renovations throughout its long history. Different materials and methods of construction were used in each successive attempt to mend the tower. There is also theory that all this reconstruction may have took the tower out of balance and weaken it.

The new tower would differ only in terms of its structural support. The new design would replace the foundation beams with cement and iron, and the frame would consist of a large iron framework with iron clamps fastened into the masonry. 

From Venice With Love,
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Friday, April 15, 2016

Le "Boche De Leon" in Venice: mailboxes with a meaning.

After the attempted coup tented by Baiamonte Tiepolo, in 1310, were built in Venice several “Bocche di Leone ” (Boche de Leon) or Mouth of the Lion for the secret complaints. It is so called because in the reliefs of white marble was carved an image of a face of a lion, to remember the lion of St. Mark, the symbol of the Venetian State, or a bad face expression. In place of the mouth there was a hole to insert sheets of paper with the secret complaints. They letters would have been kept secret but they could not be anonymous and needed to have at least two witnesses to be accepted.
Chiesa di San Martino - Bocca di Leone
Bocca del Leone "San Martino"
They still  can be seen in Venice, despite dating back to the times of the Serenissima Republic, in the Palazzo Ducale, on the wall of the church of S. Mary of the Visitation (Maria della Visitazione a Zattere), in the Church of St. Martin ( Castello), and St. Moses (in the San Marco district).
The complaints could relate various types of crimes including the non-compliance to health, blasphemy or tax evasion . Were distributed at least one in each district, near the Judiciary places, the Doge’s Palace or the churches, and were used to collect information, reports or accusations against those who did the various crimes.
Only the heads of the District could go to the back of the wall where the various cassettes were, whose keys were kept by the Magistrates, and each of them picked up the accusations for a different type of offense: on charges of tax evasion, related to the blasphemers, and various others.
boca di leon
Bocca del Leone "Ducal Palace"
Sometimes the accusation were without foundation, due to envy or hatred of a person and those were just burned, otherwise these reports were reported to the Serenissima, the State.
Il Consiglio dei Dieci 'The Council of Ten" were accepting anonymous complaints only if at stake was the State safety, and with the approval of the five/sixths of the voters. But it was not so easy as you may think to accuse someone. In 1387 the Council of Ten ordered that anonymous allegations sent without signature of the accuser and without reliable witnesses for the prosecution on the circumstances reported, were to be burned without take no account .Unless the secret denunciations were presented with charges of treason and conspiracy against the State. Through the mouths of the lion and the secret complaints were discovered many crimes that would have never come to the attention, that could have caused serious damage to the Republic of Venice. 
Probably , however, were also accused and imprisoned some innocent people.
Boccal Del Leone, "Santa Maria della Visitazione"

The Council of Ten scrupulously applied the law established by the “Avogadri dello Stato” the "investigators of the State" saying that it was necessary  to conduct a thorough investigation to establish the truth, justice and clarity, and do not judge anyone on the basis of suspicions, but research evidence in practice , and at the end a true judgment. If accused anyway the accused could ended up spending months in prison, the infamous prisons under the Ducal Palace, prison of the Piombi or the Pozzi. And they were often tortured that some were confessing crimes they had not even done.
Thank God things have changed and nowadays also in Venice you can simply send an email with your denunciations or complains directly to the “Comune di Venezia”, the Town Hall of Venice.
I often wonder though if anyone still checks the "bocche" for random grievances left by some funny "veneziani" in the dead of the night.
From Venice With Love,
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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Venice Fun fact of the day: Il Gobbo di Rialto

Il Gobbo di Rialto, The hunchback of Rialto, opposite the Church of San Giacomo, has an intriguing history. Dating back to 1541 it was originally intended as a place of official proclamation. It is in fact known as the Column of Proclamations. But it was also used as the finishing point for a punishment for minor crimes: the guilty party would be stripped naked and made to run the streets from Piazza San Marco to the Rialto, saving themselves further humiliation by kissing the statue. By the 19th century in 1836, the statue was restored with funds provided by the civic authorities. The block above the hunchback's head now bears a Latin inscription with the date of the restoration.
From Venice With Love,
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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

One of my favorite Venetian Primi Piatti : Risi e Bisi- Rice and Peas

My favorite Venetian Primo Piatto: Risi e Bisi -Rice and Peas

HISTORY: the fame of this dish is linked, beyond its delicacy, also to fact that the Doge of the Serenissima, (the chief magistrate and leader of the Republic of Venice), used to serve it as good wishes for the party of the Republic of Venice, at St. Mark's day. Combining rice, cereal symbol of fertility (reason why is often handfuls thrown on brides) with peas, springtime fruits for excellence cultivated in the lagoon’s gardens, this delicious dish was offered to all members of the Venetian government. It went on to be imitated in taste and sense also at the popular level ,and nowadays rice and peas is considered among the most internationally known dishes of the Veneto region.

INGREDIENTS (2-4 people)
1 small package of frozen peas
1 white onion medium diced
Vialone Nano or Arborio ( in Italy we use 1 and half small espresso cup a person as portion)
1 slice of bacon or lard
Fresh parsley ( 2 tablespoons when chopped)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste if necessary for the broth
To thicken: a knob of butter and cheese Grana Padano (grated (to taste)

Cut the onion in small pieces and cook it till lightly brown in extra virgin olive oil, about 5 minutes.
Add bacon or lard, also cut in small pieces, cook 2 minutes without browning.
Add the frozen peas with chopped parsley stretching with a little by little of broth until almost cooked.
Add the rice, toasting and extending hand to hand with the addition of broth warmed up already.
When ready add to thicken a knob of butter and cheese Grana Padano (grated (to taste) and serve it.

You can also make it with fresh peas. In that case you need to shell the peas and bring to boil the pods in a pot of salted water. Let it boil for about twenty minutes and then pass through a sieve. To stay on my diet I often skip the bacon or lard. It is still very tasty and quiet delicious with the butter and the cheese anyway.
You can also add a half cup of white wine with the broth to give it an extra kick.
Buon Appetito.
From Venice With Love,

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The "Festa Del Boccolo" in Venice

April 25th is the is the patronal feast of Venice, celebrated in memory of Saint Mark the Evangelist. This day is celebrated with a gondola race across St Mark’s Basin, between Sant’Elena and Punta della Dogana, a procession in Basilica San Marco and some other activities. But in our city, another customary practice on April 25th is for Venetian men to give a ‘bocolo‘, a rosebud (preferably red) to their wives or lovers. This practice is believed to have originated from an 8th century legend involving Tancredi, a troubadour of humble origin, who was in love with Maria, the Doge’s daughter. Of course the Doge did not approve of the relationship due to the low social standing of Tancredi. Maria suggested to Tancredi that he could prove his valour and win her father’s approval by distinguishing himself in the war against the Arabs in Spain. Unfortunately Tancredi was mortally wounded and fell bleeding on a rosebush. But before dying he managed to pluck a rose and asked his companion Orlando to deliver the blood-stained rose to his lover. On April 25, a day after receiving the rose, Maria was found dead in her bed with the blood stained rose across her heart. Since that time, a rosebud is offered to the women of Venice on St Mark’s Day as a symbol of love.
From Venice With Love,

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Monday, April 11, 2016

The mosaic in St. Mark's Basilica

Fun facts about Venice:
There are more than 85,000 square feet (or 8,000 square meters) of mosaic in St. Mark’s Basilica… or enough mosaic to cover over 1.5 American football fields! The mosaics were done over 8 centuries, mostly in gold, and the result is astonishing. Enter the basilica at different times of day to see how the light makes the colors, and scenes, look different.
From Venice With Love,
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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The pink columns of the Ducal Palace in Venice

Did you know?
Millions of people are at St. Mark’s Square in Venice everyday and so many are taking pictures in front of the Basilica and the Ducal Palace. But only a few people realize that two of the columns of the “portico” of the porch of the Ducal Palace are pink and not white like all the others. The reason? From the space between the two pink columns of the Ducal Palace, the Doge, the Duke, was announcing the death sentences, and the scaffold was placed precisely at that hight , looking at the clock tower so that the condemned could see the time of his death. The rose would symbolize the blood of the convicted.
From Venice With Love,
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