Ciao! It’s been almost a week since I arrived in Venice, so I should probably update you on what I’ve been doing. As I mentioned in my last post that I haven’t taken many pictures since arriving here (and this will soon be remediated), so please bear with me. The past few days have been… Well, they’ve been the perfect pace. A little of this, a little of that, and plenty of time to relax.
I mentioned on Tuesday that I did a tiny bit of exploring on my own, and Wednesday included more solo adventures. First off, I woke up late because of the jet lag. I’m still on Boston time, so I finally fell asleep at 4am and woke at 10am. Quite a late start, but at least it wasn’t rife with vomit… Harhar… BLERG!
I had a brioche (basically just a croissant typically filled with apricot marmalade) and headed out to the Ghetto. The Ghetto Nuovo in Venice is the first place where the word “ghetto” was applied to the confined area in which Jews lived. In Italian, the word means “slag” or “foundry”, referring to the waste created by smelting ore. On the ghetto island, slag was regularly stored there prior to the Jewish settlement. This historic event happened in 1516. Keep in mind that Italy at the time was not a united entity, so the region was comprised of independent city-states. Venice was liberal and allowed Jews to worship and have a few specific professions; like money lending, selling second-hand goods, and such. Jews from all over Europe came to live in the Venetian Ghetto because it was considered the best place for Jews since persecution was minimal. Groups from Spain/Portugal, Germany, and other regions came to live, but they did not form a cohesive culture within the Ghetto. They remained separate, just as distinct as their synagogues.
Three of the synagogues were open on my tour. Of course, I could not take photos of the inside, but, suffice it to say, they were all beautiful and ornate. Still currently in use during the wintertime, the Levantine Synagogue is absolutely gorgeous, outfitted with ornate wood carvings on the Torah ark and reflecting a few Asian influences. Overall, the interior design looks very Venetian, since only Venetian builders were able to contract the job. Jews couldn’t even build their own synagogues! Excuse my language, but how shitty! The Great German Schola, another synagogue in the Nuovo Ghetto, is startlingly beautiful as well. The torah ark is plated in gold leaf and Hebrew inscriptions surround the two-story ovular layout. Finally, I visited the Canton Schola, which has wooden carvings of biblical episodes, as well as rich building materials of wood and gold plating. The artifact museum in the Nuovo Ghetto also includes some ornate fabrics and religious metalwork. *Fun side note! The synagogues in the Ghetto can be distinguished by the number of windows on a given floor. Five windows, which is thought to represent the number of books of Psalms, indicated synagogues.
After that tour, I went to grab a bite to eat (and I can’t find the name of the restaurant… It doesn’t exist on the internet, OH NO!! Does it even exist in real life??) and had an insalata mista (a plain ol’ salad) with a side of boiled potatoes in a caper sauce. Delicious!! I could probably eat those potatoes every day for the rest of my life. Hopefully I can recreate those soon… And maybe I’ll even share the recipe with you!
After a short respite from the heat, I decided to see what was the big deal about this church across the canal from my apartment. Yeah, it’s gorgeous on the outside, but was the inside really that great? I was skeptical, especially since I’m not a “church person” (what’s church??). La Chiara della Madonna de l’Orto (The Church of Madonna of the orchard) was built in the mid-14th century and originally dedicated to Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, but the honor was later given to Jesus’ mom. I think it should still be dedicated to travelers, but that’s just me. The facade is beautiful and an excellent example of Venetian Gothic with a large rose window (the circular window), trefoil arches (an arch with three points, almost like a clover), and mullioned windows (mullion are a decorative division between windows, doors, etc.). When I went inside, I was astounded by the great flow of the nave to the aisles to the transepts (the only places where visitors could enter), not to mention the sunlight breathtakingly flooding the interior. I couldn’t take pictures, but you just have to trust me on this. Throughout this building, there are works by Tintoretto, considered one of the greatest masters of Venetian Renaissance painting. I think it is well deserved that this church holds so many of his important works, especially since there is a strong similarity in the light-enhancing architecture and the fact that his paintings rely heavily on the dramatic use of light.
Okay, I think I’m getting a bit long-winded, so I’ll conclude my spiel. Wednesday was a wonderful day of exploring my surroundings and trying to get in the habit of the relaxed Italian day. I just need to remember that eating food isn’t a race; it is mean to be enjoyed!
More updates coming soon!