It is officially my last night in Italy. My plane leaves tomorrow morning, and by 6 p.m. I'll be in the beautiful sunshine state. For my last weekend here, Christine and I decided to go to Venice so I could say bye to Sergio and see any last minute sights I'd been wanting to see.
Believe it or not, of all the times I've been to Venice now, I hadn't yet actually gone in to Saint Mark's Basilica. It's amazingly impressive on the outside, so I couldn't even imagine what it was like on the inside. Rick Steve's said the inside of Saint Mark's is like covering (some crazy odd number that I don't have access to because I don't have the book) football fields with contact lenses. 26,240 square feet to be exact. The ENTIRE inside of the massive church is mosaic, from wall to ceiling. There is so much mosaic work that it is unfathomable to think of how much work went into the completion of the building. Just to give you an idea, which I know won't really do any justice to the immensity of the church, but here's a far away and a close up of one small minor part of the mosaic work.
Yeah. You think that's impressive?? Take a look at this:
Like I said, there's no way any pictures can give you any sort of idea how immense and overwhelming the tile work is. There is just nothing else like it in the world.
We were able to go upstairs in the basilica and stand out on the "balcony" of sorts, that you can see from the outside of the church. It was such a cool view of Saint Mark's square because you could actually see it all from one point of view.
You can see they're doing construction on the bell tower, which kind of obstructs the awesome view, but it's still pretty cool. They were also setting up for the Norah Jones concert which was later on in the evening. Tickets were super expensive, but Christine and I walked down to see if we could try to hear or get a glimpse. They literally barricaded off the ENTIRE square from the outside, so not a single sole could get in to the square without a ticket. A seriously impressive feat, seeing as how big the square is, and how many restaurants and shops had to close because of the concert.
See how many people were in the piazetta? Just multiply that by like 4, and that's how many were in the piazza during the day. Here's a not so great picture of the masses of tourists:
The outside of the basilica has these 4 horse statues that have had a rough life, to say the least. They've been stolen, recovered, stolen again by Napoleon, replaced again, and then finally removed and replaced with replicas to protect them from any further damage.
The horses were moved to a room inside the basilica in the 90s, so they're still on display, just not out in the environment where they can get rained on and pooped on and who knows what else.
I'm not sure what this is called, but this "picture" is behind Saint Mark's body. You have to pay €1 just to see it, and it is solid gold with rubies, amethyst, jade, and all sorts of precious stones. I will have to do more research to find out the exact what and why, but it was pretty crazy.
And here it is. The piece de resistance. Saint Mark himself. The disciple so many people are familiar with, and so many boys are named after. He's got his own book in the Bible, and I just visited his body...err...head. Still, I think the tomb of Saint Mark belongs right up there with Al Capone and Elvis' graves.
Speaking of Al Capone and the mafia, Christine and I learned something very very interesting yesterday. Venice has a group of beggers that are all around the city in the high tourist areas, constantly begging for change. They all look alike, and all seem to be friends with each other. One time Christine saw one of the ladies pull a cell phone out of her pocket, so you know they're not legit. We were sitting out on our favorite campo with Sergio when a begger lady walked by asking for change. Sergio told us that they work for the mafia in Venice, and they are all from Albania. The guys in the mafia make the ladies go out and beg, and then return at the end of the day and turn over all their money. If they don't give any money or make enough, the guys will beat their children. Sergio said this all takes place in an apartment near San Polo square, where we stayed a few times, and sure enough, Christine and I watched a group of 5 begger ladies walk down an alley near San Polo headed towards their "home."
Sorry to end on a sad note, but I have to be up in 4 hours to leave for the airport, so a little sleep will probably be good. I have more pictures and stories from Venice, so I will post again tomorrow, wherever in the world I may be. :)
Today my favorite thing about Italy is: Sergio. How could anyone not love such an amazing person. I am truly so blessed to have him in my life, and he will always be a very special part of my life.
“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” -Margaret Elizabeth Sangster