Sadly, today was our last day in Italy. We spent our final day exploring Venice, specifically the San Marco Basilica and the Doge's Palace.
The basilica is in the San Marco Piazza near the Adriatic sea. It was originally covered in brick until it burned down in the 9th century. As time passed, the building continually underwent changes as different imperial influences blended into its architecture and style. Beginning in the 12th century, Venice became a major trading port and naval power mostly due to its mutualistic relationship with the Byzantine empire in the East. The rich republic eventually grew more powerful than the Byzantine empire which led to their conquest of Constantinople in 1205. During the time of the crusades, people in the West used Venice as a taxi to the Middle East. When they came back, it was required for them to present a gift to Saint Mark. In this way, pillars, marble, and mosaics were added to the space over time. The large chandeliers displayed the Byzantine's influence, the cross shaped domes were a popular Greek model, and the stone window grilles match an Arab design.
Until 1807, the San Marco basilica was a private chapel for the Doge's Palace. The Palace was founded in the 9th century. The Palace's halls were difficult to navigate. (It was a maze inside the Venice Maze!) We saw a grand council chamber, the council of ten room, a prison cell, another prison cell and another one...(I am pretty sure we were walking in circles at this point). In each room, excluding the prison cells of course, the walls and ceilings were covered in beautiful paintings. Many of them depicted battle scenes to carry the theme of victory throughout the palace. Like the basilica, we found many different architecture and design styles at the Palace, including the gothic pointed arches and the Roman pink marble.
Once we finally found our way out, some of the group rode a water taxi to Murano. The island of Murano is well known for glass making. We curiously watched a master glass maker demonstrate the blowing technique and the molding technique. The glass, which started as a powder, turned into a moldable substance after 8 hours in 1207 degree temperatures. The master collected some glass on the end of a hollow iron rod. Then, he alternated between blowing through the rod and using tools to manipulate the glass. In the molding technique, he only used his tools. He quickly worked on the piece for about 2 minutes before the glass became to cold to mold, so he placed it back into the oven to reheat. It was captivating to watch him stretch, bend, mold and connect pieces of glass together. We were BLOWN away by the result, a unicorn and a vase!
Afterwards, we wandered around 17 show rooms with large and magnificent glass pieces costing anywhere from 20 to 50,000 euros! We continued to walk around the rest of the island; everyone had some free time to get their gift shopping done and enjoy one last scoop of gelato!
As our train quickly approaches Milan, the fact that we are leaving Italy becomes more of a reality. I know I can speak for everyone when I say this course has been an experience of a lifetime.
Wish us safe travels! We are looking forward to sleep and free water!