The Path Less Ridden

Northern Italy

In the north-east of Italy, near the northernmost reach of the Adriatic Sea, lies one of the world’s most recognizable cities: Venice. Finding great wealth through trade and naval power for over a millennium, its importance waned after the 16th Century – but the grandeur of the city and its unique system of canals in place of roads remains.

PC120625

PC120630

PC120791

PC120802

PC120815

 

Built over a series of tiny islands stretching over a lagoon, Venice is small by modern standards, but full of character.

PC110540

PC110542

PC120640

PC120654

PC120682

PC120726

PC120787

 

Almost every house in the city has two doors – one onto the small pedestrian street, and a ‘water door’ leading to the canal.

PC120656

PC120672

PC120687

PC120721

 

As ever, I love picking out the small details that add hugely to the ambiance. Here, it’s particularly the winged lion motif, the mascot and herald of Venice.

PC120663

PC120679

PC120716

PC120717

PC120840

 

Although it’s now just a tourist-trap, it’s hard to resist the unique experience of a gondola ride along the canals. You feel like you’re in a movie, particularly when the gondolier starts singing!

PC120735

PC120741

PC120746

PC120758

_1016357

 

As is normal in rich medieval cities, the churches are the grandest and most ornately decorated buildings.

PC120634

PC120635

PC120694

PC120697

 

The centrepiece of the city, both visually and politically, is St Mark’s Square, home to the St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace (the doge being the ruler of the republic).

PC120820

PC120818

PC120822

PC120825

PC120828

PC120838

PC120848

 

Leading off from one side of the Doge’s Palace is the “Bridge of Sighs” – so named as it was the route condemned prisoners would be taken, and the tiny windows of the bridge would be their last sight of the canals and city – eliciting sighs of regret.

PC120859

 

Dusk is a magic time in Venice, with the richly coloured light reflecting off the water and silhouetting the monumental buildings.

PC120854

PC120865

PC120869

PC120879

 

A little further along the foreshore is the Vivaldi church, named for the famous composer who was born in Venice – he was ordained as a priest, and spent much of his early life living and working in this church, including composing many of his early works. Seeing a signboard for a performance of his best-known oeuvre, the “Four Seasons”, we hurried inside and bought our tickets for that night – it’s a memorable way to experience a live concert, with the beautiful acoustics of church.

PC120902

PC120910

 

Walking back through the canals and back alleys at night is an experience in itself – the city changes character completely in the darkness, with the sound of lapping water echoing off the walls.

PC110593

PC110604

PC120883

PC120916

PC120923

PC110576

 

With time running short for our Christmas deadline, we left after only a day in Venice (vowing to return) and cut west across the top of Italy, towards the Ligurian coastline. It was cold and at times wet, but that did little to dampen our enthusiasm as we discovered some fantastic backroads that would be instant favourites in summer. As it was, we rode through tiny mist-shrouded villages that seemed stuck in a time warp.

PC130925

PC140928

PC140934

PC140935

PC140943

PC140944

PC140948

 

Hitting the coast at Genoa (the other classic Mediterranean trade republic and direct competitor with Venice), we rolled due east along the Italian Riviera – a slow, winding but gorgeous route.

PC150956

PC151021

PC151023

 

We stopped for lunch at random and stumbled across the town of Noli – another tiny maritime trade republic, at the crossroads of the Genoese and Savoyard spheres of influence. The medieval town centre is well preserved.

PC151017

PC150976

PC150981

PC150985

PC150991

PC150997

 

We kept following the coastline, and crossed the border into France.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *