Thursday, June 30, 2016

Italy Blog #15: Venice: Torre dell'Orologio (Clock Tower)

The clock tower
In today's blog we check out the clock tour, its interesting astrological face, tell you why it is where it is, and who the 2 figures are at the top.

ABOUT THE CLOCK TOWER - The Clock Tower in Venice is an early renaissance building on the north side of the Piazza San Marco at the entrance to the Merceria. It comprises a tower, which contains the clock, and lower buildings on each side. Both the tower and the clock date from the last decade of the 15th century, though the mechanism of the clock has subsequently been much altered. The clock was completed in 1490.

WHY IN ITS LOCATION? -   It was placed where the clock would be visible from the waters of the lagoon and give notice to everyone of the "wealth and glory" of Venice (because it's pretty ornate).

THE 2 FIGURES ATOP THE CLOCK - There are 2 large bronze figures on a terrace at the top of the tower and they strike the hours on a bell. They are figures of a young and old shepherd wearing sheepskins. They're known as "the Moors" because of the dark patina acquired by the bronze. The bell is also original and is signed by one Simeone who cast it at the Arsenal in 1497.

THE CLOCK FACE - The face of the clock is in blue and gold inside a fixed circle of marble engraved with the 24 hours of the day in Roman numerals. A golden pointer with an image of the sun moves round this circle and indicates the hour of the day. Within the marble circle beneath the sun pointer are the signs of the zodiac in gold (from the 1490s), which revolve slightly more slowly than the pointer to show the position of the sun in the zodiac.
    In the middle of the clock face is the Earth (in the center) and the moon, which revolves to show its phases, surrounded by stars which are fixed in position. The background is of blue enamel.

Tom, Rosanna and Rob in the rainy Piazza San Marco
MANY ALTERATIONS IN 500 YEARS -  This clock went through a lot of transitions. There were decorative things attached to it and then removed from it over the last 600 years. The latest repairs and alterations were done 10 years ago in 2006

NEXT: Piazzetta (marked by two large columns where people come in by boat); 

AND THEN: The Old Library (Libreria Sansovinian)  

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Video! Tyler the Dachshund Sings to Sirens!

Our 5 year old Dachshund Tyler loves to sing to sirens. On June 25 he gave his longest and most impressive performance ever!  Listen/watch until the end for his howling conclusion!

Italy Blog #14: Doge's Prison and Bridge of Sighs

Entrance to the Doge's Prison
In this 14th blog we're taking down into the prisons of Venice's Doge's Palace and crossing the  famous Bridge of Sighs.

DECENT INTO THE DOGE'S PRISONS - Below the palace, once convicted in the Hall of the 10 (see previous blog), prisoners could be brought downstairs to the prisons. 
   Known as I Pozzi (the wells), the dank and barren prison cells of the Doge's Palace were located on the ground floor. When it was determined, in the late 16th century, that more prison cells were needed, the Venetian government began construction on a new building called the Prigioni Nuove (New Prisons). 

Looking into a prison cell.

 A LOT OF ENERGY THERE - Since I (Rob) was sick with a bad sinus infection, my senses for the paranormal weren't working 98% percent of the time. However, I did feel light-headed at the entrance to the prison - feeling the fear, dread and anxiety of people who were being brought in  to be imprisoned there. Tom mentioned that he felt a particularly strong heaviness in one cell. 
Looking out from the Bridge of Sighs

THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS - The famous Bridge of Sighs was built as an walkway between the palace and the prison, and is accessed via the Sala del Maggior Consiglio on the second floor.  The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars

The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment.  Tom took a picture from inside the bridge, looking out over a canal. 

LEGEND OF THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS - A local legend says that lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St Mark's Campanile toll.

NEXT:  Torre dell'Orologio (Clock Tower) 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Italy Blog #13: Venice: Doge's Palace: Purpose, Roman Gods, Gilded Stairways, Hall of Justice

The Doge's Palace
In this 13th blog of our Italy trip we're going to take you into the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) and look around. Appropriately, the Doge's palace was built in the 1300s- perfect for the 13th blog. It was finalized in the year 1309.

You need to know some basics though- like what is a "Doge." Although we started calling our dogs "Do-jay" when we came home, it's not a dog. :) 

WHAT IS A DOGE?  A doge was an elected, chief-of-state lordship, the ruler of the republic in many of the Italian city-states during the medieval and renaissance periods, in the Italian "crowned republics".
    The two best known such republics were Venice and Genoa, which rivaled each other, and the other regional great powers, by building their historical city-states into maritime, commercial, and territorial mini-empires. The last doge lived in Venice in 1797.

Mars (left) and Neptune (right) statues in Doges Palace
ARCHITECTURAL NOTE - The Doge's Palace is a palace built in Venetian Gothic style.
WHAT WAS HOUSED HERE? - This building was the seat of government, and included court rooms, dungeons, torture chambers and the "Hall of Dead Doges." It also is connected to the famous "Bridge of Sighs" which we will talk about in a future blog.  

AWESOME ROMAN GOD STATUES- Rob loves Roman gods and at the top of the stairs after entering are statues of Mars (left) and Neptune (right). We had to stop for a picture of them. They represented the Doge's strength over land and sea.

THE GILDED STAIRWAY - As you go from the first to the second floor, you climb what is called the "Gilded Stairway." The ceiling of the staircase is entirely done in gold.

WHAT IS THE PALACE'S "HALL OF THE COUNCIL OF TEN"? - (Consiglio dei dieci). According to, Here, during a trial, no-one could enter, not even the accused. The trial took place by reading statements of both the defense and accused and decisions were made by a vote that had to be an 80% majority. There were 10 members (all men) chosen from the Senate and elected by the Great Council who sat with the Doge and his six counselors. When you go in the room, you'll see 17 semicircular outlines of seats (that adds up to all those people).

The assembly was made up of ten members chosen from the Senate and elected by the Great Council. These ten sat in council with the Doge and his six counselors, which accounts for the 17 semicircular outlines that one can still see in the chamber.
The assembly was made up of ten members chosen from the Senate and elected by the Great Council. These ten sat in council with the Doge and his six counselors, which accounts for the 17 semicircular outlines that one can still see in the chamber.
The assembly was made up of ten members chosen from the Senate and elected by the Great Council. These ten sat in council with the Doge and his six counselors, which accounts for the 17 semicircular outlines that one can still see in the chamber
The assembly was made up of ten members chosen from the Senate and elected by the Great Council. These ten sat in council with the Doge and his six counselors, which accounts for the 17 semicircular outlines that one can still see in the chamber
Hall of the Council of 10
the box
THE BOX - In the wall of the room, there was a little door that opened into a "drop box." That box was connected to a slit in the wall of the adjacent room. People could accuse anyone of anything and put their name and the charge on paper and drop it in that box. The council would then take action and bring the accused and the accuser in to determine truth of fiction about the charges.
An elaborate ceiling painting

Another Gilded ceiling
GILDED CEILINGS - There was a lot of wealth in this palace. To go through all the paintings and cover all the gilded rooms would take a long time, so trust us when we say it was a lot! 

Sala del Maggior Consiglio
A LOOK AT 1 BIG ROOM:  The Sala del Maggior Consiglio -  is the great hall where the Great Council, an unelected voting body of all noble men of at least 25 years of age, would convene. This room was completely destroyed by fire in 1577 but was rebuilt with lavish details between 1578 and 1594. It contains an incredible gilded ceiling, which has panels depicting the glories of the Venetian Republic, and walls are painted with portraits of the Doges and frescoes by the likes of Tintoretto, Veronese, and Bella.



Monday, June 27, 2016

Italy Blog #12: Venice: St. Mark's Basilica/Basilica di San Marco

Rob and Tom in front of St. Mark's Basilica
In this blog (the 12th) of our trip to Italy, we're taking you to the famous St. Mark's Square, home of many famous
structures - but we'll take you to St. Mark's Basilica.

TIP IF YOU GO - It's really best to get a private tour guide (with tickets) in advance- we were able to get right inside with independent tour guides and skip long lines of people just buying tickets, and those in large tour groups.

WHAT IS ST. MARK'S BASILICA?  - The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, Italy. It's the most famous church in the city, and very wealthy. It is also one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. It is located at the eastern end of the Piazza San Marco, adjacent and connected to the Doge's Palace. Originally it was the chapel of the Doge, and has only been the city's cathedral since 1807, when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice. 

St. Mark's Basilica (center) with Campanile Tower (right)
INTERESTING HISTORY - The first St Mark's was a building next to the Doge's Palace, ordered by the doge (one of three Italian Kings) in AD 828, when Venetian merchants stole the supposed relics of Mark the Evangelist from Alexandria, Egypt, and completed by 832. **We saw some of the "pieces" of St. Mark in the Basilica- but it can't be proven. **
   BURNED DOWN TO KILL - According to the history (on Wikipedia): the church was burned in a rebellion in 976, when the populace locked Pietro IV Candiano inside to kill him, and restored or rebuilt in 978. Nothing certain is known of the form of these early churches. From perhaps 1063 the present basilica was constructed.
Inside the Basilica. Credit:

NO PHOTOS INSIDE- There were NO pictures allowed in the basilica because it's an active church. So, we had to go on the Internet to get a picture of the inside.

Horses of St. Mark.
IF YOU READ DAN BROWN'S BOOK "INFERNO" - You'll read about the statue of the "Horses of Saint Mark."  This set of bronze statues of four horses, also known as the “Triumphal Quadriga,” was originally part of a monument depicting a “quadriga” or a racing chariot pulled by four horses. The sculptures are thought to date back to classical antiquity and are attributed to the Greek sculptor Lysippos who lived around 4 BC. The horses were placed on the façade of St Mark’s Basilica after the sack of Constantinople in 1204, was looted by Napoleon in 1797, and then put back in 1815. They have since been taken down from the facade and placed inside the church instead, to preserve them. The ones currently on the façade are replicas.\

NEXT:    Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Thought of the Day - Who is Really More Loving and Accepting?

Thought of the day:  Who is Really More Loving and Accepting? 
After the massacre of 49 people in the gay Orlando night club, at least 5 churches and 2 people in state government (Georgia and Texas) were gleeful over it. They said "It's God's judgment. Hopefully this massacre of gays is only the beginning."

On June 17, 2015, when nine people were gunned down in a  Charleston, South Carolina church, there wasn't one gay, lesbian or transgendered person or group expressing happiness that they were brutally murdered. 

Think about it. Who do you think is the more "god-like"? 
The conservative Christians and politicians who celebrate the murder of innocent gay people?
or the LGBT community who felt the same horror for the SC church goers as anyone else.

Here are links to some news stories of  pastors and politicians who have celebrated the brutal murder of the 49 people in Orlando in the name of "God." 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Pit Bull Puppy Gets The Surprise Of A Lifetime When His Rescuer Returns To Adopt Him

We loved this very touching story and hope you do, too -  Pit Bull Puppy Gets The Surprise Of A Lifetime When His Rescuer Returns To Adopt Him

Samantha Erb
There’s nothing like coming across an old friend again, especially when that friend happened to save your life. Mojo was three months old when Joey Wagner discovered the conditions in which he was living—a kind human had tried to save the puppy with a severe case of demodectic mange, but Mojo’s state of health was too severe.


That’s where Wagner came in. One of the creators of the non-profit Baie Ste Marie Animal Society in Nova Scotia, Wagner moved Mojo quickly to an animal hospital. At this point, according to Mojo’s Facebook page, Mojo only had hours left to live. Applications for his adoptions poured in, and why not? It’s difficult to see his little face and not want to give him the best life imaginable.

Unfortunately, because of the severity of his case, ordinary adoptions were not considered. Instead, Mojo was unknowingly greeted by his future human on the day he became well enough to leave his friends at the vet.

It was a bittersweet moment for his caretakers, who had fallen in love with the puppy.
Mojo was still hairless, but nothing could hinder his puppy spirit. The video at the top of this post shows the moment Mojo reunited with Wagner, who decided to make his adoption official. We think it’s safe to say the little guy recognized the man who saved his life.
Today, Mojo is a big, happy boy at three years old. His coat never fully returned, but he doesn’t let it bother him one bit. All he knows is joy, love, and snuggles with his forever family and his furry siblings.

mojo and stevie
Thank you to everyone who played a part in saving Mojo’s life, and to the man who somehow had to power to leave a puppy speechless.
Any donations made through the Hope For Mojo Facebook page now go to the Baie Ste Marie Animal Society to help other animals in need.
h/t Daily Mail, featured image via puppy love/YouTube

Friday, June 24, 2016

Italy Blog #11 Venice: St. Mark's Square: Campanile Tower

Rob and Tom in St. Mark's Square
In this blog (the 11th) of our trip to Italy, we're taking you to the famous St. Mark's Square, home of many famous structures - but we'll focus on a Tower.  St. Mark's Square was often under water.  In Blog #6, you read about all of the recorded flooding events (click to read if you missed it) - . In fact, some times people actually boated across the square.

WHAT IS IN ST. MARK'S SQUARE/PIAZZA SAN MARCO? - This is the main public square of Venice, Italy, where it is generally known just as "the Piazza". All other urban spaces in the city are called "campi." In this square, you'll find the famous buildings of  
1) The Campanile (Tower) 
2)  Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark's Basilica); 
3) Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) 
4) Torre dell'Orologio (Clock Tower); 
5) Piazzetta (marked by two large columns where people come in by boat); 
6) The Old Library (Libreria Sansovinian) where we found Cafe Florian (from 1720)

St. Mark's Square: Campanile Tower (right)


Today we'll explore the history of the tower called "Campanile." It's a tall brick bell tower for the basilica (of St. Mark's which we'll talk about in the next blog).  The Tower is in the corner of the "arcaded Procuratie Nuove."

BUILT- Construction on the tower started in the 10th century and it was finished in the 12th century. That's a long time to construct a tower! The pointed roof and golden top were not added until the 15th century.

COLLAPSED AND REBUILT -  On July 14, 1902, the Campanile collapsed into the piazza into a pile of rubble, but didn't kill anyone according to historical records. Ten Years Later- By 1912, it had rebuilt to its original 98.6-meter height, as was the Loggetta, a small marble loggia built by Sansovino between 1537 and 1540 for the members of the Great Council to assemble before going into the sessions. After the campanile rubble was cleared, it was possible to rebuild the Loggetta using the original stones and sculptures, including Sansovino's four bronze masterpieces that stand between the twin columns.

USES- PRISON AND BEACON - The campanile is so tall that it was used by approaching ships as a beacon to guide them home. However, it also had a darker purpose. In the Middle Ages,it was used as a a place where wrongdoers were confined in a cage that was lifted half-way up the tower. The punishment could last for several weeks.
NEXT: Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark's Basilica)

Credit for information:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Italy Blog #10 Venice: Tom's Favorite Shop, Mozart Played Here, "Phoenix-like" Opera House

Tom's Favorite "Medicine"
In this 10th blog of our Venice experience, we'll take you to Tom's favorite shop, show you where Mozart played,and a famous opera house that has "risen from the ashes" three times over the last 400 years.
TOM'S FAVORITE SHOP NAME - As we walked through the Dosorduro island of Venice we checked out a lot of little shops. There were some GREAT bakeries and I (Rob) made sure we stopped at most of them (despite the sinus infection (it was only on the left side), I could still taste the great pastries). Of course, Tom would take a Margarita (the alcoholic drink) any time over pastries, and when we found a pharmacy with the name Margarita (spelled slightly differently), Tom said "Margarita's are my kind of medicine!"

Mozart was here
MOZART PLAYED HERE - On one of our walks around we came across a plaque on a building that said "Amadeus Mozart played here." We couldn't read much of it because it was all in Italian, but it's always interesting to see where Mozart played. The building was in decay, but we imagine it must have either been a small concert hall or a wealthy person's home.

Rosanna and Tom outside the opera house
THE "RISING PHOENIX-LIKE" OPERA HOUSE - Our second tour guide, Rosanna was a walking encyclopedia, and she knew where all the good bakeries were! :)  One of the first things we saw was an opera house called "Teatro La Fenice" on San Marco Island.It was originally built in 1792 and is located at Campo San Fantin, 1965, 30124 Venezia, Italy.

  WHAT OPERAS WERE THERE? - In the 19th century, La Fenice became the site of many famous operatic premieres at which the works of several of the four major bel canto era composers—Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi were performed.

3 FIRES - Rosanna told us the theater name reflects its role in permitting an opera company to "rise from the ashes,"  like the mythological bird, the phoenix.
  Fire #1 happened in 1774 and it wasn't reopened until 1792; Fire #2 happened in 1836, but rebuilding was completed within a year. Fire #3 was arson and destroyed the house in 1996 leaving only the exterior walls, but it was rebuilt and re-opened in November 2004.   Although we didn't get to go inside and explore here's a picture of what the rebuilt opera house looks like - amazing!
Inside Teatro La Fenice. Credit: Expedia

NEXT: ST. MARK'S SQUARE All Claims Trump has against Clinton Proven False

It's important to get to the FACTS. Donald Trump seems to be great at accusing everyone of being "the worst"
and "most horrible" people. Fortunately, there are organizations that check facts.
  On June 23,Fact revealed all claims made by Trump are false in his Attack on Clinton’s Character. Read the whole article  here


Donald Trump’s once delayed, and much anticipated, speech on Hillary Clinton’s character, included numerous false and misleading statements:
  • Trump falsely claimed that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens “was left helpless to die as Hillary Clinton soundly slept in her bed.” Two emails from Clinton show that she was awake after it was learned that Stevens had died in the attack on the diplomatic facility in Benghazi.
  • Trump misleadingly claimed that Clinton “accepted $58,000 in jewelry from the government of Brunei when she was secretary of state.” He didn’t mention that the gift was accepted on behalf of the United States, and that it was transferred to the General Services Administration.
  • Trump claimed without any evidence that Clinton “wants to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to settle Middle Eastern refugees in the United States.” The numbers don’t add up. The total refugee budget was $1.67 billion in fiscal 2016, so it is unlikely that Clinton could add “hundreds of billions” to the budget for refugee assistance.
  • Trump overstated his case when he claimed the U.S. “trade deficit with China soared 40 percent during Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state.” It went up 17 percent, and we note that trade is under the purview of the Commerce Department, not the State Department.
  • Trump blamed Clinton for the “disastrous strategy of announcing our departure from Iraq, handing large parts of the country over to ISIS and the ISIS killers.” The departure date was set by President George W. Bush. President Obama made the ultimate call to keep the scheduled departure date, not Clinton.
  • Trump falsely claimed that Clinton would “end virtually all immigration enforcement and thus create totally open borders for the United States.” Clinton supported a Senate immigration bill that would create a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally, but it also would have included large investments in border security.
  • Trump falsely claimed that the private server that Clinton used as secretary of state “was easily hacked by foreign governments.” Attempts were made to hack into Clinton’s server, but the identity of the hackers has not been determined and there has been no evidence to date that any of them were successful.
  • Trump falsely claimed that “Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved the transfer of 20 percent of America’s uranium holdings to Russia.” The transfer was approved by a committee headed by the Treasury Department and made up of nine voting members throughout government, including one from the State Department.
  • Trump claimed he was opposed to the Iraq war “before the war ever started.” There is no evidence of that.
  • Trump wrongly said that “real wages for our workers have not been raised for 18 years.” Average weekly earnings for production and non-supervisory employees are up 10 percent, adjusted for inflation and seasonal factors, over that time period.
  • Trump described the North American Free Trade Agreement as “Bill Clinton’s disastrous and totally disastrous NAFTA.” President Clinton signed the legislation to implement NAFTA, but the agreement itself was negotiated and signed by President George H. W. Bush.

Analysis Read it here


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Italy Blog #9- Venetian Tour Guide Book Recommendation: Dan Brown's Inferno

In this blog, we'll stop and introduce you to a book that many of our Italian Tour guides recommended: Dan
Brown's novel "Inferno."
  Once we returned home from vacation, we ordered it and I (Rob) read it. Note: It's over 600 pages, but it's a fast read. It features Professor Robert Langdon from Brown's previous novels, so you know the character. It also takes you through places in Venice and Florence (and places we got to visit on our trip). It was a fast-paced book that will keep you guessing. I Recommend it!

DO YOU KNOW DANTE'S INFERNO POEM? - Of course, it references Dante Aligieri's famous poem "The Inferno" - which is about Dante's journey through Hell. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine circles of suffering located within the Earth.

THE VILLAIN - A villain with "good intentions" happened to use the "beaked or plague doctor" mask that we talked about in an earlier blog - so it was interesting to be able to picture it while reading.
This is another good book by Dan Brown, and I can see why everyone recommended it. Give it a read.

The characters go here to St. Mark's Square and the Doge Palace

    In his international blockbusters The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown masterfully fused history, art, codes, and symbols. In this riveting new thriller, Brown returns to his element and has crafted his highest-stakes novel to date.
    In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces . . . Dante’s Inferno.
The characters go down the Grand Canal
    Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered.

NEXT: Tom's Favorite Shop, Mozart Played Here, and a "Phoenix-like" Opera House

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Italy Blog #8: Venice: Faces & Murals on Buildings

Faces on buildings
Tom and Rob admiring the building faces
In this eighth blog about Italy, we'll show you some interesting faces on buildings  in Venice and how Venice was constructed.

Head and torso of a woman as a doorknob
A mural from a wine maker, restored
FACES ON BUILDINGS, DOORS - Buildings in Venice offered a lot of things to look at, architecturally. Some had faces on the walls, others on door knobs, and yet others on cornerstones. Most of the faces seemed to be non-human or perhaps images from Roman mythology. 

MURALS ON BUILDINGS - We were told by one of our tour guides that some of the homes (especially on the Grand Canal) had murals or frescos on the front of the buildings. They were either paintings or done in tile and most have since worn off from weather over the centuries. If you look at the photo below, you'll be able to see a hint of a mural, now very, very faded

A worn out mural on a building face

typical flooding on a walkway
 CONSTRUCTING VENICE - DID YOU KNOW? The city of Venice was built in the early 1500's A.D. on a collection of 117 low islands at the center of a lagoon. According to, In order to build a city above the water, early architects had to build stable foundations that were sunk deep into a bed of compounded silt and sand called subsoil. The construction material of choice for these foundations was wood stakes from native alder trees. Wood made an ideal foundation material because the submerged wood was not exposed to air, which inhibited deterioration and rotting. In addition, the wood provided a strong, yet flexible support that could resist the constant movement of the tides. For more about the city and its sinking problem, click for an article from the University of Southern California. 

COMING NEXT:  Venetian Tour Guide Book Recommendation: Dan Brown's Inferno

THEN: Tom's Favorite Shop, Mozart Played Here, and a "Phoenix-like" Opera House

Monday, June 20, 2016

Italy Blog #7:Venice: The Oddities of a Gondola and the Gondola Shop

Rob and Tom pose in rainy Venice
In this seventh blog about our trip to Italy, we're still in Venice and we'll show you the Gondola Shop and tell you about what makes gondolas so unique.

GONDOLA MAKERS!  - this craft has been around since the 1500s, and there are 2 main manufacturers of Gondolas in Venice that we learned about.

Watching others take a Gondola in the rain
THE ODDITIES OF A GONDOLA: each one is a unique piece.  
1) Each gondolier has his own gondola and each boat is customized to its gondolier, to his weight and height.
2) In fact, there's an iron weight on the front of each boat to help the boat balance.
3)  They're curved! Looking at them head on you can see that gondolas are NOT straight like a kayak - that's all about balance, rowing, and steering... see below.
4) The steering position, the oar and the forcola where it rests are designed and manufactured considering the height and the arms of the gondolier. This need to customize gondolas is not an artistic habit, but rather responds to its peculiar navigation technique based on arm strength

THE GONDOLA SHOP - The main shop where the majority of gondolas are made is called Squero di San Trovaso. Its located at Fondamenta Bonlini, 1097, 30123 Venezia, Italy. That's the shop where we stopped (from across a canal) and got a look at how the gondolas were being made and repaired.

Gondola shop at Squero di San Trovaso
THE OLDEST GONDOLA BUILDER? - The oldest gondola builder is in Tramontin Squero, as the Tramontin family has been handing down the art since 1884 and has been the pioneer of the modernization of construction techniques, renewing methodologies used since the 1500s and 1600s. The construction technique of gondolas is virtually unchanged since the days of Giovanni Tramontin,

HOW MANY GONDOLIERS TODAY? According to, there are some 450 authorized gondoliers distributed over the five hundred gondolas in the city today.There are a lot of water taxis to get people back and forth, and gondolas seem to be pretty much used for tourists. There were a lot of hardcore visitors when we were there because they took the open gondola rides in the rain... while we took covered taxis. In fact, since it rained almost the entire time, we never did take a gondola ride


NEXT: Faces and Murals on Buildings 

THEN: Venetian Tour Guide Book Recommendation: Dan Brown's Inferno

THEN: Tom's Favorite Shop, Mozart Played Here,St. Mark's (Wet) Square)

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Italy Blog #6: Venice: The Italian Job Boat Garage, Floods and Cistern HIstory

Tom and Rob enjoy pasta at Cafe 1812 outside
In this sixth blog about our trip to Italy, we're still in Venice and we'll show you the Italian Job Boat Garage and give you some Cistern HIstory.

GOOD FOOD AT CAFE 1812- If you're looking for a good meal (and not wanting to wait until 7pm when 90% of the restaurants start serving dinner), the small Cafe 1812 in Dorsoduro was our favorite spot. In fact, we dined there the couple of days we were in Venice (because we like to eat early). Despite the on-off rain, we did get a rain free meal outside under an umbrella.

THE BOAT GARAGE- The garage where the boats were stored in the 2003 film "The Italian Job" was actually in the canal alongside our hotel, the Palazzo Stern! In fact, it was under the building directly behind our hotel (which made it impossible to get a picture). But, that spot is a popular place for tourists to try and see. We put an arrow on the photo pointing to the opening of the garage in the street beside our hotel.

WHAT IS THE ITALIAN JOB film (2003)- If you didn't see the movie, here's a brief synopsis from IMDB's website: Led by John Bridger  and Charlie Croker a team is assembled for one last heist to steal $35 million in gold bars from a heavily guarded safe in Venice, Italy. After successfully pulling off the heist, a team member, Steve   driven by greed and jealousy, arranges to take the gold for himself and eliminate the remaining members of the group. Thinking the team dead, he returns to L.A. with the gold. The rest of the team plans and executes a daring heist that weaves through the freeways and subways of L.A. to get their gold back. 

VENICE'S FLOODING CISTERN HISTORY- We learned that Venice used cisterns to get drinking water for hundreds of years until a great flood that contaminated all of them with salt water and rendered them useless. So, they were all sealed off.
One of many inactive cisterns
   The cisterns were located in every campo (public area), which made them easily accessible to the public. Of course, wealthier folks had their own, but it didn't matter after the flooding- they were all rendered unusable.  Most campos were equipped with a cistern to trap and save rainwater.  The cistern consisted of a brick-lined chamber filled with sand.  Rain water filtered down through the sand to maintain purity.
A canal in Venice, Dorsoduro
THE GREAT FLOOD OF 1966 AND MANY OTHER FLOODS: On November 4, 1966, an abnormal occurrence of high tides, rain-swollen rivers and a severe Sirocco wind caused the canals to rise to a height of 194 cm or 6 ft 4inches. It caused over six million dollars worth of damage to the various art throughout Venice; Other floods were experienced in Nov. 1927, Dec. 1933, March 1964, Feb. 1974, 1980, Nov. 1996, Nov. 20016, Oct. 2006, Jan. 2010, Nov. 2011, Oct. 2012 and Nov. 2012. In most cases, Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) was underwater (and people even boated over it). 

NEXT: The Oddities of a Gondola and the Gondola Shop

Gift/Memorial Suggestions

Several of our friends have lost loved ones (human and pets) and we found that one of the best ways to honor their memory is to give to an animal charity.
What better way to recognize a life of love, than by giving another life a chance for love?
We donate to many animal rescues, but because we volunteer with
DC Weimaraner Rescue and Coast-to-Coast Dachshund Rescue, those are our 2 favorites.
Consider giving the chance of life to a dog or cat.

About us

We're two married guys who enjoy the simple things in life, especially our dogs. We volunteer for dog rescues, enjoy splitting dinners, exercising, blogging, helping friends and neighbors, ghost investigations, coffee and tea, Tudor history, weather, superheroes, comic books, mystery novels, traveling, 70s and 80s music, classic country, piano, gardening, writing books on ghosts and spirits, architecture, keeping a clean house, cooking simply, and keeping in shape. You'll find tidbits of all of these things on this blog and more.

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!
Wondering what home project to do next