Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Italy | Venice | Enrico Dandolo #1

After my Visit To the Tomb of Enrico Dandolo in Istanbul I wandered further west to Venice. I wanted to see his birthplace and the four copper statues of horses that he had expropriated from Constantinople after the sack of the city in 1204. The flight from Istanbul to Venice takes two hours and twenty-five minutes, landing at Marco Polo (what else?) Airport at 12:50 p.m. local time. A paved pathway leads several hundred yards from the airport exits to the water buses that transport arrivals two miles across the lagoon to Venice. Although I have read John Julius Norwich’s magisterial  A History Of Venice (who hasn’t?) and several other books about Venice and its role at the ultimate western terminus of the Silk Road I was woefully ignorant about the details of actually visiting the city. All I knew I had gleaned from the internet the night before in my hotel room in Istanbul and in the Turkish Air business lounge at Ataturk Airport.

The water bus made seven stops before arriving at the San Marco Piazza stop more than a hour after leaving the airport. I had booked a hotel based solely on its proximity to the Church of San Luca (Luke), which my preliminary researches had indicated was near the birthplace of Enrico Dandolo. The hotel was located on the far side of San Marco Piazza— Plaza of St. Mark—and although all tourist information warned about the notorious difficulty of finding one’s way around Venice I had the GPS coordinates of the hotel and my GPS and did not expect any difficulties. Although anxious to get settled in I could not help but stop for a few moments in the vast plaza and gaze at St. Mark’s Church at it eastern end. Sure enough, there on the facade were four statues of the horses. I knew, however, that these were replicas of the four statues expropriated by Enrico Dandolo after the sack of Constantinople. The originals were in a museum inside the church itself. They must wait.
St. Mark’s Plaza and the Church of St. Mark (click on photos for enlargements)
 Church of St. Mark
Replicas of the statues of four horses brought to Venice by Enrico Dandolo on the facade of St. Mark’s Church
 Another view of the statues
Leaving one of the northern exits from the plaza I quickly homed in on my hotel using my GPS. Arriving there I was somewhat flummoxed to find the door of the hotel locked and the lobby plunged into darkness. I pounded on the door but got no response. I was about to leave and ask someone in the next-door store about the hotel when I noticed an envelope taped to the door. It was below my waist level and I had not noticed it before. Glancing at the envelope, I saw that it was addressed to “Mr Corner”, a common misspelling of my name. A note inside stated that the hotel had been closed because of unforeseen maintenance problems but that I should proceed to the Hotel Casanova, where a room had been reserved for me. A map was attached showing the way to the eponymous Hotel Casanova. It turned out it was just a hundred feet or so from the western exit from St. Mark’s Plaza. After checking into my tiny, rather shabbily furnished room, I retired across the street to a restaurant where I had a plate of pasta and a half liter of refreshingly perky red house wine. There were six waitresses in this restaurant and all of them appeared to be Chinese. For a moment I thought I was back in Beijing. My waitress was preternaturally attentive. I had only to raise one eyebrow to bring her scurrying to my table. Later I went back to my hotel room to see what more I could dig up on the internet about the family of Enrico Dandolo.