It turns out that rain does discourage people a little, so St Mark's Square was a lot less crowded than usual.
I'd planned to visit St Mark's, and booked a 'skip the line' ticket so I didn't have to queue in the rain, although it simply means that you join the queue inside the basilica instead of outside!
The sheer volume of people does mean that it's bit of a conveyor belt; you shuffle along on little fenced paths through the basilica, and can't really stop and take in the atmosphere, and not all of the mosaics are lit, all of the time, but despite this it is still pretty impressive. After walking round the church itself, you get to go upstairs, where you can visit the museum. The original horses of St Mark's are there, now.
|Cavalli di San Marco|
The horses have had a long and varied history. They were created (probably) in the 2nd or 3rd C AD, (originally pulling a chariot) and were displayed at the hippodrome in Constantinople for many years, before being looted by the Venetians in 1204 (when they also got their collars, as the heads of the sculptures were removed for transport, and the collars added to cover up the join, when they were reassembled)
They then took up their posts on the facade of St Marks, in 1254. They stayed there until 1797, when Napoleon had them removed, and they spent some time in Paris, before being returned after Napoleon's defeat, and reinstated on the Basilica in 1815. They were moved inside to prevent damage from pollution, in the 1980s, and the ones outside are now copies.
I hadn't appreciated how old they were, until I read about them in the museum!
The museum also give you the chance to see some of the mosaics up close, and to look down into the church.
And of course there is also the chance to go out onto the loggia and look down into St Mark's Square, and out to the lagoon.
(That line of umbrellas are over all the people queuing to get into the basilica, an excellent reason to use the skip-the-line service!)
On the way out, are the best views of some of the mosaics, and they seem more relaxed about you taking photos of them, in the porch. They are very impressive!
I spent the afternoon mostly admiring modern art, as I visited both the Ca' Pesaro museum of modern art, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
My favourite piece in the Ca' Pesaro museum was their Klimt, Salome, although I also enjoyed the Kandinskys and the Rodins. Not to mention the views out over the Grand Canal.
The same building also houses the Oriental Art museum, which has some rather lovely netsuke, and Japanese screen, and also an amazing Chinese Ivory chess set, which reminded me of the one which Lord Peter Whimsey buys as a gift for Harriet Vane in Gaudy Night..
Then there's the Peggy Guggenheim Collection , with more Kandinskys, plus Man Ray, Jackson Pollock, Picasso and Dali, not to mention a sculpture garden with pieces from Moore, Hepworth, Anish Kapoor and others. Even in the rain it is well worth exploring!
Despite being distinctly soggy by this point, I did stop off with some other rubber-neckers, on the Ponte d'Accademia to watch another piece of artwork being delivered or installed. I hadn't really thought much about how the lack of roads or trucks would affect that kind of thing - there must be a whole extra set of challenges when even your cranes need to be on barges...