I spent a long weekend in Venice recently, and took quite a few photographs (Flickr set here). It's a wonderful place; the blue skies contrasted well with the pinks and greys of the buildings, and the emerald green of the canals and lagoon. The photo above was taken in a workshop that makes masks of painted papier mâché. Some of the masks are of a traditional design used in the annual Carnivale di Venezia, but others are purely for the tourists. Whilst sitting enjoying the sunshine and a coffee in one of the market squares in the Rialto district, I noticed that a group of Americans on the next table were looking at their purchases. One tried on his mask rather sheepishly, and I managed to catch the moment. It's my favourite photo of the trip.
Tourists aren't in short supply in Venice. The main island is thronged with people from early morning until dusk, and most of them seem to be visitors. I was staying on the island of La Giudecca, just to the south. It used to be an industrial island of flower mills and boat building. Today, shiny new apartment blocks have sprung up in the former industrial spaces, and of an evening teenagers play football in the courtyards, and young men play around on boats, or practice their skills with a Gondola. I suppose most of the people living on La Giudecca service the tourist industry, but it's still nice to know that the area isn't just a historical theme park.
I inevitably spent some of the time visiting the standard tourist attractions such as the Palazzo Ducale and the Basilica di San Marco, but the real beauty of the place was off the beaten track looking at secluded canals and faded architectural gems.
The surprise of the trip for me was in the treasury of the Basilica di San Marco, which is stuffed full of church plate and gruesome relics of saints. Much of the hoard was looted from Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade of 1201-1204, which began as a quest to gain Christians free access to the Holy Land, but ended in the sacking of Constantinople, one of the most shameful acts in Christian history. I wonder if there's ever any discussion of whether they should give the objects back.