Venice Offers a Multitude of Memories

Boats manned by gondoliers that carry passengers down the many waterways in Venice are among the most photographed sites in the world. In fact, very few tourists to the area are said to leave before taking an excursion on a gondola.

And I was no exception. I took in all the scenery as I glided along in a gondola exploring the nooks and crannies of this popular destination. The gondolas have been a part of Venice since the 11th century and offer tourists a view of many of the attractions.

Gondolas | Larger

This was not my first visit to Venice, but it was my first visit to the ghetto of Venice. The ghetto was established by a decree on March 29, 1516. Called Ghetto Nuovo, the area is said to be Europe's first ghetto. You will have to walk down several avenues and side streets to find the ghetto, but residents were hospitable and guided me along the way.

Today, the Ghetto Nuovo is the district of the city where Jewish religious and administrative institutions are located. Synagogues are open for worship and tours. There is also a Chabad facility located in the ghetto.

There is evidence of the presence of Jews in the Venetian republic territories in the early centuries from the Orient and from the countries beyond the Alps. After, 1492, the Jews were driven out of Spain and Portugal and settled first on the mainland later, came to Venice.

Ghetto Nuovo
Ghetto Nuovo | Larger

The Government of the Republic declared that all Jews should live in a single zone and the decree was enacted on March 29, 1516. The decree stated that all the Jews should reside in an area called Ghetto Nuovo in Venice. Records indicated that by 1663, 5,000 Jews lied in the ghetto in Venice.

At night the Jews were required to remain in the ghetto, closed by guards at two doors at the entrance. If you visit the ghetto, you can still see the signs of the hinges. The entrance to the ghetto is small and dark. It is easy to overlook. A map of the city is a must if you visit there. The buildings within the ghetto are several stories high because the lack of space prevented the Jews from building outside the boundaries so they built up instead.

Five major synagogues were erected in the ghetto from the early 1500s to the mid 1600s by various ethnic groups from German and Spanish to Italian and Portuguese. People worshipped in their synagogues in the ghetto according to their own traditions.

In 1797, Napoleon ended the segregation of the Jews and granted them equal rights, which after some restrictions under the Austrian rule finally became permanent when Venice joined the Italian Reign in 1866, as noted on the memorial in the center of the Campo di Ghetto.

Phyllis at the Piazzo San Marco
Phyllis at the Piazzo San Marco | Larger

I visited a museum in the ghetto, which was established in 1953, located in a former German synagogue in the ghetto. The museum contains a collection of textiles, Venetian silver pieces, precious books and furnishings from early Jewish communities.

Some Jews still live in the ghetto, but most of the 650 to 700 Jews in Venice, reside in neighborhoods outside of the ghetto.

Venice has several museums and wonderful outside restaurants. Enjoy a delightful meal or a cup of coffee on the Piazzo San Marco.

Santa Maria della Salute
Santa Maria della Salute

You can spend most the day visiting these attractions, but be warned the lines can be very long. Two of the most popular churches are the Basilica di San Marco and the Santa Maria della Salute. The altarpiece by Bellini is one of Venice's most beautiful paintings from the Renaissance era and is among the many works of art displayed in the Santa Maria della Salute.

Once home to Venice's rulers, the Doges Palace is an important historic sight in Venice and a classic example of Gothic architecture. The Palace was official residence of Venetian rulers beginning in the ninth century.

Doges Palace
Doges Palace | Larger

I concluded my trip to Venice leaving by way of the Venice-Simplon Orient Express Train. I envisioned women in elegant clothes wearing wide brimmed hats and gentlemen in fine white linen suits waiting to board the train like Faye Dunaway and Richard Widmark in the movie, Murder On the Orient Express, but instead encountered passengers modestly attired as they would for any other form of travel.

Hopping on the Orient Express
Hopping on the Orient Express

The Venice-Simplon Orient Express Train began serving passengers in 1883. Princes and film stars crossed Europe on the famous Orient-Express. The train was laid to rest in 1977 and the present owners in order to revive it brought in craftsmen to recreate the opulence for which the Orient-Express was renown. The refashioned train contains the original patterned upholstery of the earlier model and each Orient Express rail car has been restored to contain the sumptuous luxury experienced by passengers on the earlier model.

Enjoying scones on Orient Express
Enjoying scones on the Orient Express

The highlight of my journey on the Orient Express was being served tea and scones by waiters donning white gloves in elegantly appointed dining cars as the train leisurely traveled from Venice to London.