December 9, 2013 – Padua and Venice

This morning we drive to Venice with a stop in Padua to see the Scrovegni Chapel, home to Giotto’s fabulous frescoes. The road we take, the A4, does not have much to recommend it. The road traverses an industrial band of cities. We are in heavy traffic with lots of trucks and a few crazy Italian drivers. The weather is cold and foggy.

Our GPS directs us close to our destination and we figure out the odd parking lot system where you don’t take a ticket but they photograph your license plate and when you come back you enter the plate number and it calculates your parking fee. A not so helpful attendant keeps talking at John more and more loudly as if he will understand Italian if spoken loudly enough.

We walk to the Scrovegni Chapel using the GPS in pedestrian mode. How did we ever find our way around before we had one? Much like the Last Supper, the Chapel has a climate control system. Only 25 people are allowed in at once and only for 15 minutes. We surrender our bags and cameras to an attendant and watch a movie about the Chapel before entering.

Mary and John in front of Scrovegni Chapel
Mary and John in front of Scrovegni Chapel

Sarah and Mom in front of Scrovegni Chapel
Sarah and Mom in front of Scrovegni Chapel

Enrico Scrovegni and his father were businessmen who amassed a fortune through money lending. Christian doctrine at the time taught that money lenders were the lowest of the low and were pretty much looking forward to an exciting jaunt in hell when they died. In 1303 Enrico hoped to save his father and himself from this fate by building this Chapel and dedicating it to the Virgin Mary.

The frescoes tell the story of the Mary’s parents, Christ’s birth and life, the Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. There are three tiers of story telling panels on the side walls and a Last a judgement on the back wall and the altar on the front wall.

Giotto was a groundbreaker in art. Before Giotto figures were stiff with no facial expression and no weight or movement to their bodies. Then Giotto comes along and changes everything. His figures use gradation of color to give a sense of actual bodies inside the robes and their faces show emotion. In the panels you see affection, anger and grief. He uses some perspective. To me, Giotto is the real beginning of the Renaissance.

Deposition panel from Giotto's frescoes (actually a picture taken of a postcard)
Deposition panel from Giotto’s frescoes (actually a picture taken of a postcard)

Fifteen minutes of viewing is way too short a time but we are shooed out and go in search of lunch. We walk around. Nothing is open or appealing. On the way out of town we find a McDonald’s and decide some fuel is better than none. Interestingly, they ask us if we want ketchup and then charge us .25 Euros per packet.

Sarah and John at McDonald's
Sarah and John at McDonald’s

Venice is just a short drive away. We park the car in the big parking structure on the edge of the lagoon and catch the water bus to our hotel. It’s all pretty exhausting what with lugging our suitcases and all. John and I decide to get organized and do some laundry while Sarah goes out exploring. She is charmed by the quietness of Venice. With no cars, you can walk down a little alleyway and hear people frying something for dinner. We meet for drinks and plan out our next three days in Venice.

Sarah samples the wine
Sarah samples the wine

Dinner is across the street. Venice is known for bad tourist food. All in all our dinner is pretty okay. We are hopeful of a good night’s sleep but since I am writing this at 4 AM probably not.

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