Pisa Is Not Alone (Venezia 208)

Mention a leaning tower and Pisa gets all the attention; not without warrant I must say, for the colonnaded design of that tower makes it particularly attractive (not to mention its impressive neighbours in Field of Miracles) and if you ever ascend its spiral, the experience of feeling thrown from wall to wall as the lean pulls you towards the inner and then the outer wall is also memorable.  Let’s be fair though, Venice has lots more leaning towers (even it’s most famous; the Campanile of San Marco is in need of help with stability, despite being completely rebuilt in the 2oth Century) and we shouldn’t be surprised; building such structures on a series of water-logged islands in a lagoon probably isn’t good architectural practice.

This one is the bell tower of Santo Stefano and having added another 6.1cm to its lean in the last 60 years, it might just be in greater need than San Marco.



Really Mr McEwan! (Venezia 109)

I’ve long enjoyed Ian McEwan‘s works since reading The Innocent many years, and have a number of signed first editions as a result, but I hadn’t read The Comfort of Strangers until I returned from my recent trip.  Now to be fair, nowhere within the tale does he confirm that the setting is Venice, but with a such a unique location there can be no mistake.  Or rather no mistake in identifying his intended setting, but when he writes:

To reach the hotel, it was necessary to walk across one of the great tourist attractions of the world, an immense wedge-shaped expanse of paving, enclosed on three sides by dignified arcaded buildings and dominated at its open end by a redbrick clock tower,

Clock tower?  Clock tower?  Yes there is a clock tower at that end of the Piazza, with an astronomical clock that has starred in a Bond film, but it is neither redbrick nor dominant.  I take it you meant the campanile Mr Mc.  A BELL tower.

Still it was only his second novel.


Not all it’s cracked up to be (Venezia 15)

Time for one of the obvious Venetian shots – the pinnacle of the Campanile San Marco, bell tower of the basilica that dominates the great piazza, and many views of the city from the lagoon.  It is one of the tallest, if not the tallest structure in Venice, at least until the vast ten storey high cruise ships drift by, at which point everything else seems to lose it’s significance.

This is an Italian campanile that I have not climbed to get a birds eye view (unless you count scaling the 15th Century version in the guise of Ezio Auditore in a well known computer game) for in Venice that’s kind of missing the point.  In a city where the facade is everything, looking down on the rooftops seems futile.

Compared to many of the other towers around the city, cracked, weathered and tilting in all directions, the Campanile San Marco looks pristine as well it might; in 1902 the original tower collapsed into a pile of rubble and immediately it was decided to rebuild it exactly as it was (though with internal reinforcement this time).  The work took a decade, so the tower we see today, though medieval in design, is very much a 20th Century structure.

Campanile San Marco
Campanile San Marco