I wasn’t that interested in churches or even in Venice, strangely enough, when I went to Italy for the first time. That trip (September 2002) wasn’t slow (it was a guided tour of the major cities starting in Milan and ending in Rome) and at that time, I was mainly interested in art museums and food/wine. I was very excited about seeing Florence and Rome and was only going to Venice because it was part of the tour.
Well. I fell hard for Venice and especially for the Basilica di San Marco. It was love-at-first-sight; I was just blown away by that church. I went in a bunch of amazing churches all over Italy, but it was the Basilica that completely captured my heart, and I came home eager to get back to Venice (and back inside that church) as soon as possible.
My second trip a year later was a slow one (two weeks in an apartment in Venice) and that’s when the “church quest" really began. It all started with buying a Chorus Pass and setting out to visit the 16 churches included on that pass. What fun that was! The Chorus Pass includes churches in all six of Venice’s sestieri (districts or neighborhoods) and finding these churches is such an adventure with many amazing sites along the way. And the process of finding them helps you get your bearings (as much as is possible in Venice!).
There’s some awesome art in these churches, and seeing art in a church is a great way to avoid the dreaded Stendhal Syndrome, which some people think is a myth but I’ve definitely experienced (I tend to go into overload and zone out in most large museums). In a church, you can take your art in small doses and really see it without getting overwhelmed. More about “Slow Art” later.
The Church of San Giacomo dall'Orio in Santa Croce
My lifetime Venice church list began on that second trip (I’ve been inside 59 of them so far). In between trips, I’ve been doing much reading and research, trying to learn as much as I can, and also trying to figure out how many churches there are exactly! I’ve discovered that just as Venice is a crazy labyrinth, so is the history of her churches, and I have lots of unanswered questions.
So…why churches and why Venice? Maybe writing this blog will help me figure it out. When I was a kid, I loved mysteries (Nancy Drew, anyone?) and scavenger hunts, so perhaps this church quest satisfies my inner child who really wanted to be a detective? I dunno. But I’m hooked. My fifth trip is coming up soon (in December 2007) and I plan to write about that too.
Thanks for reading! And many thanks to Kim and Slow Travel for all the help in getting started with this.