November 24, 2005

11.20.05-- Palazzo Ducale

The Doges Palace was not something I expected to enjoy. Though the exterior is quite detailed (Baroque, of course; it sits against the Basilica), the interior fascade is rather boring. Two fo the interior courtyard walls are made of brick, while the third mirros the outside in amount of details. Upon entering the first part of the museum, I saw a variety of very old columns, just sort of "growing" from the center of the room, not attached to anything. It was really boring. Cutting across the courtyard, however, to the ornate building, I finally began to understand why people rave about this palace (actually called Palazzo Ducale. Why do we have to change the name of everything? Is it that hard to say Ducale?) The rooms were expansive and breathtaking. The stairways had ceilings carved with marble and gold. Dark wooden walls lined one room, while the next was pannelled in rich fabrics. My favorite room was the Senate's Chambers, where the senators each took their seat in a dark, carved individual wooden bench. The Doge and his Execs presided over the Senate from the wooden stage at the front of the room. Overhead, paintings of battles competed with carved gold for the eye's attention, while similar art lined the walls. Though this was my favorite room, it was not the most interesting. There was a room that is among the largest in Europe. It was in this room that all the representatives from prominent families would meet to do business. Similar to the Senate room, it had a stage at the frong and comparable art work, but the room was about the size of 1/2 a football field. My eye was overwhelmed by all that it had to take in. I actually was able to snap a picture of it without getting in trouble, but then everyone after me who tried got the "no foto" yell. oops! There's no sign, how are we to know? The tour then leads you to the basement of the Palace-- over the Bridge of Sighs. The bridge is so named because it led prisoners from the courtrooms in the palace over the waterway into the prisons below. When the prisoners looked out over the water for the last time before they began their term, they sighed. The prisons were cold, dark, dry and unwelcoming. The sounds of my footsteps echoed on the stone floor and reminded me of the beginning of the film Robing Hood, when Kevin Costner is in prison. With a little imagination, I could see the thing, terrified prisoners trembling with cold as rats squeezed and scurried past them. Worse, I could imagaine that many were probably there for "crimes" ridiculous as stealing food to feed their starvng family, a la Aladdin. During the tour, I met a father and son from Venezuela and we began to lament the fact that people still suffer like this in prisons today. I mentioned how shamed I was that there is a great deal of speculation that American prisons at Gitmo are similar to these. We all agreed it's a travesty.

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