(photo credit: courtesy)
Bari in Italy, the capital of the province of Bari and Apulia. It is the second most important aving been to Machu Picchu, Pompeii, the Galapagos Islands and many more remote places, for some reason in my long and not uneventful 60 years I had never been to Venice.
So this spring I decided to correct my omission. Since, like Istanbul or Rio de Janeiro, Venice is a city best approached by sea, I booked a 12-day passage on the Golden Iris, the 17,000-ton flagship of Mano Cruises, one of Israel’s leading cruise operators.
We boarded ship on a cool Tuesday afternoon, and by 6 p.m. we had cleared the bar of Haifa harbor. Settling in on a ship means arranging one’s things in the cabin, reserving a table in the dining room and choosing a first or second seating. On this cruise ship, meals are served both in closed and open seatings. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style on deck or in the dining room. Dinner is a more formal affair, and your tablemates should be chosen with care.
The first port of call was Chania on the Greek island of Crete. The Venetians ruled Crete from the 13th to the 17th century, and Chania was their seat of government.
It remained the capital of Crete during the Ottoman period and during the brief period of its semi-independence.
Many of the fine buildings in the city are embassies and consulates that were built by the great powers during this period.
The second port of call was economic center of mainland southern Italy and is well known as a port and university city.
We arrived in Venice at 6 p.m. on the sixth day of the cruise for a 24-hour stay. The area of Venice is very small and if you plan well, you can see most of the places of interest in a single day. I suggest doing it on foot so you can better inhale the character of the place. A trip by gondola through the Grand Canal is also recommended.
A tour of Venice should include a visit to the Doge’s Palace; St. Mark’s Basilica and its historic piazza; the Palazzo Pisani-Moretta complex of the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore; and the island of Murano, home of the famous Murano glass.
Another must-see is the Jewish Quarter. It has six synagogues with modest exteriors but palatial interiors.
The quarter is divided into three: the Ghetto Vecchio, the Ghetto Nuovo and the Ghetto Nuovissimo. As the community grew and prospered, the Jewish Quarter was enlarged and the accommodation became more lavish. The synagogues represent the various ethnic groups of Jewish Venice: the Grande Tedesci (Great German) for the northern Ashkenazim; the Canton for Ashkenazim from France, mainly Alsace; the Grande Spagnola for the Spanish and Portuguese; the Italiani and the Luzzatto Synagogue for the Italian Jews; and the Levantina for the Jewish merchants from Muslim countries (mainly the Turkish Empire).
We sailed from Venice at 8 p.m., with the lights of the city twinkling in the dark sky. By morning, we were in the Italian city of Trieste for half a day. That afternoon we sailed for Dubrovnik, or Ragusa of old, which we reached the following day.
Dubrovnik is one of the world’s most well-preserved medieval cities. Many of its buildings date back to that period and the circular wall enclosing the old city is over three miles long. Dubrovnik is now part of Croatia, but in its heyday it was an Italian maritime city state. It never attained the prominence of Venice, but in the 13th century Ragusa came close to rivaling Venice.
Ragusa shared the fate of Venice in 1806 when Napoleon occupied them and incorporated them into his kingdom of Italy. With the fall of the Napoleonoic Empire, Ragusa became part of the Austrian Empire until that fell, when Ragusa became part of Yugoslavia.
On the way back from Dubrovnik, we sailed to the scenic Greek island of Santorini, a former Venetian colony, to witness the spectacular sunset and then relaxed for two days on the ship as we headed back to Haifa.