It is wonderful to walk around Venice and admire the splendor of the Golden Basilica or the refined marble laces on the gothic façade of the Doges' Palace...
And what about looking at Venice from the water, during a gondola ride? It is a totally different perspective, you are surrounded by an enchanted, magical atmosphere, quite frequently calm and silent.
But have you ever wandered what you can actually find on the other side of the huge entrance doors of the Venetian houses? We are not talking about those houses that have been transformed into museums or offices, but about the real houses where the Venetians live their everyday lives...
Today we have been invited for a coffee at Signora Paola's house. She is a true Venetian lady, with a long list of Venetian ancestors in her past. After having spent several years in Rome, she eventually came back to the city she belongs to. We ring her doorbell: Signora Paola herself comes and opens for us the heavy door that faces a fairly narrow alley.
Gothic entrance door of Signora Paola's house.
What a wonder! The door opens up into a beautiful courtyard, with a marvelous well head in the middle surrounded by a great deal of flowers and plants.
The inner courtyard
The well head
At the back of the courtyard we notice the water entrance, which would be in the past the main entrance.
The water entrance
We look around a little: it is a 15th century palazzo, with ogee or semicircular two- and three-mullioned windows. An elegant external staircase leads to the second floor. Refined marble details can be found here and there all around the courtyard.
Gothic ogee three-mullioned window
Gothic ogee two-mullioned window
Early Renaissance two-mullioned window
Marble detail in the courtyard
We walk up through a fairly steep internal staircase which leads us to the second floor and we enter the apartment where Signora Paola lives with her family: it is quite a large apartment, full of light, furnished with ancient furniture that she was bequeathed with by her ancestors.
A piece of ancient furniture
A piece of ancient furniture
Among the object in the house we immediately notice marvelous vases, glasses and lamps of Paolo Venini's collection. She tells us about the warm friendship between her grandfather Giovanni and Paolo Venini, the founder of one of the most famous artistic glass factories on Murano, about their meetings, about how Paolo Venini loved to donate to his dearest friend prototypes and unique pieces of what his furnace was producing.
Venini vase, submerged glass with gold leaf
Venini glasses and pitcher
We slowly drink our coffee in the living room, literally captured by the tales concerning this ancient Venetian family. We are really grateful to Signora Paola to have hosted us in her house, and we are about to take leave, when she invites us to follow her and admire her jewel. We then follow her up through a narrow spiral staircase (well, if the three of us have something in common, along with our immense love for Venice, it is the fact that we hate spiral staircases, more so when they are narrow!). We come out right on top of the roof, into a gorgeous altana, the rooftop garden! What surrounds us is literally breathtaking: hundreds of cactuses of the most different forms and dimensions, roses, jasmines... And then tomato plants, a pomegranate tree, an orange tree...
The altana on the roof
Signora Paola knows the name of every single plant she has in her garden, for each of them she remembers where she bought it (in Venice, in Rome, in the Dolomites, in Florence, or even Paris or Crete...). Shen then starts to describe this treasure, and we listen with incredible interest: "I have quite a few cactuses and succulents that come from Africa and South America, an then geraniums with aromatic leaves that keep mosquitos away, so that it is a pleasure to dine up here in summer evenings. And there you can see roses, jasmines, Australian plants like eucalyptus, callistemon and grevilleas. I am also quite proud of my citrus fruits: here are an orange tree, a cedar tree and a lime tree. With the bitter oranges I make jam, like they do in England. This one is a pomegranate tree and that is a feijoa, a Brazilian tree which fruits are quite rich in Vitamin C".
Some of Signora Paola's cactuses
Lavender flowers on top of the roof!
Flowers, flowers and more flowers
We are surrounded by astonishing perfumes and colors, which are particularly intense and penetrating on such a beautiful spring day.
And... obviously Monica cannot resist to have her picture taken in the middle of all this beauty!
Monica in the rooftop garden
And Monica again...
As soon as we move our eyes away from the plants, we notice that one more surprise is waiting for us: our gaze starts to wander on the roofs of the houses of Venice, on the numerous bell towers, on the domes of the churches: St. Mark's with its golden crosses, San Salvador with its skylights, the church of the Saints John and Paul with its elegant gothic pinnacles in Istria stone that decorate the façade.
The church of the Saints John and Paul
St. Mark's bell tower
The skylights of San Salvador
If we look here and there with more attention, we can also see some cats walking carefully on the roof tiles, exactly like in Disney's cartoon The Aristocats, where cats found their shelters on the roofs!
The Aristocats (although those were the roofs of Paris, not of Venice...)
Venice, perceived from up here, is totally different for the usual one: it is real, still lively, and at the same time calm, almost suspended in a special atmosphere, far from the noise and the crowds that are so common in town nowadays.
Grudgingly we leave Signora Paola's house: we would really like to accept her invitation and remain for lunch on this wonderful spring Sunday, knowing how great a cook she is... We have other commitments waiting for us... But we will definitely come back for another cup of coffee in her delightful company.