This is a serialisation of the bridge-by-bridge story of the 100 Venice Bridges Challenge. It starts off at our apartment in Murano about 5am, when we rose yawning and stretching, showered, dressed, grabbed a quick breakfast, packed our sandwiches, cameras and GPS, and left to catch a vaporetto to Venice, ready to tackle one hundred bridges in one day.
The 6.25 am vaporetto from Murano anchors noisily at Giardini station. It's seven in the morning, and we're the only passengers alighting. The air is crisp even though the sun is bright in a cloudless sky, a precursor of what the rest of the day would be like.
It's a short walk to the first bridge of the Challenge, the Ponte dei Giardini. The bridge is located at the top end of the Giardini, or gardens, where the Venice Biennale is held, and is therefore surrounded by lush trees and shrubbery. On the other side is the beautiful, treed Via Garibaldi - a broad, country-like lane certainly not a view generally associated with the city of Venice. For most people the image of Venice is one of tall, tightly packed buildings with narrow corridors and canals separating them.
Originally a wooden bridge, the Ponte dei Giardini is now an unusually wide, almost flat stone bridge on a quiet canal that partially borders the Giardini. Its present appearance dates from 1807, the same period the Giardini were constructed. From afar it doesn't resemble a bridge at all, and people crossing it probably won't realise there's a bridge under their feet.
The Giardini were laid out on the orders of Napoleon when he conquered the city in 1797. He brought a distinctly Parisian design ethic to the city, and construction of the gardens necessitated the destruction of more than a few historic churches in the area. It is the most obvious attraction in the area and most certainly the best place for quiet walks in the garden itself and along the lagoon. The garden is rich with works of art, mostly clearly French-inspired since the Venetians weren't really into sculptures at that stage; such works of art were regarded as dangerous self-promotion in a fiercely controlled society. It's home to thirty seven sculptures and statues, or about half of all those in Venice.
Next up: Ponte dell'Arsenale