This is the blog of Steve Burkett of Italy, Our Italy

Venetian Pozzi

What is a pozzo or pozzi, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. Read on.

Venice is a city that sits in a saltwater lagoon. It is an island...well, several about 117 islands. The point is that fresh water is very difficult to find when you are on an island surrounded by saltwater. That's where the marvelous invention of the pozzi come in.

This is perhaps the most gorgeous of the pozzi, and it is well preserved. The 'F' of the stonework probably stands for Franchetti, as this pozzo is found at the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti, next to the Accadamia bridge.

A pozzo is a well, where pozzi is its plural. A typical well is created by digging or drilling down until one finds fresh, potable water. This has been done for centuries. But in Venice, if one digs down to water, it will be that same old saltwater that surrounds and permeates the city of Venice. So, how is a Venetian well different that those of the millennia?

A simple pozzo with a nice leaf design.

The Venetian engineers who designed and constructed the pozzi knew at what level the lagoon's non-potable water sat under the buildings and open spaces (campi) of Venice. The foundational 'ground' elevation of Venice  was created by driving millions and millions of tree trunks into the mud of the lagoon. The church of Santa Maria della Salute that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago had over one-million trees just for its own foundation. These pilings and the soil packed around and on them were used to raise the ground level upon which the city was built to a consistent level.

This pozzo has a lifting pulley for lifting water buckets, as well as a spigot with basin, for which the plumbing is a mystery to me.

These engineers knew that they could dig out the area under the campi to a certain level to create huge stone-lined cisterns for storage of rain water. After excavation of a campo, stonework was laid down on the bottom. Stonework was also laid down to form the walls of these large cisterns, as well as a loose stone cylinder which would make up the pit of the well . Then, the stone-lined excavation was filled with sand and covered with loose-fitting paving stones. Finally, a stone well (you know, like a wishing well) was set up in the middle of the campo right above the stone cylinder. Got it? If not, here is a nice cross-sectional drawing of a typical pozzo.

Cross-section of a typical pozzo of Venice. Illustration from Wikipedia by Marrabbio2

So, all that was needed now was for the rains to fall upon the city of Venice. That rain water seeped through the loose-fitting paving stones of the compo and collected within the sands of the cistern. Viola' -- water for the citizens of Venice. 

This pozzo is well protected in a courtyard. The lion motif is emblematic of Venice, as it is the symbol of Saint Mark.

I love the amphora of this pozzo. It also has an iron covering mechanism. 

Very simple...very functional...and the water will taste as sweet.

This pozzo has a leaf patter similar to the second of the pozzi shown above. The cross and shield embellishment seems to reflect Venice's relationship to the Crusades.

Another well-decorated pozzo, this one in a botanic motif. 

Though very old, this pozzo has another of the spigots with basin. I suspect that today, it is connected to the Venetian system of fountains which dispense excellent water from the Italian alps. 

I hope that you have enjoyed finding out a bit about how the Venetians kept hydrated over the centuries. Today, excellent, fresh water is brought down from the Italian alps, which one can actually see from the campanile of Venice on a clear day. 

Each of the photos you see above took a good while for me to get it to the point of being presentable to you. Again, my goal is to give to you an ancient Venice -- a Venice of another time. In next week's article, I'll show you a number of before-and-after transformation which lead to these pozzi images.


Ciao for now,


The Rialto Market of Venice

One of the pleasures of Venice is the Rialto Market. Located near a ninety-degree bend of the Grand Canal, and just a bit northwest of the Rialto Bridge, the market offers both fresh produce in the erberia (vegetable market) and caught-the-night-before seafood in the pescheria (fish market).

All of these photos were taken at the Rialto Market.

[click on an image for a larger view]

One should plan to go around sunrise if you want to see the stevedores unload crates from barges which traveled up the Grand Canal in the early-morning hours. Or, if you want to sleep just a bit longer, plan to arrive around 8:00am to see the market in full swing. But, don’t bother to go in the afternoon or on Sundays or Mondays, as the market is closed.

Is this a working market? With over 100,000 visitors and locals in Venice on any particular day, this is the main source of food for the islands which make up Venice. If you show up early, you will see chefs from virtually all of the Venetian restaurants gathering items that you will find on their menus later in the day.

So, how is the Rialto Market different from the typical farmer's market in the U.S.? There are three main differences. For one thing, there is an abundance of seafood -- like fish, octopus, squid, crab, scallops and several mollusk types.

Second, the produce that is brought to your farmer's market most likely did not arrive by boat -- virtually everything arriving in Venice comes by boat.

The last difference is that your local farmer's market did not exist until the Rialto Market was about 800 years old. The Rialto Market has been serving Venice's food needs since 1097!

Produce of the Erberia

Talk about fresh produce! Just like our farmer’s markets, fruits and vegetables arrive daily fresh from the farms of Italy and surrounding countries. The photos you've been looking at are examples of this veritable cornucopia.

Seafood of the Pescheria

Though I really like the produce that’s in abundance at the market, the seafood is what I find the most interesting, as we just don't have access to such a fine market as the Rialto where I live. There are ‘creatures’ in this market that I’ve never seen in the U.S. seafood markets. Here are just some of the tasty denizens of the sea that you will find at the Rialto Market.

So that's the Rialto Market in Venice, Italy. If you have a chance to visit, I'm sure you will be as wowed with the seafood and produce as I have been. And by the way, all of the photos above can be found in the Food+Wine section of my website...just click on 'Print Store' below for easy access.

I'll close with a photo that was published in Black & White Magazine as part of a four-page spread on Venice a couple of years ago. This photo was taken during the daily cleaning-up-the-seafood-market event each afternoon. And yes, they still use stick brooms in Venice. The photo at right shows that sticks have been delivered, ready to be attached to broom handles. Amazing, isn't it?! 

Thanks for visiting. Feel free to leave comments, below.

Ciao for now,



Before and After

Scott Kelby - Founder of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals

Scott Kelby - Founder of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals

As you read this, I am in Las Vegas at the 2015 Photoshop World Conference & Expo. This is a come-together of photographers from all over the world who use Photoshop in their photo processing. The Conference provides three days of intensive training in all aspects of Photoshop.


The word ‘Photoshop’, like the word ‘darkroom’, it’s not a four-letter word.

Photoshop has taken the place of the old-fashioned darkroom of yesteryear -- and it is oh, so much better than working in a darkroom with all of those temperature-critical chemicals, and for color, the total confusion of total darkness -- I've been there and it wasn't particularly fun. As I've mentioned before, the processing of the photo in Photoshop and Lightroom (Photoshop's snazzy cousin) is where pure joy enters the picture for me.

So today, I've decided to give you a before and after of a photo that I took in Venice a couple of years ago...a photo that was modified using Photoshop.

Photoshop has taken a rap for the many faked photos that people have created (some obviously for humorous spoofing, but many to pull the wool over our eyes). But I say, count the letters in 'Photoshop' -- the word 'Photoshop', like the word 'darkroom', it's not a four-letter word. Photoshop puts much power in the photographers hands, and like any other power, it must be used judiciously. 

In my past blog titled The Venice That Isn’t There I showed you how I have transformed several doors to bring those doors back to the time that they were created by the Italian craftsmen.

This week I want to continue in that vein, but I'll use one of the many religious shrines to demonstrate. These shrines can be found throughout Italy, and in particular Venice.

Just below you see one of the many ancient, charming, religious shrines. Each shrine is dedicated to a particular saint and when created, it was adorned with paintings, statues, and/or relics related to that saint. Who is this particular shrine dedicated to? I’m not really sure -- some shrines have obvious evidence of the honoree and some do not.

If you look hard, you can see a painting of the saint (dark robe) holding the young Christ (yellow top). You can also see that shrines receive continuing adornment from those who respect that particular saint. Though the flowers in the photo are artificial, I've seen many shrines with fresh flowers left by their fans.

Some shrines also act as a collection station for alms for the poor. In a future blog, I will show a shrine dedicated to Saint Antonio which has such an offerings box. 

So, what does this particular shrine look like today as you walk through Venice?

Here is the before photo, just below. This photo shows a shrine that must have looked impressive in the days in which it was created, but now finds drab surroundings. So, this is where Photoshop comes in.

Note that I’ve eliminated the electrical conduit that courses down the wall and then into the shrine.

In addition, the unsightly concrete recess below the shrine has been removed...most likely a niche for the former alms box.

I found the crumbling plaster remnant to the right of the shrine to be distracting, so it was eliminated. At one point, plaster covered this whole wall, but time and weather have taken their toll.

As I looked further after eliminating distractions, the ancient, crumbling, underlying brickwork seemed a bit too bright, and it competed with the shrine for attention, so I gave it a richer and darker appearance.

Lastly, I made a significant crop to the photo to eliminate many of the distracting elements, to fill the frame with the shrine itself, and to put it into a vertical format. Now the shrine is taking center stage.

In the final analysis, the finished photo is more in line with how it would have looked 600 years ago without the modern, distracting elements. I hope you appreciate the transformation. And I hope you can appreciate the power of Photoshop.

If you haven't taken a look at the doors of The Venice That Isn’t There, give it a look to see more on my use of Photoshop to de-modernize Italy.

I'll have more Before and Afters in the future, so stay tuned.


Ciao for now,



And now for something entirely different!

The other significant difference between this church and others? It’s that the...well, I’ll tell you the difference below in a bit...see if you can tell before you get there!

In last weeks blog we visited a fabulous off-the-beaten-path, seldom-visited church in Albogasio, Italy. With its clean lines and beautiful painted art works, it couldn't be more dissimilar to the church I will show you today -- the Basilica San Marco. San Marco is the antithesis of that little Albogasio church in so many ways.

One way is that the Basilica sits right-smack-dab in Piazza San Marco in Venice and has hundreds-of-thousands of visitors each year.  This photo which shows the exterior was taken in January, 2004, on a cold and dreary day. 

[click an image to see a larger view]

Notice the exterior embellishments, like these protected saints enclosed in their spires, visible in this more recent photo.


The other significant difference between this church and others? It's that the...well, I'll tell you the difference below in a bit...see if you can tell before you get there!


This church's embellishments date from the 11th century. In the crypt you will find the bones of Venice's patron saint, St Mark, whose body was whisked away from the Muslim authorities in a daring raid in Alexandria, Egypt in the year 828.

Before you even enter the church, you are treated to magnificent Biblical scenes like this one above the entrance to the church.

In the portico before entering the church, you can see art works depicting Old and New Testament Biblical stories, one of which includes, among other stories, the Genesis story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Can you identify any of the other Biblical stories?

We are now inside the church.

This photo from the left transept shows a bit of the art work and the scale of the church, which was originally designated as the Doge's private chapel. The Doge was the elected leader of Venice -- no monarchy in Venice!

Here you can see the Pala d'Oro, which is gold altar screen embellished with precious jewels.

Can't see the jewels? Here is a more detailed view.

Another interior photo showing religious scenes. Have you figured out what makes this church so unique?


Ready for the big reveal that I promised earlier?


Every art work -- inside and out -- that you've seen in the photos above is composed of mosaics, like these. That's about 90,000 square feet of colorful mosaic tiles.

Here you can see just how colorful these mosaic art works are as Samson and David take a bit of time to sit and talk about their trials and tribulations.

Here is another masterpiece with some rather rough-looking angels meting out justice.

Not convinced that all you see is mosaic? Here is a detailed view of the photo above.

I was fortunate to capture the morning sun streaming through upper windows for this award-winning photo.

Is this is still a functioning church? It sure is. Below you see prayer candles and a liturgical chant awaiting the Bishop of this Archdiocese.

I'll close with more interior photos from this gorgeous church. Remember that you can click on a photo to see a larger view.

So, now you have seen two very distinctly different churches of Italy. The simple, yet elegantly refined church at Albogasio and the more famous Basilica San Marco of Venice. Both are testaments to the faithful artisans who embellished them as a way to glorify their Lord and Saviour. 


Ciao for now,


p.s. feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

Get Lost!!!

Have you ever been lost? 

Maybe you were on your way somewhere important and you were late getting started.  Maybe your dinner reservation, which required that it be made 3 months in advance, was about to be released and you've taken some wrong turns and you've lost your bearings. I know these are frustrating experiences.  

But it doesn't always have to be frustrating if you're lost in the right places, and have the time to be lost.

We’ve been lost, only to be found in some amazing place!

In Italy, we’ve been lost…hopelessly.  And hopefully, we'll be hopelessly lost again soon.

Being lost can be frustrating or it can be fascinating. Our Italy wandering experiences have been of the fascinating variety. 

Radda in Chianti

Take the small road just south of Radda in Chianti that we mistakenly took in a driving rain. What we thought was a road (at least it looked like one on Google maps - I learned something from that experience - but to be fair, in retrospect, it did suggest that our driving speed would be only 8mph!) soon transitioned into nothing but a two track trail. Lost again, dang it. Our small, low slung rental was complaining about the high center, but there was no way to turn around. We eventually made it through a circuit on which we really shouldn't have been driving.  But, as the rain let up, the estate in the photo below was spread before us, with mist rising from the trees to the left with a villa located on a hillside in the middle of a vast vineyard. Our breath was taken away!

Gorgeous vineyard after a rain

Gorgeous vineyard after a rain

And as we drove on, we came upon other photo opportunities like these two:

The remains of the rain

The remains of the rain

Tuscan cypress and vineyard

Tuscan cypress and vineyard

Once again, we were lost, only to be found in some amazing place! 

Val d'Orcia

Then, let’s take a wrong turn near Pienza in the Val d’Orcia. We should have gone right, but went left.  Lost again. We could have turned around, but experience has taught us to go with the flow and continue on down the road.  It was getting close to the end of the day, which brought us this gorgeous Val d'Orcia sunset.

Val d'Orcia sunset

Val d'Orcia sunset

Lost again! Only to be found in another amazing place!

Near Castello Brolio

Should we take that little gravel road just before getting to Castello Brolio? After all, we want to see the castle and taste their wine? Sure, why not - we've got time! 

We got this nice view of the castle and some images which we would have missed from the highway. Technically, we weren't lost, but as we want to accomplish certain things during the day, we were taking a bit of a risk.

Castello Brolio

Castello Brolio

Raodside shrine

Raodside shrine

Winding Tuscan road

Winding Tuscan road

Small roadside chapel

Small roadside chapel

The little country-side chapel just above was found tucked away off the gravel road in the previous photo - just beyond the poppies and before the tall cypress trees - just off to the right. We would never have known it existed if we hadn't dared to take that little gravel road to who-knew-where?

Venice - Anywhere in Venice!

And then there’s Venice, where getting lost is not an art, but a normal occurrence.   When in Venice, just plan on being lost.  I mean, when you look up and find two signs, both reading “Per San Marco”, one with an arrow pointing left and one with an arrow pointing right, you don’t have much choice but to get lost. But along the way, plan on finding some hidden-away gem.  Like the one in this photo below – which I came upon taking a ‘short cut’ after turning into one of those dark, low ceiling’d sotoportego - a tunnel-like passage - this one about 50' long.  Once found, I’ve returned many times, whether it is a short cut in my travels, or not.

So, while in Venice, Tuscany, or near the back-roads in your travels at home, forget going from Point A directly to Point B.  Once starting toward Point B, don’t worry if you happen upon Point G, Point V or Point R, before making it to Point B. Allow enough time to enjoy the journey. 

And then like us, you will find yourself lost, only to be found in some amazing place! 


Ciao, for now!