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

Evening at Piazza San Marco

The Contrast

USA: Dinner, a drive, a movie, a bed.

Venice: Dinner...lingering over dinner...a stroll through quiet streets...orchestral music on the Piazza San Marco until the midnight bell bed.

Three of the restaurants on the Piazza have orchestra stands from which music entertains you througout the evening

There is a big difference between the evenings in Italy and in the US.

Dinner in Italy is unhurried. There is no rush. Your dinner partner(s) and waitstaff are your entertainment. Each course arrives at just the appropriate time. The wine level in the bottle seems to lower at just the right pace. There is no rush. A grappa will be offered at some point after dessert. There is no rush. There is no rush. You've finally gotten it through your head...there is no rush. You won't receive your bill until you ask for it...'Il Conto, per favore'. Never were you rushed. This is your evening.

And after dinner? When the sun dims, the evening begins to shine for us. The heat of the day has been lifted. Campos which were full of vendors during the day have been miraculously cleared for outdoor dining. People are laughing and having a good time. After dinner, those fortunate to stay overnight in Venice are heading to Piazza San Marco for the nightly concert...or should I say, concerts.

The Piazza

There is only one gathering space in Venice large enough to be called a 'piazza' -- the rest are piazzetta or campo. Surrounded on three sides by consistent city buildings and on the fourth by the Basilica San Marco, Piazza San Marco is huge. 

Here is a photo of the Piazza that was taken in January from the balcony of the Basilica...if you haven't been to Venice, trust me that only in the winter will you find so few people here.  

Panorama of Piazza San Marco taken from the balcony of Basilica San Marco

The Campanile

Note that you can see the base of the Campanile (bell tower) in the photo. Here is the top of the Campanile, where the bell is located. The bell tolls an important event in your evening.


Original Campanile in ruins after its collapse

But, this is not the original campanile which was completed in 1514. Here is a photo of the original campanile, after its collapse on July 14, 1902 at 9:45am. Not as tall as it was the day before. Today's campanile was completed in 1912. And alas, though there were 5 bells (all tuned to a different octave of 'A') in the original campanile, each named and having its own tolling function, four of the bells were destroyed in the disaster, so that today there is only one bell.

A few of the pigeons of the Piazza

One of the joys...I guess it's a joy...are the pigeons of the piazza. In the past, one could purchase bird feed to attract these pesky birds. But, the wise city fathers have now prohibited the act to try to reduce the number of pigeons on the piazza. 


Concert Time

In the two photos below, which were taken in the evening from the Campanile, you see the sights of your entertainment for the evening. 

Western end of the Piazza San Marco

North side of the Piazza San Marco

Three of the restaurants on the Piazza have orchestra stands from which music entertains you througout the evening. On the left in the top photo is the Caffe Florian. In the lower photo are Ristorante Quadri on the left and Cafe Lavena on the right.

To avoid the cacophony of sound that would result from all of the orchestras playing at the same time, they take turns. So, if you stand in the middle of the Piazza, you can wander from one side to the other to enjoy the music. Want to dance with your partner? Go ahead. Want to sit down for a cappuccino or soda? Go ahead, but expect to pay a hefty cover charge. But either way, you will enjoy the evening of music.

Here are some photos of the musicians as they make their music...just for you. 

The orchestra of Caffe Florian

The Evening's End

At midnight, all will be finished. You will know the time by the one, solitary tolling of the Marangona bell of the campanile. It's now time to return to your hotel. Tomorrow will bring many more memories for the two of you in the world's most magical city.

No dinner and a movie here...just dinner and memories to last a life time. 


Ciao for now,


Transforming l’Uomo della Pizza

The l’uomo della pizza (pizza man) was standing out front contemplating…who knows what? Which adds just a bit of mystery to the photo, don’t you think?

I’d have to say that Rome by night is a good bit more enjoyable than Rome by day. The summer heat, traffic and general hub-bub of the day are gone.

It’s as if the setting sun acts as a catalyst to transform the streets, piazze and campi of each neighborhood into something that is far more charming, more romantic, and of course, more temperate.

It was during a late evening stroll to the Trevi Fountain that we came across this scene at a neighborhood pizzeria.

The l’uomo della pizza (pizza man) was standing out front contemplating…who knows what? Which adds just a bit of mystery to the photo, don’t you think?

Upon spying him standing there, I quickly dropped to one knee to take this photo, as I visualized him being the dominate object of the image, and the lower camera angle seems to make him a bit larger than life. 

Because I was kneeling down, with the camera aimed slightly up, there was a good bit of distortion as the vertical lines of the buildings converged. So here is the image after I eliminated the vertical distortion. 

You can see that a bit of the photo has been lost due to the correction, but as I was shooting wide angle, there was plenty with which to work.

I am now ready to do a bit of cropping and adjustment to color balance and lighting.

In the version above, you will note that the interior of the pizzeria is well lit, while our pizza man is in shadow – as are the tables and patrons. After a bit of work, we can see below that the building exterior, table, patrons and the pizza man have been illuminated, while the interior has been darkened a bit. 

Additionally, I really liked the texture of the paving stones and the shadows that our pizza man was casting, so I emphasized those aspects, too.

Finally, a bit of cropping to get right down into the subject of the photo resulted in the version you see just above.

That was a good bit of cropping of the original image wasn’t it? Yet, there is still a lot of detail in the photo. My camera gives me the ability to do significant cropping without a lot of loss of resolution. The Nikon D800 is a 36mp camera – this camera has a huge sensor, whereas the vast majority of other cameras are in the 10-12mp range. That gives me a lot of room to isolate objects in the image.

For my final version, I found the two patrons on the right and the Hostaria store to be distracting. I was able to crop out the store, but the two patrons had to be removed through magic – even Harry Potter would be jealous.

In cropping, it was important to the composition that our pizza man is off-center a bit to the left. Since he was looking to our right, we need to give him some room to gaze.

So, here is the final photo, which can be found on my website in the Rome gallery.

I like the feel of this late evening shot -- colorful cloths on the street-side tables, two patrons studying the menu to select just the right ingredients for their pizza, and our l’oumo della pizza contemplating…what?...use your imagination.

If you would like to speculate upon that which he contemplates, use the comment box, below.

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