Across the Ponte della Paglia from Piazzetta San Marco begins the Riva degli Schiavoni, or ‘Dalmatians’ Quay’, long one of the city’s favourite promenades, now a tourist trinket trap, lined with vaporetto landing stages. In the old days this stretch of quay would be chockablock with ships from all corners of the Mediterranean; in 1782, when it is commonly thought that Venice was about to drop dead of exhaustion, the Riva did such a thriving business (no longer in silks and spices from the Orient, perhaps, but as the major transit port for goods from the Adriatic shores and the Ionian Islands) that the Riva had to be widened; the white marble strip in the pavement marks its original size.
People with children, in the winter, will inevitably be pushed southwards along the Riva degli Schiavoni, where a modest but noisy funfair operates on the Lagoon’s edge in January. The rest of the year there’s nothing to see on the Riva but cafés and trinket shops – and the fierce Vittorio Emanuele II monument, a humdinger commemorating Italy’s first king, with winged lions triumphantly ripping off the chains of Austrian domination. In 1937, Mussolini changed the name to the Riva dell'Impero, celebrated in this newsreel.
vaporetto S. Zaccaria
Images by: Paul VanDerWerf, Adriano-dV