S. ELENA AND THE LIDO
The Arsenal—The public gardens—Garibaldi’s monument—The art exhibition—A water pageant—The prince and his escort—Venice versus Genoa—The story of Helena—S. Pietro in Castello—The theft of the brides—The Lido—A German paradise.
I do not know that there is any need to visit the Arsenal museum except perhaps for the pleasure of being in a Venetian show place where no one expects a tip. It has not much of interest to a foreigner, nor could I discover a catalogue of what it does possess. Written labels are fixed here and there, but they are not legible. The most popular exhibit is the model of the Bucintoro, the State galley in which the Doge was rowed to the Porto di Lido, past S. Nicholas of the Lido, to marry the Adriatic; but the actual armour worn by Henri IV was to me more thrilling.
Returning from the Arsenal to the Riva, we come soon, on the left, to the Ponte della Veneta Marina, a dazzlingly white bridge with dolphins carved upon it, and usually a loafer asleep on its broad balustrade; and here the path strikes inland up the wide and crowded Via Garibaldi.
The shore of the lagoon between the bridge and the public gardens, whither we are now bound, has some very picturesque buildings and shipyards, particularly a great block more in the manner of Genoa than Venice, with dormer windows and two great arches, in which myriad families seem to live. Here clothes are always drying and mudlarks at play.
Mr. Howells speaks in his Venetian Life of the Giardini Pubblici as being an inevitable resort in the sixties; but they must, I think, have lost their vogue. The Venetians who want to walk now do so with more comfort and entertainment in S. Mark’s Square.
At the Via Garibaldi entrance is a monument to the fine old Liberator, who stands, wearing the famous cap and cloak, sword in hand, on the summit of a rock. Below him on one side is a lion, but a lion without wings, and on the other one of his watchful Italian soldiers. There is a rugged simplicity about it that is very pleasing. Among other statues in the gardens is one to perpetuate the memory of Querini, the Arctic explorer, with Esquimaux dogs at his side; Wagner also is here.
In the public gardens are the buildings in which international art exhibitions are held every other year. These exhibitions are not very remarkable, but it is extremely entertaining to be in Venice on the opening day, for all the State barges and private gondolas turn out in their richest colours, some with as many as eighteen rowers all bending to the oar at the same moment, and in a splendid procession they convey important gentlemen in tall hats to the scene of the ceremony, while overhead two great dirigible airships solemnly swim like distended whales.