There’s no doubt, St. Mark’s square in Venice will always be crowded with tourists. Even if there are ‘perils’ like high tides, floods and boardwalks to face, they will never back off and this will remain one of most visited places in the world. Don’t be prejudiced, St. Mark’s square is neither overrated nor a trap. With this series of posts about “St. Mark’s square under a different perspective”, learn with me how to discover it with new eyes.
I was born not very far from Venice, only a bunch of kilometers separated my hometown from La Serenissima. Despite being in the neighborhood, my parents refused to take me there for a long time. “Not until you’re old enough”, they used to tell me. I could not understand such a stubborn point of view, but I waited diligently until I was in middle school, when my parents decided that yes, I was finally “ready”.
I remember with precise clarity the first time I set foot in St. Mark’s square: we popped out from Piazza dei Leoncini, the water skimmed chairs – and table legs outside the cafés and a huge white hood was covering the monument I was more enthralled with, the clock tower. How lucky, right? The building I had read the most about was being restored! Luckily the Moors – the clock tower’s sculptures I was more fascinated with – were still visible, so it wasn’t a complete delusion.
The two bronze statues that stand at the top of the tower represent two shepherds; Venetians, however, started to call them “moors” because of the patina that soon covered them. Since 1499 they have had the important task of informing Venetians about the time, by hitting a big bell with two massive hammers.
At the time my mother explained to me how the two were called: “the old man”, the one with the beard, and “the youngster”. Basically, each hour is signaled two times: the old one ring the bell two minutes before the hour, the youngster two minutes after, as to represent, respectively, the past and the future. Fascinating, right? Back then, more than the concept of past and future, it impressed me the fact that the old one seemed to ring before the young as to teach him how to do the job properly. I couldn’t avoid to compare this thing to my parents telling me when it was the right time to visit Venice, so I could appreciate it more.
As for today, I would say that the Moors are here to remind us two things:
- The old one seems to tell us how a teacher or a parent should be: someone who teaches through example, rather than through lectures;
- In travel, as in life, there is a time for everything: just be patient and wait for the right moment.
Next time you will be in Venice, raise your head, look at the Moors and wait for the signal of the old one 😉