A Clocktower – and a Jug of Wine

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We have just a week and a half left in Venice and are so sad to have to move on. Our next stop is Tuscany. But first, we have some major sightseeing to do here. We spent the first part of our visit getting ready for the wedding, so now we are running down our list of places we want to see in Venezia.

This weekend, we had a pretty interesting tour that definitely was off the beaten path – to the inside of the clocktower in St. Mark’s Square. This is not in any guidebook we have found, but Frank stumbled upon a mention of it on the Internet. So we googled and found that the local museum offered tours for 12 Euro. We signed up and had a nearly private tour with one other couple. Fascinating.

The Clocktower Keeper

Venice built the clocktower in the 1490s. It was state of the art at the time, measuring hours, minutes, the movement of the sun and moon, and even astrological signs. But to keep it all running, the clockkeeper had to live in the tower with his family (like the lighthouse keeper). Can you imagine trying to sleep with these very loud tick-tocks going on in the next room? The clockkeeper and his family lived inside the clock until 1998, when things became more automated.

So – we got to see the inner workings of the clock and the rooms where the family lived. We entered via a door I never had noticed before, which was locked behind us. We wound our way up a steep spiral staircase to each level and finally emerged through a submarine-like door on the roof, where there are statues that strike the hour. What a fantastic view of St. Mark’s Basilica next door and the rest of St. Mark’s Square!

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My favorite part was the story of the Magi that used to be part of the clock. In the old days, they would come out on the hour and circle under a picture of the Madonna and Baby Jesus and nod as they went by. But the Austrians, who took over in the 1700s, decided to turn the clock “digital.” To do that, they replaced the Magi with big wheels with numbers on them. So every five minutes, the wheel spins to show a new time, the hour in Roman numeral, the minute in regular numbers – III:05, III:10, III:15, etc. That was very modern for the time. From our guide, it was apparent that the Venetians were horrified that anything would replace the Magi, so twice a year at Epiphany (January 6) and Ascension Day (approximately 40 days after Easter), a technician physically removes the big number wheels and puts the Magi back in place. On that day, every hour, the Magi once again greet Baby Jesus. During the rest of the year, the Magi live in the clocktower.

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And A Jug of Wine

And, in probably one of the most interesting shops we have visited, we found a place that sells keg wine by the jug. You go in and buy a plastic 2 liter jug for 30 cents and then pick your wine. We chose Chianti for 2.40 Euros per liter. The shopkeeper took a spout, like from a keg of beer, and filled up our plastic jug. Frank asked what year our Chianti was, and the shopkeeper answered, “It was just delivered last week!” Needless to say, it isn’t exactly the best wine we’ve ever had, but it certainly is the cheapest and most fun. And they have all flavors – although probably all exactly the same and probably made by the guy’s uncle in his basement. Tomorrow, we may go back for 2 Euro Malbec.

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