6am. That’s the time to do it in September. Up at five in the pitch black, spooky yellow lights are just enough to see the way. Luckily St Mark’s Square is signposted fairly regularly for tourists – just look up at the walls at every junction and you should be fine…
There is just a hint of ink blue sky behind the basilica as you come out of the winding alleys and into the Piazza San Marco. Hundreds of lights are still on all around the perimeter and the effect is magical. The place is surprisingly busy. Road sweepers with old-fashioned twig brooms are clearing up the mess of the day-before tourists. They wear luminous yellow jackets and these people should proudly bear the title of being the most photo-shopped out people in the world! Several people loudly trundle their suitcases through the streets in order to catch their cheaper-priced transport. Locals are jogging or going to work. And then of course, like us, there are the photographers.
Twice we took this early trip to St Mark’s Square in Venice; the first a Sunday, the second a Monday, and the photographers were quite different! It is now quite customary that local photographers will be for hire for photography shoots at popular tourist destinations, and this was unsurprisingly the case here. On Sunday we saw several going on – mostly couple shoots – perhaps announcing engagements or just for the fun of it. There was also a bride and groom, though I wasn’t sure if they had genuinely got up that early on their wedding day – all make-up and hair already done – just to get those Venice shots, or whether they were doing it on a different day for the photo album, or whether they were from a magazine!
However, strangely on the Monday it was a different early morning crowd. I don’t know if there was an organised landscape photography trip to Venice that day, or whether that number of photographers is standard practice! However, the part of the square nearest the water was chocka block with tripods!
A man with a cloud of pigeons around him made a nuisance of himself both days. He’s there selling bird seed so people can get their photos taken with pigeons. Apart from the fact you can be fined 100 euros for feeding them; why on earth would you want to risk the pigeon shit and have claw marks in your skin? I don’t get it.
At 6:30am the lights go off and the atmosphere changes. A pink tinge starts to hit the pale stone facade of the Museo Correr and you suddenly feel like you are witnessing something special. The other side, half an hour later, and the sun rises large and red and doesn’t disappoint the photographers waiting for it. The Grand Canal is far too choppy for reflections though, and the cruise ship coming in must have seriously pissed off some people. But it was pretty amazing.
Weirdly, about half an hour to an hour after that and everywhere is quiet again. Like us, they head back to bed.
At three o’clock in the afternoon there is no shade in St Mark’s Square, and what there is, is already taken up. Crowds have been warned of, but are still unbelievable. It was busier this September than July last year. Despite having to wait ages for space, the instagrammers are absolutely everywhere trying to get their shots. They are easily spotted by their red or yellow dresses and straw hats. It’s quite nice, that for a change I’m not the only one! However, I do seem to be the only one over the age of twenty-five.
The square is loud, like a crowded restaurant where each table is trying to talk louder than their neighbours. I spot confused tourists handing back roses when they realise money is expected. It is overwhelming and claustrophobic at this time of day.
The sun sets earlier than you’d expect behind the Correr Museum, and opposite, the gold mosaic in the alcoves of St Mark’s Basilica shines like the golden snitch. It’s something to behold.
After a surprisingly reasonably priced meal further along the banks of the Grand Canal, St Mark’s Square seems more dimly lit than it did in the morning. The lamp posts look romantic and you now have the space to swing around them if you want to. If you do the research, it’s worth timing your visit for when the tide is high and the water comes up into the square. The opportunity for reflection photography is incomparable to anywhere else. You know you should spend longer taking photos there now, but you’re exhausted. Your feet hurt. So you call it a day.
Ps. Just as soon as I’ve caught up on my editing, my video of our trip to Venice will be up on my YouTube channel soon.
Linking with #sharealllinkup with Not Dressed as Lamb.