Monday, December 19, 2011

"Feed the Birds" not "Tuppence a Bag"--but Lira a Bag

Piazza San Marco in 1906
The 1906 edition of Baedeker's Italy: Handbook for Travellers informed readers: "A large flock of pigeons enlivens the Piazza. In accordance with an old custom pigeons were sent out from the vestibule of San Marco on Palm Sunday, and these nested in the nooks and crannies of the surrounding buildings. . . . Towards evening they perch in great numbers under the arches of Saint Mark's. Grain and peas may be bought for the pigeons from various loungers in the Piazza."

On my visit to Venice, Italy in the 1980's, feeding the pigeons in the Piazza San Marco was a major tourist attraction, just as it must have been nearly 100 years earlier.  Vendors sold all sorts packets of seeds and corn for the birds.  A few hundred (or maybe it was a few thousand) lira would buy just what a pigeon wanted and needed for its daily sustenance.  There were literally hundreds of thousands of pigeons in this one very busy very beautiful square. (Today, I understand feeding the birds has been outlawed by the city government, however, many YouTube videos exist of tourists recently feeding the birds.) 

St. Mark's Basilica
Ah yes, did I say I was at the Piazza San Marco, one of the most stunning places in the world and one of the most photographed.  St Mark’s Square is also known as “the drawing room of the world” and is considered as on of the best city squares of the world.   St Mark’s Basilica forms one boundary of the square.  Unbelievable architecture, and magnificent mosaics in stunning gold, afford the cathedral its nickname, the Chiesa d'Oro or Church of Gold.
Chiesa d'Oro

Would Mary Poppins have stopped long enough to see the Chiesa d'Oro or would she and her cohorts have spent a lira or two to "feed the birds"?

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