3. Venice: Tintoretto & Tiziano

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Minerva and Albus had a private breakfast in their compartment while they were stopped in Innsbruck and afterwards enjoyed the view as the train wound its way through the Brenner Pass and into northern Italy.

They arrived in Venice after lunch. When they disembarked at the Santa Lucia station, they joined the throngs disgorged from the recently arrived trains and took the vaporetto to the Rialto. Thank Merlin they'd been able to discreetly Shrink their bags in the station, as they had to walk several blocks to reach the small pensione Albus had selected for their stay.

Minerva was tired after the restless night she'd passed, but by the time they got to their room, she was eager to explore the city, so they set out in the crisp December air, first to the Rialto Bridge and through the fruit and vegetable market, then along the Grand Canal, eventually turning to wind through the tiny side streets to the Campo San Polo and on to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.

The Tintorettos that crowded the walls and ceiling of the upper salon were beautiful, but oppressive, she thought, in their ubiquity. She spent some time looking at the details of each one, glad for her father's long-ago insistence that she study the Christian Bible and its stories. She shuddered as she looked at the Raising of Lazarus; it reminded her of Inferi and other Dark magic she'd read about during her training as an Auror.

They came out and doubled back to Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. In contrast with the intricate Renaissance façade of its neighbour, this building's spare Gothic exterior didn't prepare her for what was inside.

As they proceeded up the wide nave towards the apse, Minerva stopped, momentarily stunned by the view.

"This is ..."

She had no words.

Titian's spectacular Assumption of the Virgin dominated the chancel, rising thirty feet above the altar, the uplifted arms of the apostles and the Virgin directing the eye upwards to the heavens and their God. The light that shone in, even on this grey day, from the slender, ogival pairs of stained-glass windows beside and above the painting gave it the appearance of being illuminated from within.

They stood in captivated silence for a few minutes.

She hadn't been in this church when she'd visited Venice with her father many years before. That trip had been largely for his research, and they'd spent most of their time in the libraries of the Marciana and the Accademia, or around the Venetian Ghetto, where the city's wizarding population had settled alongside its Jews when both were relegated to the Cannaregio sestiere during the early sixteenth century.

Albus took her hand and squeezed it.

"Titian was always one of my favourites," he whispered as they continued to gaze at the painting.

She could see why.

They tore themselves away from it to look at the other marvels the church held—the beautifully carved choir stalls, Antonio's Canova's oddly modern-looking, pyramidal funerary monument, and another Titian, as well as the nineteenth-century tomb of the painter himself.

Albus was especially interested in the burial place of composer Claudio Monteverdi—a simple plaque carved into the pink-and-white marble floor.

"I shall have to tell Nicolas I've seen it. He was at the first performance of Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria and became a great admirer of Monteverdi's. He often complains that his operas aren't performed anymore."

When they came out, it was growing dark, and there was a light rain falling.

"What would you say to an early dinner and then bed?" Albus asked.

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