Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Venice is sometimes called "La Serrenissima," which means "the most serene." When you're walking the labyrith of deserted bridges and streets, hearing nothing but the flapping of a pidgeon's wings and the lapping of the water on the sides of buildings, you can understand this description. Of course, when you emerge into the chaos of St. Mark's square filled to the brim with tourists and pidgeons, then the cloud of fantasy breaks. But actually, Venice, in all of it's gothic splendor, was such a treat to visit.

We arrived in Venice by train at the Santa Lucia station at one end of the Grand Canal. We took one of the vaporetto (water bus) to the stop near our hotel, which was strategically located very near St. Mark's square. On the way, we got a pretty good canal-view of all the palazzi (palaces) lining the Grand Canal. The hotel itself was so nice that we had to make ourselves venture out onto the streets to experience Venice. Our room was a red-themed, Venetian-plastered, white-canopied suite. We even had a garden tub, rainfall shower, a hand-made red Murano glass chandelier, and two windows overlooking a canal. It was cool.

The first place we walked to was St. Mark's square. It is an architectural feat. You're surrounded on all sides by columned buildings, the Doges Palace or the Eastern-influenced St. Mark's Basillica. The pidgeons rule the square, as you would imagine, and there's an old woman who sells food for the birds that people buy and then proceed to be attacked by pidgeons - didn't look all that fun to me. We went inside St. Mark's Basillica first thing and you're immediatly met by dim-lit interior simply covered from ceiling to floor with tile mosaics which appear to contain more gold than the treasure of Cortes. The mosaics depict different stories from the bible like the story of creation, Jesus washing the disciples feet and what seems like the entire book of Revelation - dragons, lampstands, etc.

After cruising around the square some more, we went inside the Doges Palace. From the extremely ornate wood-carved and fresco-covered upper rooms, to the very authenic-looking and dark prison rooms below, we got a real sense of royalty and justice in the height of Venetian rule. We also got to pass through the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs), which connects the palace with the dungeon and would have been the last bit of light the prisoners saw on their way to be locked up.

We eventually made our way to the Rialto Bridge, the oldest bridge in Venice (also featured in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice) for a look around and ended up having dinner just at the foot of the bridge facing the canal. We had a wonderful - albeit very different - shrimp cocktail as an appetizer. Both nights we were in Venice we stopped in St. Mark's square on our way back to our hotel to listen to the Florian's (first cafe on the square - dates back to 1700s) orchestra play. We heard everything from The Fiddler on the Roof overture to selections from My Fair Lady and the Sound of Music. Venice is absolutely stunning at night when all the buildings light up and the lights are reflected in the canals.

On the morning of our second day in Venice, we immedialy noticed that St. Mark's square was flooded, as is often the case, especially in autumn. They have risers that they connect together to create an elevated path for people to walk on. Our second day in Venice was spent almost entirely just getting lost in the intricate system of canals, bridges and narrow streets of the city. We got away from the crowds and were able to see the character of Venice - it was really fun. Of course, we had our share of gelato and a trip to Venice would not be complete without a gondola ride, which we did as well. We did climb the Campanille (bell tower) in St. Mark's square for a better view of the city - something I had not done in my previous two trips to Venice - it was great!

There's a bit of a sense that the city is deteriorating, which in fact, it is; but the grace of the buildings and bridges add the feeling of a fairyland at the same time. We loved the that there were no cars and that there was another picture-worthy view around every corner. It's true that there's simply no place on earth like Venice.


Unknown said...

great pictures! we'll be thinking of you tomorrow.

Amberly said...

Rachel, your descriptions make me feel like I'm actually there in Venice or Florence on vacation! I love it!!