Hypnotic charms of a historic city
It is an enigmatic city perched on a lagoon with constant threat of flooding. Its residents defiantly withstood the vagaries of the nature for...
It is an enigmatic city perched on a lagoon with constant threat of flooding. Its residents defiantly withstood the vagaries of the nature for centuries and yet managed to create an enchanting city. A place that boasts of romantic boat ride of a life time. Still clueless? We are referring to the hypnotic charms of the man-made delights of the magnificent ancient city of Venice and the indefatigable spirit of the Venetians.
It is hard to imagine, when a city, let alone survive but thrive, even when surrounded by constant existential threat of water inundation and tidal waves. The intricate network of water canals and bridges stand as a testimony to the masterly engineering skills and mending nature’s forces to its advantage on these water-locked islands of the Adriatic Sea.
Venice does not allow you anytime, it soaks you in right away, both metaphorically and literally. The charms of this floaty city pull foreign tourists from distances wide and far. Oversized cruise ship, barges delivering supplies, waterbuses (vaporetto) ferrying passengers dominates the views and at times seems too imposing on a rather fragile city like Venice. One can imagine the excessive toll it would take on the locals to be living in a famous centuries old city, that is cynosure of the world’s elite, rich and the famous and a tourist hotspot.
Venice is a sharp contrast from the rest of the Italy. Lying in the extreme northeast of the country, it is not just geographically distinct but also the local arts, culture, cuisine and the architecture that are uniquely different.
The city sounds are filled with the tourist’s footsteps and the calls of the boatmen. It is hard not to notice the innumerable gondolas, many of them ferrying and a few moored along the canal. The gondolas with slim hull and flat underside are designed to negotiate narrow canals.
The gondolas were decreed to be black in color way back in the 1562. This was to prevent Venetians from ostentatious display of their wealth. Only on certain special occasions are they decorated with flowers.
The city’s love for ornate decorations, pointed arches and bulbous onion shaped domes are all there for visitors to admire.
The city created its own unique style of architecture blending Gothic, Byzantine and Oriental. Every inch of the land is precious for Venice and considering the scarcity and watery terrain, designing weightless buildings turned out to be of paramount necessity. Hence, we see the beautiful lightness and grace in structures, though outwardly they look robust and heavy.
One place where you can see such splendid display is Piazza San Marco and Basilica. A historic square of Venice where countless carnivals, festivities and processions took place. In ancient times, by law all ships returning from abroad had to bring back a precious gift to adorn the ‘House of St Mark’. Until 1807 St Mark’s was the Doge’s (Venice’s rulers) private chapel used for ceremonies of State, and later became the cathedral of Venice. It contains hordes of silver, gold and glassware in its Treasury.
Located in the same square is the Doges’ Palace, built in the 9th Century. This was the official residence of the Venice’s rulers. The distinct pink colored palace comes from the usage of the Veronese marble. The palace commands fine views of the lagoon. Visitors can see the richly decorated chambers and halls of this three-storied structure. According to the folklore, Casanova was once imprisoned here and made a daring escape from the Palace though a hole in the roof. The complex consists of Doge’s private apartments, large council chambers, courts and prisons.
The square is surrounded by numerous souvenir shops. Particularly, you would be awestruck with shops selling carnival face masks and Murano glass - a centuries old technique and refined craft of creating specialised fancy glassware. You will find splendid display of tourist souvenirs including crystalline glass, enameled glass, golden glass, multicolored glass, glass chandeliers and figurines.
At the beginning of the Grand Canal, a 17th century domed church can be seen commissioned by Venice’s plague survivors as a gesture for their rescue. The grand galleries of the Gallerie dell’ Accademia houses Venetian art from the 14th – 18th centuries with collections from Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Canaletto.
La Fenice is Venice’s opulent and historic opera house with a marvelous theatrical and immersive experience. The venue was where Verdi’s Rigoletto and La Traviata premiered. Venice is also home to the great composer Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, a Baroque composer, virtuoso violinist. His best-known work is a series of violin concerts knowns as The Four Seasons.
If one is looking for a high-end stay Centurion Palace, situated in one of the prime real estates in Venice, overlooking the historic palazzo on the Grand Canal is a good stay option. For travelers with deep pockets and want to stay away from overpouring tourist crowds JW Marriott on a plush private island in the lagoon will provide you the ultimate splendour and serenity. Hotel La Calcina is another refined and elegant place to enjoy the stay. If you are on budget, Hotel Bernardi can provides you affordable excellence in a quiet location.
Text and Photos by VV Sundar