Venice, Venezia, La Serenissima


Venice, Venezia, La Serenissima

Monday, September 20th, 2010

La Serenissima – the most serene of cities. Certainly this is one of the most photographed and visited cities in Italy. Movies are made here, romance is in the air, as is the stench of garbage in the water during the summer. The beauty is undeniable and there is no reason to have a car. In fact, like New York, much of the population doesn’t really know how to drive. The showplace is the Grand Canale. And grand it is. The palazzos lining the canal vary from the truly magnificent to some that are starting to look like residence hotels due to the neglect they clearly are experiencing. Even the Italian writer famous for criticism (as well as adoration) of his native country, Luigi Barzini , wrote that it was “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man”. As much as I have mixed feelings about it I certainly believe that to be true. (BTW you can click on any photo to see it enlarged.)

What a fantastic place it is. I couldn’t really find out anything definitive about when the Venetians got it into their head to start sinking wooden pilings deep into the lagoon to form the basis for building the city. Surely there were parts of islands already there as a toehold for the city but nothing like what exists there at the present day. So build they did starting over a thousand years ago, perhaps even as much as 1400 years ago. They were an aggressive bunch and the city became the master of the Mediterranean. Imagine that! One determined city controlling trade throughout the Mediterranean and thus providing the incredible wealth apparent in the city and monuments that still are there in all their glory.

For me really the most striking thing about the city is one of those things that I so often find going to a new place – a revelation that I really could not have without the visit. This seems so obvious but, after all, water is the only road. So everything, and I mean everything, moves by water as the series of photos shows. Once a delivery boat is near it’s destination then hand trucks must be used to take those cases of Coke, olive oil, laundry detergent and diapers to the stores. Garbage boats must take the refuse away. Police boats, water borne hearses and, yes, UPS are all afloat. While it seems that everyone is familiar with the vaporettos, basically buses on the water, there are also little traghetti (ferries) to take you from one side of the Grand Canal to the other. These “ferries” are really just gondolas that the locals stand in for the short  trip but tourists like me are glad to take a seat. Meandering around the city the lovely D and I were in competition to find the smallest street (calle) if you can really call it that. We found several that required that you walk single file because they were so narrow. Of course there is also the Rialto Market (oh, I love Italian markets) complete with one end of a swordfish.

I know that the lovely D would love to revisit the place but I’m not quite as enthusiastic. True, we were able to visit in the fall so it was not quite so awash with tourists and the canals didn’t smell but still it is a place where tourists seem to outnumber those that live in the city and I generally have an aversion to such places. Still, it is really beautiful and I urge you to see it. For all of the talk about it sinking, it was clear to me that while the acqua alta is truly a pain in the ass, the place is not going to disappear anytime soon so there’s no rush to get there before it slides under the water.

Have you visited Venice? If so, what did you like or dislike about it? Come on, even the most ardent lover of Venice has something they dislike.

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