Arrivederci, Venice

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Venice, Italy.
What a difference four days can make.  We arrived in Venice on Sunday evening, rain-soaked and so lost and confused that we found ourselves contemplating turning on our heels and bolting the following morning.  Today we departed under blue skies, captivated by the Venetian allure and calculating our return.

To say that Venice is unique would be as pointless as commenting that Michael Jackson can play basketball.  From the moment we exited the train station and had our first breath-taking view of the Grand Canal, there hasn't been a single moment when we forgot where we were.  Often called one of the world's most beautiful cities, Venice used its many wiles to capture our affection.

The streets.  The root of our frustration as we wandered lost on Sunday, the Venetian streets today feel more like an enticing puzzle, a wonderland luring us to explore and discover their hidden secrets. 
Outside our hotel Ca'Pagan.  (Note tiny brass plate to right of door identifying hotel name.)
The canals.  Sunday night's watery barriers, all but deserted and forlorn, transformed themselves by day into busy avenues, teeming with watercraft, locals and tourists.  Bridges, vaporetti, and traghetti beckon to ease your moving around these liquid passageways.
Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal
The watercraft.  With streets so unsuited to motor vehicles, Venetians employ an array of watercraft for every imaginable purpose from ambulances to taxis.  
The elegant beauty.  When film was the only means of capturing images, Venice must have been Kodak's largest market.  Alleyways and canals are lined with Venetian gothic palaces, most graced with the patina of decay.  In every direction, scenes beg to be photographed.  Never have we seen so many cameras in constant use, and with such good reason.
Though Venice seems to grow ever more fetching with age, its foundation is slipping.  With buildings constructed on closely spaced wooden piles, the city continues to sink at a slow pace.  First floors of many grand homes are no longer in use because of flooding.  And low-lying areas of the city, such as St. Mark's Square, experience regular floods (acqua alta) during some high tide periods.  At such times, the city brings out elevated sidewalks to enable residents and tourists to walk above the water.  We saw some of the walkways put in place during an all-day heavy rain.
Raised sidewalks available if needed in St Mark's Square
So often when traveling, it seems that a place cannot live up to the superlative accolades that have been laid at its feet.  Venice is not one of these locations.  We found the city to be just as lovely and grand and magical as we have always heard, and, like so many others, we look forward to our return.

  • Year founded:  421
  • Islands:  117
  • Bridges:  409
  • Canals:  150
  • Churches:  149
  • Population:  60,000 (and shrinking)
  • Visitors annually:  17,500,000
  • Cruise ships visiting annually:  500+
  • Grand Canal:  2.4 miles long, 16 ft. deep, 100-300 ft. wide
  • Picturesque views:  (still counting)      

Tourists just can't resist the pigeon photo op in St Mark's Square.
Few gondola riders on a rainy day
The opulent decorations on San Marco Cathedral (St. Mark's)
View of Santa Maria della Salute and the canal from St Mark's bell tower
Shops on the Rialto Bridge
A fetching view down every little canal
Every little square (campo) has its own cistern and church.
We can't wait to wander these streets again.