Arrivederci, Venice

Friday, March 18, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

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.
Rialto Bridge
To say that Venice is unique would be as pointless as commenting on Michael Jackson's fame.  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 Ca'Pagan, our hotel home
 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.

The watercraft.  With streets so unsuited to motor vehicles, Venetians employ an array of watercraft for every imaginable purpose from ambulances to taxis.  (See There's a Boat for That blog post.) 
Busy traffic on the Grand Canal
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.
Grand Canal
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 yesterday during an all-day heavy rain.
Raised sidewalks available 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 as we have always heard, and, like so many others, we look forward to our return.

Venice Stats
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)