Venice. City of Romance
From Slovenia we continued south into Italy, arriving at one of the world’s most famous & unusual cities. Venice.
Venice is known as a city of romance and we were fortunate enough to find a theatre performance delving in to its history. This city was built on a couple of islands in a mosquito infested lagoon off the Italian coastline after Atilla the Hun invaded northern Italy, raping and pillaging, hardly romantic. The survivors fled to the inhospitable islands and began building Venice.
Over time the city became larger and its people wealthier as Venice became a major trade route to Constantinople and the east. The people of Venice with their new wealth built the city up and replaced wooden buildings and bridges with more sturdy and attractive stone, including the famous and beautiful Rialto Bridge.
More and more people from over Europe came and as the city grew, its streets became dictated by water. One main canal separated the two islands, and smaller canals with bridges connecting the streets were formed. Venice’s mode of transport became the gondola. With the streets formed, the city was built up and now resembles a rabbit warren, one which Jen and I got caught in with our luggage on arrival. You see, we missed the water taxi and ferry signs and thought we didn’t have far to walk. Grabbing a map (which was pretty much useless) we were fortunate enough to find signage to Rialto, right next to our hotel. This made things a little more bearable, but lugging suitcases up and down those little bridges and pushing through the crowds on the narrow streets made it hard for me to see the romantic side of Venice. However once checked in we were able to relax and enjoy all Venice has to offer, like so many others have done throughout its history.
We saw a Klimt art exhibition in the art museum in Saint Marcs Square and visited the Basillica and palace nearby. Once Venice had established itself as a wealthy and important place in the world, its people welcomed artists, musicians, writers and architects to assert itself. Many famous people through time have come from or been inspired by Venice and its beauty from Marco Polo, Vivaldi and the infamous Casanova.
In fact, Casanova found love in more than one of the many hidden streets and gondolas here in Venice, perhaps helping to give it its reputation today. He was not the only one I’m sure, as the city became well-known for its masquerade festival which once lasted 6 months. With the festival came partying, gambling and debauchery and young rich Europeans came to be a part of it. Venice soon became known as the city of masks.
Over time things quietened down and now the city is a little more demure, however romance can be found all over Venice, in a Gondola, a quiet street or looking out over the water toward Murano Island. Murano Island has become nearly as famous as Venice, not for romance but for its incredible glass making. We visited one of only 20 or so workshops which remain from a peak of 2500 in days gone by. The glass is blown and formed in traditional ways with unique designs and patterns by trained masters who have undergone a 20 year apprenticeship. After a demonstration, we returned to the city of love for one last dinner looking out onto a canal and waved at the gondola passengers and crew as they passed our window. With that, our time in Venice was over and following morning we caught the water ferry back to our car (which was much easier) and headed south toward Rome.