|Along the Grand Canal near Piazza San Marco.|
Four days is not enough time to spend in the magical city Venice, only whetting the appetite for more. More time to wander narrow alleys, ride water taxis and the public transportation system of barges and motorboats, and visit museums, islands, the countryside, restaurants and even the shops.
All this in spite of myriads of tourists encountered everywhere. They arrive by plane, train, bus, and cruise ship. Sitting at breakfast each morning staring at the panorama along the Grand Canal, at least one cruise ship plied the waters, anchored and disgorged a thousand plus tourists eager to spend a day in the floating city.
My next visit will be off-season.
Venice is a city of 118 islands. Canals snake through extremely narrow byways while other waterways span sizeable open waters.
This first-time visitor, exiting the train station, was overwhelmed. Water taxis lining the docks – motorboats large enough for a dozen people or half that number plus luggage – and a row of gondolas waited to whisk vacationers to their lodging.
Initial impression: What are all the motorboats doing here? Pictures of the city I remember show only gondolas gliding along the canals…The channel is full of boats leaving with passengers, loading passengers, and waiting to dock to pick up newly arrived travelers. There is barely enough space to walk across the sidewalk from the train station to the quay. Pedestrians jostle each other as some walk briskly towards their destination while others gaze around, awed by the view and with no idea where to go.
Surveying the scene as our water taxi maneuvers through the canals, it takes a few minutes to realize what is missing from the bustling landscape – cars, buses, trucks, trolleys, motorcycles, and bicycles.
Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Changes to building exteriors must be approved, preserving the city’s architectural legacy. The first inhabitants, fleeing barbarian invaders, settled the islands as early as the fifth century. The city became a maritime power in the 10th century, and for centuries after a major cultural center. Masterpieces by some of the greatest Medieval and Renaissance painters adorn what were originally public buildings, private residences and houses of worship, today museums, hotels, churches and synagogues, and other tourist venues.
|You can see water on the sidewalk, |
a common occurrence during high tide.
The most famous go-to place is Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Square, bordered by magnificent medieval architecture, many featuring shops and restaurants. The Doge Palace, traditional home of the government, lined with columns originally tall and majestic, are not so tall and majestic today. The building, columns and all, is sinking, along with the entire city, at a rate of .03 to .39 inches per year.
The square also accommodates the Clock Tower, Correr Museum, and the Byzantine-style Church of St. Mark. The Church, decorated with gold-laced paintings and décor, dazzles.
One day we toured three islands, boats our means of transportation, Murano, the glassmaking center of the city, Burano, famous for lace, and Torcello, the first island settled. We encountered clear blue skies, sunny 60s weather and fewer visitors. We walked around the islands until our legs screamed “enough!”, observing glass masters and lace makers at work, wandering through a vineyard decorated with sculptures, along village streets and alleys, meandering through shops, and relishing lunch in the back room of a trattoria serving fresh homemade pasta and seafood, resting aching feet.
|Wandering the narrow alleys of the old Jewish Ghetto.|
Our last day in Venice our group split. One person toured the Biennale, an international art exhibition, while the rest of us explored Europe’s oldest Jewish ghetto, a Venetian word referring to a foundry, originally occupying the site.
We rendezvoused for a final dinner and drink in the hotel bar, saying bittersweet goodbyes.
The next day, following a nine-hour flight, we arrived home to hubs, homes, kids and grandkids, and our everyday lives.
Arrivederci Italy, Ciao home.