Called the Queen of the Adriatic, Venice has a setting that no other city in the world can rival. It is a network of rii (streams), canali (canals) calli (streets) and campi (squares). The richness and charm of Venice does not derive solely from the presence of significant works of architecture and art (Bellini, Tiziano, Veronese, Tintoretto, Palladio, Sansovino, and many others) but also from the general layout of the city and its way of life. “The rules change in Venice,” I’m told by Janys Hyde, long-time Venice resident and friend. For me, Venice is pure magic. In some ways the city is like a movie set tho’ it’s not fair to minimize Venice to make believe.
Venice is unique among all great cities of the world in that its streets are full of water. Made up of 118 islands only two to four feet above sea level, crisscrossed by 117 canals, and connected by some 360 bridges, its main avenue is the curving Grand Canal, its buses are the vaporetti. There is no other city in the world of this size and sophistication where the automobile is absent. With no better way to explain, Venice is all about the water. Janys tells me “when furniture is delivered to your home, it’s done by boat or when an ambulance is called it arrives on the water. To truly understand and ‘get in touch with Venice’ one must embrace the water.” Embrace I did, and instantly, feeling a sigh of relief from the usual bells, pollution and whistles of the big city.
The richness, color, light, texture, and history create a scene of overwhelming beauty. Venice is the city of canals, stunning Venetian Gothic palaces, intimate restaurants, and intrigue. Whether slipping along the canals on private water taxis, strolling the labyrinth of meandering alleyways, or sipping a Spritz to the mellifluous sounds of a live orchestra, there are plenty of ways to experience this charming mecca. Once the economic pulse of Europe, Venice is replete with many cultural and historical activities and treasures. In fact, there are few more memorable things than a cruise along the Grand Canal, disembarking among the cooing pigeons at St. Mark’s Square. The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and others. While the glories of the past are evident at every turn, the outlying neighborhoods and islands are still animated by a villager lifestyle which must have been unchanged through the centuries. The Lagoon of Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
No one seems to be in a hurry and no one seems to be trying to own the sidewalk as they stroll with friends and greeting passers-by. I love the quiet of Venice. No motor vehicles nor loud noises, just the slap slap of the water against Venice’s buildings and people calling out to each other. The incredible shifting light from dawn to dusk changes the dramatic mood of this Italian jewel and can fill the soul with a sense of pure fulfillment. I could have loved Venice on my own but Janys and her husband, Claudio graciously opened my eyes to “their Venice” and ensured I made it my own. Janys sums my Venetian experience best by saying “it is like a never ending story. Falling in love with Venice is a love affair which is difficult to shake off. Once you fall, you are lost and there is no way to appropriately tuck Venice neatly into a little box.” And fallen I have. There is no doubt in my mind that you, too, will not only be mesmerized but also madly deeply in love before you leave Venice.