An Italian Jewel

On the very morning when we were setting out on a coach to Venice, this hilarious incident occurred. My Dad who is an octogenerian has been aurally-challenged a couple of years back and though this impediment is slightly irritating, it does not keep him from living an ordinary life and travelling as well. I would say he is fiercely independent and does not like to be seen as an encumbrance. Now back to the story… this is not verbatim but the essence is there!

Dad: Where are we going today?
Aunt Doreen: Oh, we are going to Venice this morning.
Dad: Valley? What Valley is it?
Aunt Doreen: No, not Valley, it’s Venice, Venice!
Dad: Ferry? What ferry?
(Dad looking perplexed here. At this juncture, I was chuckling to myself whilst Aunt Doreen was getting a little frustrated and then she decides to write on his palm V E N I C E.)
Dad: OHHH…. Venice! Your pronounciation is soooo bad!!!
(Every one within earshot started laughing so hard. It is difficult not to eavesdrop as Dad tends to speak loudly because of his affliction.)

So this is my Venice joke of the day, just for you!

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Granite Columns carrying the symbols of the city’s patron saints, St. Mark & St. Theodore

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Venice was a major centre for trade and commence and became a wealthy European city.The tides changed and by the 17th century Venice lost her importance as a sea empire to Portugal. Venice’s economy is based mainly on tourism, trade and industrial exports as well as Murano glass and lace production in Burano.

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The Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs was so named by Lord Byron in the 19th century as it was thought to be the last view of Venice that the convicts saw before their imprisonment. In reality the inquisitions and executions were over by the time the bridge was built in 1602 and little could really be seen from inside due to the stone-grill coverings. Local legend has it that when a couple kissed on a gondola under the bridge at sunset, they would enjoy eternal love and bliss. Diehard romantics would probably go for it but please pardon the cynic in me who attributes it as a clever marketing ploy by the gondoliers!

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Piazzetta San Marco

This Piazzetta extends towards the lagoon at the south-east corner and together with the Piazza form the principal public square in Venice. Here the social, religious and political life of Venice merges. The fact that Venice is sinking is not imaginery but very real and some tourists who have walked in ankle-deep waters in some parts of St. Mark’s Square can attest to that.

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Piazza San Marco – St. Mark’s Square

I was enchanted by Canaletto’s paintings many of which depicted everyday life in Venice, the winding Grand Canal and the Regata Storica (historical Regatta) and this gave me an impetus to see Venice for myself. The traditional regatta first staged on 10th Jan 1315 under doge Giovanni Soranzo is now held every first Sunday of September and attracts many tourists who get to admire historic boats with crews in traditional clothing. These boat races are proceeded by a spectacular boat parade led by the Serenissima, a sumptuously decorated boat.

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Basilica of St. Mark – a fine example of Byzantine architecture

Venice is such an exciting place to visit, not just because it is a World Heritage Site. I love the city’s beautiful setting, the architecture, artworks, bridges, gondolas, Murano glassware, sculptures, jewellery and even their waterways. Who can resist the charming Gothic and Byzantine palazzos that appear to float on the canals and lagoon?

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Gondola embarkation quay with Santa Maria della Salute (Basilica of St. Mary of Health) in the background

Cynical as I was, I must confess that I did the Gondola ride for practical reasons. One, it saves my Dad a lot of walking; Two, the view of Venice on a gondola is quite different than that on foot; Three, floating down the Grand Canal and going deep into the narrow waterways cannot be done on the larger and faster water-taxi or vaporetto (water bus).

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Floating down the Grand Canal

The Grand Canal snakes around the city in a large S shape and is about 3.8km long, between 30-90m wide and about 5m deep in most places.

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Quiet Back Alleys in Venice

The canal is an ancient waterway and it is lined on both sides with buildings that date from 13th to 18th centuries. Many architectural styles ranging from Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance, Classical and Baroque can be seen around the Grand Canal which makes the boat ride such an interesting visual feast.

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Interior of a posh Gondola

The gondola is actually a flat bottomed boat that is designed for use in the Venetian lagoon. For centuries passed the gondolas were a chief means of transportation and a common watercraft. Today it has however become iconic and carry mostly tourists.

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Gondola ride through the narrow waterways of Venice

An interesting fact about gondolas is that the left side is made longer than the right side. This design prevents the boat from turning towards the left at the forward stroke of rowing. Gondolas are handmade and 8 different types of wood like fir, oak, cherry, walnut,elm, , mahogany, larch and lime could be used.

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Colourful Venetian Masks

Masquerade balls were originally a feature of Carnival season in the 15th century and it was a celebration of allegorical events like Royal entries, pageants, triumphal processions celebrating marriages and other events of a medieval court life.

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Sophisticated Venetian Masks

Masquerade balls evolved during the 16th century Renaissance period to costumed public festivities that were generally elaborate dances for the members of the upper classes in Italy. How intriguing it must be to come to a ball incognito, dressed to the nine’s and to spot one of these beautiful Venetian masks. Sadly with the fall of the Venetian Republic in the 18th century, the use and the tradition of masks declined and eventually disappeared.

This Italian Jewel ~ Venice, is a city you must visit and her many facets will not only enthrall you but there are little surprises waiting to be discovered! Benvenuti a Venezia!

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