We visited the floating city of Venice (Venezia) which has no roadways, only waterways!! Therefore you can only travel by boat as a method of transportation. Can you beat that experience?
The city of Venice begins at about 400 A.D. when people fled to the Venetian Lagoon from the Barbarians who had come to conquer mainland Italy. At that time Venice hadn’t been built so the refugees crowded on to fisherman villages (like Burano). Everybody kept trying to go back to resume their normal lives but soon realised that it was impossible to live there. So only then was the decision to build Venice, a city safe from Barbarians, made. But after that they had to put wood brought from Croatia on 118 mud islands, and then join those islands together with canals and bridges! Thus was the magnificent and floating city of Venice built. It is amazing that a ‘city built in fear’ turned out to be one of the most glamorous cities ever to be built.
Did you know, Venice has been sinking since it was built. Not only has sea level been rising but as Venice was constructed on mud islands the weight of the city has been pushing the mud down causing the city to sink even more. Till now Venice has sunk nine inches.
The central square, St Marks Square, has an ornately decorated church which adorns the main square and there is usually always a long line to get inside. On the facade there are pictures depicting Jesus’s life. There is also a 99m tall red bell tower ( St Marks Campinile) in this square that had been destroyed in 1912 and then been rebuilt again. In the middle of the square are loads of crows and I can’t tell you how much me and my brother enjoyed chasing them. Another point of interest is the Bridge of Sighs, which was made to connect the Old Prison and the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace to the New Prison, which was across the canal. Legend says that prisoners used to sigh when they saw the bridge because it was their last sight of the outside world before being taken into the dungeons. Below the bridge the small and elegant gondolas were rowing slowly down the canal. Unfortunately we couldn’t go in a gondola but just seeing them is a pleasurable sight. There is an old saying that if it is the exact moment of sunset, the bells of St Marks Campinile are ringing, you are in a gondola and you manage to kiss the Bridge of Sighs you will be granted infinite love. Did you know that the Bridge of Sighs is built by Antoni Contino whose uncle, Antonio da Ponte built the Rialto Bridge?
Another lovely piece of architecture is the Rialto Bridge. It was the first bridge to be built cross the Grand Canal. Locals thought the current bridge would not last long. The bridge crosses over the narrowest point of the Grand Canal. The Grand Canal is the main canal of Venice and it divides the city in two parts. The bridge is jam packed with people trying to get their pictures taken. The whole route of the Grand Canal crosses only 4 bridges and it eventually leads into the Adriatic Sea. The grand canal is the most craved place to stay on.
The next day we visited the islands around Venice. The first one was the colourful Fishermans village Burano. Burano is well known in Venice for its colourful houses of every imaginable colour which is what the tourists make a beeline for. The island also has a tall leaning bell tower that is leaning 1.83 metres (which makes at least 2 leaning towers in Italy.
Murano, the second island we visited, is renowned for Murano Glass. For a long time it was the only glass made in the world. Italians were so possessive about their art they confined workers to the island giving the false reason that it was dangerous to work with a furnace in the city. The Italians threatened that if a worker would escape they would kill his or her family. On the island we visited a furnace that explained the process of producing Murano Glass. First silica and soda are mixed together and then put in a furnace. Then you add different substances depending on what colour glass you wanted. When the glass comes out it is molten and you must shape the glass when it is still in that form. After that you blow through a blowpipe ( with the glass at the other end) and carve with tweezers to get the desired shape. This is the part which requires extreme skill and one could see the masters at the work quickly moulding the glass into various intricate shapes. Finally you cool it down. If you cool it down too quickly the glass will shatter. Another lovely experience added to my diary.
My best experience though was none of the above, it was travelling in boats everywhere. We had gone in the Vaporetti (boats – and the public transport in Venice) or a floating bus! There were floating stops tied to the floating city! Every time a boat would pass, the boat stop would bob up and down. Instead of bus numbers you had a boat number.
Of course, Venice is a bit derelict in some parts, does have a humid smell in some lanes as you walk and it’s easy to see why – the lower part of building always in contact with water have blackened over time and gathers moss constantly. Its definitely easier to clean up the land than water. During rains, flooding is also a regular problem. With so many tourists flocking in every year, it’s indeed a challenge for the denizens to maintain their city.
While I was reading about Venice’s history I found a quote that I really liked by Russian writer Alexander Herzen, “To build a city where it is impossible to build one is madness itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest cities is the madness of a genius.” And I agree Venice is truly a very magnificent city, built perfectly to the last dot – more so because just building that city deserves a lot of merit.