|Venice from Grand Canal|
Not quite satiated by our brief visit to Vienna my wife and I were wondering whether there would be a repeat visit sometime in the future. That, however, seemed to be highly improbable. Living and working in India it was very difficult to manage a trip abroad, that too, to a European country. We left Vienna a little disgruntled and looked forward to the visit to Venice, where too we were to
spend only a day for want of time and, of course, adequate
|Another view from Grand Canal|
Venice is generally known to be a very romantic city. At the very mention of it the mind conjures up a vision of a couple deeply in love sitting in a gondola immersed in themselves being serenaded by a gondolier in a regulation blue horizontally striped white frilly shirt on a dark pair of trousers topped by a broad-
brimmish white hand-woven sun hat and rowed down the
Grand Canal. Gondolas are what probably are inherent to Venice and provide a
reason to those in love to be there. On the day we were there they were there
by the dozen lending substance to its romantic aura.
|One of the several bridges of Venice|
Known as Venezia in Italian, it has been given many attributional names. It has variously been described as “Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Bridges”, a “Floating City” and so on. One enthusiast went on to describe it as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man”. Whether it is all that or not, it is certainly different and has that stamp of age and beauty besides possessing that unmistakable architectural beauty and elegant artwork. The entire city, no wonder, has been declared
a World Heritage Site.
|A church right on the Canal|
Be that as it may, one, nevertheless, finds a lot of water around. Somebody, therefore, went to name it “city of water”. This, however, is explained by the fact that the city is situated on as many as 110-odd islands separated by canals and these have bridges built over them for connectivity. That suggests it is located in an archipelago in a shallow lagoon with islands having small
populations, the most of the population, however, being located in the mainland
regions known as Terraferma. Using
canals as roads people move around on these – having no other means of
transportation. Precisely because of that Venice is the largest car-free city
|St. Mark's Basilica|
Despite its scattered nature, the City State of Venice was once a force to reckon with in trade and commerce as also because of its maritime prowess. Time took its toll on all these and today it is better known as a touristy place with more than 50000 arriving every day.
San Marco or the St. Mark’s Square is the dominating feature of Venetian tourism. So that is where we proceeded as soon as we could. No gondola ride with a serenading gondolier for us; they are far too expensive and are used by the rich and romancing couples. We took a ferry, or more appropriately a water-bus, instead, and it took the same
route, that is, the Grand Canal (Canal Grande in Italian) which is the
major water traffic corridor of the city. One end of the canal is at the St.
Mark, the other leads to the St. Lucia Station, or more appropriately, Venezia
Santa Lucia, which is where we got on to the water-bus. Santa Lucia station is
more than a hundred years old for construction of which the Santa Lucia church
was demolished. The station, however, appropriated the
name of the church
|Another view of Campanile|
The Grand Canal is about 4 Kms. long and 90 metres wide with a depth of about 15 ft. The buildings lining the banks are virtually palaces and date from 13th Century onwards. The residents spent a great deal of money to display their wealth by way of fashioning architectural styles and executing artwork on their walls – that is what after all was exposed to the general public. Some magnificent architecture of several styles – Venetian-Byzantine, Venetian-Gothic, Renaissance, Venetian-Baroque, etc. – can be seen along the Grand Canal.
We hit San Marco in about half an hour’s time. As we climbed out
water-bus and went up a few steps, the Piazza San Marco hove into view. It is a
massive piazza, also known in English as St. Mark’s Square, and is the
principal public square of Venice. There was a crowd of tourists as also of
pigeons, but the Square seemed to be big enough to accommodate all.
|At San Marco|
The St. Mark’s Square is probably the heart of Venice. It is the principal square of the town where all the social and cultural assemblies take place. Here is where all the action is and all the
history written in its architectural riches. What dominates the Square
is what is known as Campanile, a 100-odd metres tall tower, which is the
bell-tower of St. Mark’s Basilica. Located close to it, the tower stands alone
made basically of bricks. It has a loggia surrounding the belfry with five
bells. The tower is capped by a pyramidal spire on top of which is a weather
vane. Reportedly completed in 1514, the tower had to be rebuilt in the 20th
Century as it collapsed in 1902.
|A gondola and a water taxi|
|Shopping near St. Lucia Station|
The Basilica is close by, which is the church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice – the most famous of the churches of the city. The church is dedicated to St. Mark, an evangelist, whose remains were brought from Alexandria in Egypt in the 9th Century. The construction of the basilica commenced in the 11th Century and consecration took place a few years later in early 12th Century. Originally it was the church of the Doge or the city’s magistrate who used to be elected for life by the aristocracy. It has been the city’s cathedral since 1807.
|A general view of Venice|
It is an opulent church and was built in Italo-Byzantine style and displayed in its early years the wealth and power of the Republic of Venice. The interior is richly decorated in gold mosaic, and the exterior has Romanesque tall semi-circular arches. While the dazzling interior has largely retained its opulence, the exterior has undergone changes over time. Decorative
fixtures were attached to the building – the original walls were covered with
marble cladding and carvings and statuettes were added. Richly worked in marble
the frontage has a jumble of columns and elsewhere decorative foliage with
humans. On top of the main portal are four horses with indeterminate classical provenance
that are not, in fact, the originals. The originals, the loot the Republic of
Venice from the Crusades, were grabbed by Napoleon during his Venetian
occupation and taken to Paris but were returned soon after his defeat and are
now in the Museum.
|Another view of Venice|
On two sides of the Piazza are what are known as Procurators. The one on the right (as you come on to the Piazza from the Grand Canal) is the one known as Procuratie Vecchie – the old Procuratie which at one time housed offices and lodgings of the officials of St
. Mark, who were also high officials of the Republic of Venice. Built in the
16th Century, the ground floor is an arcade that is lined with shops
and eateries with offices above. On the opposite side is the Procuratie Nuovo
that was built in more or less the same style to accommodate offices and
officials late in the 16th Century as their numbers increased and
Procuratie Vecchi became cramped. Between1805 and 1814 Napoleon used to stay
here whenever he would visit Venice; he had, after all, declared himself King
|Another specimen from Murano|
Half a day is really not enough for the San Marco complex. Nonetheless, we had to tear ourselves away in the afternoon as we had to catch a train for Florence. We were back at St. Lucia well in time and had time enough to explore the area. There was great shopping at small shops from where my wife went bought two lovely Murano glass curios. Murano, a series of islands linked by bridges about a kilometer away, is known for its glass works as also for their beautiful products.