A destination for the culturally impoverished who are looking for a dose of Italian ethos, Venice is known for its gondolas and celebrated for its beauty.
There is something regal about arriving to a town by boat. Even by Venetian water-taxi, the experience of entering a floating city is heightened by being on the water. The adrenalin builds as the pool of blue ahead of you dissipates and you see the approaching red bricks. Entering through the mouth of one of the many canals, the ripened buildings greet you; they are adorned with arch windows and wooden turquoise shutters, and most of them draped with hanging clothes. You are encased by hovering vessels of every conceivable kind, and in that moment your childhood affection for boats is restored.
Home to Casanova, the 18th century womanizer, Venice is synonymous with stories of love, romance and idealism.
Nestled in the Venetian Lagoon, between the orifice of northern Italy’s Po and Piave Rivers and the Mediterranean Sea, is Venice: a city built on a cluster of over a hundred tiny islands, divided by canals and connected by bridges. The quintessence of beauty, this striking city has inspired the work of painters for centuries (including Guardi), and artists of today continue to flock here. Home to Casanova, the 18th century womanizer, Venice is synonymous with stories of love, romance and idealism.
I have been a charmed guest of Venice twice. At the risk of subjecting you to an advertorial on Topdeck’s intoxicated adventures throughout Europe – I will muse mostly on the second visit…
On my first morning in Venice, I wake at the Westin Europa & Regina to the stately sound of church bells. Curious to learn the maker of such a fluent sound, I find out the chimes are coming from a dome-shaped church on the opposite side of the Grand Canal. The exquisite Santa Maria della Salute is a Roman Catholic Church built in 1631, and was traditionally known as an offering of the city’s deliverance from a plague outbreak. It has since become a significant addition to the Venice skyline, and is often considered emblematic of the city.
What the Opera House is to Sydney, the Piazza San Marco is to Venice: you don’t visit without seeing it. Crowned by Napoleon as “The finest drawing room in Europe”, the square itself is full of 9th century history and enveloped in a rich tapestry of old buildings. Like many of its foreign counterparts, the square was spilling over with tourists (and pigeons) and had been ambushed by a plethora of harlequin masks; this said, it somehow manages to absorb the stir while retaining its poise. I particularly loved standing there and imagining what it had looked like in the 1700’s as merchants set up their daily stalls. An obvious pearl for this square is the centerpiece of the piazza, St. Mark’s Basilica. Commissioned in 1071, the church is one of the best-known examples of Byzantine architecture, with golden mosaics covering the walls, vaults and cupolas and all depicting stories from the Bible.
A visit to Venice would not be complete without a gondola ride. It may sound cliché, but it’s the best way to see the city and will transport you through all the tricky parts of the Venetian Lagoons. For centuries, the gondola has carried passengers along Venice’s waterways, and while they were once the leading form of transportation, today they are generally used as sightseeing vessels for tourists. Believed to have originated in Venice around 1100, being a gondolier is considered a noble profession that has been passed down through generations; it’s a prestigious credential and only a limited number of licenses are issued, requiring a sound knowledge of the city, its history and its waterways. As I embarked upon my first ever gondala ride (with an incredibly good-looking Italian gondolier), my mind was transported back to a bygone era.