by Bob Brooke
"La Serenissima" — the "Most Serene Republic" which Truman Capote said is "like eating a box of chocolate liquers at one go." There's nothing like your first ride on the Grand Canal or your first view of the Veneto, the Venetian Lagoon, shrouded in mist. The city is unlike any place on Earth — a medieval Disneyland filled with the spirits of merchants and boatmen.
The Veneti, who by the 13th century had achieved so much in terms of social values, lived on an ill-defined triangle of land formed by the River Po, the Alps, and the Adriatic Sea. Set in a seaside lagoon dotted with small islands, Venice appears to float upon the water like a magical mirage, a living museum to its former glories.
It rose to greatness during the Renaissance of the 15th century when its merchants traded the length and breadth of the Mediterranean. After the fall of Constantinople, the Venetian galleys returned home laden with riches — gold, spices, silks, brocades and works of art — including the golden horses of St. Mark's, caught at full gallop with an unrestrainable forward motion, now the symbol of the city's liberty.
As a result of its geographical position and the way it developed over the centuries, the art and culture of Venice remained Byzantine in style, as can be seen in the Basilica of St. Mark, one of 107 churches whose ringing bells still regulate community life.
Motorised vaporetti, gondolas, and boats of all sizes glide under 400 bridges along its canals taking people and goods from dock to dock. Even coffins float down the canals in serene majesty. Three thousand alleys and thoroughfares make up the labyrinth of Venice, all in a tiny four-square-mile area.
Lose yourself in Venice. The area of the Rialto Bridge, the center of city life, is home to the bustling City Market, best seen as the sun creeps up over the horizon. Then wander the alleyways and piazzas, stopping for an espresso at a neighborhood coffee bar or stop to watch a florist prepare a funerial spray in the open air. Make your way to Piazza San Marco, the place to see and be seen, then visit the marble Gothic Palace of the Doges, a symbol of Venice's beauty. Palazzos filled with art will dazzle your senses.
After following a gondolier to a local café for a plate of pasta, set off in a vaperetto to visit the islands of the Veneto — the church of Torcello, the lace of Burano, the glass of Murano. On your return, admire The Arsenal, where Venetian ships had been built for centuries. And as the sun settles behind the palazzos, treat yourself to smooth Italian ice cream along the Zattere waterfront as the lights flicker in the water of the canal.
Venice deserves to be savored like fine wine in sips rather than gulps. But, unfortunately, most people visit for the day — scurrying around like mice in a maze. Rather immerse yourself in the tapestry of Venice. You'll be glad you did.
Serenissima VeneziaA beautifully shot little gem of a video of Venice directed, shot, cut and finished by Emmanouil Papadopoulos.
A Little Venice Luxury
€317.33 per night
€1550.00 per night
€408.00 per night
€447.90 per night
*rates above are daily double room rates based on dates: 04-07-2013 to 07-07-2013.
Lonely Planet Venice iPhone App
Lonely Planet's Venice city guide app is the perfect on-the-go guide to get you to the heart of Venice. Featuring all the top sights plus where to eat, sleep, shop and go out, researched and road-tested by their team of expert authors. And with their location-aware maps, you'll know exactly where you are, what's nearby, and how to get there - all without requiring an internet connection or incurring any data fees.
Download the Venice Lonely Planet iPhone App from iTunes.