An open air museum of a unique atmosphere, with numerous churches and impressive monuments
By Kon Hans
A drowned forest. Fog. A mask with a big nose is reflected in the calm waters. A silent black swan emerges in the form of a mahogany gondola. Memories and fleeting images.
It is rather difficult to describe with simple, plain words a city which is located somewhere between a hazy dream and the reality. The fact that an entire forest has been transferred from Slovenia in the depths of an Adriatic lagoon in Italy in order to build upon it the legendary city of Venice with its 118 islands, channels and bridges is just shocking by itself. Your nerve endings get overcharged with each and every picture you may encounter in any corner of this surreal and magical place. Beginning from the fact that the familiar Athenian yellow taxis are replaced with the vaporetto, specially designed small boats on which you may embark as they ride the water highways of Venice, up to the colourful washings hanging over the labyrinthine canals, all compose a world that looks like it came from a book of an ingenious author. To enter this fairy-tale world, you must forget of any guides or manuals of any sort, you need to get lost, to pour yourself and your soul in this wondrous maze without Ariadne's thread.
At the famous square
Piazza San Marco is the central or, rather, the only square in Venice, the rest are called campo or campielo. Its extremely frequent appearance in almost all the postcards sent from Venice is justified: the unique Cathedral of San Marco with the impressive Clock Tower and the Doge's Palace offer an insuperable background to enjoy an authentic Italian espresso at the Caffé Florian. Your visit both in the Cathedral and the Palace will confirm the nobility and richness of the once all-powerful Republica Serenissima of Venice, as well as its sinful past with the Byzantine Empire. Indeed, behind the Palace and uniting it with the prisons stands the legendary “Bridge of Sighs” – its stones still resonate the sighs of the condemned as they took a last glance at the serene beauty of Venice.
Nonetheless, you need to know that this celebrated piazza has been transformed several times in a celebrated lake due to the tides, which particularly during the months of October to December flood many parts of Venice! Even so, after you enjoy your coffee you can begin your exploration starting from any point you wish; whatever bridge you choose to cross – there are around fifty and in about every 150 m. there is one – and in any small alley you wish to enter – the narrowest is only 65 cm. wide – you will undoubtedly encounter a picture of a uniqueness and a beauty you have seldom laid eyes upon. The Rialto Bridge is indeed such a magical example: countless romantic souls have walked and continue to walk upon it and as they stand to gaze at the golden hue sunset, the strength and the warmth of their hearts as it flows out from their palms have transformed the parapets of the bridge into a shining mirror!
Campo Santa Marguerita is not only one of the centres of the night life in Venice, as many students congregate here, but also a great place to sit and relax in the sun. Here, many cafés and bars are named after colours, Caffé Rosso, Caffé Nero etc. and here is also the perfect place to enjoy the famous spritz (white sparkling wine with Aperol: spritz al aperol or with Campari: spritz bitter). If, after so much spritz you get hungry you can let your nose guide you to the small pizza-place at the campo where you can indulge in a tasteful slice of the exceptional pizza ai zucchini (with pumpkin).
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Located within walking distance you will find a diamond of the ample cultural offer the “floating city” has to offer: the personal Collection-Museum of Peggy Guggenheim. An eccentric member of the prominent Guggenheim family, unyielding, romantic, and with an unconventional personality, she passionately collected painters and lovers. The collection includes some of the masterpieces of the last century, thus you can enjoy Picasso, de Chirico and Kandinsky in the impressive Palazzo Venier dei Leoni , the flamboyant Peggy Guggenheim's residence which has been transformed into a museum. Afterwards you can enjoy a beautiful walk in the Fondamenta delle Zattere, where in some sunbathed terraces you will find authentic Italian ice creams to be waiting for you as you marvel at the sight of the large ships crossing the greatest water Avenue in Venice, the Giudecca Channel.
At the end of this promenade and at the point where the legendary Canal Grande meets Giudecca Channel there is another diamond yet to be found: the Basilica of St Mary of Health (Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute). An impressive and imposing church, that looks as if floating on the water, stands there, proud, to remind to the Venetians the dark years of the Black Plague, which killed one third of the population of the city. In the heart of the temple a masterpiece of the Byzantine iconography is guarded with reverence, it is the exceptional Icon of Panagia Mesopantitissa, originating from Crete.
The Serenisima embraces with its eerie silence several churches, impressive palazzos and monuments. If you don’t have too much time to spend, then buy cards from the Tourist Office that give you entry to the main attractions, as well as cards from the ACTV (Transportation Bureau) to move about without problems with the vaporetto. If, on the other hand, you do have plenty of time, which may prove difficult as the whole town is an open air museum, then don’t miss the psychedelic colours of the houses in Burano, the masters of the glass blowing crafts in Murano and the well-known Lido Beach to relax with an excellent mojito.
An invaluable source of information for the writing of this article has been Tiziano Scarpa’s book: Venezia e un pesce (Ed. Feltrinelli, 2003).
Published in KATHIMERINI ©, on October 26, 2012 (transl. & edited from greek, original here )
|Venezia casa (foto by Andromahi Doufexi)|
|Burano - canal (foto by Juana Escobar)|
|Burano - canal 2 (foto by Juana Escobar)|
|Burano - casas (foto by Juana Escobar)|
|Venezia - canal (foto by Juana Escobar)|
|Ponte dei Sospiri (foto by Juana Escobar)|
|Basilica di San Marco (foto by Juana Escobar)|
|Venezia - canal 2 (foto by Juana Escobar)|
|Venezia - canal (foto by Andromahi Doufexi)|
|Venezia - Lido by night|