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Hypnotic charms of the Adriatic lagoons

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Hypnotic charms of the Adriatic lagoons

Almost like a rare prize for someone who travels to Italy, Venice has a unique brand of music, food, and architecture to offer. One is forced to imagine what it must have been like to be there at the time of the Renaissance, says VV Sundar

It is an enigmatic city perched on a lagoon with a constant threat of flooding. Its residents defiantly withstood the vagaries of the nature for centuries and yet managed to create an enchanting city. A place that boasts of the most romantic boat ride of a life time. Still clueless? We are referring to the hypnotic  charms of the man-made delights of the magnificent ancient city of Venice and the indefatigable spirit of the Venetians.

It is hard to imagine that a city not only survived but also thrived surrounded by constant existential threat of water inundation and tidal waves. But Venice was erected with aplomb. The intricate network of water canals and bridges stand as a testimony to the masterly engineering skills and mending natures forces to its advantage on these water-locked islands of the Adriatic Sea.

As you arrive in Venice by train it shouldn’t surprise you to be greeted with boats and steamers jetting in the canal waters right at the very entrance of the Santa Lucia station on the Grand Canal. Venice doesn't allow you anytime, it soaks you in right away, both metaphorically and literally.

The charms of this floaty city pull foreign tourists from distances wide and far. Oversized cruise ship, barges delivering supplies, water buses (vaporetto) ferrying passengers dominate the views and at times seems too imposing on a rather fragile city like Venice. One can imagine the excessive toll it would take on the locales to be living in a famous centuries old city, that is cynosure of the world’s elite, rich and the famous and a tourist hotshot.

Venice is a sharp contrast from the rest of the Italy. Lying in the extreme northeast of the country, it is not just geographically distinct but also the local arts, culture, cuisine and the architecture are uniquely different.

Venice during 12-14th centuries was a world power. Its influence was spread throughout the Mediterranean to Constantinople (modern Istanbul). The wealth and power that came with exclusive maritime trade links with the East was celebrated in art and architecture throughout the city. The fabric of Venice has not changed and remains the same in spite of centuries that have gone by.  The city sounds are filled with the tourist’s footsteps and the calls of the boatmen.

It is hard not to notice the innumerable gondolas, many of them ferrying and a few moored along the canal. The gondolas are slim hull and flat underside designed to negotiate narrow canals. You may not notice it at the first glance, but they are slightly tilted with a leftward curve to the prow, it prevents the gondola from circling.

The gondolas were decreed to be black in color way back in the 1562. This was to prevent Venetians from ostentatious display of their wealth. Only on certain special occasions are they decorated with flowers.

The city’s love for ornate decorations, pointed arches and bulbous onion shaped domes are all there for visitors to admire. The city created its own unique style of architecture blending Gothic, Byzantine and Oriental. Every inch of the land is precious for Venice and considering the scarcity and watery terrain designing weightless buildings turned out to be of paramount necessity. The architecture never allowed more weight and hence we see the beautiful lightness and grace in structure, which outwardly though look robust and heavy.

One place where you can see such splendid display is Piazza San Marco and Basilica. A historic square of Venice where countless carnivals, festivities and processions took place.In ancient times, by law all ships returning from abroad had to bring back a precious gift to adorn the ‘House of St Mark’. Until 1807 St Mark’s was the doge’s (Venice’s rulers) private chapel used for ceremonies of State, and later became the cathedral of Venice. It contains hordes of silver, gold and glassware in its Treasury.

Located in the same square is the Doges’ Palace, built in the 9th Century. This was the official residence of Venice’s rulers. The distinct pink colored palace comes from the usage of the Veronese marble. The palace commands fine views of the lagoon. Visitors can see the richly decorated chambers and halls of this three-storied structure. According to the folklore, Casanova was once imprisoned here and made a daring escape from the Palace though a hole in the roof. The complex consists of Doge's private apartments, large council chambers, courts and prisons.

The square is surrounded by numerous souvenir shops. Particularly, you would be awestruck with shops selling carnival face masks and Murano glass-a centuries old technique, refined craft of creating specialised fancy glassware's. You will find splendid display of tourist souvenirs including crystalline glass, enameled glass, golden glass, multicolored glass, glass chandeliers and figurines.

At the beginning of the Grand Canal, a 17th century domed church can be seen commissioned by Venice’s plague survivors as a gesture for their rescue. The grand galleries of the Gallerie dell’Accademia houses Venetian art from the 14th-18th centuries with collections from Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Canaletto.

La Fenice is Venice’s opulent and historic opera house with a marvelous theatrical and immersive experience. The venue was where Verdi’S Rigoletto and La Traviata premiered.

Venice is also home to the great composer Antonio Lucio Vivaldi, a Baroque composer, virtuoso violinist. His best-known work is a series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons. An impossible and audacious city with incredible wealth. Venice offers the travellers overwhelming bliss, carnivals and aquatic fanfare.

The writer is a strategic communications professional and an avid traveller. Travel writing and photography are his passions. Email: vissa.sundar@gmail.com ; Tweet: @Sundar__VV




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