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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Ambiance of Venice, Italy

Rialto Bridge, Venice, ItalyImage via Wikipedia
Author: Larry Aiello

Ahhh, Venice..sounds of Andrea Boccelli resonating from open balcony windows. Two young lovers comfortably embraced while savoring a nice gondola ride through a quaint canal. Couples strolling down the narrow cobblestone streets mano-a-mano. Romance is in the air. And there's no better place for romance than a trip to Venice.

Venice's main waterway is the Canale Grande (Grand Canal) which snakes its way through the city for approximately 2 miles. Other canals will feed into and out of this one. The Grand Canal is the "Main Street" of Venice.

A good vantage point to see the Grand Canal and its activity is from the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto). The Rialto Bridge is one of only three bridges to cross the Grand Canal. The original wooden drawbridge collapsed and was rebuilt a few times culminating with its current day stone structure in the late 1500's.

Piazza San Marco is really the heart and soul of Venice. This is the main tourist focal point of the city. It is a place where people (and pigeons) congregate to people-watch. The place to be seen sipping some cappuccino or to people-watch outside one of the caf├ęs overlooking the piazza.

On the Eastern side of the Piazza lies the Doge's Palace (or Palazzo Ducale). This was the seat of the government during the glory years of Venice. Housed inside are artistic treasures and masterpieces by the famous renaissance artists Tintoretto and Veronese, among others.

Next to the Doge's Palace lies a former prison. From here, prisoners were led across the Bridge of Sighs (or Ponte dei Sospiri), as a final walkway prior to their execution. Today, the bridge is used in another manner young lovers are promised eternal love if they should kiss in a gondola underneath the Bridge of Sighs. I told you Venice was a romantic city! Where else can a grim bridge connotate romance?

Murano glass-making, craftsmanship and artistry that dates back to the 13th century, was originated and perfected in Venice. It is definitely worth it to see these craftsmen at work. They usually have tours where you can see them in action. There are hundreds of shops, particularly on the island of Lido.

A discussion of Venice would not be complete without discussing the pre-Lenten festival of Carnevale. Carnevale, from the Latin meaning "farewell to meat", is Venice's version of masquerade balls, costumes, parades, grandiose events, etc. The idea, of course, is similar to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans or the Carnevale of Rio de Janeiro, where Christians celebrate one last "hurrah" prior to Lent.

Another famous Venetian tradition is to visit a "cicchetteria", a little restaurant-bar establishment usually hidden in many of the alleyways of Venice. On Saturday mornings, prior to lunch, you will see Venetians visiting the "cicchetterie" to sample "gli spuncioni", or hors d'oeuvre type appetizers. Similar to the tapas used in Spain. Don't forget to wash it down with some refreshing "cicchetti", or the local wine (red or white) served in these establishments.

If you like to gamble, Venice has the most renowned casino in all of Italy. There are actually two that operate alternatively at different times of the year. You will usually find one of them open, except for holidays.

Despite the above, Venice is not problem-free. Flooding and polluted canals have been a concern for some time. Some of the world's brightest engineers have been working on a system to alleviate the "acqua alta", or flooding that can occur after a heavy rain or during an extraordinarily high tide. Piazza San Marco has been known to be flooded for a few hours at a time. And of course, during the summer tourist season, Venice can become quite crowded. It is best to make your plans well in advance.

However, Venetians are very resilient. The town was basically built by trying to defy Mother Nature's sea. It is this resilience that has served the people well for many centuries. Venetians are a special breed that live life to the fullest. They are a people that know how to perservere. And persevere they will for many more centuries to come.

A trip to Italy would definitely not be complete without considering Venice on your agenda. It is easily accessible by train (about 4 hours from Florence) or just a quick flight from Rome. Ciao!

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About the Author

Larry Aiello is an Italian-American living in Florida that loves to share his knowledge of Italy. Visit his website for Italian travel-related information, tips, travel advice, recipes, community, etc . He is also a mortgage broker and offers consultation on home-buying and refinancing your mortgage through
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