Venice is undoubtedly a romantic destination capturing the hearts of people with its tranquility resonating from narrow canals where gondolas are gliding freely. Thousands of tourists flock in this romantic city every year to fall in love with its idyllic beauty. Venice has its way of enticing people from dining at cafes in piazzas, to viewing canals on balconies, getting lost in entangled alleys that are almost indistinguishable, crossing fascinating bridges, and certainly to hopping aboard a classic gondola.
Situated in a vast isolated lagoon in northeastern Italy, Venice is linked to the mainland by a causeway. It consists of over a hundred small islands separated by canals and connected by numerous bridges. Built on a marshland, one would wonder how monumental buildings were erected in such a swampy foundation. But the brilliance of early Venetians have made the impossible attainable by driving many wooden poles vertically into the ground to serve as the base for the buildings. Countless tree trunks have been submerged into the mud which hardened through time to support and elevate the structures built within the city. The idea was absolutely laborious but the fear from the barbarian invaders of the North has pushed them to establish the place for isolation and protection. Who would have thought that this city which was created from nothing has become an alluring spot in the world?
Surrounded by the Adriatic waters, Venice is best explored by walking on passageways, traversing one bridge to the other, and getting lost again and again. This is an exciting way to discover the “city of bridges” without spending on exorbitant boat rides though catching a glimpse of the city from a gondola will complete your Venetian holiday. Getting off the train from Santa Lucia Railway Station, the Grand Canal will immediately welcome tourists with its assortment of Venetian boats. This S-shaped canal splits Venice into half and it is the primary waterway of the city with 4 bridges crossing over it.
Proximal to the central railway station is the stone arch bridge known as Ponte degli Scalzi. The most recently constructed bridge situated just on the right of the train station is commonly called Calatrava Bridge from its architect Santiago Calatrava, but officially named as Ponte della Costituzione. The oldest bridge spanning the Grand Canal and the most widely photographed among all is Ponte di Rialto. It is situated at the middle stretch of the Grand Canal designed to permit the passage of sea vessels. It was also the primary crossing of the pedestrians for centuries until the Accademia Bridge was brought into picture. But there is another famous bridge though not passing over the Grand Canal, has become an attraction in Venice especially to romantic lovers. It is a symbol of everlasting love where it is believe that couples who pass under it will have a love that will endure forever. It is an enclosed bridge hanging high above Rio de Palazzo de Canonica formerly intended to connect the New Prison to the court halls of Doge’s Palace. According to a folktale, as convicted prisoners cross the bridge, they would sigh catching a final glimpse of Venice before directing them to their cells, thus called the “Bridge of Sighs”. However in reality, by the time the bridge was built, the period of summary executions have already come to an end.
At the heart of Venice lies the most impressive square in the world: the Piazza San Marco. This is one of the significant places in the city surrounded by symbolic Venetian landmarks where the tourists crowd as well as the pigeons. As the center of civil and religious ceremonies back in the olden days, Piazza San Marco is filled with history and antiquity. At the eastern end of the square, is where the Grand Saint Mark’s Basilica situated. The lines could take hours to enter this Byzantine styled basilica but waiting is worth it upon sighting the extravagant interior covered with gold mosaics signifying the city’s wealth and power. Connected to Saint Mark’s Basilica is another iconic building, the Doge’s Palace. This Venetian Gothic designed palace was once the seat of the Doge and the place where the Venetian Republic was governed. Rising at the center of the square in front of the Saint Mark’s Basilica is the brick bell tower. This stand-alone Campanile has an elevator that could bring you at the top to witness the breathtaking view of the entire Venice.
Facing the waters of the lagoon and the piazza is the St. Mark’s Clock Tower. The tower displays an astrological clock demonstrating the time in Roman Numerals, the phases of the moon, and the signs of the zodiac in gold against a blue background. Just above the clock face is a statue of the Virgin Mary and Child topped with another layer depicting the Venetian emblem of a winged lion of St. Mark standing on an open book. Striking the bell every hour are two bronze figures located at the highest point of the tower. Below the huge clock face is an archway leading to the shopping street called Merceria. Occupying a vast area in the square is the Procuratie consisting of three connected buildings. The Procuratie Vecchie is the first building to be built housing the offices of the procurators, the powerful administrative officials of the Republic. Expanding the office spaces, a second building was constructed at the opposite side called Procuratie Nuove. Joining the two buildings on both ends bordering the piazza, a third structure was created known as Napoleon wing. Today, these buildings accommodate the Correr Museum exhibiting the finest collection of Italian art, and several restaurants serving authentic Italian cuisines. Sitting adjacent to Procuratie Nuove is St. Mark’s National Library decorated elegantly holding a number of ancient manuscripts.
Standing at the edge of Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica) fronting St. Mark’s Basin where gondolas dock side by side, will give a spectacular perspective of 2 churches magnificently perched on 2 separate Venetian islands. The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute found at one end of the Grand Canal is an octagonal shaped church dedicated to the Virgin Mary with a dome representing her crown. Another church, San Giorgio Maggiore, floating centrally at St. Mark’s Basin will never be missed with its white facade and red bell tower.
Venice’s unexpected beauty and charm have indeed inspired and influenced the world where the several replicas of it found around the globe are a testament. Yet, visiting the genuine Venice in Italy is truly incomparable.