Ah Venezia!

Ah Venice! I think just about everyone who has not been here must have their own romantic vision of what Venice must be like. It’s a good bet their vision is not too far from the reality! Venice is indeed that charming place of imagination and fable, even when weighed down to the water line with summer tourists! Built on wooden pilings driven deep into the clay below, Venice is very much a city of water. Canals are main streets, lined with centuries of architecture in every style from Byzantine through early 20th century.

And everyone and everything, including visitors, gets around on the water. Oh, you can walk Venice alright, and that is what you spend most of your time doing, but Venice without a least one trip on the water doesn’t give you the authentic feel of this most unique of cities.

The Venetians live this every day. Produce boats, fire boats, police boats, delivery boats, ambulance boats, even hearse boats ply the canals going about their workaday business keeping shelves stocked, the public safe, visitors provided for, and the dead buried! It is a marvel to watch!

The tourist comes to Venice for this and for the stunning architecture. Venice’s landmarks are well know, from the Doge’s palace with it’s Gothic facade, the Byzantine marvel of San Marco, and the distinct campanile (bell tower) in the Piazza San Marco.

The campanile actually collapsed in 1903, killing no one and harming only the watachman’s cat. But the Venetians quickly rebuilt their tower with the same brick and a new foundation. It proudly looks over what Napoleon called the best drawing room in Italy – the Piazza San Marco. The Piazza, surrounded as it is by the Doge’s Palace, the Campanile, and San Marco Basillica, is of course tourist central! Absolute mobs of tourists fill this Piazza and the surrounding lanes and canals during tourist season. It may be the most tourist filled outdoor setting in touristdom! Nothing too charming about that. But . . . Venice’s charms really await the visitor who is willing to stick around a while, wait until the tourists head off to their hotels on the mainland, and wander Venice after dark or very early in the morning.

Summer light comes very early to Venice. By 5:00 A.M., even on an overcast day, a cool-of-the-morning stroll reveals the stunning beauty of this crumbling wonder. Deserted streets and canals, the stillness in the air broken only by birdsong rather than tourist rumble – it is absolutely magical!

The harried pace of yesterday, the elbowing past hoards of fellows, the noise and heat and bustle – it is all gone, replaced by a serenity and beauty of a type I have never found anywhere else. The early riser is rewarded in spades here in Venice. And then . . .

. . . there is Venice after dark. The lights sparkling off the canals, late diners enjoying a quiet meal at a restaurant run by folks who don’t know what it means to rush you through your meal, and the far off aria sung by a gondolier to a group of tourists paying way too much for the priveledge . . . just plain magic! There is no other place in the whole of the great wide world quite like Venice!
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