Venice- Art, Architecture and Gondolas
Venice is often referred to as the most beautiful city ever built by man. I second that after my visit. Like Hindu Gods, Venice is known by many names like "La Dominante", "Serenissima", "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", "City of Masks", "City of Bridges", "The Floating City", and "City of Canals".
Piazza San Marco, or St Mark's Square is the heart of Venice. Referred to as the Drawing Room of Europe by Napoleon, this public square is the most popular hangout in Venice. The only things that outnumber the huge crowd of people at any time of the day are the Pigeons! Feeding Pigeons has been banned recently after the municipality realized the damage done by these birds to the priceless Mosaics.
St. Mark's Basilica is the most prominent landmark in St Mars Square. It was commissioned in 1071 by doge Domenico Contarini and built in Venetian-Byzantine style. The interiors are embellished with bright mosaics containing gold, bronze and precious stones. It is so opulent that it has often been called The Church of Gold. Since 1807, St Mark's Basilica has been the seat Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, the patriarch of Venice. The 98.6 meter tall Bell Tower of the Basilica is one of the most prominent landmarks of Venice.
The Triumphal Quadriga or Horses of St Mark's is a remarkable artifact set in the façade of the Basilica. It is a set of four bronze statues. These were forcibly taken by Napoleon in 1797 to design of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and returned in 1815!
Palazzo Ducale or Doge's Palace has been the Political and Judicial center of Venice since the 9th Century. The 90-minute Itinerari Segreti tour is a great way to understand the intricacies of the workings of the Venetian State. An interesting section within the tour is the Cancelleria Segreta. In the olden times, team of 24 clerks used to write up all the official documents in triplicate in this area. The tour ends the prison cells where many a drama had taken place including the famous escape of Casanova.
Few things in this world can be more romantic than proposing to your loved one on a Gondola over the picturesque Venetian waterways! They have long served as the chief mode of transport across the numerous channels. From a high of ten thousand numbers in the 17th century, today Venice has just a few over four hundred gondolas. The person propelling the gondola is called a Gondolier. Gondoliers have a guild, which manages the number of licenses to be issued, the training and apprenticeship. They also administer a comprehensive exam on the knowledge of Venetian history and landmarks, foreign language skills and technical skills on handling the gondola.
Murano & Burano Islands
The world renowned Murano Glass is made in the Murano Island in Venice. The art of Glass making is supposed to have originated here in 9th Century and over the years the Glass Makers became prominent citizens of Venice. They even enjoyed immunity from prosecution! A boat ride takes you to this famous island where you can have a look at some of the factories and studios. The most exciting aspect of Murano is the live demonstration by artisans in the factories. I saw an expert glass maker making a splendid Horse as beautiful as The Black Beauty in a jiffy! Glass is first made into liquid at high temperatures and before it cools and solidifies, the artisan shapes it to his desire in the short interval. It seemed like Magic!
Burano is another island worth visiting while at Venice. As you land here, you will be amazed by the colorful houses all lined up like in a painting. The color schemes follow a method and if someone wants to paint his house, he cannot do it as per his will! He needs to write to the government and will get sanctioned a particular color or a choice of may be 2! Burano became a major center for Lace making in the 16th century. Women had a special method of making lace with needles. The Lace was exported to all parts of the world. Leonardo Da Vinci had visited here in 1481 to shop for some lace for the main altar of the Duomo di Milano, the cathedral Church of Milan and seat of the Archbishop. You can buy a souvenir Lace piece before leaving Burano.
Venice is Sinking
Venice has been sinking for the last 1000 years. It has been sinking 7 cm every century. Unfortunately, this rate has gone up recently due to Global Warming and Venice has sunk by as much as 24 cms in the last century. The City Council is planning to invest 3 billion Euros to stem the impending flood by erecting steel gates. However, whether this move will stop Venice from sinking or will it only delay the inevitable, only time will tell. All I would say is that if you have not seen Venice yet, make it sooner than later!
The full travelogue with more snaps is available at Venice-the Romantic City