Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Travelling Tuesday: The lure of Venice
Michelle Styles investigates the age old appeal of Venice.
There is a lure in the name, a hint of mystery and magic for Venice is a city like no other. To visit Venice is to step back into a world where there are no cars. Everyone walks or takes a boat. Life proceeds at the sedate pace of a gondola.
The ever changing light on the water ensures that Venice’s mood shifts and changes. As your ears become accustomed to the silence, you begin to notice little things like the sounds of bells echoing across the water, feet tramping over a bridge or even the laughter of children as they play football in a square, using the door of 18th century hospital as one of the goals. And you suddenly realise that it is a place to slow down and relx, to stop and have a cup of espresso and perhaps one of the chambella biscuits, or simply to be.
Venice because of its longevity has provided many things to the world. The words ghetto and arsenal come from actual places in Venice. The Arsenal was a large scale factory for producing ships. Among others things, it meant that Venice was at one time, the largest manufacturer of sail cloth in the world. This in turn meant that artists began to use the cloth as canvas for their painting, rather than paint on wood or plaster. And Venice became one of the biggest treasure troves of art in the western world. Its art and architecture continue to inspire.
Venice also can be over crowded and at the height of the hot summer its canals can be pungent. Pick your time to go, and Venice becomes magical. My husband and I went in early March, and experienced five glorious days of sunshine with relatively few tourists. I understand that November is also good for experiencing an uncrowded Venice.
Of course, even when the tourist season is in full swing, you can find places to get away from the crowds and truly enjoy Venice. Most of the tourists are concentrate in St Mark’s Square and around the Rialto bridge and the Accademia. Other lesser known churches, off the tour guide track yield their treasures up to the discerning visitor. For example Tinteretto’s parish church of Santa Maria della Orto is often uncrowded. When my husband and I went in early March, we were the only visitors. And if you take the number 2 water bus across to San Giorgio Maggiore, it is possible to take the lift to the top of campanile and get a good view of Sat Mark’s, rather than waiting to climb the stairs of the campanile in St Mark’s Square.
Venice is also a city in peril -- many of its buildings are crumbling, and it suffers from the effects of climate change. The Acqua Altes ( or high water floods) are becoming ever more frequent and things like motor boat wakes serve to undermine the city's foundations. But its faded grandeur make Venice all the more special.
Venice is a place where you can walk past ten mask shops before you find a place to buy a pint of milk, but it is also a vibrant place for those who love food. The daily Rialto markets provide a treasure trove of fresh ingredients and even if you are simply looking, you can get an idea of what might be good to order at the restaurant.
The one thing people should do with Venice is to make the time to see it properly and to enjoy the Venetian lifestyle.
One of the things that Venice did for Michelle Styles is to give her a new appreciation of what various Regency aristocracy must have gone through on their return from the Grand Tour. How did they cope? Michelle's latest book, Impoverish Miss, Convenient Wife is avaliable from Mills & Boon. She is currently hard at work on her next Regency romance.