we race into venice underestimating its extent and complexity. navigate delightful walking alleys rife with cafes, restaurants and shops. no streets, vehicles, stoplights or litter. i’m all smiles the first few hours. but as the day progresses, my feet begin to ache and my attitude declines. venice now feels a bit like disney for adults. excellent in catering to the curious and consuming tourist, but little life beyond. the windows above, all dark and shuttered. our indulgence, a charade of something once so magnificent.
and magnificent it was.
in its history, architecture and engineering, venice is a marvel. 118 manmade islands connected by 391 bridges and 150 canals. we learn its history: 5th century AD, venetians, fleeing barbarian raids, left the mainland for the marshy sandbars, pounded millions of timber posts into sea-sodden soil to create foundations that now bear the weight of such marble, stone, and gold wonder.
and we learn its future: a city slowly sinking by millimeters each year.
a reality that creeps close to our toes when we wander through the flooded piazza san marco at high tide, joining the hordes of tourists attempting to avoid the puddles by queuing and crossing the square on narrow platforms.
i’m a bit overwhelmed by it all. the crowds and cameras. lines. guides…and options! so many cathedrals, museums, palaces, cafes. limited time and money increases the pressure to choose/plan wisely. and yet, I remind myself — we’re not on this journey to chase must dos and must-sees, or gather experiences in a bucket. sightseeing and thrill seeking has not propelled our past travel. and the unplanned paths have led to much wonder.
so as we tour this city of so much beauty, we endeavor to find the balance between strategy and spontaneity, the intentional and the unexpected.
at the end of the day, or rather two days, we leave with tired toes, tummies full of gelato and eyes full of grandeur. some of our highlights:
sleepy cats and stairs of books at the libreria acqua alta, the floating bookstore that is not technically floating, but still awesome. if my beloved book barn in niantic opened a branch in venice, this would be it.
st. mark’s basilica. we skipped paying for a glimpse the golden altar and treasury, but splurged for the five euro tickets to the museo di san marco, which offers a close-up inspection of the shimmering golden mosaics that cover the walls, the original bronze horses of st. marks, and a terrace with terrific views of the square below.
the obligatory gondola ride (on our anniversary nonetheless)
doge’s palace, room by immensely ornate room, including the grand council chamber with tintoretto’s il paradiso hanging over the Doge’s throne, at nearly 25 meters long, the largest oil painting in the world. we crossed the bridge off sighs, connecting the palace to the prigioni prisons, poetically named for the lament of prisoners on their last view of venice.