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Ayr, Scotland, United Kingdom
September 13, 2004
Venice reached its zenith in the 15th and 16th centuries and then began a prolonged decline in power and wealth. Now the splendid monuments recall a fabled past, but are heading for a watery grave. High tides invade the lower parts of the city and bubble up into Piazza San Marco. However, Venetians have mastered the art of living well in their singular city. You'll see them going about their daily affairs in vaporetti (water buses), aboard the traghetti (traditional gondola ferries) that ply between the banks of the Grand Canal, in the campi (squares), and along the calli (narrow Venetian streets).
The warren of narrow streets make them difficult to navigate, but everywhere signs point the way to the train station, the Rialto Bridge, and the heart of the city, the Piazza San Marco. Bridges cross the Grand Canal at three points: Ponte degli Scalzi, near the train station (Ferrovia); at Ponte dell'Accademia; and Ponte di Rialto, at the Rialto. The side paths of the Rialto offer a view of the Grand Canal full of gondolas and boats - where you cannot walk, you go by water.
Despite the crowds in Piazza San Marco, you'll see why Napoleon called this "the most beautiful drawing room in all of Europe." Stand at the far end, facing the Basilica di San Marco. From there, the long arcaded building on your left is the Procuratie Vecchie, built in the early 16th century as offices and homes for the powerful Procurators of San Marco. On your right is the Procuratie Nuove, built half a century later in a more grandiose, classical style. The short side of the square opposite the basilica is the Ala Napoleonica, a wing built by order of Napoleon to complete the square. A coffee in the square at Florian’s, prince of the city’s coffee houses, is expensive, but the view is wonderful.
The Basilica di San Marco is a rich synthesis of Byzantine and Romanesque styles. Laid out in the form of a Greek cross and topped off with five plump domes, it is the resting-place of St. Mark the Evangelist. The basilica is famous for its 43,055 square feet of stunning mosaics. The soft light shimmering against the tiny gold tiles, each mounted at a slight angle to strengthen this effect, is nothing short of magical.
Such were my impressions from a day’s visit. It would take many such days to explore the monumental buildings and artistic detail in this great city. Built on tree trunks driven down in the sand, originally as a refuge from invaders, it gained power in its own right and it now stands as a symbol of past glory.
From journal LAKE GARDA- A tourist magnet
July 12, 2002
From journal Northern Italy Adventure