Sunday, 15 May 2011

Venice

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We've waited the best part of a lifetime to get to ourselves to Venice.  If that wasn't always an ambition it has been for a long time.  Now we realise what we have been missing.  Venice is fabulous.  Fabulous in every sense  -  not just a collection of extraordinary buildings and art but a piece of history, still very much as it was in Carpaccio's vibrant paintings of the city at the end of the 15th Century.  

Venice guide books are even richer than usual in their descriptions of religious buildings and art.  There is a multitude of galleries which make the works of artists like Tintoretto, Veronese and Titian seem almost commonplace.  It's all worth visiting but it doesn't matter if you're not that way inclined.  Venice is the sum of its parts and is more than all its components put together.  The city radiates something very special, quite apart from its physical beauty.  It grew as an independent republic which had survived for over a thousand years and it still survives in the face of the economic logic that normally dominates our lives.

Gondoliers also defy the logic of our times.  Once the main source of transport in the city, the gondola is now a tourist attraction but also a very necessary part of the atmosphere of the city, fortunately paid for by the better-heeled visitors.

We walked and walked and walked, usually lost in a maze of busy streets, some of them too narrow for corpulent tourists.  Always a new vista ahead, another exquisite little bridge over another canal lined with yet more extraordinary buildings.  Never boring, ever romantic, the perfect place for poets and musicians, artists and photographers, honeymoon couples and, of course, historians and architects.  Too rich to begin to absorb in the mere ten days that we had.  Why did we hesitate so long;  when can we find time to go back.


Piazza San Marco and the splendid Basilica di San Marco.  The square attracts most of the passing tourist trade and is often very crowded but apparently it always was.  Once described as: "A mixed multitude of Jews, Turks and Christians, Lawyers, Knaves and Pickpockets, Mountebanks, Old Women and Physicians, Women of quality with masks, Strumpets, a jumble of Senators, Citizens, Gondoliers and other people of every character and condition".


The Grand Canal is also busy and relatively crowded but much more civilised than a ring road and much more fun.


A perfect place for a honeymoon.

Many of the views are familiar but there is no sense of disappointment.  Seeing the real thing is a similar experience to comparing reproductions of great paintings to the originals.  There was no great plan for Venice, it just grew.  And those miraculous vistas and the perfect play of light -  did they just happen?



Many obscure canals and streets are living works of art.


The Grand Canal is lined with palaces of varying degrees of splendour and, of course, varying degrees of decay.  The 19th Century was for Venice as the Victorian era was for Britain  -  a disastrous time for old buildings which were ruthlessly and insensitively restored to modern tastes.  Fortunately, restoration today is on a much higher plane and some recent work has been very good indeed.

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