Whenever someone asks me which international city I’d like to visit, the first one that would come to mind is Venice.
Written By Erika Grace R. Lapitan
The dream when I was just a kid, when the idea of travelling to other parts of the world greatly appealed to my innocent mind. The alluring city still continues to mesmerize me even now that I’ve grown up.
A STORIED PAST
Known as the Floating City, Venice lies in a low-lying part of north eastern Italy and is considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its name is said to be derived from the Latin words Venetia and Venetiae, which pertains to the Veneti tribe who first inhabited the area. As a premier port and passage for other Mediterranean states, Venice grew as a shimmering empire with its trading center and golden mosaics. It has also proven its power at the Battle of Lepanto where the residents defeated the Turkish Fleet.
However, much like its European neighbors, Venice has also faced a few dark phases in its past. The city’s dominance gradually declined with the discovery of another route around the African Region. In 1797, the metropolis was conquered by the Austrians and it took over five decades for Venice to its regain its independence. It became part of Italy as well as expanded its boundaries to the 118 small islets within and around it. At present, the city has reclaimed its grandeur and is one of the well-visited places in the world. THE GONDOLAS IN THE GRAND CANAL Venice’s most notable icon, gondolas bring tourists around the city. Its main features include a flat bottom that makes for easy control, an intricately designed forcola which holds the oars, an ornamented fèrro and the port designed longer than the starboard. Operated by a gondolier, the boats are also used occasionally for regattas or rowing races.
Gondolas travel the length of the Grand Canal, a large S-shaped lagoon that cuts through the central district of Venice. The canal greatly served the Roman and the Byzantine Empire when it was used as a means of trading and marketing center.
Over 170 buildings are now are seen along the banks of the Grand Canal. Among the most popular are the Fondaco dei Turchi that now houses the Natural History Museum of Venice, as well as the Palazzo dei Dieci Savi erected during the 16th century to serve as the home of the magistrate of Venice.
Also seen from the waters of the canal is the regal basilica of Santa Maria della Salute. Designed by Baldassare Longhena, the edifice was constructed in 1631 as an offering to Our Lady of Health to deliver the metropolis from a devastating plague. It’s most distinct features are the statues of St. Mark, St. Luke, St. Matthew, St. John and Virgin Mary. The basilica is home to eight chapels. Also displayed is a painting by Renaissance painter Titian called St. Mark Enthroned with Saints Cosmas, Damian, Sebastian and Roch.
THE ONE WITH SAN MARCO
Join the throng of people as they roam around the Piazza San Marco. Surrounded by various ancient structures and statues, the area is one of the most visited landmarks in Venice.
Seen in the area are the Piazzetta dei Leoncini and the Correr Museum. Now called as the Piazzetta Giovanni XXII, Piazzetta dei Leoncini is also the location of the neo-classical Palazzo Patriarcale which serves as the home of the Patriarch of Venice. Meanwhile, the Correr Museum exhibits the collection of aristocrat and art enthusiast Teodoro Correr.
Don’t miss the chance to visit the St. Mark’s Clock tower situated on the northern side of the Piazza San Marco. It boasts a majestic clock that’s more than 500 years old, a winged lion structure with a book, and a copper-made gallery of the virgin and the child. The structure is also one of the eleven museums of the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.
Tourists will clearly have a splendid time viewing the St. Mark’s Campanile that looms 323 feet above the ground. Used as a lighthouse in the olden times, the 9th-century bell tower has five iconic bells seen in the belfry. The Campanile seen today is the reconstructed version, which was erected after the original one collapsed in 1902.
Enter the St. Mark’s Basilica, also known as the Church of Gold. People will surely marvel at the exterior of the basilica, which is decorated by the glistening mosaics that depict Christ’s life and the bronze replicas of the four horses of St. Mark. Meanwhile, the interiors do not pale in comparison as they display the various mosaics etched in the basilica’s ceiling and the treasury that holds the most valuable relics of the city. THE ONE ALONG THE CANAL A trip to Venice is not complete without visiting the Palazzo Ducale and the Rialto Bridge, both found along the Grand Canal. While the Palazzo Ducale is constructed in Venetian Gothic architecture, Rialto Bridge is a stone arch connecting the San Marco and San Polo districts. Also known among the locals as the Doge’s Palace, Palazzo Ducale’s rich history dates back in the year 810 when Doge Angelo Partecipazio commissioned a palace to be built. This act serves as a significant symbol of moving Venice’s seat of government from Malamocco Island to Rialto. It is said that the duke’s residence also served as the headquarters of the many political and cultural organizations like the National Library of St. Mark’s. Only in 1923 did the Palazzo Ducale open as a public museum and became part of the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia. Burnt to the ground several times, the Doge’s Palace we see today is the combination of the old and new reconstructions, making it more historical and appealing. Roam around the Palace’s vast courtyard where two 16th century wells can be found. Take the chance to photograph the statues of Roman gods Mars and Neptune flanked on top of the Giant’s staircase. Walk inside the Museo dell’Opera and view the various collections of relics and masterpieces that once decorated the palace before their original rooms were destroyed by fires. Marvel at each of the Doge’s apartments. Some of the most famous ones are the Scarlet Chamber that displays the regal robes worn by the Duke’s counsellors, the Stucchi Room with its religious paintings, the Philosopher’s Room adorned by portraits of philosophers and dukes, and the Compass Room whose large wooden compass topped by a statue of justice signifies the regime of equality. Palazzo Ducale also contains prisons called as the Pozzi (or the wells) due to its dark and wet nature as well as the Piombi named thusly for being positioned under the roof. Everyone should never miss the famous Bridge of Sighs, constructed to connect the Doge’s Palace to the prisons of Magistrato alle Leggi, Quarantia Criminal as well as the cells in the State Advocacy Rooms. According to historians, the bridge was named so because of the sighs of those who were kept inside the prison.
Meanwhile, the Rialto Bridge is one of the four important bridges crossing over the Grand Canal. These stone bridges are essential in accommodating the throngs of people wandering around the area. Aside from the Rialto Bridge, the bridges of Ponte degli Scalzi, Ponte dell’Accademia and Ponte della Costituzione are also worth seeing either by foot or by boat.
Learn more of Venice’s history by stepping into its realms and visiting its many landmarks. You’ll surely have a memorable conversation with its locals, who hold such great respect for their land. It’s easy to fall in love with the city’s story and sceneries. Book a flight in Venice now and enjoy a treat you’ll never forget.