Venezia serenissima - most romantic city in the world

"And silent rows the songless gondolier" from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by George Gordon, Lord Byron
"And silent rows the songless gondolier" from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by George Gordon, Lord Byron

City of the mind

city of the mind
by childlike fantasies and
worries exhausted
of my mendacious mind
at nothing laughing
and for the flower crying
'cause it dies
not knowing how to save it
so nothing remains for this
fickle mind of mine but
to forget now and hereafter
— as it did before —
and thus continue on its own
to rhyme
lulled by the sea like a fish
languidly

by Paola Bruna

This city, which has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions over the years was founded in the Fifth Century when the first church was built there, the church of San Jacopo on the island of Rialto. The islands on which the city stands between the mouths of the rivers Po and Piave were inhabited in Roman times by fisher folk called incolae lacunae ("lagoon dwellers").

Venice, the one and only
miracle and wonder of nature.
This high ruler of the sea,
lofty virgin, inviolate and pure,
without equivalent or peer in the world,
this is what you should have praised,
this gentle land, in which you were born,
and where I, too, thank God, was born;.- Veronica Franco, the most famous of the Venetian courtesans of the 16th Century.

"So he again set eyes on the most astounding landing, that blinding composition of fantastic architecture, which the Republic has to offer the awestruck looks of the approaching seafarer: the light grandeur of the Palace and the Bridge of Sighs, the columns topped with the lion and the saint close to the shore, the flauntingly projecting flank of St Mark’s, the view of St Mark’s Clock, and thus contemplating he thought that arriving in Venice from the train station was like entering a palace through the servants’ entrance and that one should always, like himself, travel across the ocean to the most improbable of cities." - From Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (1912).


St Mark's Basilica and Piazza

St Mark's Square has been called (by either Alfred de Musset or Napoleon) the "Drawing room of Europe" and is the political and social hub of Venice. Perhaps it is significant that it is also the lowest part of Venice and thus subject to periodic flooding!

This flooding occurs at the times of the acqua alta (high water) when, due to a combination of meteorological factors and human intervention, the water of the Adriatic Sea floods at abnormal levels into the lagoon.

At the eastern end of the Piazza is the famous Basilica of St Mark, first consecrated on 8 October 1071. The Basilica is noted for its opulent Byzantine architecture and is also called Chiesa d'Oro (Church of Gold).

Next to the Basilica is the perhaps even more famous Campanile. This tower was completed in its familiar form in 1513, but underwent many restorations over the years to repair damage cause by fires and earthquakes.

Then in the morning of 14 July 1902 the whole thing came crashing down, leaving a pile of rubble and one dead cat! Rebuilding started almost immediately and the new tower, built to the exact specifications of the old, but with internal reinforcements designed to prevent any future collapse, was inaugurated on 25 April 1902, 1000 years to the day after the laying of the foundations of the original tower.

The Campanile is also famous as the site of the demonstration given by Galileo of his telescope to the lawmakers of Venice on 25 August 1609.


Ponte dei Sospiri

I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs,

A palace and a prison on each hand:

I saw from out the wave her structures rise

As from the stroke of the enchanter's wand:

A thousand years their cloudy wings expand

Around me, and a dying Glory smiles

O'er the far times, when many a subject land

Looked to the wingéd Lion's marble piles,

Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles!

  - George Gordon, Lord Byron, "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"

If Venice is the most romantic city in the world, then the Bridge of Sighs is its romantic heart, thanks largely to that "romantic hero" poet Byron, who first gave the bridge that nickname in his long narrative (and possibly semi-autobiographical) poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" which he wrote between 1809 and 1811.

The bridge itself was built in 1602 to link the old prisons of the city to the interrogation rooms of the Doge's palace. The local legend had it that the view from the barred windows of the bridge were the last of Venice that a condemned prisoner would see, causing the sighs. In fact the bridge was built after the time of the Inquisition in Venice and the prisoners who would have been taken across it would have most likely been common criminals.

Another local legend is that if lovers kiss on a gondola under the bridge at sunset they will have a long and happy marriage.


The palazzo van Axel

Bult between 1473 and 1479 this palazzo is one of the most beautiful of the Gothic palazzos in Venice. It was built by Nicolò Soranzo, and, after changing hands a few times, became the property of the Van Axeil family from Holland in 1628. In 1919 it was bought by Lord Dino Barozzi.

The postcard shows the land gate to the Van Axel, above which is a very detailed Coat of Arms of the Van Axel family, unfortunately not really visible.

The extra floor which can be seen above the gate was already there in the 15th Century.

The most recent owners of the palazzo are the Marsoni family who acquired it in 1950.

Palazzo Franchetti e Chiesa della Salute - Canal Grande
Palazzo Franchetti e Chiesa della Salute - Canal Grande

Palazzo Franchetti, Santa Maria della Salute and the Grand Canal

The Grand Canal is the S-shaped, 3.8 kilometre long "Main Street" of Venice. It is lined with some 170 buildings dating from the 13th Century to the 18th Century, reflecting the glory that was the Republic of Venice.

The Grand Canal is 30 to 90 metres wide and carries the buld of traffic within Venice.

The Palazzo Franchetti was originally built in 1565 and has been refurbished several times through the succeeding years.

In the 1840s Archduke Frederick of Austria undertook some major restoration work and in 1857 the Count of Chambord bought the property and also had major work done on it.

Baron Raimondo Franchetti bought the palazzo in 1878 whose family sold it in 1922 to the Istituto Federale di Credito per il Risorgimento delle Venezie. The Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Artitook over the building in 1999 and holds cultural events there.

The Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute was planned as an offering after Venice was hit in 1629 by an outbreak of the plague. The Venetian Senate parades to the church each year on 21 November, the Festa della Madonna della Salute, in a procession from St Mark's.

Opposite St Mark's across the St Mark's Basin is the Island of St George (Isola di San Giorgio). A Benedictine Monastery was established on the island in 982. All buildings on the island were destroyed in an earthquake in 1223.

In 1566 a new church building was begun on the island to a design by Palladio. The church was only completed in 1610, long after Palladio's death.


Isola di San Giorgio

Opposite St Mark's across the St Mark's Basin is the Island of St George (Isola di San Giorgio). A Benedictine Monastery was established on the island in 982. All buildings on the island were destroyed in an earthquake in 1223.

In 1566 a new church building was begun on the island to a design by Palladio. The church was only completed in 1610, long after Palladio's death.

San Geremia

The church of San Geremia ws built in 1753 on a site which had had a church on it since the 11th Century.

The present church was designed by Carlo Corbellini.The facade dates from 1861.

The bell tower is most likely a 12th Century edifice.

The church houses the purported ramins of St Lucy of Syracuse. In 1981 St Lucy was "kidnapped" from the church, but was returned a few months later without any ransom being paid.

Arts and culture

"In Venice Tasso's echoes are no more,

And silent rows the songless gondolier;

Her palaces are crumbling to the shore,

And music meets not always now the ear:

Those days are gone--but Beauty still is here;

States fall, arts fade--but Nature doth not die,

Nor yet forget how Venice once was dear,

The pleasant place of all festivity,

The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy!" - from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by George Gordon, Lord Byron.

Venice, because of its beauty and interesting location, has attracted artists of all kinds down the centuries.

Of musicians, perhaps the most famous is the so-called "Red Priest", Antonio Vivaldi, who born there in 1678. Many of his works were composed there while he was master of violin at the Pio Ospedale della Pietà (Devout Hospital of Mercy).

From about 1711 Vivaldi started to travel in Europe, but was always connected to the Ospedale. He died, a pauper, in Vienna, in 1741.

Even before Vivaldi's birth the great Baroque composer Claudio Monteverdi, who was born in Cremona, moved to Venice where he was music master at St Mark's. Monteverdi died in Venice in 1643.

Many writers also have been inspired by Venice, both native born and foreign. Veronica Franco, a famous courtesan, wrote poetry and letters that have great charm. Her interesting life was described in the biography The Honest Courtesan by Margaret F. Rosenthal (1992). This book was subsequently made into a movie called "Dangerous Beauty (or "A Destiny of her Own" in some countries).

German author Thomas Mann visited Venice on holiday with his wife in 1911 and published Death in Venice in 1912. While the principle character, Aschenbach, is based on the composer Gustav Mahler, the events of the novella reflect something of Mann's struggle with his own homosexuality and his obsession, while in Venice, with a young Polish boy Baron Władysław Moes.

The long list of painters associated with Venice starts with the great Andrea Mantegna in the 15th Century, and continues with Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione and Titian.


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Great Aunt Hettie McGregor in the mid-1960s. Photo by Tony McGregorThe house in which Hettie lived most of her life. It used to be called Rob Roy Villa. Photo by Tony McGregor. December 2010
Great Aunt Hettie McGregor in the mid-1960s. Photo by Tony McGregor
Great Aunt Hettie McGregor in the mid-1960s. Photo by Tony McGregor
The house in which Hettie lived most of her life. It used to be called Rob Roy Villa. Photo by Tony McGregor. December 2010
The house in which Hettie lived most of her life. It used to be called Rob Roy Villa. Photo by Tony McGregor. December 2010

A note on the images

Except where otherwise stated, all the images in this Hub are scans of postcards in my posession.Unfortunately none of them has a postmark and so I can only guess when they were produced, which I would guess would have been the first few years of the 20th Century, certainly before the First World War of 1914 - 1918.

The postcards are part of the vast collection assembled by my Great-Aunt Hetty McGregor. She died in 1977 just before her 101st birthday, having lived in the same house in Cape Town for much of that time. She never married, having been thought "too frail" to do so in her youth!

More by this Author


Comments 44 comments

Ingenira profile image

Ingenira 5 years ago

Such a beautiful piece of work ! Awesome, Tony.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 5 years ago from UK

Venice is a wonderful place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there on a permanent basis. After a time you miss the flowers, the earth - to touch and play with. If you go there, you will see the pathetic efforts permanent residents make to create ANY sort of tiny garden on their roof tiles! Wonderful archtecture though :-)


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 5 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

I don't think Florence,Italy was the sole birthplace of the renaissance,though Venice was just as powerful as a port,thanks for the niche treasure hunt,TonyMac;)


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 5 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

You're right about this being the most romantic city in the world. I stayed there for a week a few years back and etched in my memory is an evening, sitting in a tiny old church off one of the canals one night, listening to a Vivaldi concert. I'll never forget it. Good job on the hub. Thanks, Tony.


"Quill" 5 years ago

Well written and presented with the perfection we haae come to know through your work here Tony.

Blessings


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

Tony the postcards is really beautiful and I’m sure a valuable collection. Do you perhaps know where/how did your aunt get it? Thanks for the interesting history. Imagine those water ‘streets’ in SA?! I have to agree with De Greek. Living without gardens and parks can't be romantic. Take care!


nifty@50 profile image

nifty@50 5 years ago

Venice & romance go together hand in hand, a beautiful & informative hub! Great work tonymac!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Ingenira - thank you for your very kind words.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Dimitris - yes I think you are right about that. I have never visited but I too would miss the feel of grass between my toes!

Thanks for the visit and the comment.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Acer - thanks for the comment and I agree that Venice was important in that respect also.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Alek - hearing Vivaldi played in Venice must be an awesome experience indeed! How lucky you are to have had that.

Thanks for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Quill - you are too kind, my friend, and I appreciate your remarks very much indeed!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Martie - thanks so much for the visit and the comment. I am not sure exactly how Aun Hettie got the psotcards, but she had many friends who corresponded with her, although none of these cards has been postally used. I think that her sister Minah, who travelled to Europe several times with her husband Gerrit du Plessis, might have collected them to bring home to show Hettie. Dis nou nog 'n storie!

Thanks again.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Nifty - thanks for your kind words, good sir! I appreciate it that you stopped by.

Love and peace

Tony


msorensson profile image

msorensson 5 years ago

My son was there. He loved it. However, lol..of course my eyes were captured by De Greek's remark, ha ha ha...

I would love to visit it some day, Tony.

As usual you did a fantastic job. Thank you for this.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 5 years ago

Just beautiful Tonymac BrotherMan! You are soooo smooooth!


Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 5 years ago from Texas, USA

I enjoyed reading your article on Venice. Thanks for sharing.


Petra Vlah profile image

Petra Vlah 5 years ago from Los Angeles

This is a great hub Tony about the magnificent beauty of a city and a republic of the past, a beauty that has been fading for some time now.

I do appreciate beauty in all its forms and Venice certainly has a special charm and a glorious history, however the way I feel about this city and its present decay is very similar to the way I feel about Las Vegas – a different type of decay, but nevertheless.

Both those city are a must for everyone to see it once, but no need to ever go back. Certain things are better left to distant perception rather than personal experience. I felt Venice in my bones and deeply loved it way before I ever saw it; Goldoni gave me a first look into the intrigue of its nobility and their morals, Vivaldi put its beauty into unforgettable seasons, Marco Polo brought the adventure and excitement into my life.

I should have left it at that, but I needed to see for myself and what I discovered was a moribund on life support that was grasping for air; air that nobody should breathe, smells that nobody should experience. “Death in Venice” is what comes to mind every time I think of this city.


nextstopjupiter profile image

nextstopjupiter 5 years ago from here, there and everywhere

Thank you, Tony, for another great hub. It brought back memories of my visit to this beautiful city in the late 1990s. But, like Petra, I have the feeling that the beauty and the charm of this city are at risk.


TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 5 years ago from Tucson, Az.

What a great piece on a great city. I haven't had the opportunity to visit this lovely place, but hopefully I will. Like greek said, "Nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there." lol

Thanks Tonymac.

jim


maven101 profile image

maven101 5 years ago from Northern Arizona

Hi Tony...

What a sweet and informative Hub on Venice...Writ with your expected skill...

My comments would echo Petra and Greek...A beautiful city with wonderful architecture and an amazing history, but I would consider Venice a 5 metre city...From 5 metres out the view is stunning, closer than 5 metres you see the decay, smell the rancid sewer system and dead fish. What a difference in this city since my first visit in 1963 and our last in 2002...Keep to the lighted areas when walking about...crime is rampant, particularly pickpockets and purse snatchings...Guys sweep by on motor scooters and snatch packages and purses right off the sidewalks...

I prefer to remember the Venice I saw in 1963, the Venice you have so beautifully described here...Peace to you, my friend...Larry


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

I've never seen either one, but both Venice & Florence hold me spellbound. If I had to choose between them, though, I know I'd have to choose Florence. My stepson has visited both cities and shared his own photos of each, as well as his enthusiasm for them and I admit Florence stole the show. But what's not to like about Venice - to visit - as DG recommends. I wouldn't like to be surrounded by water all the time, but for the romantic rendezvous or getaway - um um! I could get into it. Otherwise, I guess I'm too much a landlubber. I like water - in containment, as it is there. I could love a leisurely visit without a doubt.

Tony - your travelogue is irresistible! With such a subject - it fairly soars. But I suspect you could make Podunkville sound inviting if you put your mind to it. hehe.


sligobay profile image

sligobay 5 years ago from east of the equator

Venice is a great destination to write about Tony, and you have done it justice, in a great context of postal card imagery. Thank you for the memories. I'd been to both Venice and Florence and toured Italy in my college days in 1974. I was still an 'ugly American' then and toured in a Mercedes with the family of a friend. I was so materialistic then, is what I mean by "ugly American".

I had the opportunity to spend a week in Venice after the 'alta aqua' in December,2008. What an awakening that trip became. It was Christmastime and the high water had subsided, as did the pricetag of everything.

My first visit had been in the heat of summertime and the odors were no worse than NY City. Trash barges carted the trash of throngs away. The City thrives on that period of overpopulation. Everything was booked and overcrowded. The tourist season is just that. But the wealth of this republic and 11th century empire is buried and preserved in its multitude of churches (chiasa, I think) and museums. The paintings of a millenia of masters adorn the walls. At every turn in the winding mazes of stone pathways,there is another piazza, chiasa and busker. Millions of tiny lights festoon the shops and markets at night. Every church sponsors a chorale group and free concerts beside mangers and the resident statue and painting of 'Madonna con bambino' (mother with child). For a Roman Catholic,like myself, prayer and spirituality abound in the Advent season.

The performance arts are celebrated at affordable rates and I was able to attend the opera and several concertos with a twenty euro ticket. Viva Vivaldi, I must say, after hearing his work on Venetian display. Try accomplishing that at the height of 'tourist season'.

The competition among vendors drives down the prices of everything, particularly glassware and leather, oh yeah, and the finest food.

Without reservations, I stayed in very comfortable and highly affordable accomodations. Pack to dress warmly for the water taxis or gondola tours, or buy your leather gloves and jackets there in Venice. The nightlife is festive and affordable and I met and enjoyed the company of many fellow travelers on my trip.

Sorry about this longwinded comment, Tony, but, as I said earlier, many thanks for the memories. Cheers.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

The poems were so beautiful and Venice, truly a romantic looking city. Thank you so very much for your hubs, you show us beauty in everyone.

Love and Peace


MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

I've been lucky enough to visit both Venice and Florence and both are amazing in their own way. Thank you for a beautiful tour Tony, I love the postcards and your nice tribute to your Aunt.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Melinda - thanks for your kind words and yes, in spite of what De Greek says, I would also love to visit sometime!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Brotherman Micky - you are too cool! Yeah. And I love your comment, as always! Thanks, man!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Coolmon - thanks for stopping by and leaving a "cool" comment!

Love and peace

Tony


jo miller profile image

jo miller 5 years ago from Tennessee

Thanks for this hub on romantic Venice. I still think Venice is a beautiful city and did not see much of the decay others have mentioned since it was my first trip there and during a non-busy season--the way we always travel. I want to go back. Maybe I'll go during the Christmas season.

Your hub, as usual, is extremely well done. I especially liked the quote from Thomas Mann about entering from the train station. Very apt.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Petra - thanks for your thoughtful and enlightening comment. I would love to see Venice just once, to hear Vivaldi there and float beneath the Ponte dei Sospiri, and then head for Florence!

Thanks again

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Bernd - thanks so much for your kind words and glad to have revived some good memories! The beauty and charm are indeed at risk.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Jim - thanks for the visit and the comment. I agree with you and De Greek - I would love to visit but definitely not to stay (though who knows, if I evder got there...?).

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Larry - what a sweet comment! Thank you my friend!

I am grateful for your kind words and support.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Nellieanna - you make me blush, lady! You are too kind indeed. Coming from one as accomplished as yourself I really appreciate your very kind words.

Thanks again

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Gerry - your visits are always a pleasure, good Sir! I enjoyed your reminiscences which have added another dimension to the Hub, which I really appreciate.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Ruby, my dear, you are always so kind. I really appreciate your visits and comment.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Marie - thanks to you for your kind words and for stopping by.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Jo - thanks for stopping by and leaving such an intersting comment. Glad you enjoyed the Hub.

Love and peace

Tony


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

Tony, a great article and excellent presentation of Venice. I had the opportunity to visit in 1991 as the south west regional manager for Iveco Trucks. It was a paid business trip and my minds visual view of Venice as a charming place were kind of destroyed due to the atmosphere of being warned to protect ones self of being robbed, then the smell of decay was pretty bad. I wish I had viewed it from a distance which would have left the great architecture of the buildings and my imagination of amour in the canals. We went in as a treat by Iveco and I wish I'd done something else, but it was their dime for my time, so I was gracious in my comments to them about the excursion they had provided.

You have done well in beautiful lay out on this topic, God Bless, 50


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

50 - thanks for your comment and the compliment! I appreciate your taking the time very much. I wonder if the situation there has changed since your visit to the lovely city?

Thanks again

Love and peace

Tony


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

These old postcards of Venice are a treasure! Everything looks so beautiful and romantic. I've not been there but it would certainly be a memorable experience to see it in person someday. Really enjoyed this hub. Thanks!


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Peggy - thanks so much for stopping by. I enjoyed putting this one together because the postcards are so great. Still my dream to hear Vivaldi in Venice!

Love and peace

Tony


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 5 years ago from UK

Hi Tony, you've got a fine collection of poetry and info here. May I link this to my Venice in Art hub?


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

Amanda - thanks for stopping by, and of course you may link this Hub to yours. I would be graateful. In fact I would like to reciprocate by linking yours to mine.

Love and peace

Tony

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