Down the Streets of Venice

April 30, 2009
By Emily Hill BRONZE, St. Louis, Missouri
Emily Hill BRONZE, St. Louis, Missouri
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Ciao! Buon giorno. And welcome to Venice. This city, snuggly situated at the northern tip of Italy and surrounded by the Adriatic Sea, is a place of narrow, shop-lined streets, majestic cathedrals, and stunning architecture. It is a place of vibrant colors, captivating sounds, and rich history. Venice is rightly called the City of Water with a web of gently-lapping canals weaving throughout the city, comprising its primary transportation system. Venice is unique in its lack of automobiles. Visitors and Venetians alike travel by foot, boat, or, more romantically, by gondola. Exploring the city, one can spot gondola docks near many major tourist attractions. The slender, shiny black boats bounce in the water. Gondoliers, in their striped shirts and black pants, balance expertly on their watercrafts, beckoning tourists to take a relaxing ride down the “streets” of Venice.

Unlike the challenge of finding their way down the bustling, crowded, paved streets of the city, gondola passengers enjoy a peaceful float on the winding canals of Venice. Water laps gently at the doorsteps of buildings that seem to spring up from the sea. The steady stroke of the gondolier’s paddle directs the boat under beautiful bridges and through quiet, abandoned alleyways. The hearty voice of a gondolier serenading his passengers creates a romantic atmosphere. Eventually, the winding canals feed into the Grand Canal, the city’s main “highway.” Large passenger boats glide by and reckless speedboats skid away, rippling the water and threatening to overturn the delicate gondolas. But the gondoliers must steer through the treacherous waters of the Grand Canal to give their passengers a glimpse of the city’s famous Ponte di Rialto, or Rialto Bridge. The elegant Rialto is just one of countless other bridges scattered throughout Venice, connecting the city’s maze of busy streets.

Transversing these streets of Venice is a thrilling, yet daunting experience. Even with the help of a map and a working knowledge of Italian, one can easily get lost. The streets are long and winding. Buildings, several stories high, are like towering walls, closing in on either side of the street. Looking straight up, amidst the lines of drying laundry, one can catch a glimpse of clear, blue sky. Before long, the traveler is hopelessly lost and confused. But hope remains.

By following the signs labeled Per San Marco, painted on the walls of most buildings that face the street, the visitor to Venice will be miraculously directed to the site of one of the city’s most prominent tourist attractions.

St. Mark’s Square.

Suddenly, upon entering the Square, vast, blue sky opens up before the amazed visitor. Unlike the tightly-packed streets of Venice, St. Mark’s reveals a spacious, open Square. It is closed in on three sides by a strip of shops and boutiques. The majestic Cathedral on the far side of the Square serves as the fourth side that gives St. Mark’s its shapely name. The sun shines brightly on the groups of tourists, who move in clusters toward St. Mark’s Cathedral or the Doge’s Palace, the former residence of the rulers of Venice, located right next to the Cathedral. Vendors attempt to solicit sightseers with their trinkets and treasures, while flocks of pigeons strut about the Square, gathering around visitors who offer to share their lunch with their newfound feathered friends.

During the day, St. Mark’s Square is the hub of activity in Venice. It is bustling with commotion and excitement. For both Venetians and tourists, it is a popular place. But in the evening, St. Mark’s Square is a much different sight. Buona sera. The tourists have returned to their hotels, the shops and boutiques have closed their doors, and the Square has come alive with lights. A dark blue sky, a bright moon, and a mass of stars canopies St. Mark’s. An ocean breeze wisps through the Square. Strings of lights outline the tops of the surrounding stores. The Cathedral, opposite the entrance to the Square, is closed for the day. The domes of the beautiful church glow from the soft light, spotlighting their majesty. Outdoor cafés line the sides of the Square. Diners converse, while trios and quartets of classical musicians play softly in the background. The bright, cheerful sounds of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons drifts through the night air.
Molto bella! There truly is no place like Venice. The summer of last year, my sister and I vacationed in Italy with my grandparents. Venice was the last stop on our two week itinerary. Two days hardly afforded enough time to explore the beauties and wonders of this flourishing Italian city, and I hope to visit it again someday soon. But until then, Arrivederci Venezia!

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