“To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius.” – Alexander Herzen
The traditional founding date of Venice is identified with the dedication of the first church, that of San Jacopo at the islet of Rialto and given the date of 25th March 421.
While there are no historical records that deal directly with the origins of Venice, tradition and the available evidence have led several historians to agree that the original population of the city consisted of refugees from Roman cities nearby and from the undefended countryside, who were fleeing successive waves of invasions from the north.
Venice is a city known both for tourism and for industry, and is the capital of the region Veneto. The name is derived from the ancient tribe of Veneti that inhabited the region in Roman times. The city historically was the capital of a powerful and successful sea-born independent city-state.
Venice has been known as the “La Dominante”, “Serenissima”, “Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Water”, “City of Masks”, “City of Bridges”, “The Floating City”, and “City of Canals”. It stretches across one hundred and seventeen small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea and the salt water lagoon stretches along the shoreline between the mouths of the Po (south) and the Piave (north) Rivers.
I first visited Venice in April 2002 and stayed at the Albergo San Marco near Saint Marks Square. There was perfect spring weather and I was captivated by the sights and sounds of the city which seemed to belong more correctly to a theme park than a thriving industrial sea port city. We did the sights of course, the Cathedral, Doge’s Palace, Rialto Bridge and the labyrinth of canals lined with palaces and museums. Wrapped up in the atmosphere of the place we paid £30 for a drink and a sandwich in St Mark’s Square and £80 for a ride in a gondola. Cheaper amusement was found on the City’s water buses, the Vaporetto, including a reasonably priced ticket to visit the nearby island of Burano.
I liked the place so much that I returned twelve months later and stayed at a fabulous boutique hotel, the Locanda Orseola which was right in the middle of the San Marco area and had a room directly overlooking the Orseola canal.
I am not sure how I managed to get the bargain price, probably because it was a family room for all four of us but this was one of the nicest hotels that I have stayed in. We did all of the same things again including the Vaporetto trip to Burano where all of the houses are painted in gay colours so that fishermen could spot them from the open sea when returning home (or so the story goes).
The weather was glorious again and we ate lunch by the Rialto Bridge and watched the hectic traffic on the Grand Canal and dinner at the Ritorante da Raffaele next to the quieter dell’alero canal where gondolas glided gracefully by and the water lapped gently against the bricks of the walls.
Two visits to Venice was still not enough however and I returned again in 2005 and this time stayed at the hotel Anastasia which although only three star was situated in a quiet square, the Corte Barozzi and whilst not overlooking the water directly from the room we could hear the gentle rhythm of the canal di San Moise just around the corner from the square.
We did exactly the same things of course but there was no mad rush to cram things in this time around so the experience was altogether more leisurely.
I haven’t been back to stay in Venice again since but after eight years I think it might be nearly time to go and visit one more time.