"I cleave the heavens, and soar to the infinite. What others see from afar, I leave far behind me." Giordano Bruno (1548 – February 17, 1600)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Venice - Serenissima - Ancient Seductress, Ancient Courtesan

 From the apartment: a view of the Spiral Steps over the roofs of Venice 
A view of a small side canal in Venice
Gondole and a view across the mouth of the Grand Canale to San Giorgio Maggiore
Photos taken in November 2009
We danced our youth in a dreamed-of city,
Venice, paradise, proud and pretty. 
We lived for love and lust and beauty, 
Pleasure then our only duty; 
Floating them twixt heaven and Earth 
And drank on plenty’s blessed mirth. 
We thought ourselves eternal then, 
Our glory sealed by God’s own pen. 
 But heav’n, we found is always frail, 
Against man’s fear will always fail. 
 Veronica Franco

Niccolò Paganini: Variations on the Carnival of Venice op. 10 (violinist Marco Fornaciari)

Venice, venerable, but ever enticing with shabby elegance, she beguiles her residents and visitors as much today as she has for preceding centuries. Under numerous aliases such as Serenissima, City of Light, City of Water, Queen of the Adriatic Sea, Dominante and City of Bridges, she continues to add to her countless lovers.  Few depart  without leaving a piece of their heart and a great desire to once more be embraced by that aged but never fading grace, to emerge themselves once more in her ever fragile gracefully shabby beauty. There is no other place on earth that has seduced so many and enchanted so many others. She has very few detractors. Yes, there are other great ancient cities, new modern cities and other places that catch their residents and visitors with a passion and devotion but Venice enchants and weaves a magic that surpasses all, for she is unique and irreplaceable. She is rightly called Dominante.

Queen of the Adriatic Sea, she rides the water, under threat but with a majesty suited to such a grand old dame.   Like the grand queen of cities that she is, she has been the subject of art, great literary works and music. Like a Grand Dame she gave “birth” to some well know women such as the controversial Veronica Franco, famed as a courtesan, cultured and a poet of the 16th century. Venice has inspired artists like Tintoretto, the gentleman of the Bellini family, most famous being Giovanni, and Titian. 

Composers of music such as Vivaldi, Mozart, Albinoni, Corelli and Pergolesi have been influenced to dedicate works to Venice or to study there.  Shakespeare included Venice and towns located in the Veneto area in his plays, never having visited himself, he was probably aware of the city through contact with young men returning to Tudor England from having studied there or who completed the Grand Tour.

Venice seduced the youths of the aristocracy of Europe to visit or study there from the earliest times of the Renaissance.  She has been a catalyst of fashion, art and knowledge important to their education and was very much an integral part of the Grand Tour. Those early study tours set the scene for centuries of further young men, and eventually young ladies, to include Venice in their itinerary. These tours and the arts eventually set the scene for Venice to become the enticing city she is to the tourists of today. 

This wonderful City of Bridges wove her magic on me first in 1995. In a “ho hum” mood, I hopped on an early morning, (damn early), train during the last month of a European winter at the insistence of my baby sister to travel to Venice. Travelling that first time over the bridge that connects Venice to the mainland didn’t quite remove the “ho hum” mood. Stepping out of the St Lucia train station still didn’t do much to excite me about being in Venice. Boarding my first ferry and heading down the Canale Grande, I was bewitched.

Enchanted and seduced by the spirit that is Venice, for she is Serenissima, I surrendered my heart to her, like so many before.  Never has there been a city before or since that has produced such a devoted passion and love in me as Venice has. I was enthralled by the glorious buildings, beautifully decorated and ever in danger from the rising waters. The grand Dame made fragile.

My mind darted back to art and history classes  during that first ferry trip, going back to the classroom and remembering that I once thought nice but don’t ever to expect to be there and with the ignorance of youth having thought “Venice is just another city”. Yes she is a city but not like any other. No cars, glorious. Built on islands that were extended and forever needing maintenance, dealing with "acqua alta" (high water) which is common to Venice at certain times through the year or after rain, avoiding getting my feet wet. I have a pair of nifty looking gumboots (wellington Boots) to ensure these feet don’t get wet and of course I procured these on my last trip to Venice in 2009. I haven’t used the boots since that last trip, but I am hoping I will have opportunities in Venice in the near future.

I love getting lost in Venice, it is always an adventure. I love the markets of Venice. The Rialto with the fresh produce and fish as well as the shops found of the side streets of this area selling pasta, cheese, wines, wonderful cakes and exquisite pastries. I love the galleries and the history and even the outer islands I have visited and not mentioned here. I love the apartment I have stayed in on my last trips and will stay in on future trips. I love that I have and can walk again the same streets as Marco Polo, Casanova, Mozart, Giordano Bruno, Paganini, Veronica Franco, Hemingway, Vivaldi, Titian, the Bellinis and so many more, that I could go on forever naming them. Venice inspires and if just a sprinkle of this inspiration can rub off like it has for the famous people and countless others, I know I have truly touched the magic.

Yes, I have visited other majestic cities and felt inspired to be in these cities, I even love them, but none resonate as does Venice.  I am sure I will even visit more wonderful cities at future times in my life, but Venice in her uniqueness entices the most. So enticing, that I have already returned seven times and I am planning in the near future to visit again. Every visit brings an opportunity to uncover more delights and more adventure.

Venice, for she is a City of Lights, attracts us humble “moths” to her brightness. My adoration for this, the grandest old lady of cities, sometimes astounds me, as I am not a huge fan of open water, but the City of Water has had the power to conquer even that reluctance. To feel the magic of Venice is something unique. I suspect though there are a few who hate her, there are far more who love her. The poet Herbert Nehrlich titled a poem “To See Venice and Die, I say “To See Venice and Live”.  I look forward to indulging once again in my passionate affair with Venice and perhaps living a little of Veronica Franco’s quote, but without the frailty. 

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