The Floating City of Venice … a Lesson in Opulence

The final stop on our Italian holiday was a stay in Venice. After disembarking at the Venice train station, Polly and I boarded a water taxi to San Marco. Entering Piazza San Marco we were amazed at the stunning architecture encompassing the square! Italian renaissance-style buildings with ornate columns and statuesque carvings line the perimeter of the Piazza. Boutiques, restaurants, museums and sidewalk cafes fill the buildings and carts selling tourist trinkets are strategically placed throughout the square and beyond. Live orchestra and theatrical performances are routinely presented in Piazza San Marco.

Piazza San Marco, Venice

Piazza San Marco’s Italian Renaissance façade

The grandiose Basilica of St. Mark, which was commissioned in the 11th century to house the remains of St. Mark the Evangelist, consumes an entire section of Piazza San Marco. The opulent Gothic-Byzantine style of its façade is without a doubt the most spectacular I’ve seen in all my travels. http://www.basilicasanmarco.it/BSMjesusFlashEng.bsm Again, it is nearly impossible to describe, so I will rely on photos to complete that task.

Basilica of Saint Mark

Basilica of Saint Mark

Grand entrance to Venice's Basilica of St. Mark

Grand entrance to Basilica of Saint Mark

Courtyard entrance of Venice's Hotel Flora

Venezia’s Hotel Flora

With plans of immersing ourselves for a few days in the Venetian culture and lifestyle, Polly and I found a boutique hotel just steps from the Piazza. Hotel Flora is the epitomy of Venetian lifestyle. We luxuriated in our room which was wrapped in opulent wallpaper, burlwood furnishings and corniced draperies. The hotel’s buffet colazione includes decadent freshly made breakfast pastries, breads, cakes and, of course, piping hot cappuccino served by cordial and attentive staff. The terraced Venetian gardens at Hotel Flora are prime for enjoying a morning cappuccino, an afternoon cup of tea or an evening appertif from the hotel bar. This enchanting boutique hotel is absolutely the perfect place for anyone wishing to spend a few days in Venice! http://www.hotelflora.it/en/

Gondolas navigate Venice's Grand Canal

Gondolas navigating Venice’s Grand Canal

The streets beyond Piazza San Marco are literally brimming with boutiques, restaurants, hotels, apartment homes and crowds of pedestrians! Walking bridges connect the streets of San Marco as gondolas carrying tourists and passengers meander along the waters of the Grand Canal below. Polly and I reveled in the bevy of fanciful boutiques, designer shops sidewalk cafes and other curiosities! Ornate Venetian masks and glass objet d’arts created on the nearby island of Murano are plentiful. Beautiful fashions and accessories adorn windows along the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge), a landmark famous for designer and flagship boutiques such as Louis Vuitton and Ermengildo Zegna among many others. Yes, shopping in Venice was a dream!

San Marco, Venice, Italy

The shopping and dining experience in Venice’s San Marco

Reminder: keep your belongings safely tucked away as pickpockets do a raging business here! We were safety-conscious and always on alert for suspicious persons (it appears they like to work in small groups – one or two to distract another to lift the wallet). Polly and I were spared so our diligence paid off; however, we noticed several tourists who eventually discovered they were victims of pickpocket schemes. No one should keep their personal belongings in a back pants pocket or outside jacket pocket, nor should any woman have their handbag open or strapped to only one shoulder. Those are clear targets for experienced thieves. This is my mantra anywhere I travel, including the United States. Use a small cross-body bag and carry only the items/money/credit cards you will need for the day and do NOT leave it opened, unattended or unzipped. Stay safe!

Alright then … enough pontificating. Let’s get back to the pleasures of Venice! A late afternoon check in with our hotel concierge yielded a strong recommendation for cocktail hour … the world famous Harry’s Bar. Getting a spot at the bar counter here is not for the weak or the meak! But after one sip of the Bellini I ordered I decided it was well worth the effort! http://www.harrysbarvenezia.com/ This was one long day of travel to and exploration in Venice, so Polly and I decided against dinner and instead for a nice, long, well-deserved night of sleep.

Venetian Lagoon, Venice

Architecture on nearby islands

Day two in Venice was one for touring a few islands of the Venetian Lagoon. Viewing artisan glassmakers as they created colorful and ornate designs in the factories of Murano was fascinating. Brightly painted houses seem ideally characteristic for the numerous artisans who make Burano their home. Lacemaking is also a burgeoning enterprise in Burano. The islands of the Venetian Lagoon, San Marco included, are slowly sinking as waters rise due to warming temperatures. Some structures have sustained serious damage due to the increasing waterline. These islands really are floating on the Adriatic Sea, and as we maneuvered them in the water taxi, I couldn’t help but feel melancholy about the structural and preservation issues confronting residents of the Venetian Lagoon.

Sidewalk cafes prepare for an evening performance in Piazza San Marco

Sidewalk cafes prepare for an evening performance in Piazza San Marco

Our final evening in Venice … in Italy for that matter, was cause for reflection and celebration on Piazza San Marco. Polly and I were greeted to the square by the vibrant tunes of musicians playing at various sidewalk cafes,  pedestrians gathering for fellowship and fun, and the thousands of pidgeons who’ve chosen to make the Piazza their home. (Really, who could blame them?) Seated on the veranda of Gran Caffe Quadri (http://www.alajmo.it/), we sipped vino, enjoyed delicious antipasto, reminisced events and memories while laughing at the missteps and gaffes we made, which wholly embodied this fantastic trip of a lifetime!

Addio per ora l’Italia. Torno presto! (Goodbye for now Italy. I’ll be back soon!)

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