Thursday, July 9, 2020

Historic Places: Venice

I was supposed to be on a flight to Venice today. Our family planned this trip months ago to celebrate my daughter's graduation from high school. Then Coronavirus happened, and travel from US to Italy isn't even currently allowed. So, let's look at the history and some memories of Venice together.

Before the 6th century, the area that is now Venice was a lagoon sprinkled with islands home to fishermen and salt harvesters. Through the succeeding centuries, the Venice we know and love was built up, fought over, and gaining prominence. Bridges and canals were built to connect more than one hundred islands with a broad Grand Canal in the center.

While gondolas are no longer the main form of transportation within Venice as they once were, they are still what comes to most people's minds when they imagine visiting Venice. Small motorboats may be more practical for locals, but tourists can't resist the romantic (unless you have your three kids with you) gondola ride. There are boardwalks and alleys in Venice but no automobiles.

Architecture of Venetian homes along the canals provides a tour through history with glimpses of  Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance facades. What they have in common is their situation toward canals rather than streets as found in most cities. Cruising down the canals of Venice provides a wide variety of architectural details that give Venice it's unique style.

Venetian trade and banking has largely been replaced by tourism. Instead of cargo, cruise ships of visitors dock in Venice for passengers to enjoy excursions and tours. One industry that has endured for centuries in Venice is glass making. Many visitors purchase an exquisite sample of Murano glassware as a souvenir of their time in Venice. Tourism has so heavily impacted Venice that very little 'regular life' beyond tourism remains.

Piazza San Marco has long been the heart of Venice, and is its largest open gathering area. Most of Venice is tightly packed together around narrow canals, so entering the Piazza feels like entering a carnival. The view from the square is dominated by San Marco Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace). The Palace was the center of government in Venice beginning in the 9th century, but much of the current structure dates from the Renaissance era. The Basilica, said to be the resting place of Saint Mark the evangelist, was originally the Doge's private chapel. However, the grand Byzantine structure is more of a cathedral than personal prayer closet. The piazza is surrounded by souvenir shops and gelato counters.

Flooding, pollution, and heavy traffic have all taken their toll on the medieval city and it's canals. UNESCO has stepped in to help preserve the architecture and artwork. Few places in the world feel as much like entering another world like Venice. If you have visited, what was your favorite part?

All photos are property of Samantha Wilcoxson.


  1. Love Venice - the main part of Venice is really cool but I enjoy the smaller islands of Murano (famous for their glass) and Burano (famous for their lace). Both of these islands show you how they may their products. Also, in the cathedral of San Marco, there's a staircase as you enter to the right. For an admission fee, you can enter and see the on-spot museum, walk around the inside of the church from the top and go on the balcony outside the church to see the plaza below, directly under the four rearing horses. BTW, the horses on the outside of the horse are copies - the original ones are in the museum at the top of the church. So worth the price of admission.

    1. Thanks for the additional info! I've only spent a day in Venice and was looking forward to having more time to explore this weekend. It is definitely a trip that will need to be rescheduled when the world in not in a state of chaos.