Venice: la Serenissima

CIMG9488Venice the most Serene……..really?

When I heard that Venice has been known throughout its most recent history as La Serenissima, I immediately trivialised its interpretation. I imagined, of course, it had to do with the relative silence of the city (no traffic) and the apparent lack of stress (nobody hurries anywhere). The speed of life is reduced to walking pace and the meanderings of the tourist gondolas, which never seem to be going anywhere with any purpose.

Once you step over the bridge from Piazzale Roma, you enter not a living community but a museum. Some would disparagingly say that Venice has been ‘Disneyfied’ into a theme park: vital and throbbing during the day, maybe, but

Piazza San Marco & Palazzo Ducale

Piazza San Marco & Palazzo Ducale

once the sun sets, the life is drained away, the lights go out, the huge army of service workers depart to their distant suburbs. Nobody actually lives in Venice. Why? Well, properties are horrendously expensive, mostly owned by absent millionaires, and at night very few buildings show evidence of any life.

Even during the daytime, if you wander off the main tourist routes, you can get hopelessly lost in a warren of uninhabited backstreets, CIMG9462many of them forbidding and menacing by virtue of their very emptiness. When you go to Venice, you will get lost. You will find yourself going around in circles, following the signs to Piazza San Marco or Ponte di Rialto, and you never seem to get there. I understand there is no absolutely accurate map of the historic centre of Venice. A blessing in itself, some would say, because getting lost is part of the magic of Venice.

CIMG9501But why was it called La Serenissima, I hear you say? Today, we think of Venice as a city, but it was once the centre of a huge trading empire, a sovereign state in its own right. To call a state Most Serene was in acknowledgement of its right to be seen as sovereign.

If a visit to Venice is on your ‘bucket list’, go before it sinks and disappears beneath the waves. Our cruise ship was one of the last to be allowed to dock at Venice because of the damage being done to the lagoons and port area. This is very bad news for Venetians. Cruise ships bring tens of thousands of visitors to the heart of the city every year.


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on December 2, 2013, in Eastern Mediterranean and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Now that you have had a quick look, go again for longer. Go out towards ‘Castello’ and the gardens where the Biennale takes place and you are more likely to come across real life. Take a bus/boat to Murano, Burano. I could just about comprehend the attraction of cruises if they can be a ‘taster’ that entice you back again.

    When you get lost helpful locals will tell you to “go straight on’. This is of course impossible because none of the streets are straight, but strangely enough it’s often quite good advice.

    • Ah, but I have to confess this wasn’t the first visit to Venice. We once spent 6 days there, during the Biennale, and we took in visits to Murano/Burano, amongst many others. So these last two one night stopovers were like the dessert after the main course….. It was great to be there again.

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