Il Serenissima Repubblica

On our final morning in Venice, we walked along canals blanketed by thick fog. The city was just waking up and shopkeepers were beginning to open their doors before the streets crowded with people.

Early mornings and late evenings are the times to really experience Venice.

The “Most Serene Republic of Venice” lasted for a millennium from the 8th to 18th centuries. During that time, the city was an epicenter of power and wealth for medieval and Renaissance Europe. The discovery of the Americas, new trade routes and an invasion by Napoleon himself hastened its demise and eventual unification with Italy.

We termed it simply “crumbling grandeur”.

On our earlier tour of the Basilica San Marco, we learned it was built in the shape of a Greek cross (similar to a plus sign with four equal arms). As we walked, we knew these symbols were among the older markers in Venice.

This early representation of Christianity was supplanted by the Roman cross (the symbol of Jesus’ crucifixion). The footprint of later churches in Venice and across Europe were built in the shape of this more familiar cross.

Here, you can see a small example of revisionist history. Some Venetian long in the past modified the original Greek cross to a more modern Roman:

As the fog lifted, we wandered down to Rialto and its lively market. Shoppers buzzed around stalls of fresh fruit and washed vegetables. We were drawn to the mounds of glassy-eyed fish, shells, shrimp and mysterious tentacles.

Just pull your boat up along the canal and set up shop:

Fresh seafood eventually makes its way into pasta dishes and cicchetti (small snacks) like these on display in a local bàcaro. You remember we sampled several over glasses of wine during Venice’s traditional aperitivo time.

Beyond fresh seafood, you’re reminded of Venice’s tenuous relationship with the sea as you walk the city. Metal gates shield the bottom third of doors to protect against flooding high tides. Stacks of metal walkways are poised for deployment when the water rises.

There is a slight sense of impending doom. The city is slowly sinking just as the water is rising.

On a lighter note, we couldn’t help seeing all the faces and expressions around us in the old apartment doorbell clusters:

We’ve enjoyed having a week to take our time and slowly explore Venice. It certainly leaves a lasting impression.


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