Venice, maybe more than any other Italian city, was a destination for us, as it is for millions of other tourists. No tour of Italy would have been complete without a visit to one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The attractions are many: the canals to be sure, the gondolas and its storied oarsmen, architecture, art, history, St. Mark’s and its pigeons, Murano glass, and even the mystery that surrounds its dark and narrow streets. It’s no wonder that Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Never mind that we would be part of the problem that is destroying Venice, which cannot sustain the legions of tourists who descend upon it. Even of its own accord, Venice is said to be sinking from global warming’s rising waters. A costly and controversial pontoon system is being built out in the lagoon to control the flow from the Adriatic, scheduled to be completed in 2010.
We arrived in Venice before noon. As we rode the vaporetto to Rialto station, the Venice of our imagination came into view—multi-storied castles, churches and other buildings, built right next to each other almost up to the water’s edge, but for the narrow streets in front of the canals. Gondolas, vaporetti, private boats with outboard motors, and other water craft were plying the waters. From the Rialto Bridge, we walked to our hotel (Pensione Guerrato).
It was our great fortune that we arrived in Venice on the day of the annual Historical Regatta, held on the first Sunday of September, and it was to our guide Robin’s credit that she got us all there before the procession. The regatta is a rowing competition, begun in the 13th century, primarily among the city’s various neighborhoods. After checking into our hotel, we walked but a few blocks to the Grand Canal, next to the fish and produce market, and watched the procession and a portion of the race. There was a lot of color and pageantry.
After sunset, Robin arranged for all of us to go on a gondola ride, complete with a singer and accordionist. As we gathered at St. Mark’s after the ride, Robin surprised us with a prosecco toast in the middle of the square, a very nice touch.