Cinzia Maestrini
Article by Cinzia Maestrini

Why do we all love Venice?

Why do we all love Venice?

I would like to start this post with a fairly obvious statement: Venice is a marvelous and unique city.
I am trying to imagine the expressions on your faces now, and the questions that come to your minds: is that all? One of the BestVeniceGuides has nothing to add to this trivial sentence?

I am now on the terrace of the former Fontego dei Tedeschi (the former warehouse of the German Merchants), today called “TFondaco”.

From here I can observe Venice with a 360-degree view. This is really a strategic position to feel Venice… so I start writing instinctively all my thoughts in these moments.

What immediately strikes the viewer is the Rialto Bridge, and right afterwards my attention is caught by the majestic Palazzo dei Camerlenghi (the Camerlenghi were the public state cashiers, who would collect the revenues and re-distribute them). A little further, I can see the market area, with fish, fruit and vegetables.

Venice, Rialto and the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi
Venice, Rialto and the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi

This place used to be the commercial heart of the Most Serene Republic, where different cultures would meet and interact.

I imagine, then to be involved for a moment in the frenetic life of the Venetian and foreign merchants, if I fancy I can leave right now on a galley that has been built by the skilled workers of the ship yard… and maybe I could eventually join a group of merchants that along the Silk Road, up to its end in Xi’An, will cross unknown far away Oriental countries. No, wait… I cannot do it… in those days women were supposed to stay at home, waiting for their husbands or sons to come back from their perilous journeys at sea…

City of Xi’An (China), This caravan shows the end and the beginning of the Silk Road
City of Xi’An (China), This caravan shows the end and the beginning of the Silk Road

A bit frustrated, I come back in my mind to the present day… my eyes stop to admire the bas-relief representing Pietro Aretino, placed along the Grand Canal. Aretino moved from Rome to Venice in 1527, remaining here until his death in 1556. He was a writer, an excellent poet, and an exquisite playwright. Ludovico Ariosto, another man of literature, would refer to him as the “scourge of the princes, the divine Pietro Aretino”. I start recalling my readings about the frequent cultural meetings that Aretino would have with two other great minds of Renaissance Venice, the painter Titian and the architect and sculptor Sansovino.

But then my mind flies away again, too strong are the emotions that I feel in this wonderful place.

I start then paying attention to the Grand Canal, the most important waterway of the city; it looks like the letter S, but in its mirrored version, and it divides Venice into two parts.

Looking on the right, I see far in the distance Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, an elegant Renaissance building which today hosts the Casino. An Italian writer of the 20th century, Gabriele D’Annunzio, refers to this palazzo as “an aerial vision, sort of a cloud leaning on the water”. This was the house where the German composer Richard Wagner lived, as a guest of the owners, and eventually died. He used to say that Venice was the perfect place where inspiration could be revived, could be brought back to light… it is impossible not to agree with his thoughts.

The Grand Canal towards Vendramin Calergi
The Grand Canal towards Vendramin Calergi

On the left, past the Rialto Bridge, I can see Ca’ Foscari, the seat of the Venetian University, where I studied years ago. It is a typical Venetian Gothic palazzo, majestic in its dimensions. It was commissioned by Francesco Foscari, the most illustrious member of one of the richest noble families of the Most Serene Republic.

This name, Foscari, recalls to my mind the main entrance of the Doges’ Palace, which was the heart of both politics and justice in the city. The sculpture on top of the door, in fact, represents Doge Francesco Foscari, kneeling down in front of the winged lion, which in turn faces the people. Francesco Foscari held his position as a Doge for 34 years, the longest period ever in the history of the Republic, until he was forced to abdicate for political and economic reasons.

The Grand Canal towards Ca' Foscari
The Grand Canal towards Ca’ Foscari

From the terrace of the Fontego I can also admire the five domes of Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Bell Tower, which dominates the entire city (and this is the reason why the Venetians call it “the landlord”). I can also see the roofs of the houses, the terraces on the rooftops, many different bell towers, several churches, palazzos… all this creates an explosion of feelings, and recalls to my mind all that I studied about Venice and that I tell my guests daily.

As I keep turning round, I notice the immense gothic Basilica dedicated to the Saints John and Paul. It still belongs to the Dominican order. It is also known as the Pantheon of Venice because of the numerous tombs of Doges that can be found inside. I have always liked the contrast between the red brick of the façade of this church and the marble covering of the Scuola Grande di San Marco which stands right beside and is today one of the buildings of the Venetian hospital.

Ss. Giovanni and Paolo Basilica
Ss. Giovanni and Paolo Basilica

Although I cannot see it from the terrace, I must spend a couple of words on the monument representing Bartolomeo Colleoni, standing in front of the church. Colleoni was a mercenary, who proved to be a great leader of the Venetian army. His statue was projected by Andrea Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci’s master. It is the second Renaissance monumental sculpture on horse back in Italy, after the one cast by Donatello in Padua in honor of Gattamelata.

As I look away in the distance, I can distinguish the islands of the Northern Lagoon, the mainland and, far beyond, the Alps, which frame this picture of incredible value, both precious and fragile.

Now I am pleasantly worn out, satisfied with all the beauty that I have seen.

I understand that this post of mine can be a little confusing. I have written so many things that seem to have nothing in common, I have expressed so many thoughts and strong emotions… and I could go on and on telling you about the secret corners of Venice, about its jewels hidden in the maze of narrow streets, about the places that most of the tourists want to discover. And we, the BestVeniceGuides, would be more than pleased to show you all this in detail.

Yes, the initial statement of my post is quite trivial… still, I think that our deep (and sometimes even contradictory) feelings and emotions in front of incredible cities and works of art are never trivial, nor is the beauty that I see every day which still surprises me…

So see you in Venice!


Translated by Monica Gambarotto

Special thanks to Josh Wakeford for the revision.

Cinzia Maestrini