A marvelous day in Venice
People from around the world dream about visiting this fabulous city at least once in a lifetime. Some are embarking on romantic getaways, while others are seeking the adrenaline rushes of ultimate cultural experiences. I belong to the latter group, and a few years and a couple of wrinkles ago, I had the chance to finally indulge myself with a perfectly flavored cup of coffee in Piazza San Marco.
Being an interpreter comes with many cultural perks, especially when your project takes place abroad. Italy had been my first foreign destination while still in college in Bucharest, during a very busy gig which only covered Rome. My specialties were English and French, but I was infatuated with Italian culture as well - language, movies, literature - and everything made a big impression on me. The whole experience had been vivid and exciting. Just too short.
This second time, I spent a whole week in northeastern Italy, in the Veneto region. Our Romanian-Italian project headquarters was in Vicenza, but the weekend was all ours for trips in the region: Verona, with its famous balcony of Shakespeare's Juliet, Padova, with its breathtaking Basilica di Sant'Antonio, and Venezia, the capital of the region and the paramount of my Italian cultural quest.
Pioneer in engineering and top trade city
Venice has been enchanting travelers worldwide for centuries.
Its amazing history started in the 5th century AD, when a muddy lagoon was chosen as a place of refuge from barbarian tribes. The first settlers had this extraordinary vision of building their dwellings not from scratch, but from below scratch. Literally. They had no solid ground to build on, but they were incredibly daring and resourceful, so they created new ground for their needs.
They started from under sea level and remapped the whole area. They drained the water to enlarge the islands, dug a dense network of canals, reinforced their banks with underwater wood piles and extended the piling into platforms, on which they built their homes. Overground wood structures are not time enduring, but under water, wood doesn't rot. Brilliant!
In the Middle Ages, Venezia was already one of the richest cities on the European continent. The ever-prosperous lagoon in the Adriatic Sea was the queen of the Mediterranean trading routes and an enchanter for beauty-seekers.
The marvels of St Mark's Square
We started our Venice tour with Piazza San Marco. That was “l’ombelico del mondo” for me, the navel of the world, of the Italian world as perceived, admired and absorbed through all my pores during the whole week. It was a perfect morning in early June and I could sense a wonderful effervescence in the air. There I was, drinking my outdoor cup of coffee, surrounded by fabulous architecture with stunningly rich history. I remember closing my eyes for a few seconds, sitting in the sun like a cat on a sofa, and savoring the flavors, the sounds and the whole incredible vitality filling the still fresh morning air.
I have a soft spot for architecture and design, so walking by all the iconic monuments in the square and admiring the details from all possible angles was an unforgettable experience: the imposing Campanile bell tower, Torre dell’Orologio clock tower, the Doge’s Palace - Palazzo Ducale, and my favorite of all, Basilica di San Marco, the most spectacular church in Venice, with its elaborate Byzantine mosaics and stone lacework.
Strolling and boating
We explored by foot as much as we could of this one-of-a-kind splendid city, with more than 100 islands, about 150 canals, over 400 bridges, with no roads or cars, just waterways. We took our time and enjoyed everything. And yes, the gelato is as great as they say, and the gondolas and the superb arched bridges are as romantic as spotlighted in the movies.
We ended the day with a boat ride to the island of Murano. After strolling down alleys and bridges, resting our feet while enjoying the vaporetto trip was the perfect break. Magnificent sights were parading before our eyes in the cool Adriatic breeze.
A sparkling landmark of Venetian artistry
The Murano Glass Factory is iconic for the artistry of the Venetian spirit and for the Italian culture and love for traditions, as a matter of fact. We had a tour of the factory, watched a glass master creating art under our very eyes, during an impressive glass-blowing demonstration, and visited the shop and gallery. A vivid display of fine valuable objects, from jewelry to sculptures and chandeliers. I’m a woman, so I went for jewels, as the most rewarding, adorable and easy-to-carry souvenirs.
My favorite colors are blue and green. The glass earrings I bought in Murano are a sparkling combination of both, just like the Grand Canal waters. I realize now that Venice itself is a jewel. An exquisite, unforgettable one.