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ROBERT BENCHLEY had a good line: “Streets filled with water. Advise.”
As a car enthusiast, I cannot fathom why this Italian city with flooded streets should hold my attraction. Yet I seem to have accumulated quite a variety of books on Venice. Here’s a brief soggy bibliography, with a gallery of images from my own visit.
Venice is in the northeastern corner of Italy, the one part, Grant Allen’s notes, “which never at any time formed a portion of any Teutonic empire, Gothic, Lombard, Frank, or Saxon.”
Observes Cook’s, “There is a grain of truth, but only a grain, in the popular conception that a multitude of terrified refugees, fleeing before the awful hosts of Attila the Hun, established themselves on the lagoons, and thus laid the foundation of Venice.”
Baedeker’s: “The Gondolas take the place of cabs at Venice….The heavy indented iron prow (ferro), resembling a halberd, is partly intended to counterbalance the weight of the rower, and partly as a measure of the height of the bridges….”
The Palace of the Doges is one of the must-visits in Venice.
Dating perhaps from 814, this “palace of the dukes” was rebuilt after conflagrations in 976, 1105, 1574 and again in 1577.
Advises Grant Allen’s, “The Palace is … open free on Sundays and holidays, but as the order in which the rooms must be visited is then altered, and no hand-catalogues are supplied, I do not advise you to see it on the free day. Pay like a man, and see the pictures properly in the right succession.”
More from Grant Allen’s: “Your tickets also entitle you to visit the Dungeon. I am not aware of any sufficient reason why you should desire to avail yourself of this permission.”
According to Baedeker’s, the best hotel in town is the Royal Hotel Danieli, just down the Grand Canal from the Palace of the Doges. The Danieli was home to George Sand and Alfred de Musset in 1833; it was my digs 160 years later.
The Danieli’s restaurant isn’t cited in my Baedeker’s, as is the Bauer-Grünwald: “with seats outside, much frequented, but not cheap.”
A stroll along the canal leads to Piazza S. Marco, the piccioni (pigeons) and the Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of St. Mark.
Observes Grant Allen’s of St. Mark’s eclectic elements, “Some of these the Republic frankly stole; others it carried away in good faith during times of stress to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Mahommedan conquerors.”
The nearby Bridge of Sighs? Observes Baedeker’s, “Too much sentiment need not be wasted on the Bridge of Sighs, as the present structure, serving merely as a means of communication between the Criminal Courts and the Criminal Prison, has probably never been crossed by any prisoner whose name is worth remembering or whose fate deserved our sympathy.”
Nor is Herr Baedeker alone in this assessment. According to Grant Allen’s, the Bridge of Sighs is “absurdly over-rated…” Cook’s is equally harsh, calling the Bridge of Sighs “a pathetic swindle.”
By contrast, Desdemona, Othello’s wife, doomed to die by his hand, is shown some kindness. In detailing the city’s palaces, Cook’s says, “Now comes the sweetest of all the Venetian Palazzi, the Contarini-Fasan, of the fourteenth century. You might not be serious when you call it the house of Desdemona, but with such a pretty little palace as this, it is a fancy worth cherishing, and does credit to Desdemona’s taste.”
Too bad about her handkerchief, though. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013