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Venice: Where the air breathes romance and magic

Last updated on: June 7, 2010 11:55 IST

Venice: Where the air breathes romance and magic

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Memories of the beauty of its architecture and the romance that Venice conjures up have stayed with GA reader Chitra Srikrishna long after she left the city of singing gondoliers.

When he breaks into an aria, we roll our eyes in embarassment. The gondolier passes us with a flourish on the canal. The hint of drama evokes a smile in the elderly couple across from us. This is Venice, where the very air breathes with romance and magic. Every alley and piazza hides a multitude of secrets. The city is a labyrinth of criss-crossing canals and pretty stone bridges. I can't decide if it is prettier on foot or from the water.

Our vaporetti (water-bus) glides almost silently past gothic-style buildings that line both sides of the canal. The reflection of the Santa Maria della Salute draws a collective gasp from our boat. The marble facade is like pearl drops shimmering luminescently in the water. The church with its magnificent dome and impressive exterior, a Venetian landmark, is beautiful to behold.

Just when I wonder if its early season for tourists, I hear the murmur of crowds. Our vaporetti is approaching the Piazza san Marco (St Mark's Square). Here is the pulse of the city, where the action lies, and what Napoleon once described as one of the "finest drawing rooms of Europe".

Chitra Srikrishna is a professional musician and freelance writer who blogs at http://chitrasrikrishna.com

Image: A gondolier takes tourists on a gondola trip in Venice
Photographs: REUTERS/Tony Gentile
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Teeming crowds and stained-glass windows

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The Piazza san Marco defies all logic.

Teeming with people who seem to be having the time of their lives, it reminds me of a central station back in India, without the grime and pollution. All along the square are cafes with tables neatly laid out in every inch of space. Wizened old men share grappa (Italian brandy) and cackle with laughter at a table, while another family is busy clicking pictures of the cathedral from their vantage point. My children make a beeline towards the flock of pigeons in the open square.

The four horses of St Mark's, the patron saint of Venice, guard the entrance to the Basilica san Marco while the winged lion of Venice, is shown below the figure of St Mark in the front facade of the cathedral. The cathedral is built in Byzantine style with a dome that rises from the tower. When I step inside, the sunlight through the stained glass windows immediately draws my attention to the rich colours.


Image: A view of Piazza San Marco in Venice.
Photographs: REUTERS/Tony Gentile
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A walk to remember

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After nearly an hour inside the cathedral, we step outside and wander through the maze of streets. The cobbled narrow alleys are a strange mix of restaurants and stores selling souvenirs. The friendly smiles and cries of 'Buono sera!' (Good evening) thrown at us are comforting as we walk through the alleys.

Masks of every shape and size, colourfully designed and painted, beckon from street corners. Fluted glasses in exquisite designs of green and blue stand out amidst the bric-a-brac on store windows. My husband, who is now determinedly following a road map, gently steers us to the Rialto -- the oldest bridge overlooking the Grand Canal. Standing on the Rialto I soak in the magic of my surroundings.

Even today, far from the vista of Grand Canal and with nary a gondolier in sight, I can hear the wistful notes of his song. The bridges, cobblestones and mansions lining the canals parade across my mind like an unending movie. I realise Venice is still with me.

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Image: The replica of the quadriga, the famous horses on the church of Saint Mark in Venice.
Photographs: Creative Commons
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