However, the city has been dying on its feet for years, sinking inexorably into the lagoon that, ironically, for centuries was its natural protection against potential invaders. After years of its citizens having to endure flooded basements, wear wellies to navigate its waterlogged streets during flood tides and chronic damage to some of its most impressive buildings, finally something is being done to save La Serenissima (The Serene Republic). In 2003, work on the long delayed ‘Moses’ flood gates, designed to control water flow between the Gulf of Venice and the lagoon, finally began.
There is a lot of history in this north-eastern Italian city and when visitors ease through the morning mists, on an empty canal with extravagant buildings rising up on all sides, it is easy to slip back through the centuries, to the time of the Doges, the supreme rulers, whose influence spread well beyond the Venetian Lagoon. Venice then was an exotic melting pot of East and West, where traders and travellers, including Marco Polo, breezed in and out, peddling their silk and spices. Venice under the Doges was a land of incredible wealth, riches that were spent wisely in crafting some of Europe’s most memorable buildings, from the imposing Doges’ Palace itself through to the grand architecture of St Mark’s Square, famously described by Napoleon as the ‘drawing room of Europe’.
Initially strongly influenced from the east, Venetian art developed its own direction in the Renaissance, spearheaded by such masters as Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese. The churches, palaces and museums open to the public today are charmed with priceless masterpieces. Musicians too found inspiration here. Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Verdi and Wagner all wrote works for Venice, and many more composers held their premieres at the city’s first opera house, La Fenice.
Visitors arriving by plane are transferred to Venice by boat, ensuring that the city is first seen from the water, as in the days of old.
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