La-Dolce-Vita (part I) – Of Rios and Canalis

The now famous phrase in Italian literally translates to “the good life”. And thats what life in Italy indeed is!

With the midsummer heat burning our backs we began the journey into the land where every square inch seems to be planned, drawn and built with complete deliberation. Nature hath no fury here or if it ever did, Italia never did care.

Starting our long winding journey in Venice we hop skipped and jumped to Florence and Pisa before finally stopping in Rome. These four cities may well be the microcosm of Italy. Venice as Venezia, Florence as Firenzi, Pisa as Pi:za and Rome as Roma are as dramatic as they come. They enliven the senses and keep the admiration on at all times.

The Venetian charm and the city of the canals is as romantic as Italy can ever get. The wonderful system of canals preserved till date and the quiet gondola ride leave you to marvel at the 400 yr old architecture, as claimed by the gondolier, while he croons a classic Italian number. With museums around every turn one would find it hard to believe that 60000 people live in Venice. Doesnt seem so, not at all. Ducking the tourists and finding an off-beaten path will be unlikely here. The little bridges that cross the canals are said to be 400-odd in number and open onto plazas or market places or simply another narrow street. The canals cool the temperatures in Venice, keep it comfortable and almost balmy without much doubt. The narrow streets are tunnels of air that keep Venezians breathing. Walking through the street and jumping on and off a gondola taxi may not be as romantic as riding the decorated gondolas themselves. Either way a ride is totally worth it.

When you get off the ferry in Venice the first thing that catches your eye apart from the dome of St Marks Basilica is the Doge’s Palace. The facade of the building in its color and pattern is a refresher. The rose-tinted street lamps were my personal favorite in the city. So much drama street-lights can do. Venice literally has a touch of pink. It reminds you of roses, wine and masquerades. The Venetian masks scream out of the kiosks that dot the place.

By far Venice is a setting. The whole time one is there it feels like a carnival is waiting to begin, with the stage literally set. The pores do less than absorb the setting. In the mind one can clearly place the time of the grand balls, the masked encounters and the sagas that Shakespeare wrote of. The Merchants of Venice with the trading quarters today holds less importance today than the days of lore. The plazas, the churches, bell-towers and the palaces take the centrestage with the canals leading. The masks sold all over the city are what completely what Venice is all about. Available in different sizes and an array of colors they spell festivity. A fridge magnet in the bag we walked on to the Murano Glass store.

Glass-blowing, imaginative as it is, sets the temperature soaring to a dainty 142 degrees. A wee bit exaggeration I say! But its practically too hot to breathe around the kiln and am surprised to see the master effortlessly make us a glass horse in what seemed like a couple of split seconds. Setting the horse to cool in a temperature-controlled oven for 8 days we sent poking around the expansive showroom. The Murano Glass Chandeliers are my personal favorite and choice here. Without a house to house the chandelier the good self settled on a cut glass set. Pretty and dazzling. The murals and art works are spectacular and can be custom -made. The chandeliers though rock!

The plazas in Venice are filled with pigeons, who look well-fed and frankly fat by bird-charts! They nimbly walk around and rarely fly. Restoration works are on big time in Venice. If one manages to detach themselves from the romance the gondola ride brings along there is more to the architecture in Venice than what meets the eye. The scale and proportions are the same as any other Italian city but the angle of the perspective completely differs. Smelly canals you say? Well about that I cant differ! Nevertheless getting off the gondola, which by the way is a charmer by itself, onto front doors is a marvel. Cruising along to buy flowers on the way. Well it cant be more perfect!

The two most used word to describe Venice in the travel books are – sinking and crumbling. I surely hope not.

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