Probably when that great soul said, an idealist would turn into a romantic to the faithfulness to what he saw before him at Venice, he himself was sulking into the spell that this wonderful city had cast upon him. Venice, for all the romanticism it has been famous for, is not a bit exaggerated is what I felt after my first day in this romance capital that once reigned as Republic of Venice. After all, it is the very city in which Casanova himself lived through few of his many famous romances. From what I saw walking around Venice, Casanova must have become Casanova only after he came to Venice and fell for its charm, because this city has literally got what it takes to make even a stone fall in love.
Caressed by the waves of Adriatic Sea and crisscrossed by its numerous lagoons and canals, Venice is definitely the place that can fit the bill of ‘Place to see before you die’! The fact that I was here during the carnival season made it much more enchanting. The plan was so instant that I did not even have a place to sleep when I arrived in Marco Polo Airport, Venezia. It was like some blind belief had motivated me to take the chance to arrive in a new city without booking a bed. The night that I arrived was well spent on the floor of airport lobby, though not very comfortable, it was warm enough. By the first light next morning, the shop counters inside the airport started coming to life. “It’s weird that you are here alone, this is Venice”, said the Italian lady at the café as she brewed that mocha I had ordered. As I took sips of my first ‘Made in Italy’ mocha, the broken English speaking lady was curious about why would anyone be in Venice all alone! Probably, I learnt the answer the hard way few hours after I got into the cobbled streets of this charming city.
Completely restricted for motor vehicles and totally connected with Vaporetto, the water buses, meant you either hold on to your better half’s hand and take a walk around those magnificent buildings or stand by him/her while your Vaporetto swayed over the ripples of Grand Canal; of course, not to forget the Gondola, the little boats that take you through the narrow canals. Venice is totally preserved against vehicles. The motors buzzing around could have hampered the soothing mood that these little, narrow alleys set up. This was the city meant to get lost and this was one of things to be kept in mind before visiting Venice, to try and get lost. Well, you don’t have to try very hard in fact! All you have to do is take a walk from the alighting point at Piazzale Roma to San Marco and not think too much!
The city of Venice is like a maze; like a maze that you will probably never see elsewhere! To know it first hand, just take a walk between those majestic buildings that once were a proud part of Venetian Republic and now stand testimony to its glory. The piazzas where they all lived, the tea-rooms where they gathered for their daily apretivo and the ball rooms where they had those parties like you see in dramas of the 18th century, all stand a proof of the bygone glory. Considering the past of Venice when it was one of the major trade hotspots during the 18th century, it is no surprise to see it being rich and grand.
The Shakespearean depiction of the merchants of Venice is just the apt way to understand what a strong hold Venice and its ports were once upon a time. The rich, powerful & the wealthy had their business fledging from Venice. While the men made money from their fleets and spices, the women, dressed immaculate and grandiose as ever graced the streets and clubs of Venice in those grand balls.
The masquerade theme of Carnival is said to be originating from this wealthy and prominent background of Venetians who had a social status to look after. Though the carnival was being celebrated for decades, it was apparently stopped briefly when Napoleon plundered the city, only to be started again by a bunch of enthusiasts towards the end of 18th century. The Venetians were always grandly dressed and held a social stature. Probably the head wears and accessories should have been a part of their elaborate attires ever since Venice grew stronger in trade.
But the masks were said to have come into picture to protect the identity of the wealthy citizens during many events. There were men involved in important decisions & rulings against fellow citizens and the attendees preferred to wear masks to protect their identity while making a straight forward opinion or comment. There were men & women involved in affairs & flings who would wear a mask to safeguard themselves against being recognized. Then there was also the well-known doctors’ mask which became famous during the plague deaths all around Europe. These masks where used by doctors to avoid infection from patients. Reasons might be many more but ever since masks were a prominent part of Venetian attire and the city’s carnival could never be different.
The main square, Piazza San Marco would turn into a bustling scene with the final showdown of the carnival, a maschera più bella, the most beautiful mask competition. The revelers would all gather in the main square around the big stage and cheer for the contestants. Participants wear masks and dress up according to the theme announced earlier and compete for this coveted recognition. But regardless of the participants or the winners, the energy is penetrating and leaves one with a trance like feel standing at that historic square surrounded with exotic characters donning avant-garde masks.
The evening gets even more special with the Balls which simply are a sumptuous, decadent, lavish night parties just as the nobles of Venetian Republic used to. There’s only one rule to these elaborate, costume party of the aristocrat, ‘ you have to dance like there is nobody watching, love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like there’s nobody listening and live like its heaven on earth.’
Today Venice with its adjacent islands of Burano, Murano and Lido is one of the major tourist hubs in whole of Europe. Walking around the cobbled streets of Venice around its grand canal or buying some well-crafted glass at Burano or choosing a pretty hand-made lace at Murano is like a pilgrimage for every couple. Couples that date might return with a ring shining on their fingers and the married ones with a newly ignited spark in their relation, because this is that place where you walk around hand in hand and get lost in love, get lost between yourselves; get lost to find yourselves in each other.
And for the ones who visit her alone, Venice is sure to give you the look that you craved for, lock eyes with you and smile! All you have to do is hold her by the waist and concentrate on the face raised at you!