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The Sinking City of Venice

Seabourn Adriatic & Greek Isles Cruise – Part 1 by Phil Swartz

View from the Grand Canal from the Reialto Bridge

This week we began a 12-day odyssey down the Adriatic and Ionian Seas.  We started in Venice, Italy, for a few days, the boarded the luxury cruise vessel Seabourn Odyssey.  We sailed down the Adriatic to the ports of Zadar and Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; the Greek islands of Corfu and Santorini; and Olympia, Greece.   We will finally end in Athens, Greece, where we will spend a couple of days.

  Phil & Carol along waterfront in Venice

We begin with a city that’s slowly sinking away…literally.  Venice is a city that grew up as the trading crossroads of East and West.  With its location on the water’s edge in northeast Italy, it was at the perfect spot to receive goods coming from east Asia via water and continuing into the middle east and  Europe via land.  So the city grew on the hundreds of small islands that make up Venice.

St. Marks Square

The entire city is built on these islands that have been stabilized by driving pilings into the sediment.  Unfortunately, many parts of the city are now slowly sinking.  The last time we were in Venice, we had enjoyed one day around the St. Marks Square area only to return that evening and find it under four to eight inches of water.  The tide had come in and was high enough to cover the sidewalks.  As a result, many of the stores in that area have “flood gates” at their front doors that are put into place to keep the water out.

 Colorful houses in Burano - every family has a color and as the children acquired a house, they paint it the family color

Today Venice is a major tourist area and receives over a million visitors each year.  There are many beautiful hotels to choose from, ranging from small boutique hotels off the beaten path to grand hotels from the 16th century located right on the Grand Canal.  This time we chose a small hotel that was the French Embassy in a former life.

When we landed at the airport we simply took a water taxi ( with our suitcases and all) to the hotel.  It’s just a little different when you go out the doors of the airport and instead of confronting a line of yellow taxicabs, you walk over to the water’s edge and see a lineup of small boats waiting to deliver you to your hotel.  We enjoyed the wind blowing through our hair as we bounced along the water and made our way through the “streets” of Venice.  We were delivered right to the front door of our hotel and the bellman retrieved our bags from the boat as we checked in.

Over the next three days, we explored Venice both on foot and by boat using the canals.  Of course, when walking, you need a good map of Venice so as to know the location of all the bridges across the canals.  If you turn down the wrong street, you may discover you’ve walked a quarter of a mile only to find yourself surrounded with canals and nowhere to go but back.

Ladies making lace in Burano,
a neighboring island to Venice
Burano is famous for its high quality of lace

There are many outdoor cafes and eateries in Venice.  One evening we dined at a hotel eatery on the dock across the water from St. Marks Square.  The food was wonderful, the waiters attentive to every need, and we had great conversation with the friends we were with.  As the evening progressed, there was a gentle breeze blowing and a live band playing as we watched the sun set over the city and enjoyed our dinner.  It was a perfect evening and as Carol and I looked at each other all we could say was “it doesn’t get much better than this”.

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