Venice is without doubt my favourite city in the world! For a photographer, there are few locations that offer so many wonderful opportunities. Wherever you go, there are surprises and amazing views around almost every corner! It is easy to lose your way in the maze of alleyways and canal-side walks, but this is one of the charms of the city. Venice is a small city and you are never really ‘lost’!
I have now visited Venice on four occasions, with another trip planned for September 2016. Even at peak visitor times, you are never more than a bridge and an alley away from a more secluded city, full of secret campi (squares), handsome Gothic palazzi and lively neighbourhood wine bars. Here are just a few of the hundreds of photos I have taken on my trips to Venice:
The Basilica of San Marco overlooks one of the most beautiful squares in the world, the city centre for centuries. Next to both the Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, all the most important religious and civil ceremonies have always been held there and now the Piazza San Marco is considered the city’s main symbol and tourist attraction.
This great square overlooking the water is a mixture of spaces, volumes and styles: the Procurator’s residence, the bell tower, the Doge’s Palace and the Sansoviniana Bookshop. On Ascension day, the Doge and the city’s most important members got on board and sailed out to the Adriatic, to the Lido port. Here the Doge threw a ring, symbolising union between Venice and water, into the sea and pronounced the solemn words: “We wed you oh sea, in the sign of true, eternal dominion”.
Nowadays, St Mark’s Square is a must for tourists, although you pay well over the odds for a coffee, whilst being serenaded or entertained by one of the resident small bands and orchestras!
What many visitors don’t realise is that Venice is surrounded by one of the most ecologically rich bodies of water in the Mediterranean: the Laguna Veneta, or Venetian Lagoon.
The Laguna is a crescent-shaped body of water between the Italian mainland and the Adriatic sea. It lies within the arms of the Litorale Pellestrina, Litorale di Lido, and Litorale del Cavallino. These three strips of land are broken at only three entrances or porti along a length of some 30 miles (45 km), creating a marshy environment that is fed by rivers yet flushed by salt water from the Adriatic.
Santa Maria della Salute
The lovely curvy shape of Santa Maria della Salute is one of Venice’s most photographed landmarks. It stands on the final stretch of the Grand Canal, over the water from St. Mark’s.
Santa Maria della Salute was built 1631-1681 and dedicated to the Madonna in gratitude for the end of an outbreak of plague (the name means St. Mary of the Health). A contest was held to design the church, which was won by Baldassare Longhena, then in his twenties or early thirties. The church was an unusual shape at the time and is still striking today, taking the form of an octagon under a massive central dome. It is one of my favourite buildings in the whole city.
Venice has a total of 150 canals, the most important being the Grand Canal. Rather than visiting areas of Venice by car, it is very common to find water buses and water taxis that are used for transportation.
During the day time, the city is very crowded with visitors from all across the world trying to experience what the city has to offer. Narrow yet beautiful canals, bridges and streets give a very different feel than many other places.
Motor boats are not allowed to travel in small canals that are narrow. The city has almost 400 bridges and the Grand Canal cuts the city equally into two proportionate halves from the north to the south. The total length of the Grand Canal is three kilometres. A constant threat faced by the city is the weakening infrastructure of the buildings, caused by the ebb and flow of water as countless vessels travel up and down the canals on a daily basis.
The Regata Storica is the main event in the annual “Voga alla Veneta” rowing calendar. This unique sport has been practised in the Venetian lagoon for thousands of years and today it is particularly well-known for the spectacular historical water pageant that precedes the race. Scores of typically 16th century-style boats with gondoliers in period costume carry the Doge, the Doge’s wife and all the highest ranking Venetian officials up the Grand Canal in a brightly coloured parade. An unforgettable sight and a true reconstruction of the glorious past of one of most the powerful and influential Maritime Republics in the Mediterranean. I was fortunate enough to be in Venice for the Regata in September 2014 and plan to be there again for the 2016 event.
Murano is an island town close to Venice’s northern shore. It’s not as large or as important as its neighbour, but it does still have a Grand Canal, some elegant palazzi and a couple of fine churches. Murano is most famous for its glassmaking factories, and tourists throng the main canal sides, which are lined with shops and showrooms. In 1291 Venice’s glass furnaces were all moved to this island, to protect the city from outbreaks of fire. Venice was famed for its glass, and any glass-makers who left the lagoon were viewed as traitors – there are lurid tales of them being pursued and assassinated. Glass is still Murano’s trade, although it’s as much a tourist attraction as a centre of industry nowadays, and lots of the glass on sale comes from China! You’ll see glass everywhere you turn: an outdoors Christmas tree of glass; a street-shrine with a glass Madonna and Child. It’s a good place to buy your gifts, and although the canal sides get crowded, there are so many shops that you can generally manage to browse in peace.
The island of Burano lies in the northern part of the Venetian Lagoon, about 40 minutes from Venice by motorboat. It has a much different atmosphere from Murano or Venice’s historic centre, thanks to the Buranese custom of painting houses in bright colours – a tradition that may have had its origins in the colour schemes of local fishing boats. Fishing is one traditional occupation of the Buranelli; the other is lacemaking. Everywhere you look, you’ll see houses clad in blue, green, pink, rose, lavender, purple, yellow, and other colours. Because Burano’s houses tend to be small, the island has a cheerful cosiness. It’s a magical location for anyone interested in photography!
The photos in this blog were taken with an Olympus OMD EM1 camera fitted with a 12-40mm ‘Pro’ lens.