The City of Love – Venice (Updated)

All 3 of us fell in love with Venice the second we saw the City of Water at the horizon. It was so mesmerizingly beautiful that it erased the 15-hour-overnight-train fatigue and our gloomy Paris experience instantly. Like a magic spell, it put the smiles and warmth back into our heart and refilled our minds with indescribable happiness. When we were on the boat towards San Marco, I saw the smiles and excitements on Felicia and Elkan’s face. At that moment, I knew we were in a very special place.

These big words aren’t overstatements or exaggeration. Birthplace and home of the great explorer Marco Polo, Times named Venice as one of the most romantic cities in the world. The New York Times described it as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man”. For those who are looking for a romantic getaway, I would strongly suggest Venice over Paris. It is not difficult to understand why.

The entire city is listed as a World Heritage Site. Venice is sited on a group of 117 small islands separated by canals and connected by over 400 bridges. Shaped like a fish, there is no car or even bicycle in the city. This is the largest car-free zone and possibly the 2nd richest city in Europe. To get around in the city, there are the private-&-very expensive water taxis, public ferries (traghetti & vaporetti) and the classical gondolas. Due to the absence of motorized vehicles, the mood of the city is very calm and relaxing. We stayed in a very nice hotel, Hotel Flora (recommended by Lonely Planet). The location is simply fantastic – right in the heart of San Marco and close to all the key attractions and branded outlets. The decor of the hotel and its courtyard are covered with vines and greens.

Venice is ideal for travelers of all ages – from kids to young love couples and to old family groups. The magic of Venice lies within its massive network of alleys. It is more than just taking a gondola down the narrow water passage. It is about getting lost, walking along the narrow cobbled lanes. There are so much to see, explore and discover – churches, museums, glass-blowing workshop, gelato parlors, masks galleries, leather goods shops, art galleries, cafes, leaning towers (yes, lots of leaning buildings) and the ravishing buildings. It is a very colourful city with distinctive characters and styles. Lost? Don’t worry, the Venetians are very warm, friendly and helpful. There are many young Chinese retail shop staffs – clearly, the Venetians are well-prepared to welcome the cash-strapped Chinese visitors.

Venice is a great place for photographers. Every corner is a photo opportunity. Thanks to the iconic buildings and mishmash of styles, colours & textures – every photo turns out like an oil painting. The smooth and calm reflections made the canals so enchanting. The city changes colour at different time of the day. Warm orangeish at dawn and pinkish at sunset. At night, the streets lit up with festive lightings – it is just so romantic and beautiful.

Unfortunately, the city is disappearing soon. According to NBC news, Venice is now sinking 5 times faster than thought at an alarming rate of 2mm/year. It is also tilting 1-2mm eastwards to the ocean. The tilt is so obvious to the naked eyes that you can see it. With the threat of rising sea level, 70% of the city suffered its worst flood on 11th Nov (merely 30 days ago). It must be devastating for the locals. Scientists have warned of recurring floods. This is going to be a new sad reality for the Venetians.

We were fortunate to avoid the recent flood. Felicia, Elkan and I truly enjoyed our stay in Venice. We spent 2 days walking and exploring the lanes. I have so much to capture on film. Felicia was so intrigued by the local crafts and arts. Elkan, he was in his own make-believe world – chasing pigeons and jumping over bridges. For once, Elkan didn’t grumble about the long walk. Surprisingly, he didn’t ask for our iPAD or iPhone. It’s one truly enjoyable trip for the family.

When it was time to leave Venice this morning, we felt a little sad. Surely, we will come back again to enjoy its wonder before it disappears. For one spur of moment, I seriously considered to relocate here – since my Fengshui master says I should be near water at all times! Thanks to its mythical and magical charms, Venice is the by far the most beautiful city I have been. And the one place where all 3 of us will remember and miss for a long long time.

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