Inspiration in Venice

AN ARTIST’S TRAVEL JOURNAL

Written by Lydia Hibbing

Artwork by Lydia Hibbing

Venice End of the Road, Lydia Hibbing

Sunlight streaming through the open curtains woke me gently. As I turned on my side I could hear the muffled voices of two people whispering in the hallway. Were the travellers arguing over where to go first? Staff discussing the untidy contents of a guest’s suite? After a momentary pause to contemplate this I stood and wrapping myself in my robe, strode to the window. I was blinded by the full force of the sun now and throwing open the window I was struck instantly with a cacophony of sound.

Boats motored up the Grand Canal and men shouted greetings to one another as they passed. A porter was unloading some very heavy bags from a motor boat and attempting to help the owner of said luggage avoid falling into the water. The waterbus was docked and a myriad of passengers were unloading; men and women dressed in smart suits, a mother carrying a small child and his bear, an old woman with bags of fresh produce. There were, of course, the tourists making their way haphazardly along the sidewalks, maps in hand, bumping or nearly bumping into every person whose path they crossed.

A groan from the bed reminded me that I was not on this trip alone and should probably let my travelling companion sleep in silence for a while longer. Closing the window to block out the noise once again, I continued to observe the passersby below. Venice sees more than 20 million visitors per year, a number hard to comprehend even for a much larger centre. Where was the city hiding all of these people? There was of course only one way to find out—on foot.

While walking down the streets of Venice you notice very quickly how close together things are. The sheer density is astonishing. What you may not realize is that some of the walls hide gardens and yards, even playgrounds for school children. Walking by the doors and shutters you can hear muffled noises. Perhaps a tree peaks over the ten foot wall and you are left to wonder what lies behind. The walls act much the same as the masks donned by people young and old during the Carnival. Unfortunately we did not visit during Carnival as it did not coincide with our travel plans.

Artwork by Lydia Hibbing

Venice Side Street, Lydia Hibbing

Undoubtedly, Carnival is the most famous of all festivals or holidays in Venice. While the first celebration of the Carnivale de Venezia is said to have been in 1162, the festivities were actually banned at one point in time! In an effort to celebrate Venice’s history and revitalize the city, the Italian government brought back Carnival. The city draws more than 3 million people during the celebration alone.

Some of the visitors will have purchased their masks and accoutrements from one of the many masquerade shops found in Venice. Elaborate costumes are on display and masks which don’t seem like masks but objets d’art, hang on the walls. There are plain white masks as well; do-it-yourself versions for the creative soul or simple white to showcase a breathtaking costume. I buy a plain white mask in the hopes that I will return one day to wear it.

Venice is one of the most intriguing cities to be found; a mixture of old and new unlike any you will experience elsewhere. Delivery men hitch themselves to small carts loaded with parcels all the while making plans for dinner on their cell phones. Miniscule, hallway sized roads lead to the tiniest restaurants and shops. Every nook and cranny is utilized to its full potential, no space is left wasted. Once the seat of culture, music and the arts in Europe, Venice remains one of the most visited cities in the world to this day. The small, quaint streets and seemingly mysterious alleys keep tourists flocking each year to experience the floating city for themselves.

Artwork by Lydia Hibbing

Venice Canal View, Lydia Hibbing

Venice is also world famous for their Murano glass, produced on the Island of Murano. Glass production used to occur in Venice but after a series of fires, production was moved permanently to Murano. Artisans study for many years to become proficient at this beautiful, ancient art form. We were lucky enough to be afforded a private tour of one of the glass facilities through our hotel. The skill that is required to create the intricate chandeliers and glassware is astonishing and a testament to the commitment of the glassworkers to pass on their trade over the centuries.

A cornucopia of sights and sounds, Venice cannot be completely experienced in one short visit. Much like any other place with a long and storied history, a person must choose which layers to peel back, which doors to open and which alleys to traipse down. Whichever you choose, adventure surely awaits.


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