Or, a collection of observations by residents and by travellers throughout Venice's history.
"From the chronicle of Symon Semeonis, an Irish Franciscan who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land
in 1323. This is what he saw in Venice:
"It is two miles away from terra firma, and has streets, one third of which are paved with burnt bricks, and remaining two thirds consisting of navigable canals. Here repose the entire and undecayed corpses of Mark the Evangelist, of Zacharias the prophet, father of John the Baptist, whose mouth is open even to the present day . . . In honour of St. Mark is a most sumptuous church incomparably constructed of marble and other most precious materials, and adorned with wonderful mosaic work representing Biblical stories; opposite to it is that famous Piazza, like which nothing can be found in the whole world. Almost adjoining the church is the palace of the Doge, in which for the glory of the state living lions are kept, and opposite the palace towards the port are two round marble columns, large and lofty, on the top of one of which is a gilt lion shining like Diana or the star of the sea. On the western gate of the same church are two bronze horses glittering equally in all directions."
"With the meat they give a great piece of bone. When I saw the place where the meat is sold, I thought I had never seen such a miserable place in any city, or more wretched meat to look at. It drives away the wish to buy. I do not know the reason for this, unless it be that the Venetians are so occupied with their merchandise, that, they do not trouble much about what they eat. It is enough to say that in that place you could not have a good and fine-looking piece of meat whatever you were willing to pay, or at least in the quantity to be had at Milan. . . "There is never a dearth of fish, though in truth, as to the excellence of the quality, it is not on a level with that of certain other cities. All the time I was there I never saw a fine fish and never ate a good one. [He liked the bread, wine & vegetables.]
"One thing only appears to be hard in this city; that is, that although the people are placed in the water up to the mouth they often suffer from thirst, and they have to beg good water for drinking and for cooking, especially in the summer time. It is true that there are many cisterns for collecting the rain water, and also water is sold in large boatloads -- water from the river called the Brenta, which flows near Padua. In this way indeed they provide for their needs, but with difficulty and expense, and the people cannot make such a business of washing clothes with fresh water as is done elsewhere. . . ."The patriarchal Church or Cathedral is called the Church of San Pietro. It has not many ornaments. I think that Saint Mark, who was his disciple, must have stolen them. . . . "These Venetian women, especially the pretty ones, try as much as possible in public to show their chests -- I mean the breasts and shoulders -- so much so, that several times when I saw them I marvelled that their clothes did not fall off their backs. . . . These Venetian women, both high and low, have pleasure in being seen and looked at; they are not afraid of the flies biting them, and therefore they are in no great hurry to cover themselves if a man comes upon them unexpectedly. I obsered that the do not spend too much in shawls to cover their shoulders. Perhaps this custom pleases others; it does not please me. I am a priest in the way of the saints, and I had no wish to inquire further into their lives." [Posted by Diana Wright on firstname.lastname@example.org 12 May 2002]