To taste in all their fulness his first impressions of Venice, the traveler should arrive there by sea, at midday, when the sun is high. By degrees, as the ship which carries him enters the channels, he will see the unparalleled city emerging from the lap of the lagoon, with its proud campaniles, its golden spires, its gray or silvery domes and cupolas. Advancing along the narrow channels of navigation, posts and piles dot here and there with black that sheet of steel, and give substance to the dream, making solid and tangible the foreground of the illusive distance.
Just now, all that enchanted world and fairy architecture floated in the air; little by little all has become distinct; those points of dark green turn into gardens; that mass of deep red is the line of the ship-building yards, with their leprous-looking houses and with the dark-colored stocks on which are erected the skeletons of polaccas and feluccas in course of construction; the white line showing so bright in the sun is the Riva dei Schiavoni, all alive with its world of gondoliers, fruit-sellers, Greek sailors, and Chioggiotes in their many-colored costumes. The rose-colored palace with the stunted colonnade is the Ducal Palace. The vessel, on its way to cast anchor off the Piazzetta, coasts round the white and rose-colored island which carries Palladio’s church of Santa Maria Maggiore, whose firm campanile stands out against the sky with Grecian clearness and grace. Looking over the bow, the traveler has facing him the Grand Canal, with the Custom House where the figure of Fortune veers with the wind above her golden ball; beyond rise the double domes of the Salute with their great reversed consoles, forming the most majestic entrance to this watery avenue bordered by palaces.
He who comes for the first time to Venice by this route realizes a dreamhis only dream perhaps ever destined to be surpassed by the reality; and if he knows how to enjoy the beauty of nature, if he can take delight in silver-gray and rose-colored reflections in water, if he loves light and color, the picturesque life of Italian squares and streets, the good humor of the people and their gentle speech which seems like the twittering of birds, let him only allow himself to live for a little time under the sky of Venice, and he has before him a season of happiness without alloy.