I found it incredible how many people pile into Venice during the tourist season and they all seem to squeeze in around St. Marks Square and the Rialto Bridge. At night, St. Marks is a luminous spectacle and when it floods, it's a human spectacle. A high tide combined with a day of heavy rain filled most of the square with water up to 2 feet deep in places. While the pools that form may look like shallow swimming pools to a traveler after a few glasses of wine, the locals know exactly what happens when a Venetian toilet is flushed. Nonetheless, it was fun to watch and cringe as friends splashed each other blissfully unaware.
Charles Dickens, Pictures from Italy, 1844
But close about the quays and churches, palaces and prisons sucking at their walls, and welling up into the secret places of the town: crept the water always. Noiseless and watchful: coiled round and round it, in its many folds, like an old serpent: waiting for the time, I thought, when people should look down into its depths for any stone of the old city that had claimed to be its mistress.
Mark Twain, American Vandal Lecture, 1868
I had begun to feel that the old Venice of song and story had departed forever. But I was too hasty. When we swept gracefully out into the Grand Canal and under the mellow moonlight the Venice of poetry and romance stood revealed. Right from the water's edge rose palaces of marble; gondolas were gliding swiftly hither and thither and disappearing suddenly through unsuspected gates and alleys; ponderous stone bridges threw their shadows athwart the glittering waves. There were life and motion everywhere, and yet everywhere there was a hush, a stealthy sort of stillness, that was suggestive of secret enterprises of bravos and of lovers; and clad half in moonbeams and half in mysterious shadows, the grim old mansions of the republic seemed to have an expression about them of having an eye out for just such enterprises as these. At that same moment music came stealing over the waters—Venice was complete.
Charles-Lewis, Baron de Pollnitz, The Memoirs of Charles-Lewis, Baron de Pollnitz, 1737-1739
were I to choose any City in Italy to live in, 'twould certainly be this, where People enjoy entire Liberty, provided they don't meddle with the State and its Government, which after all too, I don't think a Foreigner has much to do with. Here one is in the Center of civil Pleasures and Debauchery. God is as exemplarily favored here as in any place whatsoever. Few Nations observe the externals of Religion better than the Italians in general and the Venetians in particular, of whom it may be said that they spend one half of their time in committing sin, and the other half in begging God's pardon.