But there are graver reasons why the motor-boat should be viewed by the city fathers with suspicion. One is purely aesthetic, yet not the less weighty for that, since the prosperity of Venice in her decay resides in her romantic beauty and associations. The symbol of these is the gondola and gondolier, indivisible, and the only conditions under which they can be preserved are quietude and leisure. The motor-boat, which is always in a hurry and which as it multiplies will multiply hooters and whistles, must necessarily destroy the last vestige of Venetian calm. A second reason is that a small motor-boat makes a bigger wash than a crowded Grand Canal steamer, and this wash, continually increasing as the number of boats increases, must weaken and undermine the foundations of the houses on each side of the canals through which they pass. The action of water is irresistible. No natural law is sterner than that which decrees that restless water shall prevail.
Enjoyment of voyages up and down the Grand Canal is immensely increased by some knowledge of architecture; but that subject is so vast that in such a hors d’oeuvre to the Venetian banquet as the present book nothing of value can be said. Let it not be forgotten that Ruskin gave years of his life to the study. The most I can do is to name the architects of the most famous of the palaces and draw the reader’s attention to the frequency with which the lovely Ducal gallery pattern recurs, like a theme in a fugue, until one comes to think the symbol of the city not the winged lion but a row of Gothic curved and pointed arches surmounted by circles containing equilateral crosses. The greatest names in Venetian architecture are Polifilo, who wrote the Hypnerotomachia, the two Bons, Rizzo, Sansovino, the Lombardis, Scarpagnino, Leopardi, Palladio, Sammicheli, and Longhena.
In the following notes I have tried to mention the place of practically every rio and every calle so that the identification of the buildings may be the more simple. The names of the palaces usually given are those by which the Venetians know them; but many, if not more, have changed ownership more than once since those names were fixed.
Although for the most part the palaces of the Grand Canal have declined from their original status as the homes of the nobility and aristocracy and are now hotels, antiquity stores, offices, and tenements, it not seldom happens that the modern representative of the great family retains the top floor for an annual Venetian sojourn, living for the rest of the year in the country.
I wish it could be made compulsory for the posts before the palaces to be repainted every year.