I’ve just spent seventy-two glorious hours in Venice. I made my way on Sunday, from Bologna, on a rapid speed train filled with passengers coming for Carnevale, the world famous pre Lent celebration. By this point, I felt pretty confident traveling by train, and now needed to find my way and figure out the Venetian means of transportation, il vaporetto, the boats that taxi people to and forth down the canels and channels.
My landlord for this leg, Marco, gave me instructions and soon enough, through the face painters and throngs outside the train station, I was securely wedged in a corner of #51 vaporetto, with an open-air view of this brand new vista. Nearly a half hour later and I was dropped off at the Giardini stop, in front of a beautiful public garden from which I could hear, and then see, children playing on swings. It was idyllic in contrast to the warnings I’d received about this first Sunday of Carnevale, “madness” I’d been told. I was escorted to my apartment – an “upgrade” from the studio I was to have had somewhere between the Rialto bridge and Fondamenta Nuove – in the quiet Venetian, non turista neighborhood of Castello, right off Via Garibaldi. More spacious than my little “abode” in Bologna, though as perfectly situated, near cafes, grocery stores and other community amenities. I had been graced, again. The only glitch was with the internet stick…and as the same thing happened in Bologna I wonder if I have a problem with my modem. I was able to have a connection long enough to let my family know I’d arrived. After a couple of hours of fiddling, and in the midst, my cell phone ran out of prepaid time, I read the Universe’s signs, dressed in rain gear, and headed in towards the thick of it, La Piazza San Marco.
The footbridges were packed with people coming and going, police supervising “traffic.” Dreary skies and light rain didn’t dampen spirits. Masked revelers and elaborately costumed men and women strutted around and posed against a backdrop of La Basilica San Marco and other piazza buildings. It was this photographer’s paradise. I took at least one hundred pictures, not realizing that this colourful promenade of characters would be the norm for these next ten days.
Sunday was about getting oriented, what to see, where to buy tickets, and where to eat, as I had decided to forgo cooking. I wanted to spend every minute soaking up the spirit and light of Venezia.
Monday I was at the vaporetto stop by 8:00 am to begin a day of gallery and museum visits that included L’Accademie, Peggy Guggenheim Collection of Modern Art, Museo Correr with its attached Bibilioteca Nazionale Marciana, and Museo Archeologico Nazionale, the Palazzo Ducale (the Doge’s Palace), the Basilica of San Marco including its Treasury, and a cathedral or two.
It had been another cold, dreary and by the time I headed “home,” rainy day. I was cold to the core, and in need of sustenance. I opened the half of sangiovese I’d carried from Bologna and sipped while I contemplated la cena mia. Spaghetti carbonera sounded like the perfect high carb meal to stoke the fires. A little café agreed to substitute this primo and a secondo of a simple and deliciously prepared veal cutlet, some more vino rosso and I was warm and full.
Across the table, I heard a young man from Germany say he was a winemaker and liked fish so what would the waiter suggest. I took a leap, said hello and we struck up a great conversation that lasted a couple of hours into another bar and another glass of wine. Hearing David talk about his passions, his girlfriend and wine, the love and respect for his parents and siblings, his dedication and discipline to his studies, and his vision of working in developing countries, I said that if I’d met his parents I would enjoy telling them they have much of which to be proud in having such a son. It was a lovely evening spent learning about this young man and his views on life. An experience I’m intent to repeat …to hear people’s stories about life.
Tuesday shone bright and sunny though with a fierce wind blowing from the north that grew more intense with each hour. Given the blue skies, I retook photos on the way to the Rialto Bridge where I found the produce and fish markets.
A quick traghetto (the cheaper version of a gondola) to the other side of the canal, so that I could make my way to catch the vaporetto to Murano, the island famous for its glass making. The Museo del Vetro featured an exhibition of glass, including world famous pieces, spanning the centuries from the first through to the current.
A hundred glass shops later and I found just the thing for some gifts. Another cathedral here and there, and then back to Venice to take a leisurely two tour of the Grand Canal as suggested by Rick Steves. More pictures, a few more postcards and gifts from the leather shop where the artisan crafts leather bound books and makes masks…it smelled good and then to barter a bit with the artist for the perfect memento of this leg of my journey – a mosaic mural made with Murano glass. I was thrilled with her acceptance of my offer.
I headed back to my apartment for the rest of the sangiovese and parmigiano, before packing.
Wednesday I awoke several times…always the case when I’m traveling and not quite sure of connection times. Again the wind blew fiercely across the water. I was on a vaporetto back to the train station at the crack of dawn, to begin a twelve hour trip back to Waldkirch. Venezia to Milano to Basel to Freiburg and then a commuter train to Waldkirch.
I’ll end this post with what I loved about Venice…
February light that I’d heard was spectacular…pearly opalescence on cathedral domes and red tile rooftops. Minute by minute shifting from visible to invisible.
A vista seen from water. Wind swept up in the glory of new…can this be true? Falling asleep to the gentle rocking. Memories of the season’s first sail.
A riot of silky hues, feathers and jewels. Gloved and masked. Beguiling eyes and gesture invite imagination, exploration, celebration.