Yes, I know, it’s Thursday but I experienced a technological glitch yesterday. So here is Wednesday Wanderings … a day late ….
Our first visit to Venice was just a day trip. We took the ferry from the mainland at Tronchetto. As the boat slowly chugged its way across the murky blue-green waters of the Adriatic the haze of a hot morning in mid-September danced before our eyes. Then, almost like a mirage, the towers and spires of Venice rose into view, impaling the sky like spears. It seemed as if someone was slowly raising a curtain as she revealed herself to us – La Serenissima: one-time queen of the Adriatic.
We docked at Riva degli Schiavoni and emerged on the quay, blinking in the sunlight and feeling dwarfed by the majestic buildings. Across the Canale di San Marco we could see the islands of San Giorgio Maggiore and La Giudecca guarding the cabal like protective arms. It felt surreal to finally be in Venice after all the photos and postcards I had seen of it throughout my life. Like all first-time visitors, we did the sights:
We had to share all these places with hundreds of other tourists all intent on taking the perfect photo. It felt chaotic, and a bit suffocating. I felt that Venice was losing some of the lustre that I had attributed to it.
We walked away and queued up with the Venetians at a little hole-in-the-wall paninoteca (sandwich shop) with no seating space. So we headed to the side steps of Piazza San Marco and ate our delicious tramezzini in the square that Napoleon dubbed ‘the most elegant drawing room in Europe’. After dining like paupers, but feeling like princes, we decided we would leave the crowds behind us and lose ourselves in the warren of alleys, streets, canals and bridges that make up Venice. It was here that I fell completely under the spell of this water-bound city.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly what is most attractive about this place. Certainly, part of its charm lies in its slow decay. Every year, Venice is sinking back into the cold waters of the Adriatic from which it rose. Its buildings have been patched and re-patched, the sometimes mismatching colours giving the place a delightful character and quirky charm.
Here in the back streets, Venetians were going about their daily life in a place where every errand has to be done on foot or by boat.
It felt strangely liberating not to be surrounded by cars of any sort. We were lost, literally and figuratively and it was one of the best feelings ever – discovering hidden little gems, uncovering secrets, wandering and pondering; walking with the ghosts of yesteryear. Because here in the shaded pathways that are known by such romantic names as sotoportego and calle, you will never walk alone.
Almost reluctantly we found a quaint sign pointing us to the Rialto and soon we were back in the crowded, jostling streets.
But Venice had done her work well and the spell she laid on us did not wear off. It was love at first sight and, as we boarded the ferry while the first rays of sunset burnished the waters of the Venetian lagoon, we vowed we would be back soon.
Indeed, we kept our promise and returned just two days later, preferring the silent seduction of the alleyways of Venice to the more commercial Gardaland amusement park. Both of these visits were what I call ‘whirlwind visits’. I knew we had to return for a longer stay with enough time to savour the place and visit its monuments. A year and a half later, we were back. So I suppose it means I have more of Venice to share with you some time in the future.