Impressions of Venice, Italy
Venice. The name stirs romantic thoughts of gondola rides steered by colorful gondoliers in striped shirts, singing "O Solo Mio". No other destination conjures such a vivid image of place at the mention of its name. A picture of a gondola with standing gondolier and an arched bridge in the background is iconic Venice. Every other destination wishes they were so lucky, as every one wishes they were in Venice!
I have a picture of Venice in my mind. While exploring the labyrinth of streets one afternoon I rounded a corner and came upon a curious sight. A stream of tourists flowed through the narrow 15th century street in front of me. It looked like a giant centipede moving over ancient arched bridges across narrow canals, pushing ever forward to Piazza San Marcos. bridges across narrow canals, pushing ever forward to Piazza San Marcos.
Venice - The Grande Dame
Five or six cruise ships a day disgorge thousands of such mindless foreigners to pursue this lemming-like quest. They set a fast pace, almost racing to check off the most famous destination in a city of famous destinations. I was advised to avoid them, to seek the winding untrod paths through a rarely visited Venice, a city of history and commerce and death.
Several times our paths crossed in my winding exploration of this most picturesque of cities. Armed with a good map and an unerring sense of direction, I walked miles to their blocks, and saw more in one glance than they saw on the whole journey. In the end we both reached the same destination. They, ready to validate their arrival by purchasing trinkets from the many stalls before returning to their ship. I, however, was spent, fulfilled and infused with the essence of the Grande Dame that is Venice.
Venice - The Seductress
Venice is like a beautiful but aging dowager. Around every corner are glimpses of the handsome courtesan she once was, with glimmers of her promised treasures where the sunlight caresses the warm marble. Venice is a seductress, hiding all but the most obvious charms to the casual glance, rewarding more diligent scrutiny with mere hints of the pleasures to be found in her arms. As I walked, I let Venice embrace me.
Masks! Gaudy, elaborate, grotesque; whole storefronts of colorful masks, displays spilling out the door, startling me in a face-to-face confrontation upon turning a corner. There are so many mask shops! I can only conclude that Venice is a city of concealment, or costume balls - maybe both - certainly a city where nothing is as it seems. The number of them is only exceeded by the many linen shops also lining the little alleys.
Venice - The Artisan
Lace! Delicate, silky and modestly hued, in all manner of shapes for arcane uses only your grandmother would remember. Each window display was more artful than the last, as intricate as the patterns and stitches of each piece, demanding more than a glance. I have no real interest in the seamstress’ art, and no use for all that stunning linen and lingerie, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I lingered at the storefronts in admiration, slowly shaking my head "no" at the hopeful proprietess while I soaked it all in. Venice is a city of artisans.