The train approaches the coast and my senses stir and my instincts are alerted that I’m near my city by the sea, Venice, “La Serenissima”. Somehow it’s mine, but like a lover, it’s never mine. And like a lover, I am always excited reuniting after a long time apart. I approach with a quickened heartbeat.
As the wooden boat carries me closer to its heart, I feel its pulse. Once my feet are on its small alleyways, I’m taken. I cannot lead, I can only follow. I have no control, the city swallows me, moves me. I’m helplessly swept into its tides. Not wanting to know where it is leading me, I follow my lover blindly to edges, turns, pauses, views, treasures – discovering its private places. I am completely exposed with no secrets from it. Just flowing, I feel more. I’m enveloped in its embrace, our breaths becoming one, our pulses rising and falling together.
Sometimes I hide behind my camera lens. Perhaps, it is shyness in the face of such beauty. Perhaps, it is a futile effort to capture a moment of ecstasy, an attempt to hold onto this feeling of rapture. But that’s just it! This feeling of being lost in Venice’s arms cannot be caught or captured, just as the city was never caught or captured. My lover cannot be contained, which is what I love about it. Re-visiting a photo does not convey its soul, its pulse, its magic. It must be experienced in person, with its saline breath on one’s skin.
My excitement quickens as I turn a corner and catch an incredible view, soon obscured by something else – a boat, a pedestrian. The next turn awards me with a forbidden peak into a palazzo, its Ottoman-inspired windows one minute revealing its mysterious interior, the next minute reflecting the sun in my eyes. Next I cross a perfect little bridge, empty and in solitude one minute, the next sharing it with a woman with and her groceries. These are mere glimpses into a complex soul.
The canals, the veins of the city, take visitors on boats into its heart. How many of them are aware of the great soul that they are entering? How many of them feel its pulse, learn its secrets, relinquish control to its gentle lead? How many will feel its mystery? How many will fall in love like I have and develop an insatiable craving for this mystical place? How many will keep coming back for more? How many will try to own this place (like so many in the past) and fail? How many will do the opposite and be scared off by Venice’s pleasures and passions, never to return for fear of losing themselves to the city? Oh, what they will miss! Yet, Venice will reveal itself - albeit slowly - its soul and treasures, to anyone who gives oneself up to it. A ready lover, this is the Casanova of cities. One moment in time, to be truly united with La Serenissima, is a pleasure not to be missed.
At times, my mind leads me to the fantasy of what it would be like to be with my lover permanently, married to this pleasure. Ah, but I know. I cannot hold onto this one. This lover is free, never to be caught, remember? I must be satisfied with my occasional rendezvous. I must always let it go for it belongs to no one, except perhaps to the great expanse of the sea.
I also want to mention some of my favorite blogs and sites about Venice:
Passionate Palate Tours - yes, some self-promotion here. If you need someone to arrange your trip to Venice - hotels, restaurants, museums, walking tours, etc.
Living Venice and Beyond - Nan gives us an insider's look at Venice and also has written a great book about Italy and Venice.The Olive Notes - this is not a blog from Venice, but Erin recently posted two wonderful pieces about her time at Carnevale in Venice.
Michelle's Mental Clutter - all about life in Venice by an expat
Palazzo Grassi - an historical palazzo with wonderful art exhibits
Venice Daily Photo - just what it says it is
Venice Daily Photo - just what it says it is
Venice From Beyond the Bridge - a blog with very interesting photos and stories about the city
Venice is, unfortunately, one of the most expensive cities in Italy to visit. With the weak dollar, it makes a trip there very difficult. However, if you can afford it and want to avoid the big crowds, I recommend going in the winter months - November, December, January. You will have to put up with sometimes very cold weather, "acqualta" or high water, and even snow, but it will be worth it. The last time I was there was in December and I packed my rubber boots in anticipation of the acqualta. Instead, there was snow and ice. The falling snow was like a blanket on the city, quieting it. I felt like I had the streets to myself at times. Yes, it was cold, but thankfully the stores sold cashmere socks (which I forgot to pack) that saved my feet and with wool scarves and gloves I was one very happy explorer. The cold also makes that afternoon espresso or hot chocolate taste even better. I found that traveling at that time brings priveleges you don't find when the city is full - like lots of attention in the restaurants (I had restaurant owners bringing me things to try because they had the time), good availability and better rates in hotels, no waiting lines at wine bars or at city attractions, and markets in which you could actually move freely. That is all just some food for thought for those of you that want a more intimate experience of La Serenissima.
Have a passionate Monday!