It impacted me then, the first time I saw it. I was fifteen, traveling with my parents and siblings.
Of course you fall in love with Venice. I did it again, this July, when the glistening, blue-green canals welcomed me back with the warm embrace of the Italian summer.
I travel south, usually, when I go to Italy, back to my birthplace haunts in Naples and vicinity, to immerse myself in a past that won’t give me peace, but that, some nights, lulls me to sleep. But these nostalgic meanderings come with a price: the nerve-wrecking stress of interacting with my original family’s unpredictable moods, resentments, guilt trips, and tense hospitality.
Venice is a graceful stranger. I have no ties to its narrow calli, lapped by the gentle water of the lagoon, no heart-trending memories at every corner, every scent, every unfamiliar yet familiar face. Venice comes with no strings nor chains, just immense beauty to abandon your senses to, caressed by a light-hearted breeze, instead of the tumultuous winds of an unfinished past.
Hanging on to the rail, on the deck of a traghetto cruising at a comfortable speed on Venice’s ‘Main Street’, that is to say the majestic Canal Grande, I tremble with a simple joy, bursting from every pore of my skin, all my senses expanding to the max, eager to take it all in, to replenish the emptiness I often dwell with, when stagnant waters flood my soul. But the waters of Venice cannot ever be stagnant. They erupt with life ad continuum, as the entire world keeps returning to them, to love and poeticize.
Venice is a poem that mesmerizes you, softly rips away the burdens of your sad reality, and delivers the dream that you can carry away with you, when you leave its shores, and store in the secret place of all the lost happy moments. It will always be there for you.
Alive with cheerful visitors, the artisanal shops offering little treasures, like exquisite Murano jewelry, colorful gems to color your world; those stunning, mysterious Carnevale masks to hide behind when you pretend to be happy and thus become so. A mint granita at a no-pretenses gelateria, to tame the sizzling heat; a prosciutto sandwich sitting on a stone sidewalk, vibrating with the footsteps of Venetians from centuries ago.
Hail to Piazza S. Marco, where your Venetian dreams culminate. I’m overwhelmed but the spectacular beauty and the noble history, grateful to own a place in a world where such miracles exist. Beauty counts, people, do accept it. Beauty will fill you and make you beautiful, even if you deny it. Hail to beauty!
Oh, those gondole, how charming! How I begged my father to buy us a ride, those many years ago, when I was fifteen, in Venice, and dazed by it all. “Costa troppo”, he responded, way too expensive. And so it is today, when the steep price allows only the rich foreigners to indulge. And, truly, I have no desire to ride on an attractive but precarious boat, while the bored gondoliere collects tourist stories to laugh at with his friends, after his shift.
Give me Venice, please, give me oblivion, scorching sun, exaggerated Byzantine architecture, shady alleys, dreams fulfilled, even if for only one day.
Grazie, Venezia, you did your job.