[San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance. Photo is mine.]
Venice has been said to be the most romantic city in the world. I can think of one famous resident who certainly thought so, Giacomo Girolamo Casanova (b. 1725). He should know a thing or two about romance. He claimed to have slept with at least 136 women in the space of thirty-five years. To be fair, this number included aristocrats, prostitutes, courtesans and servants (and a few men). It should be mentioned that his twenty year old daughter was also on the list. Again, to be fair, this seems like a rather small number compared to the claims made by some members of rock bands (I have no data or sources to back up this statement, so don’t quote me).
But this is not about Casanova. This is about my thoughts and feelings regarding this phenomenal city. I am not in any way claiming to be an expert…far from it. I am spending a mere four nights here before an Adriatic cruise. The city has a magnetism that is almost palpable. But, even considering the briefest of visits, I can sense why some people come here and stay. The crime writer Donna Leon visited Venice in 1993 and basically never left. (Nothing new about this sort of thing. I know of people, life-long residents of Manhattan, who would never dream of traveling below 23rd St.).
It’s that kind of place.
I love history and I love architecture so I’m kind of in my own bit of heaven here. The narrow streets (lanes) have window sills of marble that have been polished as smooth as a super-model’s air brushed skin from centuries of walkers and people just sitting and resting. The cobblestone streets are murder on ones rolling luggage. The churches are old and the crenellations are many. You squint into the sun to view a saint or an important Venetian of old.
In St. Mark’s Piazza, the sun is trapped by the Basilica of San Marco, and three buildings of precise Corinthian columns (maybe the other buildings had other orders, but I was seeking shade and a glass of Aqua Frizzante) so the other side of the piazza will have to wait for another visit). Besides, Mariam and I had a nice table near the ristorante that had a small band. I had to listen to the entire soundtrack of The Sound of Music. As we left, they played Funiculi Funicula, the only Italian piece I could identify.
Of course we took a short gondola ride. Once we were away from the lagoon, we passed through quiet narrow waterways, brushing against other boats. If you are camera-ready, you would get a fine shot of an even narrower canal. We passed under low bridges and along walls crusted with barnacles, kelp and other unmentionable green things growing and marking the usual water level.
[One of the many delights seen from our gondola. This photo is mine. It was edited with several iPhone filters to enhance the melancholy nature of many of the hidden gems.]
[The famous (some would say infamous) Bridge of Sighs. It connects the Courts (Left) with the old prison (Right). Hence the ‘Sighs’ moniker. I know I would more than sigh if I was led in chains across this bridge. Photo is mine.]
Soon we were sipping cool liquids in the great piazza once more. Music was in the air. The sun was dipping west and we began our walk back to our hotel, The Hotel La Fenice et des Artistes.
But we weren’t really done yet. We stopped at a charming, cozy and very small shop where Mariam bought a hat.
She wore it back to our rooms. For a short while she was my Audrey Hepburn of the afternoon.