Several of you who have found me on Facebook or were already FB friends have asked about the picture of me there. It is one of my favorites – not because of me, but because of the place it was taken and the good friend who captured the moment.
It is St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy and its infamous residents – the beautiful, though curious, pigeons. Behind me is St. Mark’s Basilica. Aah, take in the glory of the moment.
“If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you’ve imagined. Venice is – Venice is better!” – Fran Lebowitz
It is what happened next that causes me to laugh out loud every time I see it.
I’m not sure our gondolier knew what to make of us. We had debated whether or not to take a gondola ride and decided we couldn’t go to Venice and not experience one. Then, of course, we needed a photo of us doing that very thing, so we kept holding the camera out in front of us and squeezing closer together in order to get both of us and our gondolier. Forget that we’re passing the houses where Cassanova and Lord Byron lived and loved, and slicing through the water in a way that can only be done in this single watery city, we’re intent on capturing the moment via Kodak.
“In Venice, Tass’s echoes are no more, And silent rows the songless gondolier; Her palaces are crumbling to the shore, And music meets not always the ear.” – Lord Byron
And we took a few side trips out to islands like Burano, known for its colorful houses and hand tatted lace. We toured Murano and the hand blown glass museums.
“It is the city of mirrors, the city of mirages, at once solid and liquid, at once air and stone.” -Erica Jong
“Though there are some disagreeable things in Venice, there is nothing so disagreeable as the visitors.” – Henry James
I have heard it said that Venice is dirty and the canals full of trash. If you go during the high tourist season, you may find this to be true – not because of the Venetians but because of the tourists. However, if you visit during the off season – such as now – you will find pristine canals. The only piece of garbage that we saw was a single Mountain Dew bottle floating in one of the side canals. Perhaps we got lucky, but more than likely it was due to the fact that the city wasn’t being overwhelmed with buses of day trippers trying to squeeze in one more adventure. I would not advise seeing Venice that way. Venice isn’t a city to be looked at – it is one to be experienced through all of one’s senses. You should marinate in its impossibility to exist and absorb the beauty of its art and architecture through your pores.
Sit – be still. Hear the bells. Does the oldest bell in Venice – Marangona – ring for you? Have you ever seen architecture so brilliant – purest white dripping in arches and buildings of gold and silver? Yes, in places the plaster is peeling and the high water marks are visible on the pastel exteriors of many of the houses along the canals. But if you focus on this rather than the magnificence before you, you have missed the point of visiting Venice altogether.
Have you ever shopped streets where there are no cars and the windows are dressed with cardinals’ robes and feathery masks? Or in a fish market that has been operating for hundreds of years in the same way and same location? Or where shoes are made just for your foot? Or had a Bellini in the place it was created – Harry’s Bar?
“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liquers in one go.” – Truman Capote
Of course, you must stop at one of the kiosks in St. Mark’s Square and purchase a sack of bird seed to feed the pigeons. Just be ready for the assault as they come in for treats. But then, if you have a good friend to snap a photo of the moment, you can laugh about it for years to come.