Monday, March 18, 2013

Italy - A Day in Venice

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Close-up of architecture in Saint Mark's Square.
Friday, October 7

Viva la Venezia!

Andy and I caught the local bus into Venice. Amidst morning rush hour we followed the crowd up and over an arched bridge onto one of the many Venetian islands.

I was immediately smitten with the narrow alleys. Some emptied into the canal; others connected with another or emerged into a sunlit square. We wandered for two hours, guided by curiosity. Surprisingly, some passages are only 3-4 feet wide. I wondered whether the inhabitants craved sunlight. We were chilled after a while. We got a cappuccino to-go and cradled it in our hands near a sunlit canal. Later, raging hunger overwhelms us. We try the olive bread, packed with black or green olives - take your pick - (my favorite), pizza squares, and pastry.

Venice is sinking as noted by the leaning tower. No bike riding here.
Italians take pizza and pasta seriously. Pastacerrias line nearly every street – an exclusive store selling items for a pasta meal. After parting beaded “doorways”, reminiscent of 1960’s bohemian dens, I was nearly clubbed by two-foot high suspended garlic braids. Among other necessities for sale are: yard-long packages of “funghi” pasta (mushroom), several types of olives, tomatoes, and peperoni (sweet peppers). I’m awed. What must it be like to twirl 36” of noodle on a fork?

Gondoliers mostly remained docked; October was well past main tourist season. We declined their proposition. Even drivers donned navy wool coats with the typical banded straw hats. But oh, I loved the boats. Gondolas are sleek machines, their stern and bows pointing skyward, curving like a whale’s dorsal fin. The boats interior is lined in gold and red velvet. We watched the standing drivers maneuver through narrow waterways. A fist-shaped hook holds the oar’s neck, allowing easy removal for tight clearance.

Andy along main canal.
And yes, the city is sinking. Long 15th century columns rise up from splashing depths. Lower stairs are submerged in murky water. It was sad to see several church towers leaning, seeming like a builder’s blunder. To preserve historical Venice must be a monumental task.

I fell in love with the pedestrian aspect. To get around, whether as a tourist or local, one must walk or use waterways. There are water taxis. For commerce, canal boats supply the islands, then men offload goods onto handcarts for delivery to individual markets. Andy and I step aside when we hear the rumble-bump of handcarts as loads are dragged up stairs and over bridges. A walking delivery route is not for the faint of heart.

Shiny gondolas.
I wasn’t aware of it at first, until we spied kids playing soccer, or an 8-year-old running the streets alone, that Venice lacks greenery. Stone and cobbled alleys abound, but the only things growing are in flower pots hanging from windows. I wondered what it would be like to grow up amidst an old city without the hustle of automobiles, yet also without trees and parks.

Saint Mark's Square.
Venice has charm and character. Saint Mark’s Square, towers, ancient churches. It’s the little things that define a place for me. Venetians hang laundry, smartly double-clothes pinned on lines above the canals. Artists sit cross legged, engaged in sketching or painting; they are not surrounded by art for sale. And, above all, garlic permeates everything and most likely the pores of all Italians. There is no place like Venice.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the way to see Venice is by foot, you can wander there for hours and there is beauty around every corner.


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