My daughter and I arrived in Venice in late afternoon. We quickly checked into our hotel and then set out to see Her as the chilly dusk approached. A quick right out the hotel door brought us to our first canal, and we were instantly immersed in Her charm. I had forgotten the colorful buildings and the large number of bridges on the interior canals. From some vantage points we could see four or five bridges over canals angling off of each other.
Much of Venice is very intimate – narrow passages that wind and turn so that your distance sight is blocked. This focuses your attention on the immediate surroundings – the shrines, graffiti, and doorknobs. Reach a canal and your horizon broadens, especially if there is a sidewalk on one or both sides.
Or pop through a narrow walkway to a small plaza and find a vegetable market still open. Maybe it was because evening was approaching that people walked leisurely, looking in shop windows and greeting friends. The guidebooks all say “don’t be afraid to wander because you’re on an island and can’t really get lost.” It’s true. While we used a new map to find Piazza San Marco, we also knew it was unlikely that we’d make our way back the same way, and it didn’t matter. This is a city for spontaneous decisions and meandering.
As night fell, the interior lights of the shops provided a better view of the activity within. This is a city of small businesses, some of them ancient. One tiny shop was full of old maps and books with the white-haired proprietor sitting at the back, reading an old manuscript.
Nearby another made purses and bags. Through the window, we watched a clerk talking with a client about bag styles. She sat next to a counter containing rolls of leather. What was in the boxes to the right? Perhaps buckles, handles and other hardware? Colorful swatches hung near the back of the shop. I could almost smell the leather.
A bakery shop window displayed large round and cross-shaped loaves of bread and lovely little white birds made of meringue. I wonder if these were the original inspiration for the garish pink and yellow peeps we see at Easter. Another window displayed marzipan shaped into strawberries, bananas, melons and other wondrous things.
By now we were getting cold and hungry. It was time to stop in one of the small restaurants whose interiors looked so cozy and warm. We ordered antipasto (prosciutto and melon) and first course (pasta), deciding against the rest of the typical Italian meal.
We noticed the pasta wasn’t drowned in sauce as you find in the US. And the lasagna tasted almost cream based, not tomato – really different and so delicious. While we fondly recalled eating prosciutto daily when we were here in 2015, we now had a higher standard for comparison – the Jamón Ibérico from our Spain trip last year. Exposure brings knowledge and changes standards. It’s one hazard of travel.
When we left the restaurant, it was very dark, and the lights shining on the facades of buildings and the wide vista of the Piazza San Marco created an imposing view. Here, in these big spaces, Venice displayed Her architectural jewels.
After savoring the Piazza, we decided to take the vaporetto back to the hotel to enjoy the perspective from the vantage point of the water bus. Lights from the buildings danced on the water, creating upside-down scenes undulating in the wake of other boats. Shadowy figures sat on steps leading down to the Canal. A pair of hands appeared to support a building as they rose out of the canal.
Was there a love story behind the multi-level building that was completely dark except for the upper room with the half-drawn red drapes? If not, we can always create one in our minds.
A gondolier pushed his vessel out in front of the water taxi. Beyond him we could see people standing on and waving from the Rialto Bridge. Did we seem as romantic to them as they did to us? Ah, Venice by night. Eye candy.
For another essay from this trip to Venice, see:
To see my Venice essays from a trip in 2015, see:
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