Monday, August 30, 2010
What Venice says to me
I couldn’t believe I was going to Venice. I kept saying the word in my head over and over: “Venice, Venice, Venice…”, but incredulity still held a firm grip over me. I’ve thought about traveling to exotic places for the longest time that it felt almost dreamlike to cruise through the City of Canals. I had high expectations, eagerly anticipating the moment when I’d be swept off my feet by the beauty around me. I was so ready to be overwhelmed by all the different elements that compose Venice that I was practically spitting poetry.
The truth however is far simpler and much less frilly. You don’t necessarily hear instrumental music as the waterbus, bus dell’acqua, navigates down the Grand Canal. You don’t exactly feel singled out from the rest of the people crammed in the ferry, vaporetto, trying to reach the other side of the city. And you don’t essentially absorb the heart, cuore, of Venice by clinking pictures at historical sights. I found myself fascinated by the perfectly “normal” feeling I had just standing in the City of Water. Where was the jolt of awe and amazement, I wondered. Why weren’t my knees getting weak at the sight of this Italian landscape?
Unwilling to be disheartened, I traveled deeper, to the Piazza San Marco, the principal square of Venice. Here, people, pigeons, shops and restaurant chairs coat all around. It was impressive, the antique ambiance pulsing through the historic structures surrounding the square. Yet, as I saw so many tourists crowd around the Palazzo Ducale and the Basilica di San Marco, I couldn’t help but to feel a pull to drift in other directions. I wanted to see what other people might overlook… I wanted to catch a glimpse of Venice’s true charm.
Weaving through the city’s aged corridors it wasn’t difficult to understand how easily one could get lost. And I don’t just mean this in a literal sense. Venice gives the impression of an everlasting labyrinth, where every corner instills curiosity, every passageway extends an invitation to explore further and every bridge emits a thrill of discovery. There is so much authentic beauty etched into the city itself that you can find it anywhere you turn, the churches, the balconies, the canals, the gardens, the gondolas, and even in those hungry pigeons that harass tourists.
It was then that I realized... you can get so drawn in by the quintessence surrounding you, but only if you’re willing to look beyond the surface, beyond the crowds, beyond the tourism. There, is where you’ll find the heart of Venice. The allure, the pull of appreciation, is like a subtle whisper, a slight breeze you may not be able to see but ever so slowly you feel it sway you. It brings a smile to your face and makes you falter when you know its time to leave.
In the end, I wasn’t disappointed. To witness a place where time has engraved its mark, and still continues to shape the buildings, the language and the people, is truly enchanting. Venice is one of a kind. And I am not immune to its charm. Taking one last look at this floating city, I could almost hear the words that made it unforgettable… sono uno spirito del vecchio mondo, Venice said to me. That same old-world spirit is what breathes life into the city. And I was genuinely delighted to revel in that fulfilling impression, even for a day.