People repeatedly cautioned us that a couple of days in Venice would be more than sufficient. We spent five days in Venice and left wishing we had more.
To walk in Venice is truly enjoyable. What a contrast to the cities we had been visiting along our route through Italy. In Napoli, every step you take – whether crossing a street or walking along a sidewalk – carries with it a sense of possible doom. It could be a collision with a scooter, an overly aggressive taxi cab driver, or just a step into a freshly delivered pile of recycled dog food. There is no strolling in Napoli. In Rome, the scene is grand, and so are the crowds. In Florence it was the assault by the street vendors along with more scooters. In Lucca, beautiful narrow cobbled streets full of shops are shared with cars and no sidewalks. None of these distractions loom in Venice. There are no cars, no bicycles, and, best of all, NO SCOOTERS! You can walk out of your door without looking both ways. You can cross any intersection or bridge without fear of collision. You can stroll and enjoy the magnificent scenes that abound in every direction. It was really striking how much we noticed this lack of competition for our senses. There is a calm and sense of tranquility this creates that needs to be experienced to be understood. If you have seen the movie Big Fish , there is a scene where the main character comes across a town in the woods named Spreckels. The town has streets paved with grass, no exit route, and nobody wears shoes. The once famous poet that resides there has lost his entire muse upon his arrival to the town, since all of his desires had been satisfied beyond his own imagination. Venice could easily be the Spreckels of travel destinations in Italy.
During the day, we strolled through San Marcos Square, a scene almost too surreal to believe. Over a thousand years of history and architecture beautifully organized. There is a constant flight of gulls overhead as you stand in this immense Piazza lined with café after café, the Basilica and the Moors’ tower. There is a large opening to the original port that has been used for trade for hundreds of years. The water is now packed with Gondoliers rowing awestruck tourists towards the narrow canals. The fleets of Galleons and Napoleonic vessels are long gone, but their aura remains. Every view here is a painter’s inspiration and a romantic’s delight
A highlight of our whole trip thus far was the Venetian Opera we attended at La Fenice (The Phoenix). This is a magnificent theatre that has burned down and been rebuilt three times over its lifetime (hence the appropriate name), but still maintains its original 500 year old design and charisma. There were a total of 1,000 seats in a very compact and traditional design consisting of the floor gallery seating at stage level and surrounded by vertical seating in boxes of four people rising to the high ceiling. We splurged and sat in the Royal Box about mid-way up the wall directly centered to the stage. In front of the stage sat a full orchestra. The show was Mozart’s La Clemenza de Tito (the Clemency of Titus). The whole performance was magnificent. It was nearly three hours long and I was disappointed that it ended so soon. A day earlier, we had spent considerable time trying to convince Edie that she would enjoy an opera. Such persuasion will not be necessary again. She has already asked about other operas.
Our last day in Venice saw a high tide and lots of rain. The flood sirens rang through the city early in the morning. Portable elevated sidewalks that are stacked near low spots throughout the city were placed in their “usual” locations. As we walked to the train station, the shops adjacent the canal were flushing out the overflow of water from inside their stores. Furniture and wares were stacked systematically in a well-rehearsed dance with nature.
Leaving Venice on our way to Genoa, Susie and I both expressed our desire to return again in the near future. It is a city where time has stopped and reality moves aside to let your senses soak in this magnificent homage to man’s ability to create beauty and art.