Lost in Venice
My Florentine melancholy didn't last very long. I was sitting on the train to Venice and across the car was another girl, clearly a seasoned traveler. She munched on a bag of granola while she read out of a tattered paperback and leaned on her well-loved backpack. She was a girl after my own heart, and her name was Jen. It didn't take long before we were sharing stories of our different travels and we decided to explore Venice together.
Venice is a city of its own.
It's not quite the magical place of romance dreamed of, but neither is it far from what you imagine. Before anything else, Venice is a maze. Its twisting alleys follow no reason but their own, and getting hopelessly and completely lost is simply part of exploring this old-world city. Tucked-in cafes and curio shops hide where they will, busy markets disappear again in sudden silence as you turn another corner, roads stop without warning as canals cut them off, where men in gondolas plod along calling for passengers.
Being lost in Venice is a process of slow and satisfying discovery, but finding your way in Venice leads to incredible places.
The Rialto Bridge overflows with market vendors and trinket stands of colorful masks that shine when the light catches, shouting tour guides and stumbling tourists, and a never-ending flow of people while boats float along just below. In Saint Mark's Square the closely-packed streets burst open with a swell into the massive courtyard. By day it's filled with hawkers and wanderers and pigeons snatching crumbs; at night it empties out until nothing but the glow of lanterns and starlight are left.
For two days Jen and I explored Venice. We checked every alleyway, we peered into every shop window. We ate gelato and pizza and watched the sun light the bay on fire as it sank behind church towers and ocean waves.
We did not ride a gondola, because backpackers scrounging for cheap lodging aren't really gondola-clientele. We did watch them, however, as they drifted down the emerald canals and the gondoliers crooned to their passengers.
I didn't love Venice, but I was captivated by it.
It wasn't what I expected, but I wouldn't want it to be any different from what it is. Venice is its own, and that's worth something.