You don’t so much arrive in Venice as you are born into it. My wife and I emerged from the darkness of the train station and suddenly we were surrounded by a sunlit watery world, part harmony, part chaos. It was a stunning scene, almost sensory overload, simultaneously breathtaking and heartbreaking; timeless and immediate; dreamy and real. Churches and great palaces made of stone and marble seemed to float on water. It was almost too much to comprehend…but we would try.
Venice is a city built on more than a hundred small islands within a lagoon. The islands are separated by canals and linked by more than 400 graceful bridges. The city is divided into six sestieri—individual neighborhoods with subtle yet distinct personalities. About 260,000 people live in Venice and on any given day, it seems there are at least twice as many tourists. Still, you can always turn a corner and find intimate campos (small neighborhood squares) and arteries of narrow cobbled streets flanking quiet canals. We gave up using a map or our phone’s GPS and just followed our hearts.
Scenes stand out: a café for mid-morning coffee. Gondoliers with striped shirts and straw hats singing around a liquid corner. An open window with laundry drying. A ruby spritz or a golden glass of Prosecco in in afternoon sun. Busy waiters with silver trays. Just when you think it can’t be any more marvelous, suddenly it is. Another savory dish, another whiff of the sea, another peal of bells. Almost too much, but never quite enough.
One evening, we chanced upon a concert in the baroque church of San Vidal: a chamber group presenting Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” We looked at each other and said, “Why not?” As the first notes of “Spring” flew from the violins, my eyes welled up with tears; they do again as I write this. Yes! Vivaldi in Venice.
Our hotel, the Palazzo Stern, was on the Grand Canal. At breakfast, we took our coffee and watched the city rouse itself yet again. Working barges removing trash; boats bringing brightly colored vegetables and fresh fish to small neighborhood markets. A police boat, siren blaring, flashes by, its wake smacking and splashing the hotel’s quay. Life is everywhere, either demanding our constant attention or lulling us to close our eyes for a moment and bask in the sun.
And Venice is food: yummy pastries, savory cicchetti (bite-size open-face sandwiches consumed at all hours of the day), delicious pastas, plates of grilled fish, risottos, black with squid ink. Regional wines, inexpensive and free of sulfates, sipped with friends who talk as much with their hands as with their voices. And laughter; there’s always laughter in Venice.
On the morning of our departure, there was a snafu at the train station; after all, travel is never perfect. We managed and moved on. I’ll send one more postcard next week. I hope you’re all safe and well. As much as we loved Venice, we miss you!
I’ll be right back.
PS: Please send clean laundry.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.net.