First Impressions: A Girl in Venice

Venice without a camera in hand is a crime, I know. But that was the predicament yesterday for my first ever trip to Venezia. But I`m not worried. Yesterday was one of what I plan to be dozens of trips to this extraordinary city, seeing as it is a stone´s throw from Treviso. I calculated the travel time by train and it´s the equivalent of a subway ride from my apartment in Greenwich Village to my friend`s pad on 81st and Riverside…20 minutes. And train tickets are whopping 3 Euros round trip. Does it get any better?

Back to yesterday. I taught 2 English lessons in the morning but have a rather light afternoon on Mondays so my colleague Francesca decided it was the perfect opportunity to escape to Venice. To build some stamina for our afternoon of sightseeing, Francesca prepared what was, for Italian standards, a light lunch of pepperoncini stuffed with anchovies and capers and rigatoni con pomodoro. We washed it down with a bit of Soave and some caffe.

The late morning downpour had the potential to spoil the trip, as Venice in the rain means high tide and immediatly flooded streets. But what began as a gloomy Monday morning, blossomed into a magically foggy afternoon and it couldn`t have been a more perfect backdrop for Venezia. My first impression was one of complete awe. I did a slow 360 twirl with my eyes perched upward at the incredible balconies and green painted shutters above me, then became affixed with a small motor taxi that zipped in front of me, a gondola that glided behind me…and a water ambulance that hurried by my left.

Oh my god…I am really in Venice.

I had goose bumps for the next two hours as Francesca and I strolled about the misty Calle (narrow streets) and crossed bridge after bridge. We paused on the famous Rialto amidst a small group of camera-happy tourists. Instead of searching for photo ops I found a calm space on the bridge´s ledge and watched the silouttes of three gondaliers rowing in tandum slowing fade into the distance.

Next was Piazza San Marco. It humbled me. I experienced a rare moment of bliss when I stood right in the center of the nearly empty square surrounded by hundreds of glowing white lights. I closed my eyes as the bell tower chimed five times. Each time the hair on my neck rose slightly higher. When I opened my eyes I realized that I had a huge grin on my face…it stayed there the rest of the afternoon.

Francesca was full of funny anecdotes. I especially like the one she told me about the Chinese man last summer who set up a little lemonade-like stand in one of the campi (like a small piazza). But instead of beverages he was selling plastic bags of water from the canal…50 cents a bag. I just can`t imagine that going over as well along the Hudson River.

From campo to campo we went, window shopping in designer boutiques, and pointing out osterie that we would like to one day visit. One campo had a charming mercatino where vendors were closing sales on local delicacies. Another was milling with university students procrastinating their evening of term papers and dissertations. My favorite campo was quite vacant of people but filled instead with the sound of a single violinist. His notes rang out like the far cry of a wolf.

The afternoon slid into evening without notice, but as the bell tower struck six, my tiring legs knew it was time to say goodbye to Venezia…at least for now.