Venetian Moments

The first time I stepped out of the train station in Venezia, I thought I’d fallen down a rabbit hole. Like stepping into a dream, it looked exactly as I had envisioned it. If possible, even more dreamlike.

First of all, there was a red and white pole in the forefront of my vision which looked like a candy cane on a Christmas tree. I wandered further into the cool winter sunlight. There were tiny bridges, Venetian windows, and flowerpots. The water was green and it swallowed the houses.

Some houses, or homes, had a back door opening straight into the canal and there were boats parked in front. Looking more closely, I noticed that most boats were loosely tied to wooden poles with rope. I had to wonder if they ever drifted away. Beauty seemed to be more important than functionality and I marveled at how things were prioritized in the opposite order in my home country.

Near the edge of the island, there was a chilly fog from the sea, and it seemed to reach right into my bones. As I tightened my scarf, I imagined historical scenes while passing from narrow street to another. Every now and then, a piazza would open up the view. I could point my camera anywhere and always come away with a beautiful shot.

My Italian friend took me to her grandmother’s for lunch. My friend’s grandmother was 90 years old, and though she lived in Venice, of all places, she had never spoken to a foreigner before! But she liked me, and with heartfelt friendliness and hospitality, she babbled away in Italian while showing me around her flat. And I responded as best I could. Her apartment was very posh and the walls were full of paintings.

The lunch was a baffling Italian affair, where you eat the dishes in a precise order, each plate separately, and you try not to act surprised at how much it differs from what you thought Italian eating was, based on restaurant experiences. While you enjoy your delicious meal, you keep thinking, “The pasta isn’t served with the meat!”, “How many more courses will they serve?”, and “I hope I’m not eating this wrong!”

The second time I visited Venice, another Italian friend served as a tour guide for me. He told me that the narrow streets were designed to twirl and twist, only to end in a surprising drop into the water so that enemies would ride their horses into the canal. I don’t know if it was true, but why not? In Venice, I felt like I’d believe anything. He took me to drink espresso standing by a dark bar counter in a place I would never have ventured into alone, and I got to imagine being a local for a moment. Donna Leon’s novels sprung to mind.

There was a third time, too. It was summer, hot, and touristy. I couldn’t quite capture the same magic as I had during my first two visits. But I know that magic is still there, and there will be a fourth time.

58 replies on “Venetian Moments”

Lovely. I’m glad you got to have a proper Italian meal. It reminds me of the first time I was invited to amore’s father for lunch. It was never-ending, all sea food that I adore, and a fat branzino was not the last dish. My two times in Venice had something in common: they were short, I didn’t dare to buy or order a single thing, except a boat ride, and the city appeared as a theatre set, a Disneyland for adults, something that you wonder about afterwards: was it real or just a dream?

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Oh yes, those Italian meals… I had a couple others, after this one, but each time I’ve been very nervous and surprised! 😀 And delighted, I mean, Italians really know how to cook with flavor. As for Venice, it was inspiring (artistically), but I can’t imagine what it would be like to live there!

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What you say is very telling: “Beauty seemed to be more important than functionality and I marveled at how things were prioritized in the opposite order in my home country.” It seems that Italy is truly the only country in the world where such prioritizing actually works. And they are so proud of it too.

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Great piece with evocative photos. I’ve been to Italy many times but have not managed to get to Venice, I think partly from a fear it would be too touristy and not meet up to expectations. After reading this I think I will go!

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A second best to Venice is St Petersburg or Amsterdam. Both have charm and lots of water. Each time Venice is mentioned my friends warn me about tourists that go around insulting locals in bikinis and flaunt themselves in taking selfies with the camera stuck on a stick as to get a better picture.

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Lovely photos and writing, as always. Isn’t there something magical about cool afternoon suns, less crowds and the cold atmosphere? I ended up loving Vilnius for the same reasons when I visited in late October (minus temperatures already..) few years ago.
I have never been to Venice, in fact I’ve been avoiding it because I do not generally enjoy very touristy places..That Italian lunch sounds delicious. I think homemade lunches are just the best everywhere. 🙂

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Homemade food can be great, I agree! Though I can’t really cook myself, hahah! Venice in the winter was not touristy at all! Locals only. I remember seeing an art school and thinking it would be nice to study there… You should definitely visit Venice, it’s very unique!

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Like many other commenting here, the touristy nature of Venice put me off a little. Italians really do know how to cook well! How wonderful to see Venice through the eyes of a local. I also think that story of the winding lanes and drop offs sounds quite plausible for bygone times. Even if that wasn’t their original intention!

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I still don’t think of Venice as touristy, at all, so I’m a little surprised that seems to be everyone’s impression. I’m pretty sure it depends on whether you travel there off-season or during high season. It’s such a small place that when there are tourists, you can’t miss them.

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I’m glad to have found your blog. Travel, writing, and photography are exactly my speed. Keep sharing! I appreciate your like on my flash fiction. You’ve found my new site in its infancy, but I’m moving over loads of content including around 50 or so flash fiction stories and digital edits like the one you liked so I hope you’ll consider following. I’m also planning to adding travel blogging on my upcoming trips, so I’ll look to be inspired by yours as well. Thanks again. I look forward to reading of your travels!

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A fascinating post, and definitely magical. You describe the city’s character so well and your photos are wonderful. I might make it to Venice one day – after I’ve persuaded my obstinate husband, who really doesn’t fancy the idea!

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