It’s a happening ruin, in transit so to speak. The crumbling plaster, exposed brickwork, flaking paint, bolts with brackets holding walls together, buildings at crazy angles, cables hanging from nothing going nowhere, streets so narrow at times you have to turn sideways to pass by other couples; the unevenness of the cobbles straining your legs.
Most visitors don’t realise that the houses aren’t built like in Australia. There is a central structure and everything lays in on that, including the walls, that aren’t solid fixed structures as you might expect.
It’s a nightmare. The population is in decline; people don’t want to live there and who can blame them. Modern living has almost bypassed this place. The gondolier has found a client, a French couple with a pram and a group of Americans quickly follow in the second craft. They both choose the 100 euros cheap ride as distinct from the 150 euros grand tour. I ponder whether or not they accept cheques, my sense of humour not having diminished one iota.
Our cafe window is adorned with African violets and imitation roses plus purple fake flowers set in crystals. A scallop bottomed red curtain swings above us caressed by the zephyr that drifts though the window, its colour matched by the shop across the way selling Ferrari merchandise.
Our waitress is fluent in at least three languages and the couple next to us turn out to be Australian so, for a short time on our trip, language is not a problem. They’re from Sydney, an affable pair whose children are being minded by their grandparents. They’d seen an Emirates special on TV and taken a punt, picking up a $1,200 airfare. He’s a civil engineer and his wife always wanted to come back to Italy, last seen 20 years ago.
We have been in Venezia for over 4 hours and still haven’t reached the Piazza San Marco, deliberately strolling into courtyards, blind alleys and back streets en route. We’ve managed the Ponte de Rialto and noticed the crowd visibly thicken so we stay with the crush, the number of shops also increasing to the point where that’s all there is until suddenly, we’re there.
Some hyped places are a bit of a let down. All the pre-publicity drains the excitement of seeing a major attraction for the first time. Not so here, its magnificence is overwhelming, its manner grand, its opulence dazzling.
I’m fascinated by the church. Layer upon layer of visible history taunts your eyes. Here a Roman mosaic, there some Renaissance work, elsewhere some Romanesque statues shoved into the walls. It’s like someone found all these bits of European history and put them all in one place in random order.
Overall its Byzantine influence is dominant though, with the spectacular wall mosaics and the four bronze horses outside that came from the Hippodrome (in then Constantinople) where it all started. Actually, the horses are only copies.
I wonder how many are aware while wandering San Marco that the two huge columns that attract your gaze in the square have a partner sitting at the bottom of the adjacent canal (it got off the boat in the wrong place) or that the clock tower is a reconstruction after the 14th century version (modified in the 16th) collapsed in 1902?
Or if they are aware that the statue I’m sitting beside in the picture is a porphyry one of the first Roman Tetrarchy, stolen from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, and now embedded in an external wall of the Basilica.
Elsewhere Rosemarie is off shopping. We’d checked out paintings earlier but now we’re plunging into every glass shop available, and there are many. She likes many items but ultimately buys nothing. Many, I have to agree, are stunningly beautiful, their colours flowing through the glass like shattered rainbows and the ones shaped like birds I thought were really special.
We commenced our return journey towards the station after sunset and got lost, heading towards the Arsenale and still without a map before we began asking people directions.
That’s when we came to the main route whose cafes and tourist shops are never ending. When we reach the station we duck up a side alley to a shop selling paintings that we had visited earlier.
After some time Rosemarie decides on two and I negotiate a cheaper price just before the shop closes, satisfied that for at least once in Venice we didn’t get ripped off.
The only downer for the day was that my camera isn’t working and our current landlord offered us his for which I was grateful. I still take picture, many picture…..
Do you have a similar opinion to Ian?
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