City of masks and water, of moonlight on canals collected.
What great wonders have thy channels seen?
What Popes, explorers, and artists by eternal time sequestered?
What miracles of light in Murano glass reflected?
The plane softly lands on the runway and I eagerly peer through the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of La Serenissima. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to see. Why did I imagine the airport being close to the city when none ever is? With tired limbs but an indomitable spirit we grab our bags and complete the customary immigration process. In an instant we’re on a bus heading towards the city, hearts fluttering, minds wandering. Will it still look the same as it did five years ago when we first arrived by train? Will we love it as much?
The door opens and we descend from our public transport. A familiar plaza stands in front of us, unchanged. Knowing precisely where to go we round a corner and are immediately blown away by the beauty and splendor of this city.
We keep reminding ourselves, as we stroll towards our apartment, that we’re not in a dream. The gondolas frolicking in the water, the masks and dresses in the small shops, the ancient bridges and lively architecture full of character and vigor, the water softly washing against the strand; it is all magical and surreal. I take a picture of my wife and daughter and remind myself how truly fortunate we are.
We meet our hosts in their apartment and settle down for the day. We’re eager to go and explore, as we customarily did in the past, but we know better; we’ve matured. Jet-lag is a nasty foe and the stress it places on the body makes one ill and miserable. Better play it safe and give in to Morpheus. Good night, room. Good night, moon.
I rise the next morning, prepare a hasty breakfast, and dash out towards La Accademia, Venice’s premier museum. The city has yet to shed its slumber and I find myself alone in the tiny corridors. I close my eyes for a moment and breathe in the atmosphere: the flowers playing out the last days of summer, the salt-heavy air droplets, the bread baked so tenderly by old, expert hands. No cars blaring. No fumes. This is Venice at its best, virginal and timeless, yet to be downtrodden by the masses; so full of character, like that old grandmother that refuses to let the new generation shine forth. All in due time, she says, all in due time…
My visit to the museum proves fortuitous. An unexpected exhibit by one of my favorites, Hieronymus Bosch, excites me to no end and I leave the museum more learned, in love with generations past and wondering how I missed this gem on our previous visit.
I greet Mylene and Daphne outside, both recently awaken and ready for some adventure. Today is our only full day in Venice, so we must plow forth. Our feet are tired, mummified by the transatlantic cross, but we garner what little energy we have and start walking.
An hour or so later we arrive at Piazza San Marco. Somehow, I know not why we find it even more beautiful than when we last visited. Memory has a tendency to marinate and become sweeter. As I step unto the plaza and see the campanile, grandiose and overwhelmingly large, I imagine Galileo standing there, gazing through his telescope of finely polished Murano glass. This is definitely the highlight of the day. I spin around and take in all the details I missed on our maiden voyage, including the imposing bronze horses from the conquest of Constantinople. We lap the area, employ our trusty camera to record some memories, and depart for our next destination with chests heaving, sighing, enamored, eager for more.
After some meandering and map gazing we reach La Scuola Grande di San Rocco, an amazing repository of masterpieces by Tintoretto. As we near the building we feel and hear the deep, melancholy tones of a cello played by a street musician. I think he’s playing Bach, or is it Boccherini? It is Baroque, darkly romantic and perfect for the occasion. Music and paintings, like muses dancing about in Botticelli’s Primavera. Mylene takes a picture of the performer and he smiles. We smile back, gracious for all that life has to offer, for all that Venice has to offer.
La Scuola turns out to be rather small, not disappointing in the least, but a bit somber, the atmosphere made too tenuous by the dying light of day.
I’m hungry. Mylene is hungry. Daphne is sleepy and probably tired from seeing too much too soon. How do you see the world through those tiny eyes my treasure? I once knew, but I forgot. Remind me little one, remind me.
We head home, bathe, and close out this perfect day in a gem of a restaurant by the name of Ai Tre Archi, where we taste the best antipasti imaginable and partake in a delectable lasagna, Italian through and through, soft and velvety, the perfect salty tone to the sweetness of the tiramisu that follows. As the end of the night draws nigh and the resultant flavors battle in my palate I look upon the setting sun and wish for the night to remain eternal. But that it won’t. Physics won’t allow it.
This last morning, rested and full of longing we dash out to catch the departing train. We leave you once more Venice, but you’ve further entrenched yourself in our collective hearts. I have a strange feeling that I will never set foot on you again, but you’re now a permanent part of my psyche. I am you and you are me. Within you, I feel whole. As Whitman said: “Whatever satisfies the soul is truth”.
We decided to revisit you so we could begin the journey in a city that felt familiar, since we now have a baby-daughter and must take measured steps. We did not want the wanderlust of a new city to obfuscate our singular purpose of making this trip enjoyable for her as well. It was a flawless decision.
Short, but oh so sweet.
We’re now headed down to Rome, the Eternal City. Hop on the train little Daphne. Mylene, darling, shall we?