It was mid November and there I was looking out at the most glorious sunset I have ever witnessed as I flew high above the shadowy Alps. I knew what was in store as I had been lucky enough to travel to the same place six months previously. But I could never have imagined just how hauntingly beautiful this place – with its ‘Aqua Alta’ and foggy canals could be nor how it would seal a place in my heart forever.
Of course Venezia is a city beyond compare, but I felt like an 18-year-old again on ascending the steps of the Metro and beholding the Church of the Madeleine in Paris. The excitement and wonder, the anticipation of spending a week in the company of strangers soon to be friends filled me with pure elation.
On the first night I wandered the little ally ways stopping often to snap a statue or a doorway, before I knew it that time of the evening known as passeggiata where everyone wanders the streets checking each other out and very soon it was time to dine alone! like Catherine Hepburn in ‘Summertime in Venice’ I found a spot in a little place and rather self consciously asked for a table for one. I could have wandered further after that but I knew what was ahead. There would be visits to galleries and lectures… getting some rest was key that first evening.
Early the next morning after a fitful sleep in an overpriced hotel near San Marco, in a room that had a window looking at some pipes and the and an office used by housekeeping. I decided that no matter how tired I was…now was the time to explore the streets of Venice as dawn was breaking as I knew I would have a busy schedule ahead of me that week,and in any event I would be based on another part of the island. So with my old runners and worn out lycra I wandered out into the foggy streets of Venice. Being a Sunday it was extra quiet and the only signs of life on San Marco were some street cleaners and a couple of professional looking photographers complete with tripods capturing long exposures of the Lagoon.
As I jogged (at a snail’s pace) around the streets of the San Marco side of the Island I found myself meeting very few people and that just added to the magic, transporting myself to a place long ago. The decaying Palazzos, the sound of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons adding to the drama, I wondered about former inhabitants, Merchants, Artists, Writers who through the centuries built and embellished this unique place.
She is the Shakespeare of cities – unchallenged incomparable and beyond envy.
John Addington Symonds, Sketches And Studies in Italy 1879
Later that morning and before I completely checked out of the little hotel I went wandering again and found myself taking another turn about the Piazza di San Marco. Whereupon one encounters the Palace of the Doges as Ruskin put it one of the two most perfect buildings in the world. However no time to visit it again it was soon time to haul not one but two suitcases over the Rialto in search of my accommodation for the week.
More on this and my time learning about the many facets of La Biennale in my next post.