I’ve found my first Italian love. It is Venezia. With a dwindling population of only 60,000, we could have missed this island off the northeast coast of Italy. But, thank goodness we chose to spend 3 days there. While in Rome, (story to come later) my wish in the Trevi fountain was to see Italy again someday, and now as I begin reminiscing, I would have to specify Venezia.
If Sicily is being kicked by the toe of the boot, Venice is the back of her thigh. Pardon my somewhat risqué description here, but the back of a woman’s thigh can be a very sensual part of the body and that was my first impression of this city. It is sensual in that it awakens all of your senses. The beauty can only be captured in small snapshots of the many canals, gondolas, window boxes filled with flowers and laundry hanging above your head.
The air is filled with the scent of caffè, pastries and the sea, as you walk over one of the oldest bridges that spans the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge.
Even getting an “Americana” cup of coffee was gentle and pleasing as you stood at the counter elbow to elbow with other patrons, drinking your coffee in a relaxed atmosphere. No drive-thru’s. No styrofoam cups. Mornings seemed easier, friendlier and much less hectic.
The patrons of our morning caffè stop all seemed to know each other. The pictures on the wall of parties, karaoke nights, soccer tournaments and family gatherings told the sweet story of community.
When was the last time you drank your coffee while reading the morning paper?
On one morning we watched as a couple walked with their daughter to school. She was riding her bicycle with training wheels.
I thought “Can I be trained at 54 to take life slower, gentler and enjoy the people and pets who fill my life?”
The shops were pet and pigeon friendly. No shoeing out the pigeons as they wandered in off the street and this very happy and friendly little puppy had to be leashed by its owner to uscita the shop. He had wandered in twice while unleashed to greet and share his love with all patrons, including two foreigners from the US.
There were cell phones, but mostly being used by tourists. I never once saw an iPad or laptop in a coffee shop, only people talking face to face. And, might I add here that Italians seem so happy. Their language is beautiful with lots of animation and inflection and laughter echoes through the maze of streets.
Your feet are greeted daily by the feel of ancient cobblestone streets that either strengthen your ankles or you learn a new version of the twist. Regardless, there is dancing in the streets just by the sheer demands of getting from one place to another. There are no cars in Venice. Water taxis, gondolas, vaporettos and your feet are the only modes of transportation and while that may be tiring for those of us who are used to our own personal cars; it was romantic and friendly in nature to keep step with locals who were in constant touch with their friends and neighbors. Their pace seems to be set on a sun dial where shadows stretch toward moonlight one bell ringing at a time.
The slow pace of Venice seems to be kept in tune with the bells that chime from the Campanile in San Marco Square as well as the many church bells that remind you hourly of your immortality. To me, they seem to say with each ringing, “another hour of your life has passed, enjoy the next one more than the last!” I loved the church bells.
My travel tip for seeing this very romantic city is to get off the beaten path, immerse yourself into the culture with the locals and don’t fret over getting lost. Being lost in Venezia was an everyday occurrence for us with the maze of streets and canals, bridges and alleys; but, I’ve not visited a city yet, that I’d rather find myself lost in. Today, I am relaxing in the memory of my first Italian love. It will always be Venezia.