Venice – my last stop in Italy. Bittersweet days. Italy has gotten under my skin and I dread seeing the end of my time in this
fantasy world, this Disneyland for adults. Still, Venice is the perfect finale.
I’m unprepared for the reality of the city despite the pictures I carry in my head.
The Grand Canal more than lives up to its name. I squeeze aboard the vaporetto that will take me to the Venice youth hostel on the island of Giudecca. Tourists, locals and freight – all float to their destinations. No cars here. We glide out onto the canal and my jaw drops as we pass one grand palazzo after another rising out of the water. Impossible to comprehend a whole city built on wooden pilings many centuries old.
People have lived in the marshes that are now Venice for 10,000 years. There was already an important city here when the reputed remains of St. Mark the Evangelist were spirited out of Alexandria, Egypt in 828 and placed in the new basilica named for him. His symbol, the winged lion, became the symbol of Venice, feared and respected throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. By 1400 Venice was the richest city in Europe, largely due to its near monopoly on trade with the Muslim world and the powerful navy that protected its holdings. It flaunted its wealth, building the elaborate public and religious buildings that proclaimed its status as an empire. La Serenissima’s wealthy citizens did the same. And now it is all mine to wonder at.
Though its piazzas and the churches are stunning, I find the real Venitian fantasy world as I get lost wandering its narrow streets. Off the main tourist drag, I have the city almost to myself, the loudest noise the lapping of water against ancient foundations.
Those coins I threw into the Trevi Fountain in Rome to ensure my return? They’d better work!!!
Next: Last stop – England