Venice is to Italy as Venus is to Earth.
It’s a completely different planet.
Like Venus, Venice’s orbit turns in the opposite direction of other planets.
It has been made sacred to the Gods and Goddesses, is the eternal muse for the eternal artist.
And no matter how often one may land there, trample all over it, buy it, eat it, ooh and ah over it, no one has ever really truly been to Venice.
Oh, Serenissima. Oh, Le Dominante.
There are aspects of Venice unknown even unto itself.
So ancient as to be completely forgotten by itself.
Such as the place where we stayed.
We dethroned from the Vaporetto (the crazy water bus of Venice built to transport one-hundred which regularly carries one-thousand trusting souls) at our chosen district of San Marco. We scrambled though a labyrinth of canals, bridges and narrow alleys for two hours, trying to decipher the directions offered on the website of our accommodations. Nothing made any sense.
And it is impossible to use Google Maps in Venice. If you turn on your Google Maps app while in Venice it quivers and deletes itself.
The so called “directions” turned out to be a fictional composition written for revenge and amusement by a resentful porter.
Our Residenza Ca’ San Marco was deviously hidden down one of ten-hundred-thousand unmarked dank alleys. There was a single dark door with no doorknob. A miniscule brass plaque reluctantly denoted the name of the establishment we were looking for.
We pushed a battered intercom button and after a pause an irritated voice told us to “Wait there!” After a few minutes the resentful porter (he of the un-useful directions) arrived and led us through the maze to what seemed to be a very lovely hotel. There we were admonished by the Concierge that this very lovely hotel was not for us, there would be no breakfast for us (this accompanied by some effective finger pointing) and then we were led back through a thunderstorm to the dank dark door and admitted into Hades.
And so then, in that moment, a great life lesson is learned.
My dearest friend and I blithely thought that we could trip merrily along through Italy, roam hither and yon, guided by whims and the various menu postings in restaurant windows that became the beloved touchstones of our travels.
How we rollicked through the Spaghettie allo Scoglio.
Repeating “Frutti de Mare” over and over while drinking wine.
I would show you plates of all these lovely dishes but strangely the food would vanish so rapidly I was never able to manage it.
But, beloved reader. It is not advisable to attempt to wander at will. Such thinking is how we found ourselves staying in a crypt so ancient that even the mold declares itself to be a protected artifact. Often. And loudly.
To quote Amy, our room was so tiny that we had to take turns changing our minds. We comfort ourselves by telling ourselves that at least we are miserable in Venice, which is an excellent place to be miserable.
How to get lost in Venice:
1. Arrive in Venice.
2. You are now lost.
Venice is the perfect place for the miserable Newfoundlander. It is built on pylons in a marsh and is slowly sinking.
We also managed to get ourselves “Pretty Woman’d” while in Venice. We wandered into a little dress shop and were immediately tailed by two security guards and two beautiful pouty sales girls who eyed us up and down as we fingered silky dresses and wondered aloud why there were no price tags in sight. (The answer is because if you have to ask the price you can’t afford to buy it.) As soon as we left they slammed the door behind us, and I swear, locked it.
We are going back as soon as Richard Gere agrees to come with us.
Setting foot in Saint Mark’s Square for the first time is very much like setting foot on another planet. You have to remind yourself to breathe. You lose your balance while your eyes and brain and heart fight over which way to look. You are jostled and tossed by hundreds of other souls having exactly the same experience.
The only consolation when faced with such beauty is to remember that in Canada we do public washrooms better than anywhere else. There is at least that.
The Italian bathrooms (the water closets, as they are called) are superior in that for the most part they are not gender designated.
Sometimes the bathroom consists of a hole in the floor with two foot rests on either side, and a sink with foot gears to operate the running water, rather as if you were driving a standard. Except you are just trying to wash your hands and feeling icky from having had to crouch over a black hole in the floor. There are bidets, toilets with covers, toilets without covers and bathrooms that demonstrate an extraordinary use of space. The Italian sensibility is profound when it comes to making the most of a small space. Give an enterprising Italian a tiny broom closet and she will install a toilet, a bidet, a peeing cherub and a window box of flowers balanced on a slab of marble so valuable that if you have the temerity to ask how much it costs she hits you with it.
It is constantly mesmerizing and entertaining to watch and wonder about the rules-of-the-road etiquette when instead of roads there are canals. At first I thought it was the traditional keep-right business, but then it seemed to be more like keep-right and keep-left, and finally I determined it is called “get out of the way when I am coming at you top speed in my boat because I will run you over.”
I spent a lot of my time in Venice searching for the mythical female Gondolier. There is a rumour that there is one, remarkable when you consider that the licensing of the Gondolier for centuries was passed down over generations from father to son only. Gondoliers have rigorous training and are considered an elite of the workforce of Venice.
Neither were there any women to be seen in the white jacketed army of Maitre d’s who work the Piazzo san Marco.
Venice is a saga and requires more than one chapter to describe. A centuries worth is not enough, as history has proven.
But yet ahead for Mrs. Kent: happier adventures in Venice, and Amy meets Pistachio.