Venice: Part Two




YOU CAN'T HELP but stop: to look at the way the light bounces off canals and crumbling walls; to read the names on gleaming doorbells; to listen to the gondolas that, tied up for the night, crash quietly against the water and each other. Stopping too to turn back from another dead end and check the map - just one more time.
   It was early evening when I arrived in Venice and, before settling in with a much-needed spritz and glass of prosecco, I stopped on the Accademia Bridge, watching the city fall quiet under a pale violet sky.
In the morning there was a breakfast feast (I'm not embarrassed to admit I booked the Hotel Flora for its cake buffet) then more food, though just looking, at the Rialto Market. Wishing I had my own little cucina to take it all back to, I browsed pale pink rags of radicchio, artichokes (being carved up by a man sitting nearby) and octopuses that, though very much dead, seemed to crawl out from their icy bed.


From there I wandered to the tranquil streets of Cannaregio - the site of what was the first ghetto and the Jewish quarter. At the northern edge you can see the lagoon stretch out coolly to the snowy Alps, and in between, the actually quite grand-looking San Michele cemetery. When I saw a small boat carrying a coffin there it struck me how poignant it would be, at the end of it all, to drift away like that on the waves...
But for now there is coffee to be sipped and pastries to be eaten.
And for this, you do need to stop. With no paper cups 'to go' here, people pause for an espresso or wine in tiny tucked-away cafes and bars (something I particularly love about Venice), chatting al banco in between mouthfuls of a sandwich or something sweet. I did the same at popular All' Arco where I had a spritz and some cicchetti for a simple but satisfying lunch. A woman beside me ate a huge sandwich while feeding prosciutto to the baby strapped to her - maintaining her look of all-black Italian chic at the same time.
Afterwards, I managed to find Liberia Acqua Alta - a shop packed with books that lined walls and filled bathtubs and boats. On the balcony outside a huge pile formed steps for canal views.


At night I watched the sunset from St Mark's Square - special despite the hoards of tourists armed with tripods and selfie sticks - then wandered the streets for a quick dinner of pasta with pesto.


My last night in Venice would be in a hostel on Giudecca, so after making the most of the breakfast banquet (including some panna cotta) I set off for a day of island-hopping...
Burano, to the north, emerges from the distance like a mirage in the desert. And with its leaning bell tower and brightly-coloured houses, the island itself feels like an illusion.
The buildings (adhering to a government-ruled system about what colours can be used) bring out a sort of childish glee: they are paints on a palette waiting to be splattered. Cloudless and sun-bright, the sky looked as if it could have been painted too. As I strolled around I wondered if it's possible to be sad here. Probably, I realised, when hundreds of tourists decamp to take photo after photo of your windows and washing (obviously I had to join in too).
Nearby Torcello though was a calm haven (or would have been if not for Japanese tourists playing music on their phones) and has its own museum and cathedral. From the dock you can watch planes jet off silently from Marco Polo airport.
On Murano, known for its glass-making, I watched two men make mosaic style vases - rolling tiny coloured shards on to glowing bulbs like sprinkles on ice cream. Though a little over the top, Murano pieces (particularly a chandler and a mirror I saw) are impressive - and come with prices to match.
Back on the main island, my face hot from the Veneto sun, I wended my way through the streets, stopping for a coffee and frittelle, then again for a spritz and panino. Having boarded what I think was boat number nine of the day, I arrived on the island of Giudecca - just in time for a spectacular sunset. With the sky all soft pinks and blues, the water below rippled like silk. And on the horizon the sun was a darkly glowering wedge - the slice of orange in an Aperol spritz. Walking back along the waterfront, lampposts near and far lit up like birthday candles on a cake.

 
I'm not sure it's possible to have a good night's sleep in a hostel, but I made an early exit and was revived by the sight of the Venetian skyline, warmed to rose-gold in the morning light.
After stopping for a cappuccino and croissant, I visited the Peggy Guggenheim gallery - situated in what used to be the art-collector's home on the edge of the Grand Canal. There were interesting works by Picasso and Jackson Pollock on display, but it was a retrospective of a previously unheard of artist, Tancredi Parmeggiani, that stuck with me. Understandably captivated and inspired by Venice, he created abstract works that evoked the mist-filled city in winter...
It was a good thing I had a few hours before my flight that afternoon, as I was going round in circles trying to get to the bus station. But, eventually finding the yellow signs that direct you to main areas (though I'm convinced in the longest way possible), I emerged into familiar territory at Bacareto da Lele where I knew, clutching my last loose change, that I could get a liquid lunch for just sixty cents.
And amongst the small crowds of people, under the sun, I sat by the water sipping my tiny glass of red wine: looking, listening, stopping - one more time.





Comments

  1. Cool. I keep forgetting the point of coffee is to be enjoyed over conversation and cake. Not hurriedly washed down with a dry bagel before going to work. Must. Do. Better. Maybe go to Venice! Haha

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    Replies
    1. Haha. Well sometimes I suppose you need to throw it down your neck and it can be nice strolling around with coffee in your hand.

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