By Don George
On a sun-washed autumn morning, my wife and I are sitting on the deck of our ship, savoring a leisurely breakfast of omelets, espresso, and fresh croissants. As we eat, elegant pastel facades slide slowly into view, terracotta and peach and plum shimmering on the surface of the lagoon. Slowly, serenely, the cityscape reveals itself, unfolding a grand expanse of rooftop, dome and campanile, and artful intricacies of balcony and bridge, column and cobblestone. Water taxis, trawlers, barges, and gondolas flow to and fro; and as we approach the terminal, deck hands ready ropes, captains steer smaller ships out of our path, and radios crackle. Suddenly the bell towers erupt into peals, welcoming us to Venice.
Venice! We spend an entire day exploring La Serenissima (The Most Serene, as the city is known): the ceaseless water traffic passing elegantly sculpted facades, the reflections of the patched pastel buildings rippling in endlessly lapping canals, the terracotta roof tiles, shadowy side streets, voluptuous bridges, and romantic terraces. We revel in a variety of Venetian moods, in a spectrum of Venetian lights — midmorning, noon, dusk, night — all of them glorious.
We take in the majestic Hotel Danieli and elegant St. Mark’s Square, the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and its alluring canal-level terrace in the Dorsoduro District, the workaday Rialto Fish Market near the Campo de la Becarie, and the mostly residential island of Giudecca, a peaceful and particularly rewarding off-the-beaten-path stop.
Our ship is docked in the city overnight, so after dinner I am able to indulge in the luxury of a nighttime stroll. I walk down a cobbled alley. The stones are irregular under my feet, and the buildings on either side are so close that I can touch both of them with my outstretched hands. The street is dark and dank. At an opening far ahead, I see the yellow glimmer of a streetlamp caught in a spectral fog. Time seems to stuff my nostrils and seep into my bones, to tower, crumbling, over me. My footsteps echo in the still night. For a moment — wild, suspended — I feel torn out of this century. My heart pounds in my ears. I have no idea what awaits, who I will meet, around the corner.
I am lost, and found, in the magic of Venice.