I write to you now humbled by the goddess of Italy. So many of you know her that it may be futile to try to explain her brilliance. But I have my own sordid love affair to confess.
Venice. By day she is a young flirtation, teasing, beckoning you to her innocent picnic. You just want to know her. You want to frolic and bask with a Prosecco because she makes you feel so alive. Venice by night; she is a full-blown temptress–you cannot breathe without her. You will need a grappa and a starry night coddling the sultry canal.
I arrived in the Canal City by way of a train from Ljubljana to Villa Opicine, then a mountain tram to Trieste, then another train to Venice. I missed my stop at Trieste (on bad local advice, once again) and ended up stranded on an Italian mountainside, having to run down the mountain in 75 degree sunshine–in my parka and pack–to catch my train. Add it to my list of transportation fun.
But once you step from the train in Venice and board the Vaporetto bus (water bus), every stress you’ve ever known dances away into the sea air. You speed along the Grand Canal, whizzing past ancient palaces as the sun sets into the remnants of a great city state, and can’t seem to remember how you could ever be upset about anything.
Venice boasts many thoughtful sights worth seeing, but the city herself is really what you need to see. It’s hard to believe it’s a real place, but she’s a living breathing entity, pulsing with energy. Once a world sea power, Venice was at one point the wealthiest most glorious city in Europe. Today she survives on tourism. And lots of it. Stepping onto sunny, languid Italian soil was a shock coming from the subdued humility of Eastern Europe. For one, it was WARM. I nearly giggled as I finally shed my fleece leggings and down coat for bare legs and a tee shirt. But secondly, the streets are bursting with the start of high season.
I spent my days visiting some beautiful art, gilded palaces and grand churches, then relaxed in a canal side cafe to sip prosecco and watch the world saunter by. Nights in Venice are made for wandering. Wandering over tiny canal bridges, through tiny alleyways, it’s easy to lose yourself in its mystery. But why wouldn’t you want to? You can stick to the the touristy San Marco Square, which dances with starry-eyed tourists entranced by this romantic city. Dueling bands liven the square with Italian classics and catchy waltzes while gelaterias sell over-priced decadence. Or, you can follow the night as the narrow corridors twist and wind into a great maze of residential dwellings. Sometimes they spring open to a vibrant square where locals spill out onto the street with wine in hand.
Two days in Venice was in some ways plenty, but it many ways an eternity would not be enough.
And now, on to the land of art, learning and great minds: Florence!