We woke up very early yesterday to catch the early train to Venice. It was a two hour ride that dropped us off in the center of the city. My initial impression of the city was crowded with tourists, expensive and commercial. That impression stayed with me all day.
We walked around for hours, literally. The streets are so narrow and with no cars, it’s easy to spend the whole day wandering around over bridges and through endless alleys. We watched the gondolas and the tourists and the pigeons. The place is really packed. Even on a Wednesday in the off-season you can barely move sometimes. There’s little to no Italian here, everything is english, french, german, russian, japanese. All the stores lining the walks are covered in “I Love Venezia” shirts and key chains and photographs. Of course the architecture is exquisite, if you don’t mind looking up all day or darting off into dead-end corridors to have a peak at the houses.
San Marco square is breathtaking. It’s enormous and really quite overwhelming. It cost 20 euros just for a regular coffee there. The line for the cathedral wrapped around the entire basilica but we waited in it anyway and of course, I felt it was well worth it. The mosaics inside are simply the most magnificent in the world and although the floor is sinking everywhere there’s still the feeling that the place has been well-maintained and is still shimmering gold as it always has.
We went into lots of churches, mainly just to give our feet a rest. There’s no space to sit down in Venice, most of the cafes and gelaterias and pizza shops and pastry shops are all standing at the counter. You have to fork over 50 euros to sit in a cafe and eat a sandwich. There are signs on the bridges asking you not to sit there and there aren’t any free benches or sidewalks or breezeways. The city is packed with tourists and one has the feeling of being one of the bulls you see running down a Spanish street just stuck in the crowds.
I was relieved to get out of there and come back to the mountains where the colors are so exquisite. No paint could ever color plaster as vividly as nature created colors here.
Venice may be old but there’s nothing untouched by man, even the water is filthy and flooded with boats and trash. Here the world is much older and the footprints of people are more respectful. Here there’s a ruin atop a hill or a villa peaking out from the forest. Here people live hand in hand with the natural world. In Venice people live the way they want in spite of the natural world.
I’m not saying it wasn’t beautiful. I’m just saying it wasn’t nurturing in a spiritual way. I imagine honeymooning in Venice as my worst nightmare. You can’t rest, there’s no way to connect to each other or the place, it’s a whirlwind city that requires you to keep moving now and think later. At least that’s how I felt.
When we got back at 8pm after a seriously long day of walking, I went to ride horses. The three Italian cowboys were riding in the arena and traded horses so I could have a go. It wasn’t like riding in the mountains but it was still fun. These guys know a lot more about Western riding than I do and it was interesting to try and learn something without being able to speak the same language. Plus they all were dressed in full Western attire as if it was a requirement for the sport. Imagine doing tight turns and sliding stops with Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. One of the guys had another Marremano but I didn’t get to ride it. I rode another Haflinger and a Quarter Horse.
Today we’re leaving for Umbria. We’re heading to Stefania’s uncle who lives his life after St.Francis. I won’t be able to blog about it there but after a few days with him we head to Milan and my journey ends there. I’m missing my children now and woke up last night not knowing where I was. Of course I realize that sometimes that can even happen at home.