Wednesday, 22 May 2013


I've been to Venice many times in the last few years. But, stepping out of the Santa Lucia railway station on a lovely spring afternoon recently, the gently rippling Grand Canal before me, the sunshine making Venice shimmer in the haze, was for me like meeting up with a dear friend after a long absence; my heart skipped a beat at that first glimpse. I remembered how much I adore Venice. The sights and sounds and smells; a quiet beauty unlike any other European city I've been to.

The color of water in Venice is a dusky sea foam green – almost opaque yet translucent – reflecting sky, palazzos and gondolas. My research tells me the Dolomite's are nearby and the chalk runoff to the sea creates this effect. Plying the canals are all manner of boats, vaporettos, and of course gondolas, with tanned gondoliers, their muscles rippling impressively under white-and-blue striped shirts, maneuvering their way through.

Erwin’s colleague Cristina was taking a group of students from Conegliano to Venice (some for their first ever visit) to introduce them to her Venice. Erwin and I were along for the fun of it. I say her Venice, because she is a graduate of the University of Venice and is able to show the students a side of Venice not seen by the casual visitor. Her ability to navigate the bridges, narrow allies, and palazzos incredible, her stories spell binding, but above all her love for this city, contagious.

We started out as a large group 18+ but soon broke off into smaller and smaller groups; every one eager to explore and experience Venice for themselves. At first blush navigating Venice may seem daunting. But, once you discover that all roads/allies lead (eventually) to either San Marco or the Rialto or the Ferovia, it’s all good. There’s a saying that if you haven’t gotten lost in Venice you haven’t really been to Venice. Besides, you can always stop and ask for help, or look up at the corners of buildings at intersecting paths for names or directional arrows indicating one of the above mentioned places.

As I mentioned earlier we've seen “the sights” of Venice before, but that didn't stop us from seeing some of them again, or at least just walking by them. You know, just to make sure they weren't just part or a long forgotten dream.

Bridge of Sighs
San Marco

Along the way we stopped for coffee at Caffè Florian; an establishment that’s been around since 1721, and boasts the likes of Goethe, Dickens, Proust, and Byron, among others, as former patrons. The live music added to the ambiance. It was a perfect place to spend an afternoon.

On our way to meet up with the others for dinner we stopped in a church just as they were having evening mass. Erwin wrote about that experience which you can read about here. The delicious dinner consisted of pizza and pastas in the piazza near the Accademia in the early evening. I, along with a few other brave students enjoyed squid ink pasta. I've had it before and was looking forward to savouring this wonderful dish again.

Just as the sun began to set, Cristina led a few of us on a leisurely stroll through deserted allies, and over bridges spanning the calm canals. We stopped here and there for pictures and to gaze at the marvels in shop windows, laughing and chatting, enjoying the company, savoring the moment and the place.

We arrived at the Ferovia (train station) literally a minute and a half after the train we needed back to Conegliano pulled out. Oh well, next train is in another hour, no rush, may as well sit down on the steps in front of the station over-looking the Grand Canal and watch evening descend over this enchanting city by the sea.

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