Friday, June 4, 2010

The love affair with Venice

La Serenissima

My partner and I have a love affair with Venice. For me, it is a love that has blossomed over time. I remember my first trip to Venice in 1989 as a 21 year old backpacker. I started in Egypt and worked my way across to Europe and to the United Kingdom. We had rushed to get to Italy after staying on Santorini in the Greek Islands. Boat, train, boat, train. Non-stop until we reached Rome and went to the Vatican for Easter Sunday with half a million others. Neither of us were of the Catholic faith but it was an amazing experience to see the Pope. And it was also a heartbreaking experience when we both realised we had been robbed getting there. Somewhere enroute to Rome and St Peters we had our cameras and Walkmans (yes that's a sign of the times, isn't it) stolen. I grabbed a cheap camera somewhere in Rome so we could continue recording our travels throughout Italy. But somehow we never got quite over the robbery. We said the right things (it's happened, accept it and move on) but in our hearts we were really disappointed by the experience. We traipsed through the countryside for two weeks and made our way to Venice. Ah Venice....

I still remember the day we stood on the Accademia Bridge on the Grand Canal looking across to Salute. That first time. It was a sight like no other. I remember the first time I stepped into St Marks Basilica and saw those beautiful, golden Byzantine mosaics. It was awesome. It was inspiring. It was magical. But unfortunately Venice was too expensive for a backpacker who was attempting to live off $40 a day. And at that stage in my life I was still learning about history, about art, about culture. I walked into the Accademia and rushed around, absolutely bored by the medieval works. If I saw another painting of Jesus and Mary, or St Sebastian, I was going to scream. But that changed over time.

Twenty one years later I'm planning my fourth visit to Venice. This time for a month. I'll still stand on the Accademia Bridge like I do every visit and gawk at the view. I'll go across the Rialto Bridge more times than I can count. I'll cross St Marks square time and time again. I'll go in and out of churches and galleries, having no problem whatsoever with the medieval artworks. I'll cross canals and take a million photos. But this time I'll absorb it.

In the 21 years since the first visit I've read countless books on Venice and Venetian history. I'll soak up the Italian culture and the wonderful food, wine and coffee we will no doubt encounter along the way. It will be a different trip to all the others though. This trip will be in memory of my mother who passed away in April. It will also be a healing trip. And we will work out a way to take something of hers with us. She always wanted to return to Europe...

And I'll blog about it here.

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