After Rome, Florence, and Cinque Terre, I was tired. I was so ready to just relax and have a spritz – the traditional aperitif of Venice – and watch the boats drift up and down the river. And that, friends, is exactly what I did (but not before crying while crossing the bridge into Venice because I had made it before it sunk).
Venice let me decompress, see Lala, who lives nearby, and take a ton of pictures. And get lost. You’re probably thinking, “stop talking about getting lost. we already know you can’t follow maps or compasses or directions.” But there is no better – or easier – place I have found in the world to get lost than Venice. Everything requires crossing at least ten bridges, and Google Maps doesn’t work. Let that sink in. As a result, I almost walked into the river (once), walked in many, many circles, and crossed the same bridges multiple times hoping to find something that looked like anything familiar.
Walking through the back street of Venice was I could have ever dreamed – even windows lined with hanging laundry gave me goosebumps. From street musicians on the Rialto Bridge to gondoliers wearing striped shirts and funny little hats, it was almost like walking through a time capsule, if you can ignore the Hard Rock Café and selfie sticks.
One of my favorite places in Venice was Acqua Alta, a bookstore Lala took me to. The bookstore hugs the edge of the canal and keeps books in bathtubs and boats, perhaps for when it floods but probably just because it looks incredible. The smell of old book dust and the sound of the resident cat fills the air, and we had the luck of arriving the same time as a school field trip. Once you get past the stacks of books and bathtubs, there is a staircase made of stacked books that leads up to the canal. The view was beautiful, but I remembered too late that heights moderately terrify me, and I scuffled back down to the ground and claustrophobia-inducing store.
After parting from Lala and debating how much Illy coffee and limoncello my suitcase would hold, I took her vaporetto pass and went up and down the river for hours, perched at the front of the boat with my camera at the ready. Though the wind wasn’t exactly friendly with my hair, it was the best (and cheapest!) way to see Venice light up at night.
Whereas Cinque Terre was like a postcard, Venice was like a watercolor, with a new color palate around every bridge and turn of the river. I came home so inspired to paint everything I saw, from the striped shirts on the gondoliers to the watercolor-esque building facades. Though my Italian was only briefly put to use (evidently “io mangia una mela” isn’t easy to slip into everyday conversation), anywhere I can listen to Italians and street musicians and the wind pushing water against boats is just fine for me. ♦