I have a confession to make: until I visited Venice I had no idea it was so special!
Of course I had seen photos of the Rialto Bridge and I knew it had lots of canals, but I imagined it to be like most cities with special beautiful or historic parts: a small area of special interest to tourists, surrounded by boring suburbs. I could not have been more wrong!
It all started when I had to visit a nearby factory on business. I asked my contact there to book me a hotel so that I could be close by to start work first thing in the morning. He kindly obliged, gave me the address of the hotel and said someone would pick me up in the morning. So… I flew in to Marco Polo airport, went out to the taxi rank and gave the driver the piece of paper with the hotel address. After a short drive down a fairly nondescript road past offices and factories we arrived on a long bridge filled with the dual carriageway and a railway line. This still seemed pretty ordinary, though the vast expanse of lagoon just visible on either side perked me up somewhat. The taxi journey finished in a very ordinary piazza filled with taxis, trams and buses. Then I was somewhat surprised to be told the taxi couldn’t go any further and I would have to walk the last 150m. Odd, I thought.
It was on that short walk that I realised the true nature of Venice. There simply were no roads. Instead I found my way along pathways (you can’t really call them pavements) with a canal right alongside. The whole place was pedestrianised, not by the decree of the council but just because there was no other option. I was immediately bowled over, and the experience just got better and better from there on.
Having dropped my bags, I hurried outside and bought a town plan from the nearby bookstall. A quick look, and I identified an interesting looking place where a bridge went over a big canal so I thought I would try to make my way there. I really had no idea what I was doing or where I was going. Obviously I very quickly became lost but just kept ploughing on in what might have been roughly the right direction, passing through a maze of little “Don’t Look Now” passageways, never more than a few yards from a canal. This really was amazing, and far beyond my expectations. I was in my element.
Eventually I looked down one more short alleyway and there seemed to be a bigger space at the end of it. I followed the alley, and the sight I saw at the end exceeded everything that had gone before. I was standing beside the Grand Canal, with the Rialto Bridge right in front of me. You could have knocked me down with a gondolier’s oar! Or even a feather. From this moment I was able to be a proper Venice tourist if only for just a few hours.
On completion of my day of business the next day I returned home and immediately announced to my wife that we were going away for a few days in Venice. This time I would know what to expect and we would do it properly. Three days just whizzed by, we didn’t do it all, but the city left a memory that remains with me thirty years later.
I was probably incredibly naive. A philistine. Perhaps I was the only person in the world who didn’t know just how amazing Venice is. But just in case you’re the same as I was, let me tell you: you absolutely, certainly, positively, indupitably must go to Venice.
This article was kindly contributed by Michael Evans. Thank you, Michael.
12 Nov 2019, 11:04