I have always wanted to travel to Italy, specifically Pompeii and Venice. I know. It makes no sense, but there you are. For different reasons, both places drew me. So when I agreed to plan the family trip to Italy, the stipulation was that we include Pompeii and Venice.
Pompeii was everything I thought it would be. Without getting all mystical, let me just say that I swore I could hear old whispers as we stepped back and down into time. Whether because of the renovation or because of the place and its terrible demise, I felt as if the spirit of it had been trapped within those ancient stone walls to leak out like a badly sealed container.
And then there is Venice. I'm sitting on a balcony over the Canneregio Canal listening to the neighborhood settle towards evening and watching the gold of the setting sun wash down the pinks and oranges and terracottas of the tattered and peeling buildings across the way. And all I can think is why didn't I come here before? Why do I have to leave?
I know. It's been written every way but haiku (and if given the chance, I'd do one) about the romance and timeless beauty of Venice. Painters have struggled for centuries to capture that warm light, that peculiarly intense blue of the water, the erotic lushness of flowers and people and architecture. There is no way I can do better.
But I can report that every one of them was right, and I didn't really appreciate it until I sat on this balcony. I'd hoped it was so. I'd hoped that I could have a special experience in a city I've always held in my heart. I didn't realize it would be in a tiny caffe called the Leon d'Oro, which was run by an elderly couple who cooked your food the way their families had for centuries, right in front of your eyes, and made friends without knowing a word of English. I didn't know that one boat ride up the Grand Canal would steal my heart so completely that I felt melancholy even taking pictures, because I knew I would leave.
I'd heard that Venice was an unapologetic, overpainted old courtesan who knew exactly what she was and was perfectly happy with it. But until you see her colors and are seduced by her whimsy, you just don't understand.
I do now. I get it completely. I just wish it hadn't happened as I'm about ready to leave….