Across The Lagoon

Day 1. 21 June 2004

Wednesday. Arrived in Venice ahead of schedule, and, having traversed the plush new airport discovering that you can’t get trollies without a 1 Euro coin and wondering how many people arrive in Venice airport with only notes, retrieve my bags. I then discover that the Lonely Planet has lied to me. There is no train direct from the airport to the city. There is however, for 11 Euros a waterboat that takes me direct to San Marco.

Across the lagoon – there is a refreshing – and my welcome breeze. It is extremely hot – if overcast – every bit the promised 34 degrees and maybe more. I stand in the bow, under a canopy and watch Venice proper grow as we cross the lagoon – via ‘roads’ marked out clearly with wooden posts. Our routes take us through the picturesque isle of Murano, famous for it’s glass blowing. It looks to be a charming little island filled with little streets and less of the grand buildings and towers that I can see on further islands. I thought, in the planning stages for this trip, that I might take a valporetta out here. I think now that I have decided that I will.

Landing at St Mark’s Square it is a short walk with heavy bags through intense heat and a swarm of pigeons. Past the Basilica to the right, I take a left down a narrow ‘street’ before I reach the next canal. Then, another right down a passageway that reminds me very much of Edinburgh; but an Edinburgh at sea level. Another left turn onto a narrow canal, and I arrive at my hotel, Locanda Silva. My room is small, and the view consists of a peeling, rendered brick wall on the opposite side of another narrow passage. I unpack enough to find my washing kit and dive into a refreshing shower.

Heading out in to early-evening Venice on the longest night I return to the waterfront behind St Mark’s Square and look at some of the paintings on sale there along with some of the paintings on sale there along with some of the masks. Continuing on via narrow street after narrow street there is no shortage of shops selling masks and Murano glassware. Soon I meander back to the Grand Canal and to the Rialto Bridge, which really does put Oxford’s Bridge of Sighs to shame.

By now it is 7:30 and I am in need of some Venetian food. Both the Lonely Planet and a Waitrose food magazine recommend Naranzaria. Sadly though, more people have heard of it, and it is full. Content with the location – a quartered square on the edge of the Grand Canal – I move to it’s nearest neighbours a few doors down.

Bancogiro brings with it a waitress who draws me pictures by way of translation of the menu, and it is by way of this that I have boar cooked with chocolated followed by biscotti and a quarter litre of white wine. I sit, and I eat, and I watch the gondolas go by – some of them even singing!

I leave a tip at my table and stroll on round the Grand Canal, meandering throught the streets, over bridges and round corners, stopping to watch gondolas go by. In some streets that doubtless I shall never find again (although I think it me somewhere up near to the railway station) I find a shop selling gellato. By the time I leave with my strawberry ice cream the city is plunging fast into midsummer night.

After working my way backwards on myself and down a series of dead ends I finally find signs for Rialto and San Marco. I follow them, twisting and turning still down the strangest of ‘main’ streets and eventually return to the bridge, still thronging with people enjoying the lights reflected in the water.

I wander into a glass shop, watch part of a documentary of them working with glass, which is truly mesmerising to watch, as they pinch, and roll and twist the molten glass into different shapes. I buy a small blue glass pendent.

Moving on, I try on some masks in another shop and I find my head reasoning with the tug of my heart as to whether I should buy one.

Back in Piazzo San Marco, without mask, I stand outside the Café Florien listening to a musical performance; a small band of piano, bass, violin, and a clarinet cum accordion player, play classical hits. It bewitches the night. After a while I stroll round the corner, music still drifting on the air from other bars I sit for a while on the quayside watching the gondolas bucking on the waves, and lights rippling on the water.

Behind me the clock tower fo San Marco beats out the eleventh hour…

Day Two: Waterboats, Murano glass and orchestra supplements…