Sunday, February 03, 2008
"This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty - this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism." Thomas Mann
Mann's words are magnificently true.
Venice is indeed half fairy tale, half tourist trap…and pigeons. Yes, yes, the glorious pigeons are doing well in Venice, even in the wintertime. They show no signs of concern about war, gas prices, economic downturn or the need to lose weight at the start of a new year. Instead, they clamor for a nice resting spot atop the shoulder of anyone who deigns to cross their living room – which happens to be a lovely piece of real estate known as St. Mark’s Square. And if you bring a treat for them, a few pieces of uneaten croissant from your breakfast, well, they will ride on your shoulder from one end to another. At least that’s what my personal pigeon, Fabio, did for me. (I cannot go into the reasons he was named Fabio, but I assure you, there are reasons.)
I explored Venice in January with my two BFFs. (Forgive me, but how many opportunities does a 40 something get to use that expression?) We three walked for hours each day without any real goal in mind. Sure, we wanted to visit St. Mark’s Basilica, feed scores of fat pigeons and have a Bellini at Harry’s Bar. (Note: this five-ounce frothy peach will cost you your entire Starbuck’s budget for a week and have you exclaiming “Euro-kidding me!” when you get the bill). Still, you must go and imbibe, especially if you are a writer and want to rub shoulders with the Hemingway legend. You can drink Folgers when you get back.
We left the rest of our walking to our sense of wanderlust. Okay, so this strategy gets you lost again and again. And again. We searched for the Rialto Market for a ridiculously long amount of time, asking directions of countless kind Venetians and one Frenchman who merely quipped, “Don’t you have a map?!”. So you can understand it when I tell you we felt like we’d hit the Holy Grail when we finally stumbled upon the not so lovely fish stench permeating the market.
But we were there. We found it. We walked through its maze of multi-colored produce stands and seafood. The way the merchants display the food makes you eat with your eyes. After finding Rialto Mercato, the city seemed to acknowledge our perseverance and directed us along its uncrowded, foggy streets with greater patience. (Or maybe we just stopped trying to find anything on purpose.) We found other great places to leave behind our Euros. We ate the best bruschetta and pasta aglio lio e peperoncino (spaghetti with olive oil and peppers). We discovered Limoncello. We saw the same painter twice in one day as he moved his easel from one part of the city to another presumably to take advantage of the light. We spent an hour inside a mask shop trying on tens of sublime and sexy masks. We came upon a French couple sharing a bottle of Veuve Clicquot atop a solitary bridge who proudly announced that they had just become engaged. And if that wasn’t romantic enough, we later watched a gondolier nearly miss hitting his handsome red-haired head on the underside of the bridge he was traversing because his gaze was on us. And then, as he popped up on the other side of said bridge, he watched us again. Ahhh, romance. That scene alone makes me want to write a romance novel. And maybe I could. (Didn’t someone once say those tomes are all about location, sex and adverbs?)
So women, go with your girlfriends. Men, escort your women. Let me be your blogeteering ambassador and say to you, Go feast on the city half fairy tale, half tourist trap. You will not regret it.
Still not convinced? Don’t have enough lettuce to fund your trip? Well, until then, allow me to share my photo album at http://www.karenharringtonbooks.com/Blog.php until you do have the opportunity. And don’t stop there. One of my favorite past-times is visiting www.venicedailyphoto.blogspot.com
Until next time, Ciao!
Karen Harrington is the author of JANEOLOGY, a spring 2008 release from Kunati Books.