The enigma that is Venice 

The enigma that is Venice 

Arriving in Venice late at night
How does one begin to describe the enigma that is Venice? I am still not quite sure what to make of it. My first impression, unceremoniously dropping off on a wet and cold landing dock and trudging along in the dark, was not that of a welcoming or warm city.
However, on exiting the hotel the following day, I gasped with pleasure at the sounds of an accordion and saw a gondola with the musician and gondolier appearing in the side canal. I was in Venice!
Instead of dark corridors, the city now revealed a labyrinth of narrow alleys, shops, trattorias, and canals with connecting bridges. Run-down, ancient buildings stood proudly along brightly colored, freshly painted structures. Between busy, narrow passages, quiet city squares suddenly appeared. The many small stores sold similar handicrafts, yet each bore its stamp. There was also the contradiction between the reality of mass China products and the actual quality of Venetian glassware, masks, etc.
The Rialto Bridge and all the activity on the river and moats left an indelible impression. Which other city relies on transport by water and manages to convey the romanticism of a bygone era? Even when the gondoliers were at ease, they contributed to the illusion of a wonder world. The city never failed to surprise.
 I did a double take when I stopped to take a photograph and realized that it was a house where Mozart once stayed. Strains of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons filled the air as we passed windows in a narrow lane. On our way to join the locals at a coffee shop near the Teatro la Fenice, we heard the sounds of an orchestra rehearsing. A romantic city indeed!
Romantic or not, we had to take a Covid test before we could embark on our cruise, so the manager at Hotel Ateneo set up an appointment, and we aimed for the testing venue on St. Mark’s square. I smiled as we circled through antique marble statues in a courtyard, remembering that the last Covid test I had was in Zanzibar, where we sat in plastic chairs outside in the dirt with chickens running around us. While waiting in line, we met several South Africans and had the good fortune to team up with two other couples who arranged a water taxi from their hotel to the port.
Karen and I took a tour of the three main islands in the Venetian lagoon on the second day of our stay. Our first stop was Murano, world-famous for its glass. This art form reached its peak during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. We watched two master artisans churning out fine horse figurines and vases decorated with delicate roses.

Next, we disembarked at Torcello at the Northern end of the lagoon, famous for its home-grown vegetables, fish restaurants, the old Byzantine-style Church of Santa Fosca, and the Cathedral or Basilica.  We wandered around, admired the old gravestones, and enjoyed a cup of robust coffee. Devil’s Bridge has no railings and has an exciting tale. The night before Christmas, the devil comes to dance on the Bridge, supposedly looking for souls promised by a witch who made a pact with him but dies and cannot fulfill the promise.

I could easily have spent a few hours at our final stop, Burano, famous for its brightly painted houses and beautiful lace work. Apparently, the colored homes were a welcome sign for fishermen as they returned home. A myriad of little stores along the canal runs through town, each more enticing than the next.


Tratorria, Venice, Italy


We had a choice of trattorias on our final night. Once again, the mysticism of Venice overwhelmed us as we explored the misty, wet alleys. We had a delicious dinner at Rosa Rossa Ristorante.




We met with our new South African friends early the following day and boarded a private water taxi at their hotel. It was a long walk to the drop-off point, but we finally registered at the booking-in desks.




We then transferred to another water shuttle that dropped us off at the MSC Sinfonia, docked in an industrial port outside the city. Finally, goodbye to Venice, and hello, cruise!

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