There are places that have nothing to do with our ideas of home, family and affections. Places that nothing have in common with important moments of our lifes. And yet, sometimes some of this places steals our hearts and minds, until they become “places of body and mind” where you go to find something, and that something is often yourself.
Venice is my mental place. The lagoon city so magical and so distant. Venice can enchant you and give you the illusion that you can travel for all your life. Venice is the forbidden city that opens herself to the world. Here is where I’ve decided to seek refuge, last January, for two days. Two days all alone, two days of walking and photography, without stops if not just for food and sleep. Two days of solitude and love.
I’ve left Prato at 6.15 in the morning, one hour for the train from Bologna and at 10.20 I was in Venice.
You need to take a deep breath when you get out from the train station of Santa Lucia. Or at least, I always have to.
After ten minutes of walking I’m in Cannaregio, just outside the Ghetto. Here there’s the little hotel where I’ll spend the night. I warmly recommend to everyone to look for an hotel in the Ghetto neighborhood, it’s a quite place even in the busiest hours.
Check-in done and I’m already walking down the calle (which is the word that in Venice means “street”).
I try to avoid the enormous mass of people around me, but it’s not easy. At last, I find myself on the calle that will take all of us in San Marco Square.
Since I've left Corto (Corto Maltese's Venice Guide) in my backpack at the hotel, I've wandered around the city waiting for my room to be ready. Wandering in an unknown city could be beautiful or dreadful. Wandering in Venice is pure magic. I've found myself in campi (little squares or if you like, courtyard) where no noise was reaching me. As I said, magical.
I was in the Castello neighborhood, so I decided to take a look at the famous "Acqua Alta" bookshop. The entire world was there. I had the impression of being in San Marco Square. Anyway, the cats around the bookhop seemed not caring too much about the crowd.
I recommend one thing: in the back of the shop there’s a small stair made with books. From the top you’ll have a lovely view of the rio (small canal). But only if you’re lucky enough to get on the stairs.
My feet and the crowd lead my way to San Marco Square. I found less people that what I feared. The Basilica, surrounded by the Procuratie, has a very powerful charme, a magnificent building with no doubt.
Following my memories and the crowd, I found my way for the ferry. In Venice you can buy a pass even for just 24 hours. Visiting Venice without taking the ferry would be like going to Rome without visiting the Colosseo.
In my opinion, the Line 1 of the ferry is the best. A slow course from Roma Square to the Lido, the Venetians call this line “the peeing dog”.
The ferry leave’s me at five minutes by foot from my hotel. After three hours of sleep and a quick lunch (thanks life-saving Coop) I go back in the street. I’ve taken the ferry again, but this time I’ve taken the line 4.1 from Fondamenta Nuove. The ferryman tells me that it will take a long to go back to San Marco. I don’t mind, is my answer. I stand outside in the cold winter wind. I don’t mind the cold or the wind, I want to see the city at night.
Venice from the ferry is great, but Venice from the ferry when the sun goes down is pure dream.
If you’re afraid of walking alone in dark streets, Venice is not your place. I found myself completely alone in the Rialto Marketplace. Strangely, I wasn’t afraid. I’ve always considered myself as a “easy scary” person, but I’m also a “don't care” person, which means that I can find myself alone and without internet (phone battery 20 percent) in beautiful place, like the Rialto Marketplace. I have no pictures, but I assure you is was really something special.
Back in the hotel I’ve had some realx while planning the next day and felt asleep on the city map.
Backpack done and left in the luggage deposit of the hotel, I went out for a very long walk. With me my dear Sony and the Corto Maltese guide of Venice.
Advice: if you have enough luck and you find the back terrace of the ferry empty, have a seat here. You’ll have a wonderful view of the canal.
That morning I had that luck. The sun wasn’t shining on me but it wasn’t too cold.
My walk begun in San Marco, in front of the Hotel Danieli. From here I went to San Zaccaria and I did entered inside the church. I could not make any photos inside because of the mass, and it was a pity because the inside of the church is completely decorated with beautiful frescos and picture.
From here I’ve walked till the famous Bovolo stairs. Here I found other cats. Wandering in the city you’ll find lots of fat red cats. Refugees from Vicenza? Who knows…
Do I nedd to tell you that I have not walked the endless stairs of that architectural marvel? No, of course.
After a quick stop for breakfast in San Samuele, I went to La Fenice Theater. I took a time for shopping, actually, this is the only shopping I had in the weekend: a shopping bag with the theater crest.
From here I went back to San Marco Gardens and took the ferry back to Rialto. "The navel of the world?" Who cares! From here I will start my last walk, following Corto Maltese's guide.
Passing from the Carampane, walking through calli as wide as me (so not to wide) I found myself in Campo S. Giacomo dell'Orio. Here my head and my body started to ask for some food.
I found the small pizzeria "Al Garzoti". A very nice, warm and frendly place. And have a great variety of typical dishes with meat and fish. And of course pizza.
After lunch I went to Campo Santa Margherita. A campo with almost no one walkind around, full of buildings painted in pastels colours in a classic Venetian style. I took some many photos but so many of them where too dark or too bright. Shame on me.
After finding myself in San Nicolò Dei Medicoli Square (just infront of the Univerity of Architecture), I’ve decided that was time for the me to reach the famous Fondamenta Zattere.
Standing there, with the winter wind on my face and the water in front of me, the words of Paolini came back to my mind. No Venetian men or woman have ever done that walk in one time. Challenge accepted. Yeah, I’m not Venetian, but that doesn’t matter too much.
I took some minutes before starting. I wanted to print inside my mind the image of the lagoon and the Giudecca Canal and only after I saw Stucky building with it’s lights on I start to walk.
I reached Punta Dogana tired but satisfied with myself. I even made a recording while walking, here’s the transcription.
“This are the last hours in the lagoon city and I feel that I could start crying, as usual when it comes to leave this city, I’m overwhelmed with a kind of homesickness. Even If just 10 minutes ago I was tired and really wanted to go home, now I’m not so sure. I’m walking along the Zattere, Stucky has it’s lights on and that building really look like a magnificent old family manor. And everything is beautiful. I already miss this place, even if I’m not already on the train. I already miss all of this. It’s almost 4 p.m. and I need to go the hotel, collect my backpack and take that train that will bring me back to where I live.
This city is so beautiful that makes me want to cry”.
With this my solo travel in Venice ends.
I just want to say thank you Venice. Thank you for being my “mental place”, the place that I need. Thanks for the bridges, for the sotoporteghi, for the narrow calli and the strong smells.
Thank you for all.