Venice!! As many of you undoubtedly already know, Venice is almost too picturesque and beautiful for words. So instead of attempting to describe the city in my Venice posts, I’m going to include extra pictures and focus on other aspects of our Venetian experience.
We buy a five-day pass for the vaporetto, the water bus, and shove our way on with our luggage. As we chug slowly around the S-shaped Grand Canal, I watch the teenaged boy
who moors the vaporetto to the dock at each of its many stops. With practiced ease he throws a thick rope over the iron anvil on the dock, looping it carelessly around a couple of times before withdrawing his hand a scant second before the big vessel groans and shudders to a halt, pulling the rope taut. Each time I’m afraid he’ll be distracted and wait a second too long, leaving his hand to be torn off by the tightening rope. I make myself watch the magnificent Venetian palaces slide by instead. It occurs to me that there aren’t ANY modern buildings in Venice. If you half-close your eyes and ignore the masses of tourists, you can almost imagine being here 500 years ago.
We get off at the Santa Maria del Giglio stop and proceed down a narrow, dark corridor, referred to euphemistically by the owner of our guesthouse as a “street.” It can’t be more
than 5 feet across. If I stretch out my arms to either side, I can touch the walls. It leads to a quiet little piazza, almost deserted. We turn left and go over a small canal on a tiny arched bridge, walk another block, go over another bridge and turn left onto a stone strip running beside a small canal. (I’ve always thought the smaller canals of Venice were man made, but I learn on this trip that Venice is built on 117 tiny islands separated by the canals!)
We find the house. A woman answers our knock and buzzes us in. As the heavy wooden doors swing shut we find ourselves in a pitch black entrance hall smelling of damp earth. These houses are so tall and narrow and so close together that very little light penetrates. A dim light appears at the end of the lobby as a tall woman with short brown hair descends the stairs and scolds us in Italian about not having answered their “many e-mails requesting to know our arrival time.” She is Gabriella, our host Mario’s wife. She shows us the breakfast room, then our room. The entire place (excluding the entrance hall) smells very strongly of celery, not an unpleasant smell, just odd. Our room is tomb-like. No pictures on the walls, twenty-foot ceilings, one tiny window high up on the wall, opened by cranking a long lever. Appropriately, the bed is hard as a marble slab. It’s a great location, though, so it will do. The best thing about it is that it’s completely quiet. It’s only about six o’clock, and I don’t hear a single sound. It should be wonderful for sleeping. I’m sure it will be completely dark as well, since it’s already completely dark now, even though it’s still broad daylight outside. I begin to feel weird. I think I’m suffering the effects of sensory deprivation. In fact, this room is the closest thing to an isolation tank I’ve ever experienced. It sort of creeps me out, especially in my advanced state of jetlag.