Venice appears to float atop an impossibly vast lagoon, drenched in salty air and gelato. The city is a maze of cobblestone corridors and foot bridges, utterly unnavigable in the late evening after the crowds have returned to their hotel rooms and the storefronts are secured with heavy metal shutters.

On the banks of the canal Rio dei Mendicanti, opposite the Scuola Grande di San Marco (today the city’s hospital), English and Spanish speakers sit on the dark steps of the canal crossing beneath a public telephone sign. The voice of an American jazz singer from my Grandmother’s youth lifts above the soft chatter and into the warm night air. Golden light from the wine bar spills from an open doorway where the barmaid pours house red into deciliter glasses for a half Euro.


Venice does not really exist. Not as a city; not the kind of city that I have lived in or visited in former travels. Venice is a romantic memory of the past preserved in brick and brown stucco: a flotilla of opulence that emerged in layers from the salty backwash of the Adriatic Sea as ancient Italians sought refuge from marauding hordes. Centuries passed before she would rule the waters from Croatia to Crete, lining temples in marble and the pillaged relics of the orient, enriched through conquest and control of the lucrative trade route to India.


Time and Empire have an acrimonious relationship, and eventually the city fell – again and again – finally to Napoleon’s army, ever so keen to violently spread the ideals of the French Revolution, they banished the Doges from their palace above Piazza San Marco.

san_marco_night.jpgModern travelers to Venice find a museum without markers. A city without industry. Unlike Europe’s other treasures, Venice was spared from the bombs of the Second War due to functional irrelevance. As I pass through the mass of sunburnt spectators and marvel at the exquisite work of Renaissance artists and Baroque architects, I try and brush aside the nagging sensation that I am in a sort of Disneyland for refined adults. The facade of Venice is preserved (after the last devastating flood by a gift from the United Nations) but the soul of the city departed with the last Doge.

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  1. #1 • askin said on July 12 2008:

    Lovely article. You will enjoy reading “THE SECOND VENICE”