“The only way to care for Venice as she deserves it, is to give her a chance to touch you often – to linger and remain and return.”
When my partner and I visited Venice for the first time 15 years ago, I succumbed to its charms like many more did before me, and even more will after me. Since then we returned several times to relive our wonderful memories and create new ones. We got to know the city the best way you can get to know it. By getting lost in the web of its narrow alleyways and canals, and discovering its secret corners and passages, hidden jewels waiting to be uncovered. Here are just a few discoveries we either made together or I made on my own and shared them with Martin afterwards. They might not be unique views and we might not be the only ones who unexpectedly found these little gems, but they are unique to us. They are precious to us, like all the special memories that are engraved in them.
Over a year ago I went to Venice on my own in hope to capture the real Venice that I fell in love with. Not the opulent riches of the Venetian palaces and dazzling colours of carnival costumes, but the quiet cobbled lanes, courtyards and canal bridges, the colourful textures of the walls slowly giving in to decay, the remarkable hues of green, turquoise and aquamarine reflecting in the canals and the lagoon, and the ordinary life that goes on regardless of all the tourist traps. On one of my night wanders I walked into this beautiful spot. However the building on the right hand side was covered in scaffolding. Disappointed, I walked away, but was already hoping that next time we visit Venice the building work will be finished. So after more than a year of waiting, Martin and I finally went back. We spent the first evening trying to find this spot again, and when we eventually did, my heart sank. The scaffolding was still there. However after a while I decided that with careful processing I might be able to disguise the unwanted parts. It might not be exactly what I wanted, but at least I have one tangible reminder of this special place. And there is always next time, isn’t it? Though it might take a few years, and who knows what it is going to look like then?
Since then I found out that this image is certainly not unique. I even found it on the first page of a book that I bought when we got back. However I will still treasure it as if it was our own discovery.
While looking for this special place, we came across many others, like the two below. It does show that even when we don’t get what we want, there are always other opportunities. We just need to look around and not be blinded by our own vision.
Another evening I ventured out on my own and left Martin in the hotel to have a rest after a long day of exploring. That was when I happened to come across this lovely bridge. Another quiet little canal and a pretty view across. I could hardly resist capturing it.
Next day Martin and I somehow managed to find ourselves on the same bridge I admired the night before. That’s when Martin said, why don’t we walk across? What a great idea! I am so grateful to him for suggesting it, because the view we discovered on the other side is to me an epitome of Venice. It became my favourite picture of the whole trip.
As if that wasn’t enough, we suddenly heard a gondolier’s song in the distance. All we had to do was wait for the gondola to appear under the bridge.
“Most people come here to find something that they have never known before. For the visitor it is sort of a waking dream”
I waited for years to experience the famous Venetian fog. It was eluding me all that time. Until one morning of our trip this year. I got up at 4am and with great expectations ran out of the hotel just to find out that the weather forecast got it wrong. I couldn’t go back because I didn’t want to wake Martin up, so I did what I love most. I just wandered aimlessly the dark alleyways to discover more surprise views. Once I got to the seafront, I realised that the weather forecast wasn’t wrong after all. Just the timing was a little off. The thick fog started to roll in and shrouded the city in the mysterious atmosphere I had been waiting for so long. I couldn’t be happier. Especially when I discovered an abandoned fairground, and enjoyed it as much as a child would enjoy it on a nice hot summer day.
“Because a bridge is something against nature, and you have to put yourself in the angel’s hands”
Francesco da Mosto
One morning Martin and I watched an episode of BBC’s series Francesco’s Venice made by Francesco da Mosto, an architect, writer, historian, presenter and Venetian through and through. In one scene he was standing on one of the bridges with a wonderful view behind him. How I wished then I had known where it was! And I was lucky again. Later on the same morning we happened to walk into the same spot, admiring the same view as Francesco did in his series.
Last morning of our last day. I suddenly realised there is so much more to explore, and that I ran out of time. Again. The mad rush to the other side of Ponte dell’Accademia was definitely not going to fix it, but at least I got a little taste of what else is there to be discovered.
So with sadness in my heart I said my farewell to Venice. Until next time. Perhaps not for a while, but I know now there will be next time.
“It is the city of mirrors, the city of mirages, at once solid and liquid, at once air and stone.”
There is a glorious City in the Sea.
The Sea is in the broad, the narrow streets,
Ebbing and flowing; and the salt sea-weed
Clings to the marble of her palaces.
No track of men, no footsteps to and fro,
Lead to her gates. The path lies o’er the Sea,
Invisible; and from the land we went,
As to a floating City – steering in,
And gliding up her streets as in a dream…