It was hot—so hot that make-up was just an idea, an intention that evaporated in mid-air like a Moroccan mirage.
And I was plump…. fifteen pounds more plump, and I felt fleshy in my clothes as I walked through the streets.
It was hard to believe that it was our last full day in Venice. We had arrived on Friday and now it was Sunday. “Just wait till you see it, “ my newly-wedded husband had told me on the train. “It’s magical. Surreal. There’s nothing like it.”
Lenny had been right, but I had also been too exhausted to raise my eyebrows or limbs in exclamation as the water taxi carried us down the canal and into the cupped-hands of Venice. I hadn’t slept the night before, an annoyance that pops up at the worst moments. I chucked it up to being a writer, but the fatigue played with my head. Did this amazing view in front of me exist? Or was I just dreaming of being in Venice, lucidly, and out of severe exhaustion?
Our weekend bags rolled in duet along the cobblestones as we searched for our hotel. I stopped, staring at my first small canal. Lenny hunted building numbers, which follow an interesting “logic” in Venice. Each new building, regardless of location, gets the next number. (Yeah…. no…. don’t get it…) Finally he asked for help, decorating his Italian with a slight Venetian accent. An endearing habit I have found in almost every actor I know. When we had our coordinates, we took our bags and wound on—up and over small canals; down some odd steps; around the side of buildings; up and over another canal.
I didn’t know at the time that our suitcase wheels would be the last wheels we’d see rolling by for the next few days. Venice is not a place for wheels. No cars drive through its walls. Only feet or small motorboats get you anywhere. Gondolas carry only tourists.
We finally arrived at Ca’ Fortuny, a small boutique inn with eleven rooms. It was beautiful—the perfect setting for a honeymoon. I wouldn’t be able to lead you to it. The nature of our arrival only placed into my memory: Dock. Wind. Arrive.
Our room the first night was…interesting. It was on the ground floor, literally one wall separating us from the lobby and concierge desk. “What do we do when we want to have sex?” I asked perplexed, pointing into the lobby. “Your right. It is weird isn’t it?” Lenny had us moved the following night to a suite—after all it was our honeymoon. Now we could trample a Venetian bed like newly-weds should.
We luxuriated in air-conditioning and then went for dinner. Nothing spectacular. Venice is not a culinary city, but we were satisfied. I wore something loose with cork wedges, which proved a mistake, because although we had planned an early night, this was Venice! It was imperative to roam the city. And it was right about mid-roam when the shoes came off, and I was barefoot in Venice.
I found myself aiming for the smooth stones along the paths. The rough stones hurt the underbellies of my feet, and I was reminded how I was indeed a spoiled human compared to many in the world. I felt overwhelmingly humbled. Was I really there? In Venice? How did this happen?
A tango emanated from somewhere unseen. We followed, and what we found caused our mouths to hang agape in the night. A giant moon hung so closely over the Grand Canal that it almost fell in to the water and floated to our feet. We turned to see the source of the music. Eight couples were tango dancing on ornate church steps—maybe a class? Maybe some magical spell?
In that instant, I arrived in Venice. The city’s magic had saturated my clothes and hair and the spell was took. We hung there on the periphery of the moon and the music—on the periphery of reality. Days before, we had been stressed and arguing. Now, we gently swayed, apart from duty. Hidden. Softened. I didn’t want to ever leave.
Over the next few days we drifted through colorful buildings, gentle canals and graceful steps. We found the best food—finally—in the Venetian Ghetto. Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant.
We spoke about art and life, our dreams, our visions. We woke up before dawn and watched the sunrise taking pictures of the empty gondolas at the docks. I took a nap on a bench in the Basilica di San Marco after spending hours exploring its Byzantine soul. I bought a book about Casanova, and began to admire the man. I took a bath with church bells clanging a few blocks away. I was smitten.
The city has no industry but tourists. It creates beautiful masks and costumes for the opera and Carnivale. It makes its famous Venetian paper and Venetian glass. But tourism—that is how Venice survives. I wondered about life there—life to live and not visit. No trains. No cars. No buses.
What would it be like there as a child growing up? I couldn’t imagine it. I couldn’t imagine either the life of the elderly in such a place, up steps and down steps, in and out of boats.
But. I could imagine a season there—a season of teaching at the university or if I were a performer, a season of theater. Any longer than that, and I’m sure I ‘d begin to wonder if the world really existed anymore beyond the walls and canals of Venice. I would wonder if it was all just a dream I had, where these round things called “wheels” meant something.
Lenny pointed to a small brick archway, which looked merely decorative, not structural in any way, and said, “See those small arches?” I peered up beyond the light and nodded. “Those arches meant that someone who lived in this house married someone who lived in the house next door. Basically the families were joined and to show that these two building were now of one family, they would put up these little arches.”
“Really?” I marveled, plump and bewitched. “That’s pretty cool.” We smiled at one another and wound on.
–Elise McMullen-Ciotti a.k.a. The Galavant Girl
San Marco 3752
Rio Terà della Mandola
Tel. +39 041 2411942
Fax. +39 041 2410011
Map of Venice
You can see how it is like two cupped hands.