Venice: The Masque of Italy

I first laid eyes upon Venice at twilight, when the moon was rising and the lampposts were suddenly illuminated along the Grand Canal. Stepping out of the train station I was greeted by the sweet smells of salty sea air and the sound of boats dipping up and down in the waters.

There she lay: Venezia. The city sprawled out before me like a movable feast, and my eyes scanned the narrow streets and wide canals as if they were written pages.

The missionaries at the Baptist church here in Rome said that Venice was overrated. As Melissa and I visited with them last Tuesday after a night of teach English classes to the community, we discussed Venice. "What will you do for five days in Venice?" They wondered. "You will run out of things to do after day two."

I am grateful that five days in the city of canals was not nearly enough. Too little time was spent lost among the canals and there were not enough nights to dangle off the edge of the Grand Canal, boxes of pizza in our laps as the water lapped hungrily at the great divide between earth and sea. That was the night the dog attacked us. Too friendly and too hungry is not a good combination. *smiles*

But then there was that other night...the one where we sat in the middle of San Marco's square, listening to the violinist play. I've never seen anyone more talented. My breathe caught in my throat as I watched his fingers fly.

Like Byron I also stood on the bridge of sighs, the Doge's palace to one side and his dungeons on the other. I visited both, walked throhe ugh the maze of halls, saw senate rooms and painting untouchable, saw cold iron bars and letters scratched deep in the walls of stone cells. The higher up the palace i climbed the grander the rooms of state. The deeper below the canals I trod, the deeper smaller the cells became. I ran my fingers over the stone, touched the letters of some worn man's desperate plea.

It wasn't called The Bridge of Sighs until Lord Byron coined the phrase in verse. But now everone refers to it as the Ponte dei Sospiri. There is no other way to describe it.

Outside of Venice we traveled by water bus to an island called Murano, and watched a man blow glass. Again, the bus took us to another island, Burano, where each house is painted a different colour and every one hand makes lace. When the sun shines, the building reflect off the canals in a vivdid rainbow display of colour. But we were there at night. There was no sun to shine.

In Venice there are no cars. There is no traffic, and no chaos of that sort. There are streets for walking and boats for riding, but the two never intersect. That is one thing I loved about Venice. There was time. It was calm. And there was nothing like watching the sun rise over the canal.


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