Mornings in Venice are truly something special. It's one of the few occasions when you see real Italians and hear their language spoken everywhere; descending at Fondamente Nove, they greet each other passing by or stop to exchange a few words. They stand drinking espresso at the bars of small cafés and make their way to work through the tourist free streets. There is the smell of freshly brewed coffee and washing being hung out to dry for the day while the sun is still a pale, pink disc hanging low on the horizon.
A rare quiet moment on the Rialto
At the sun began to warm the tops of the buildings, I took the boat out to other parts of the city to escape the hoards of San Marco. La Giudecca charmed me with its metal bridges and leafy parks. I sat alone by the edge of the water reading my book and lifting my eyes from time to time to watch the gilttering sunlight on its surface. At midday, I entered into a restaurant where a man was sitting alone at the bar. Inside, the was the rush of conversation of a group of men drinking espresso and some students in animated discussion over their pizzas. I took a seat at the last free table and ordered spaghetti alle vongole (with clams). From the kitchen, I could see a large saucepan bubbling on the stove and the grey haired waiter explained apologetically that it would take a few more minutes. Then all of a sudden, silence descended leaving alone me to savour every mouthful.
View from the tower of San Giorgio Maggiore
The charming restaurant where I had a wonderful lunch on La Giudecca
On La Giudecca
On the Lido, I saw the Adriatic sea for the first time and felt the sadness of seeing Hotel des Bains boarded up, the legendary place where Diaghelev died and the setting for Visconti's Death in Venice. I walked over masses of white shells, passing by deserted bathing huts of grand hotels. On the main street, a woman stood talking on her mobile phone, repeating "Faccio la signora!" while others in jackets with fur lined collars sat outisde at cafés, smoking, chatting and drinking large glasses of white wine, happy that the weekend had finally arrived.
At the Lido
Trees in the old Jewish cemetary on the Lido
In the garden of the Peggy Guggenheim foundation. The writing behind reads, "If the form disappears, its root still remains."
In my opinion, the loveliest view of Venice is from the Academia bridge
A young Bardot
I took a final trip to Isola San Michele in the final afternoon before the clocks went back and sat reading by the statues I have come to love and recognise. Around me was the sound of sweeping brushes against the stone as people cleaned the graves.
That was to be the last fine evening before heavy raindrops began to fall from a sky soon covered with dark grey clouds. In the vaporetto to the centre the next morning, a woman got on board carrying a little dog in her arms who whimpered the whole journey, as if in protest against the disappearence of the sun and seagulls perched on wooden posts in the middle of the canal. I discovered the melancholy of Sundays and the buildings with their faded or peeling exteriors closed for the long holiday weekend. At the Bacini stop, a neon sign declared that "something strange happened here" and I wondered what. I spent the morning at the Academia and then looking at some remarkable photos by a young Stanley Kubrick before moving on to the Fortuny museum filled with the kind remarkable dresses Proust's narrator would have bought for Albertine. I experienced the smell of lunchtime behind closed shutters with the sound of cutlery scraping against plates filled with a desire to be a part of that.
As my boat taking me back to the airport was pulling out of Murano, I caught sight of a black and white cat perched upon the edge of a balcony high up. Through the open window, I felt the breeze and a few raindrops brushed against my cheek. It was the end of a wonderful trip.