For decades, I remembered Venice as a magical place where one could get more and more lost and keep finding wonderful spaces.
In 2015, I revisited Venezia with my nephew. It seemed to have changed but perhaps I have changed. I still enjoyed the masks and the gondolas and the narrow maze of pedestrian streets. It was the crass tourist revenue industry that marred the atmosphere.
While still a fun destination, it has lost what I can best describe as its allure of innocence. This is what made it so magical for me in the 1980s. Now, I sensed a stronger seamy underbelly. Perhaps the Venice Vortex would be an apt nickname nowadays.
But by all means, please visit and see what you think. It is very picturesque. Be warned to keep your guard up so you don’t get sucked in. The ferry is still reasonably priced. Advance entry tickets are now recommended for St. Mark’s and the Doge’s palace. (I liked watching the consternation on my nephew’s face when his GPS became useless in a place where different streets share the same street name!)
Our most touristy outing in our three-week trip to Italy was the group gondola ride. I had purchased the tickets online before leaving home. I knew if I didn’t, he would never have agreed to join me. We stood in line for some time; it was comical knowing we weren’t alone in choosing to do this.
After standing in that line, we were moved to lineup closer to the water’s edge. We two boarded a gondola followed by the muscular gondolier. A black and white horizontally striped t-shirt stretched over his torso; the sun glimmered on the defiant gold hoop in his earlobe. I was glad he was a gondolier with character.
Next, an Italian couple on their first trip to Venice boarded. I took their photo for them. I think their big smiles encouraged my nephew to be more agreeable. When it seemed we were about to push off, two men in scruffy suits boarded. It turned out that they were the accordion player and the singer!
The gondola ride was good fun with the colors and the accordion and the familiar songs. I remember realizing what a great voice my father had. (None of the professional singers we encountered came close to him.) I was glad to have returned to Venice.
Sometimes, you need to let yourself get sucked into the moment to find the magic.
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