Saturday, April 3, 2010

Venezia

My first trip to Venice was in 2004. I was fourteen years old and forced into a vacation with my mother who was at that point in my life an evil tyrant, my clueless father hell-bent on a strict regimen of sightseeing exercises, and my eighteen-year-old sister who was then my arch nemesis. I hated Venice. Sure, it was pretty, but it was also boring. There were no rides. There weren’t candy stores. I couldn’t waste time in an arcade. Instead I was made to walk over what felt like a million bridges in company I very obviously didn’t enjoy. The streets were narrow and crowded, the pigeons were concentrated so densely they very literally littered the ground, the waterways looked polluted, and everything was priced steeply. What’s worse was that my experience with the Venetians was awful. They walked around with their noses turned up making sport of how rude they could be to the tourists. As I rode to the train station on the over-priced Grand Canal ferry, my mother swaying drunkenly while yelling obscenities at the Italian woman who sold her the overpriced ferry passes, I thought to myself that I wouldn’t ever go back to such a terrible place.

I wasn’t excited that I was returning to Venice for the second time in 2006, now sixteen. Why should I go back to the one city in Italy I truly hated? My brother, who I hadn’t seen for two years, wanted to have a brother-sister day by showing me “the real Venice”, though, and so I consented to the trip. I exacted my revenge on that city for its infractions against me on my previous visit with my brother that day. We spent our time hiding on bridges tossing peanuts at passing gondoliers, flinging birdseed onto the bandstands in the Piazza San Marco, and generally causing havoc wherever we went. I was given a hefty sum of money by my parents and I was determined to spend every dime. I bought myself some expensive shoes, useless Murano glass and Carnevale mask souvenirs, and treated myself and my brother to a seemingly endless supply of Menta gelato. As a parting gift, when our day came to its close, my brother and I climbed to the top of Venice’s Campanile and shot spit balls out at the ant-sized passerby below, those huge bells ringing loud enough to drown out our constant laughter. I’d managed to make Venice, a city I’d once hated, into a place I truly enjoyed and satisfied with this I left.


Its 2010 and I’m nineteen, freshly returned from another visit to that city with a fresh new perspective to offer. This time I was in the company of two of my Italian family members who made it their job to show me a good time. The Venice I’d left behind was still the same, but my older and wiser self found, in the midst of the tourist frenzy, a certain kind of peace. Perhaps it was because the city had become familiar. That disgusting smell of polluted water became a deliciously refreshing salty breeze I breathed in deeply. I visited the Palazzo Ducale and for the first time realized that Venice is home to one of the most admirable art collections I’ve thus far had the pleasure of seeing. I walked through that gallery in awe. It was absolutely stunning. Titan, Tintoretto, Veneto, UGH! so amazing. Everything was made of gold. Actual gold. The ceilings were gold. I walked through the dungeons. Prison art is more fascinating than regular art. It was cool. Even the residual pee smell was interesting. I went through a room of weapons. There was a gun made of solid ivory. If I were ever going to be shot to death thats the gun I'd want to do it. All of the swords on display were bloodstained, the cudgels were huge, and there were full suits of armour sitting ontop of suited makeshift warhorses. I caught flies in my mouth, thats how cool it was. There were even some Asian weapons in this storeroom. Fucking cool. We walked over the Bridge of Sighs and through a courtyard decorated with, what else, Renaissance sculpture. It was great.


When we left the Ducale we spent a while walking around the city. Of course, Venice is magnificent. I could never ever ever deny that. The lazy water stretched out bright and beautiful. I spent a while walking around the back roads of Venice with my family, enchanted by the calm and entranced by each pretty new sight I saw. Each bridge I crossed brought a new friendly face, smiling widely, and suddenly the pompous Venetians who rode around in their fancy boats ripping-off Americans changed into kind-hearted town’s folk who play soccer and walk dogs. For the third time I stood on the Rialto Bridge and instead of feeling angry and mischievous, I now felt a sort of serenity creeping over me. video Venice, it seems, has finally charmed me. I looked at the gondoliers in a new light. They are workers. They are people. They aren't targets. I saw couples enjoying the songs of the gondoliers and thought of them as romantic, not as asshole tourists. I was like a little kid, excited by every store I passed. The seafood places had these fabulous displays of crawfish and grouper, the pasticerrias had pastries on display that turned on my fat-tooth, the glass-sellers made me think of hot men blowing glass with their shirts off, and the mask stores made me want to get drunk. I was at peace, truly. Pace, in Italian. We went up the Rialto, my third time, and I was excited to see something familiar rather than irritated about the tourists. This time I knew some Italian words! I was actually sad when we had to leave. Venice, you've done it. You've made me yours!
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

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