Tomorrow I say goodbye to Venice and fly back to London after nearly two months here. It’s not without a heavy heart that I leave. In fact if it wasn’t for the fact that I have to supervise works on my apartment back home I would probably be extending my stay again.
So, why the heartache? Well, I can honestly say that no place has touched my heart and soul like Italy. I’ve admired and been fascinated by other countries but this country just reeled me in. The crush began as a teenager when I was bewitched by the mere prospect of a place existing that is renowned for its food, wine, opera, fashion, design, scooters, ice cream, football, history, stunning scenery and dark handsome men (among many other things). I wanted the country so much that I was content to spend a year in Milan – I didn’t care if it wasn’t high on the tourist wish list – it was still Italy! And since then I just can’t shake off the country. And I know I’m not the only one that has a thing about the place.
So, if you agree with me that Italy is the most incredible place on this planet, then which would you argue is its magical city? How could it not be Venice – this mystical city built on water – home to the most incredible architecture, the majestic gondolas that look like they are dancing on the water, that fantastical bright orange drink called Spritz, those wonderful narrow alleyways that usually lead to a dead-end or another canal, and the washing everywhere – oh those washing lines!
And then the people are really friendly! How can this possibly be in a city that is over-run with tourists?! A place that is invaded daily by huge cruise ships that belche out hordes of tourists, who gape and gaze and maybe buy an ice cream or occasionally take a gondola ride, then suck them back in and move on. Why don’t the locals tell us to get lost? Why aren’t they rude to us? Why don’t they charge us a fortune for a glass of wine instead of sometimes just a measly 80 cents? Why do they tolerate me photographing them (albeit discreetly but I’m sure they know)?
I guess it just goes against the Italians’ nature to be inhospitable so they can’t stop themselves from welcoming us with open arms and hearts. (Which the owners of my apartment did incidentally. They are such lovely people and so generous that they even let me borrow a cat for two months to keep me company!
So how does one say goodbye to Venice in a photograph? I guess I just have to finish how I began, with a picture of a gondolier. I know it’s a cliche, but hear me out – the gondolas may be the symbol of Venice but gondoliers also in my mind symbolise what is great about Venetians. They tolerated me photographing them without ever a complaint; they never ever hassled me to take a gondola – other than occasionally greeting me with the soft signature call of “Gondola, gondola…” as I walked past (which I secretly grew to love). Whenever I saw them interacting with the customers they seemed friendly and courteous – even when the trip was over and they didn’t need to be anymore. Their beautiful boats have a grace on the water that is just hypnotic to observe, and in their striped jumpers and straw boaters they are, well what can I say, devilishly handsome!
So goodbye gondoliers – I will miss you. And goodbye Venice. Until the next time…
(Oh, but don’t think this is the last of the Venice photos. I will keep posting them – just to help ease the pain).