Early one morning I woke before anyone else and decided to go out for a walk. There was no one out. I made my way to the Piazza San Marco and saw it completely empty except two old men sweeping the huge expanse of the square. The fibers of their brooms were long and curved and they moved slowly, step by step. I felt as if I were witnessing something that would have looked exactly the same two or three hundred years ago. I felt as if these men had been sweeping, when no was around to see them, for two or three hundred years. A fog hung over us, and it was so silent I could hear the sounds of the brooms swooshing across the stones. At that moment the bells tolled and hundreds of pigeons took off and the air was filled with the sight of blurred wings. On the way back, as I walked by the Bridge of Sighs I heard the muffled sounds of a man screaming.
(This is not for effect- it is absolutely true)
One thing I do each time in Venice is ride the number 2 vaporetto. I start at San Zaccharia heading to San Giorgio Maggiore and, after visiting the church and its Tintoretto Last Supper, continue the route. Heading in this direction, I can get seats outside and right in front. It doesn’t make every stop on the Grand Canal, but it does do a grand circle around the city.
There is a small park around the corner from the Piazza San Marco, facing the lagoon that I went to early one morning. The Giardini ex Reali was quiet and inviting, offering me a place to sit and look around for a moment. After a few moments I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye- a bit of movement down near the ground. A few minutes later there was a quick movement of something up higher by the wall and to my right. Then more quick movements- first left then right, first high then low. Then slowly the rulers of the Royal Garden allowed me to observe them as they peeked out, then made their presence known. The garden was filled with cats.
After a day of exploring and visiting paintings throughout the city, a group of us hired a gondola at night off the beaten path. One of the first things one notices in Venice are the eastern influences that are evident in the city’s architecture. Venice, for so long the hub of trade between east and west, gathered so much from the eastern ports of call that can be seen throughout the city. As we floated through the dark canals we could see the lights coming from windows above us, and shadows of the ancient doorways directly from the canal into various palazzi. The gondolier was silent. A friend of mine from Turkey started singing an old Turkish song as we slowly moved along a small canal. Her voice echoed through the passageways. Everything seemed to stop. Time dissolved and it was as if the stones and buildings along with the vaporous presence of those who lived within them long ago were recognizing the song and remembering back to a long lost time.