A realist, in Venice, would become a romantic by mere faithfulness to what he saw before him. – Arthur Symons
Stepping out of the train station, I do not see the industrial, depressing scene I’m used to viewing. Most rail stations are horrible first impressions of otherwise lovely towns and cities.
But here, I step out of the station and… Venezia.
I board the vaporetto (water bus, 6 euro 50 for a one way ticket; waterway robbery indeed). It takes about 30 minutes and the whole time I’m leaning over the rail, snapping pictures and not even caring that I look wholly like the tourist I am.
I had considered not coming to Venice and instead scheduling another stop in Tuscany, but decided to come here on the recommendation of my father, who had enthusiastically described it as “otherworldly.” He is not what I would call an especially poetic man, so to hear him talk almost ebulliently about a city made me know it was one I should see. I’m glad I listened to him.
We arrive at my stop – Santa Maria del Giglio – and disembark. Then, I and the others who have gotten off must travel down a long, dim corridor of a street, so narrow we are forced to walk single file. I can’t help but think it would be a wonderful place to commit all sorts of nefarious acts (how does one say “Rape Alley” in Italian?) I will, I decide, avoid the vaporetto after dark.
From there, with only a bit of turnaroundness, I find the Campo Santa Maria del Giglio, and the two bridges to Fondamenta Corner Zaguri, along which is the B&B Zaguri, where I shall be spending the next two nights.
I am… what’s the word in Italian? Malcontenta. In English, just pissed. And also a little cranky, not to mention a bit worried. It’s getting toward evening, I don’t have a contingency plan, and my emailed correspondence, which is printed out in a manilla folder along with my train and hotel reservations and airline e-tickets, indicates a 90 percent cancellation policy. I mentally prepare myself to check into one of the nearby hotels I spotted and throw a fit at B&B Zaguri.
But as I am doing so, a woman happens along to the door next to where I am standing.
“Scusi, signora?” I am too tired to attempt to communicate using the 10 word hodgepodge of Italian I have at my disposal and instead launch immediately into: “Per favore, parle Inglese?”
She does and she is, it turns out, the proprietress of the inn. I had been expected several hours later, and probably should have emailed with my change of plans. She lets me in and she’s sweet and calming. I’m mollified, if a bit harried.
The room is simple, the least adorned of any I’ve had, but it’s clean and well-located.
It’s 7:15 now. I decide to head out for dinner. I’ve been keeping very early hours, and have not been out past 10 the whole trip. Past 9 even. During my research, I came across information about convent stays and was very tempted to include such an unusual experience into my travels. I was, however, discouraged by the 10:30 curfew. Had I known I would be keeping nearly monastic hours, I would have signed on.
The first night in a new city, I can be a bit gunshy. I have a horrific sense of direction. The closest thing I have to a mantra, or life philosophy is “all roads lead home eventually,” derived not only from a sort of metaphysical adherence to chaos theory, but also a way of keeping my wits about me when I get lost, as I frequently and inevitably do. I also have slightly imperfect night vision and, embarrassing as it is in my 30s, a bit of a fear of the dark.
Therefore, I will dine in the nearby Campo Santa Maria del Giglio, a hotel near to which I chose as it was touted by some tourism site or another for its night life. That might have been a bit of an exaggeration. I enter a restaurant, the first and only I see, and sit down without even looking at a menu. When I do so, my eyes pop open.
Madonna! The prices! Venice is indeed not a cheap city. I order the grilled vegetables, the least expensive thing on the menu, and a half-carafe of red wine, of which I will drink one, maybe two glasses, and give thanks for the bag of fruit, bread and cheese I have stashed back in my room.
I’m feeling just a bit swindled, but when the waiter comes with my wine, he calls me Signorina instead of Signora, which is a first on this holiday, and it makes me smile.
Just imagine how easy I would be to charm after a glass or two of Sangiovese…