On my last morning in Venice, I manage to make it out for the sunrise without falling down the steps, which I consider to be quite a win indeed. Once again, there are only a few wandering souls so early, which I love. On a normal day, empty streets make me a little anxious. But in a different world, it’s like the space is mine to explore. If I were a wiser, though less prudent, woman, I would make a life for myself moving from place to place, with one suitcase and one companion.
Inside the Basilica di San Marco is stunning, palatial with intricate mosaic floors, marble walls and rounded, gilded ceilings with religious frescoes. It’s awesome, in the true sense of the word, but it lacks the sacred quality of some of the other cathedrals. It’s sacred because of its history, because it always has been, not because it feels so. It’s beautiful, stunning, but not peaceful.
Outside, the piazza is teeming. Vendors have set up shop and natives and tourists alike are browsing through stalls of everything from mildy vulgar t-shirts to hand sketched charcoal drawings. I’m half-tempted to buy an exceedingly creepy Commedia Dell’Arte mask to hang in my apartment. I won’t.
When I was a girl, maybe 11 or 12, I saw a 1979 movie called “A Little Romance.” It starred Laurence Olivier and Diane Lane in her film debut as an American girl who meets a French boy and, threatened by separation, they run away to Venice to seal their love with a kiss beneath the Ponte Dei Sospiri, the Bridge of Sighs.
Named for the lamenting sighs of prisoners taken from the Doge’s prison to the interrogation rooms of the balance, local legend tells of everlasting love when two people kiss beneath the bridge at sunset.
And now, this legendary romantic spot is…. sponsored by Toyota.
I watch a gondola carrying a middle aged couple approach. The gondolier leans over to them, presumably to explain the legend of the ponte. They cross under. Nothing.
Okay, maybe they already have a car or something, but seriously, you’re on a gondola in Venice. And despite the rather crass presence of boatloads of advertising*, it’s still the Bridge of Sighs.
I don’t have much time to berate the pair in my head, however. It’s time to head to the vaporetto, back to the train, arrevederci Venezia, and on to Milan, my final stop before I return to the States tomorrow.
I’ll come back here, some day, with Joe. In the winter, I hope. I’d love to see Venice when it snows.
*With apologies to my sister, who is in advertising, but hopefully even she can agree that there are some places it’s just preferable to not be sold a car.