Venice is magic. To get into the city of canals we crossed a bridge on an old train half-limping along. Thousands of tourists disembarked with us and headed towards San Marco square, so we headed in the opposite direction. Over canals with singing gondola drivers and between buildings fighting over alley space we walked, desperate to get lost. After three dead ends and two empty canals we found it utterly impossible to find ourselves and stopped for a sandwich. We shared a bench with an old woman feeding pigeons and admired a community garden next to a fountain pumping water into the square. In Rome I understand the fountains, but in Venice? There was no aquaduct next to the train. Are there clean springs that flow hidden in the muddy water?
Hungry only for adventure we decided it was time to become found again. And it’s not hard to find the famous square in Venice. Simply follow the shops. If you start out in the area, as we did, with plumbing stores and children’s dental clinics, you are far, far away from the action. Follow the sound of the accordion. You’ll come to a square with postcards and bottle openers. You are getting closer. Look for masks and marionettes. If you see the shops with men laying papier-mâché you are getting closer to the madness. They will not notice you, nor beckon you to enter, but you should step inside to masquerade as someone else. Step out of the shop and back into yourself and go further, towards the din of the people, the smell of lousy coffee. You’ll come to a bridge filled with more masks and blown glass. This isn’t the handmade stuff you saw just a few twists and turns ago, this is mass-produced bullshit made to sell to the masses who don’t want to spend the extra ten bucks it costs to get something handmade instead of a stolen forgery made of plastic.
You are close. Follow the hordes, don’t stop for the overpriced pizza or pasta, go on to San Marco square. You won’t miss it. After the twists and turns of Venice back alleys it is sprawling and wide and open. To be sure, compared to getting lost in the streets it’s not as fun, but its worth waiting in the line to go into the cathedral for thirty minutes. While you wait you can watch the first digital clock in existence. It has a twenty-four hour hand that spins through the zodiac while every five minutes the minutes roll over to mark time’s passage. You must watch, for the line moves fast and you wont have many chances to see it move.
Once inside the church, we paid the three euros to see the treasure. Inside we found: St Pete’s leg discovered in 971 (begging the question, where was it kicking around?), a shrunken hand, various ribs, teeth and fingerbones encased in rock crystal or glass and locked away with golden hinges and jeweled locks, and the piece de resistance, a rock. At least, that’s all it appeared to be to me at first inspection. Rather than being encased in rock glass it was mounted in the center of a crucifix. Raquel deduced this could mean only mean it wasn’t any rock, but the rock, that is the most famous rock in Christian history. That’s right. We saw the rock that some dude through at Jesus’s head. Upon closer inspection, I reckon I saw some blood still on it. Chilling.
Legs seen and rocks admired we set back out into Venice to get lost again. We managed to do so quite well, only this time in conversation with an English literature professor and his main squeeze from Denmark near a shimmering pool of beer. We talked of past injuries, my inevitable fame, and the importance of travelling to famous places and keeping the hell away from famous places. The conversation flowed quite easily we stayed late enough to nearly miss our train, but thankfully we piled upon it with nary a hitch, and were off to Lugano.
Thus my tale is completed. Italy: 5 cities in 5 days. I do not advise travelling like this, it is a tiring and smelly but then again, when every day’s an adventure of fresh horizons, with new people to meet and great places to snub its certainly better than a week at the office. Your turn.