Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Italy, the Country of Romance?

My two days in Venice were lovely, even given that the first day in any foreign city is always a bit of a clusterfuck. You don't know which end is up, the money and languages are new, reading the map takes a lot of effort while plotting what you want to see, just ordering food is hard and the jetlag/no sleep is usually working against you. But it's also exciting as all get out to come in from any airport, and see your first glimpse of a place you've only read about.

I seriously have not seen as many people making out in public anywhere else as I did in Venice. Hoardes of maker-outers, every where! Trading silly texts with a new special friend was nice, but certainly no substitute. The locals claimed to me that Venice is relatively empty this time of year, and if that's the case, I can't even imagine the horror it must be in July. It tries to strike a balance between the culture it oozes and the tourists -- not such an easy thing to please on both sides. But Venice does a good job, and I imagine the money that flows in from charging 5 Euro (about US$8) to take the vaporetto (sort of the Venice subway, only a boat) up and down the Grand Canal does not hurt. I sort of figured out in true scamming New York style after my first ride that it's pretty much a free ride (and this was confirmed by the locals), as no one checks a ticket, um, ever...

Getting lost in Venice is apparently very, very common, as I found out for myself nearly every hour. Goddamn 500 year old+ former capitals of empires - could someone back home have thought of a street grid while y'all were out pillaging other civilizations?? You walk down a street that seems logical, but BAM! Run smack into a canal. Hm, that's not a short cut -- There really are no shortcuts, only well-worn routes you should stay on. The streets were mostly empty after 10 pm, and it occured to me that there aren't many really old people in Venice, at least not ones that can't walk, as that's the only way to get most places. I saw an ambulance (ambu-boat?) taking someone out of their home and load them off to wherever for healing. And for the amount of time it took, you'd realize you'd be dead before you got halfway there.

I had a surreal and magical night on Sunday. After having fab dinner at Osteria al Bomba, a bacaro (a wine bar where you stand up while filling up on Venetian snacks called cicchetti) in Cannaregio, there was the great cultural clash of watching the NFL game at an Irish bar with some Brits and about 10 obnoxious Saints and Bears fans (including one, of course, from Columbus, Ohio). I walked 30 minutes back to the hotel after the Saints sadly lost since the vaporetto had stopped running at midnight. After walking along the foggy canals in almost complete silence and being asked for directions 4 times, I found myself smack in the middle of Piazza San Marco, with only two other people, watching the fog swirl around the colonades and rooftops. And I felt truly blessed that this was my life.

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