For the past six weeks I’ve been caring for my ailing mother, her home one hour by train from Venice. Before returning to Australia I must revisit the city of my youth, even if only for a day. A part of me remains anchored to the islands, to the lagoon.
The weather’s changing from warm and sultry to cool and rainy. Soon it’ll be too wet to make the trip. Memories flood back of my years as a student. Lectures snatched between casual jobs, dreaded exams. In the leisure hours I would search for new sights, up and down bridges, along calli, campielli that always lead one back to piazza San Marco.
I decided to stay overnight at a pensione near the station and to get up at dawn. Making my way to the Basilica, now, along damp, deserted lanes, through fish and vegetable markets. Wanting to get to the main square before the tourists come. To stop and gaze at the golden cupola, the copper horses, the statues of the two Moors striking the hours of the day.
the changing colours
Outside the Rialto Bridge, workers take the vaporetto to the Lido island. Nothing has changed. The palaces along the Grand Canal blush at the touch of the sun.
Rough hewn gondoliers call out as they row past, their voices gentle ripples. Locals exchange greetings and news in the most musical of Italian dialects, while the sea continues to reclaim their land. Venetian Gothic style is everywhere: in speech, architecture, glassware, embroidery, lace work.
from an open window
a piano fugue
Cafes are open. The smell of espresso and freshly baked pastries is overwhelming. Must try some. The sun rises higher. Shop windows glow with myriads of reflections, shadows are sharply visible.
Suddenly, Piazza San Marco. As though seeing it for the first time, I’m struck by its symmetry and luminous beauty. I slow down my pace, put the camera away. Photographs can’t capture mood, the transparency of light. Some early visitors linger before the Ducal Palace whose courtyards and interiors need weeks to explore.
a swirl of pigeons
my empty hands
I reach the bank where Dalmatian merchants used to moor their ships. A large Greek steamer sailing past is a Canaletto painting. Exhausted, I find a seat, muse on mother’s frailty and mine. The days when we could cover long distances are over. Ageing knees, like the foundations of this city, creak and give in. Before the tourists arrive, I savour a few moments of inner and outer stillness. On the opposite side of the canal, the tiny island of San Giorgio is emerging from a last trace of mist.
a gondola rocks
in and out of silence