“Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.” Italo Calvino
On all those narrow streets, criss-crossing intermittently with that perpetual river, I would often look up and see those reassuring yellow signs: Per S. Marco, Per Realto. They were my only refuge in that city of seemingly illogical pathways.
How do these confusing streets come about? Do people simply keep building houses wherever their fancy lands? Don’t they ever want to cross over to the other side sometime? Leave a little space for that crossing?
It is the boatloads of people that land here everyday that has confused Venice – perhaps the houses only stand to lend a pretty picture and no one lives there. As I steamrolled into Venice, I could see the countless boats continuously landing at the shores. And on each shore, from every boat, thousands of people poured out, and trampled those Venetian bridges. It is a trampling that goes on endlessly, and even as I sit in my own room now, I can feel the distant city being trod upon. The wanderer comes in, sometimes arrogantly, sometimes hesitantly looks around town and lands his heavy feet into that delicate embroidery.
When I walked on, hesitantly, into the San marco square, I was overwhelmed with the first look. The square was covered in water. In front of the basilica, people rolled up their trousers, and walked on water. The entire scene was surreal. Those who walked on water, were thrilled to be there – in that place which everyone has already seen, and all writers have written of. They posed, danced, laughed, sang – and while I was unable to do any of it, I was bewitched with the enthusiasm that was Venice. It was beautiful to see people create their own islands in the sea of crowds. Unconcerned with the thousands of people around, they lived their romance with the city, creating their own happiness, but also being a part of other people’s happy moments. The smiles on those faces, was for their own camera, but these smiles also reflected the smiles of all people around them, they reflected the music of the orchestras, they reflected the bright orange of the spritz on each table.
I don’t know if any locals live in Venice anymore. It seemed like Disneyland, existing only for those who visited. As the evenings darkened into nights, many boatloads left, but those who were left back, were still distinctly foreigners. It is like the city does not want a long lasting relationship, but is happy only with the transience of the visitor. It seems like a transient place, always ready to vanish with time, but still puzzling everyone by being there. Cities on water are hard to hold on to.