Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Summer in Venice took me quite by surprise. I thought I'd been there enough in my mind after a lifetime of cliched gondola-and-canal imagery. It wasn't like that. I was surprised that the anomalous beauty of the place almost made me forget the hordes of summer tourists.
The buildings and bridges in winding pathways and along the water lie suspended between forms finely crafted in simple lines or oriental arabesques by human hand - in an array of colors never repeating - and patterns of time and decay making a meal of the material world. This, set against the milky green canals and the lagoon, turning different shades by the hour.
In his "The City of Falling Angels", John Behrendt captures arrival there in a nutshell:
"I had been to Venice a dozen times or more, having fallen under its spell when I first caught sight of it twenty years before - a city of domes and bell towers, floating hazily in the distance, topped here and there by a marble saint or a gilded angel."
"On this latest trip, as always, I made my approach by water taxi. The boat slowed as we drew near; then it slipped into the shaded closeness of a small canal. Moving at an almost stately pace, we glided past overhanging balconies and weatherworn stone figures set into crumbling brick and stucco. I looked up through open windows and caught glimpses of painted ceilings and glass chandeliers. I heard fleeting bits of music and conversation, but no honking of horns, no squealing of brakes, and no motors other than the muffled churning of our own.
People walked over footbridges as we passed underneath, and the backwash from our boat splashed on moss-covered steps leading down into the canal. That twenty minute boat-ride had become a much-anticipated rite of passage, transporting me three miles across the lagoon and five hundred to a thousand years back in time."