We are on our second week in Italy, with sun-drenched days and sultry nights. Oddly enough, we’ve nearly reached a surfeit of ancient sculptures (another Venus missing some part of her anatomy, anyone?), classical paintings (why are the men mostly clothed and the women naked?), and Roman architecture (how many aqueducts does a girl need to see in her lifetime?). Likewise, the carriage is no longer such a delightful sight each morning. And I don’t know about you, but that one women in our group is truly starting to overstretch my nerves!
For all these reasons, Venice is a delightful break in our routine. We leave the carriages at Mestré and embark in a hired gondola for a two-hour cruise to the city. And what an amazing city it is, rising, it seems, like Venus from the very sea! Our handsome gondolier flexes his muscles as he explains how the city is a series of little islands linked by bridges and interconnected with canals. He is delighted to tour us through several of the canals, and right under a lovely enclosed limestone bridge. Hard to believe our own Lord Byron named this the Bridge of Sighs, for it used to lead from the prisons to the Doge’s inquisition rooms. Legend has it that if two lovers kiss underneath it at sunset they will find eternal love.
We are already in love with this city! Who cares that a rather noxious order is rising from these waters as the day turns to evening? Our gondolier brings us right up to the steps of a charming little hotel with balconies overlooking the Grand Canal, and porters ferry our baggage up to our rooms.
Oh, but it’s difficult to sleep tonight! From the balcony we can see the moon kissing its wavering reflection in the waters, and someone is singing, deep and low. Do we dare slip out into the velvet night? Perhaps find one of Venice’s famed masquerades? But no! Our chaperone is also awake and far too diligent. So, it’s off to bed to dream of handsome courtiers and masked balls.
In the morning, we set off to explore the city, starting with a tour of the Basilica of San Marco, looking a bit like an Eastern potentate’s castle with its domes and cupolas. Marissa points out that it reminds her of the Prince’s Brighton Pavilion back home.
But this pavilion is far more steeped in history. The eight columns on the outside are said to have been captured from Constantinople but originated in the very Temple of Jerusalem. The four massive brass horses are also said to have once graced the Chariot of the Sun.
Through the gates of Corinthian brass, the interior is covered with mosaics and paintings on walls, floors and the curving gilded ceilings. Our necks are soon stiff from all our gazing.
Will you climb the Campanile, the tall tower at the edge of the piazza with me? Oh, good! We lift our skirts and start up the stone steps. My but we are breathless when we reach the top. And Mrs. Starke said it was an easy climb! But the view, out over the entire city and the waters surrounding it, is magnificent! Good thing those two scholars from Verona were willing to help us on the way down. And they invited us to a masquerade this evening! I adore the way he kissed your hand on parting. Sigh!
My heart is all a-flutter. Should we try to escape our chaperone and go?