The Queen of the Adriatic is often thought of as golden palazzi, intricately carved bridges, and glorious or glamorous expensive old hotels. And it is true that when wandering along the Grand Canal it is easy to picture a hungover Elizabeth Taylor emerging in her peignoir on to a 17th Century balcony after receiving a Cartier necklace from Richard Burton (probably in apology for some dalliance or other). The city of masks is a city of the imagination and memory, and usually the impression left is one of luxurious, sumptuous sensuality.
But Venice is dictated by an unstable element: water. The lagoons and islands are at the mercy of a mercurial, and finally uncontrollable force, and this force has caused the great city over the centuries to be warped and stained, damaged, and, in some places, ruined.
Finding one’s surroundings slightly askew is my favorite part of Venice. It’s what adds vulnerability to its power. It is like the Dharma, a constant reminder of transience.
Eventually global warming and decay will kill the lovely Queen. She’ll become our modern day Atlantis. Which makes me love her all the more.
I know a woman who is particularly smart, beautiful, and has lived a fearless and fascinating life. She’s older now, and her beauty is fading. But one can see in every expression she makes, each feature on her face, the luminous beauty she once had. Occasionally in shadow she still possesses it. Venice is like that.
As one gets older, it’s what fades that draws the eye. It is the manner in which what is departing mixes with the newly born, like fresh river water flowing into the salted sea, that creates the depth of beauty.
On my last morning in this city, I walked through a neighborhood fairly untouristed and quiet. There were actual Venetians living there. And they live with things like this on their walls:
Crumbling bricks and marbled statues. What more could the eye desire?