Lost in Venice's Lagoon
Originally published on TheMiamiStudent.net
No one gets lost any more. Not with the Google Maps app in our pockets, the GPS on the dashboard and the Internet at our fingertips.
But what if you want to get lost?
When Katie, Hannah and I fled the tourist-saturated streets of Rome for Venice, that’s what I had every intention of doing. Getting totally and completely lost.
People speculate that, in 10 years or so, Venice will be gone. The structures will be swallowed into the water, the foundations finally too old and fragile to hold the weight of an entire city.
I wasn’t willing to let Venice become the next Atlantis before I wandered the alleys and lost myself among the canals and gondolas. I loved Venice long before I set foot there, long before I set foot in Europe, in fact.
The very idea of the city enchanted me — the water, the masked tradition of Carnival, the faded glory of a powerful place ruined by the transition into modern times. I heard the water slapping against the concrete of the city as soon as the doors of St. Lucia station slid closed behind us. A smile spread across my face.
When we wanted breakfast the next morning, I picked a narrow side street at random and we wandered until we found a cafe. And that’s how our day went — picking right or left on a whim, going in shops that seemed to have something special inside, crossing bridges wherever we wanted.
There’s liberation in knowing that you could really, truly, lose yourself somewhere. The knowledge that we were on an island allowed us not to worry about taking wrong turns. Where could we possibly end up? If we hit the edge, all we’d have to do is turn around.
The streets of Venice are so compact, so crammed together, it’s easy to walk for hours and end up not far from where you started. We only saw a fraction of the island, but it felt like so much more.
We chose the back streets. There were shops full of glass — tiny pieces of fake candy, rainbow-colored candle holders, elegant champagne flutes, minuscule animal families. My favorites were the miniature gondoliers — perfect little glass men with colorful hats balanced on fragile gondolas. We saw shops with masks on every inch of surface. With each one I saw, I found myself wishing more that we had beenable to come to Venice in time for Carnival.
How I would have loved to witness the confetti throwing, the covered faces, the crescendo of costumed people heading for parties I could never afford to attend.
The sun set over the Grand Canal as we rode the water bus back to San Marco.
We searched for a famous bookstore in the dying light. It was the only time we used the map on my phone. Inside, Libreria Acqua Alta was an explosion of books.They spilled out of the gondola in the center of the store, off the bookshelves, and were even piled into a set of stairs out back by the canal. We admired the reading nook overlooking the water and talked ourselves out of buying vintage Italian posters before heading back, through the glowing alleyways and over the canals, to our hostel for the night.
The next day we walked around Murano, where most of Venice’s glass is made, before deciding to return to the main island to continue exploring. It was a 45-minute ride and Katie and Hannah had fallen asleep across the aisle from me. I debated taking a nap, but decided against it.
I was in Venice. I needed to keep my eyes open for as long as I could. Somewhere in the middle of the ride, while gazing idly out the window and thinking about ideas for things I’d never write and trying desperately to remember the plot of the “The Thief Lord,” we passed through the middle of the lagoon. Then suddenly I was staring at a statue that rose from the water —two stone men in cloaks, standing in a stone gondola.
They appeared to be arguing, their chins jutting, one pointing away at the sea. Had it been built here in the water? Or were we passing over a plaza that had sunk beneath the waves, leaving only these gondoliers to mark the spot? And what was the one man supposed to be pointing at?
I watched the statue until it was out of view. Were the two men meant to be lost in Venice’s lagoon forever? The water bus moving through the water sounded so peaceful, the hum of the engine so natural. If the men were meant to be lost, I thought to myself, perhaps that wasn’t such a bad fate after all.