Stories from Venice
Last summer, I went on a two-and-a-half-week trip throughout Italy with my cousin and grandma. Our visit to Venice was particularly memorable and so I’ve highlighted some moments from that trip here.
Venice, unlike other places on my bucket list, will not be there forever. It is sinking, making every step taken on its stones more precious than the last. Last summer, I spent three weeks in Italy with my Lola (Grandma) and Kuya (older cousin), and Venice was among the many places we visited. When I arrived from Milan, I was sick from exhaustion and travel. When I left, I was healthy and hungover.
The three days we spent in Venice were surprisingly slow, the third day dragging. Venice is beautiful, but almost only beautiful. There were few things to do and few feet to cover, and after two days of walking around, I knew the place well enough to not get lost. These stories of Venice are full of the interactions that took place against its colors, which I captured with my old digital camera. Here are a few.
Lola and the Lemons
Lola is the most particular woman I have ever known. Every night, she must have warm water with a lemon in it. Fortunately, she did not pack 18 lemons to have every night. Unfortunately, she did not pack 18 lemons every night, which meant she had to procure a lemon every day. Our hotel was central, just through a street leading into the square, lined with shops and restaurants. In Europe, the sun graciously grants more time, so Italian nights were active. I have always thought of Italy in flashes to the beat of Bennie & The Jets, and the night is no exception.
With no groceries in sight, on our first night walking back to the hotel, Lola asked the man tasked with drawing tourists to the restaurant if she could buy lemons from the restaurant. With typical Italian friendliness, the man turned around to the window of the restaurant and asked the bartender for two lemons. He turned back around and handed them to Lola.
“It’s okay, take them.”
“No, I insist. I want to pay
you for them.”
“It’s nothing, I want to give them to you.”
Kuya shaking his head, me laughing, and Lola walking with two lemons, we went back to the hotel.
On the Grand Canal
When you see Venice in the movies, there is always a gondola ride. The price of the gondola ride (and the stink of the Canal) is never mentioned.
Lola, eager to justify the 80 euros, needed a photo to prove it happened. She wanted the quintessential “I went to Venice with my grandkids” picture… but she didn’t have a selfie stick. Instead, she kept asking the gondolier—who was busy directing the gondola—
“A picture on the Grand Canal!
“The last time I went to Venice there were photographers there to take pictures of us on the gondola.”
“Can you take a picture of the three of us on the gondola?”
“I would like a picture of the three of us on the gondola.”
“This is the last time I will be in Venice; I want a picture of the three of us.”
The ride was smooth, as our gondolier Antonio had memorized the route seamlessly, ducking inches before every bridge and continuing conversations with other gondoliers at every turn. I had no doubt he could complete the route with his eyes closed, but I did doubt he would be able to move us forward while taking a picture; he did not require his eyes, but he did require his hands.
And so we rode through the canals of Venice to the background sound of Lola’s question, and the chatter of the gondolier, eyes up, at the intricacy of the buildings that surrounded us. Occasionally, Lola would ask the gondolier if he knew what was inside a building. He would always respond, “a hotel.” Venice was mostly a long visit at a museum. Beautiful architecture at every turn, filled with people who were only staying a couple of days to admire the art. And there were a handful of restaurants to eat at and stores to shop at.
Eventually, we arrived to the Grand Canal and Antonio finally took Lola’s phone, held the oar in one hand, and took three photos in the other. The gondola, we learned, was engineered to never fall over. But alas, the photos were still crooked.
By the last day, there was not much left to do. We had completed all of our shopping, visited all the churches, and eaten at enough restaurants to have eaten at all the restaurants. The driver Lola hired to take us to Padova, our next stop, was arriving at the end of the day, and we had already checked out of the hotel. I suggested we see something new and buy a 10-euro tour to three more islands: Murano, Torcello, and Burano.
I dozed off to the sound of the tour guide narrating our surroundings in Spanish, waking up to the boat parking outside a glass factory in Murano. Lola grabbed her twenty-pound backpack and we climbed off the boat to enter the factory. For five minutes, we watched as one man created a glass horse from a ball of orange. We pretended to listen as he explained the process and tradition of glassmaking in Italian, and we shortly explored the shop before boarding the boat again.
This time, I looked out romantically to the water recounting our three days in Venice. The first day I’d been sick, and spent most of the day resting, only leaving the hotel for dinner. The second day I’d eaten breakfast in the Piazzetta San Marco and explored every inch of the city with my cousin. I’d found a brilliant vintage leather jacket that fit perfectly and an orange glass ring, and I’d gone on a gondola ride and had a big dinner. And now it was the third and final day in Venice and we were venturing a little further.
Torcello featured a fifteen-minute walk to one large estate, the only stop in between being a restaurant. I walked with Lola to the estate, walked around it for three minutes, admired it, and then walked to the restaurant to get gelato. We made it back to the boat in almost exactly an hour.
When we arrived in Burano, we were given a little more time to explore before the boat would leave again, so we walked into the city to look at the buildings. Burano was louder in color than central Venice, but quieter in sound with few people shuffling through its streets. Some houses had only curtains for doors, some had curtains covering every door and window. It was home to mostly retired Italians and a couple of business owners.
Kuya and I found a shadowed street through a small arch with more colorful houses. Then we walked back to meet Lola, grabbed water and headed back to the boat for one last time.
In Venice, our driver got us a water taxi and we began to make our way to the rest of Italy.
During my trip I took this old digital camera and photographed everything. I was looking through those photos recently and was hit with a wave of nostalgia. I wanted to put words to the pictures, I wanted to remember the trip, and I wanted to have something to look back on to remember the trip. So I wrote some short stories from Venice, recalling the little things as my fingers danced across the keyboard.
Amihan is a writer and artist from Harlem. She spends her free time creating art, singing and playing guitar. She’s written pieces on identity and societal change. Over quarantine, she’s been spending time with her family and puppy in her vacation home on a lake.