Breakfast – 8:30 AM
Take the ferry to Doge’s Palace – 9:15 AM
The Doge’s Palace – 10:00 AM
Lunch by the palace – 1:30 PM
Walk to Rialto Bridge – 3:30 PM
Take the ferry back to hotel – 4:30 PM
Read ‘Career Of Evil’ – 6:00 PM
Dinner – 8:00 PM
Good. My carefully planned itinerary wasn’t too hectic and I wasn’t missing out on any important locations. The absence of a gondola ride was glaring though. But what could I do? I was a student, and my budget was tight. Sighing, I stuffed my itinerary back in my handbag and drank up the last dregs of my orange juice. It was nearly 9 am, and I didn’t have time for a leisurely breakfast. I only had two days in Venice, and I had to make them count.
The first thing I noticed upon arriving in ‘The Floating City’ was the absence of main roads and vehicles. Water can change life around it. It might seem like a grandiose statement to make, but if you’re an average joe city dweller like me and you enter Venice for the first time, you’ll know what I mean. Of course, I knew Venice is a water city and that people travel by waterways. But nothing had prepared me for the beauty of it all.
I took a vaporetto (the water bus) from the Santa Lucia Railway Station all the way to Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), where I’d visit The Doge’s Palace. Something happened to me on that 45-minute ride. The small glints of sunlight reflecting in the waters seemed to alter my perspective; my eyes took their time with everything they viewed, and the gentle bobbing of the ferry against the water grounded me in the moment. It was as if the waters had brought time itself to a standstill, as if I’d fallen into a painting and had become a part of it.
By the time my stop arrived, my over-organised mind had been somewhat lulled. A small part of it did register that it was good I’d made it on time, because it would take me a while to tour the palace. But that part seemed to have been pushed to a tiny corner somewhere. Upon entering the palace, I was so awed by the exquisite artwork and décor, I took my time with every stroke of painting, even though I’m no art connoisseur. It was only when my tummy rumbled indignantly that I realised it was well past lunch time and that I’d be late for the Rialto Bridge if I didn’t hurry. Yet, I simply carried on, determined to see the palace in its entirety. By the time I had lunch at a small café by the palace, the sun had set.
When I hopped into the water bus to head back to the hotel, a middle-aged man asked me if I was travelling solo. My mind debated telling him the truth, but something nudged it to go for the truth after all.
As I stepped into an evening Venice, the St. Mark’s Square looked straight out of a period novel, with ornate lamps and a bustling quadrangle by the Grand Canal’s shimmering blue-black waters. They seemed to work some kind of magic again, because the next thing I knew, I was taking an impromptu stroll about the canal’s course.
I wasn’t sure what had gotten into me, but I trusted my instincts that day. I’d heard Venice’s streets are easy to get lost in. But my mind thought differently. Venice is a tiny city, after all, and the waters make their way throughout. It’s not so easy to get lost, really. My feet led me to various alleyways and a maze of marketplace. It was there that I chanced upon a small boutique. If I hadn’t wandered off aimlessly that day, I wouldn’t have the laced skirt and woollen dress from Venice I do today.
Brazened by my leap of faith that evening, I decided to keep walking. Soon, I found a humble dessert bar, and my taste buds tingled in anticipation. I treated myself to a slice of tiramisu. Even as my tongue savoured the Italian flavour in an Italian city, my ears caught the sound of a symphony at a distance. It seemed oddly familiar, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I paid for my dessert and let the music guide my feet.
Soon, I was standing in front of Scuola Grande di San Teodoro, a small concert hall. It must have been a tourist attraction, because the young men by the building swooped right into my introverted bubble of personal space, handed me a ticket and insisted I go in for the next show. They didn’t have to try so hard; I’d been convinced the moment I recognised the tunes from the Tom & Jerry cartoon show. I’d only ever known Mozart and Bach’s music because of the cartoon. I paid for the ticket, and just like that, I’d signed up for a musical Venetian night.
By the time the concert ended, I had tears in my eyes. So far away from home, I’d found something that reminded me of the happy days from my childhood. All because I’d let go of my need for compulsive planning and by-the-hour itinerary. But Venice wasn’t yet done with rewarding me for letting myself loose. When I hopped into the water bus to head back to the hotel, a middle-aged man asked me if I was travelling solo. My mind debated telling him the truth, but something nudged it to go for the truth after all. “You a student?” he asked. When I nodded, he reached into his jacket and handed me a flier before departing. On it was an ad for cheap gondola rides in Venice.
I’d started the day with a firm plan, a strict itinerary, and a defeated attitude about the gondola ride. By evening, I’d been lost on the streets of Venice, landed myself in a concert hall to watch a costumed band perform Mozart and Bach. I’d ended the night with a rekindled excitement for the gondola ride I could take the next morning. In the course of one day, the Venetian waters had taught me how to live and be happy in the moment. That night, when I pulled out my notepad to plan the next day’s itinerary, words poured out effortlessly. When I was done writing, it read:
Go with the flow.