I’ve only ever visited once—for a few nights last summer—but the city has somehow gotten stuck in my mind. Venice was, for a very long time, a place I always wanted to see. Whenever it would show up in a novel, or I’d hear some unlucky news about the Italian city, my mind would start to wander. I always dreamed of Venice, and when I first visited the city, Venice lived up to every expectation.
That’s unusual for most destinations, I’d argue. There’s often a lot of hype and a lot of dreams. And when you visit a place in the flesh, those dreams somehow seem faded. Not so for me, with Venice. This is a city very much still in my dreams. My first impressions (read them here) were ones of amazement, wonder and happiness. Looking back, it’s still a city very much on my mind. And I can’t escape from it.
Joseph Brodsky, a poet and Nobel prize recipient, describes the beauty that is Venice in one of my favorite books, Watermark:
The espresso at your cup’s bottom is the one black dot in, you feel, a miles-long radius. Such are the noons here. In the morning this light breasts your windowpane and, having pried your eye open like a shell, runs ahead of you, strumming its lengthy rays—like a hot-footed schoolboy running his stick along the iron grate of a park or garden—along arcades, colonnades, red-brick chimneys, saints, and lions. “Depict! Depict!” it cries to you, either mistaking you for some Canaletto or Carpaccio or Guardi, or because it doesn’t trust your retina’s ability to retain what it makes available, not to mention your brain’s capacity to absorb it. Perhaps the latter explains the former. Perhaps they are synonymous. Perhaps art is simply an organism’s reaction against its retentive limitations. At any rate, you obey the command and grab your camera, supplementing both your brain cells and your pupil. Should this city ever be short of cash, it can go straight to Kodak for assistance—or else tax its products savagely. By the same token, as long as this place exists, as long as winter light shines upon it, Kodak shares are the best investment.
Spring is here and so beauty seems to be blooming everywhere. Yet I still dream of Venice. What cities can’t escape your dreams?