My husband and I are planning a month-long trip to Italy in June 2015, so an article about Venice in Border Crossings interested me. It has helped me to better understand why that city moved me so much.
In its description of St. Mark’s church, it says,”‘You are going to be shocked when you go inside,’ the guide said solemnly. It is very oriental.’ Pause. ‘You see, the mosaics were made by Greeks. You’re going to see Greek words on the mosaics. A surprise in a Christian Church’.”
My father was born in Central Greece, the village of Karditsa. Some years ago, I stopped in Venice before flying to Greece for ten days to explore that part of my heritage. Immediately, I felt at home there. Before that trip, I hadn’t realized how much the East had influenced Venice in architecture and design, a mix of ornate decoration and classical elements. It gives a unique feeling, a magical quality. The city is not exactly Italian or European but Venetian. Its own world. The bride of the sea.
The city has great symbolic value to me, the bridge between east and west, between my Scottish heritage on my mother’s side and my father’s.
Venice, a mix of cultures and peoples, is the opposite of more dignified Florence. There’s a dreamy quality to life in Venice. Slow moving—you can’t go that fast on the water, so the pace of life is easier. Seeing water everywhere also makes one feel reflective, suspended. It’s truly miraculous that men were able to build the town in water, in mud.
It was incredible to sit in St. Mark’s square, drinking a beer, watching the tourists amble by, some dancing to the elegant pop music, violins, accordions, sweet sounds. Not the clashing ones of rock. Venetian feeling. From where I sat in a restaurant, I could see a pigeon making a nest in the fold of a canvas curtain. The activity was touching in the midst of all that commotion.
The boat rides after dark also were lovely, spots of light illuminating the night and reflecting in the water, gondoliers snaking through the canal, paddles soundlessly cutting into the depths, passengers reclining and enjoying the ride. So many of the buildings seemed only partially inhabited, many windows dark. Of course, the shutters may have been closed against mosquitoes and noise from the canal. But it was dramatic to view the places that were illuminated, glimpses into elegant parlors, walls and ceilings ornately decorated. A woman stepping out on her balcony was silhouetted against the light. It was like being on a giant stage.
The day I visited St. Mark’s, I realized why this city is so important to me. I was looking at things saved from Constantinople, items Venetians had ransacked during that great city’s demise. I understood its impact then emotionally, not just intellectually: Venice is the gateway into Greece, into that part of my heritage. It has a strong Greek influence (the Greek cross is used in the sanctuary, the Greek Orthodox church putting more emphasis on resurrection than the crucifixion, on completeness).
Nearly everything about Venice pleases me—the ambiance, the beauty, the color, the art, the architecture. The mix of so many periods and styles. I like that kind of blending. There is also an assortment of races not found so much in other Italian communities.
The Border Crossing’s article also pointed out that “Venice herself is understood to be female, either La Serenissima or, to use Apollinaire’s nasty phrase, the ‘sexe femelle de l’Europe’ (the she-animal of Europe).” No wonder I felt at home there.
(Here are more wonderful images of Venice: http://shootingveniceandberlin.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/stillness/)