By Len Friesen, Tour Leader
We have shaped the tour thus far around a key premise: “Rome, Assisi, and Florence may be Italian cities but they are really world cities. They are part of all of our heritage.”
But that premise breaks down when you get to Venice, which seems neither worldly nor Italian. Venice is a city of great contrasts. It floats in a lagoon yet is built of stone. One approaches it by land yet moves about by boat. It is part of Italy but still uses a dialect that is very un-Italian. It is part of Italy but almost the last to have joined (been conquered actually, in 1866), so still bears its independence proudly. One sees the flags of Venice flying everywhere.
It has “roads” though few that are wide enough to stretch your arms out and walk by others doing the same. One goes less by directions than by feel when moving from Point A to Point B, which is another way of saying that one spends a lot of time moving from “totally lost” to “almost unlost” to “oh look, there’s our hotel!”
Yet all of it is a dream. No matter the number of tourists in St. Mark’s Square, no matter the constant warnings of this city as over-touristed, it still enthralls upon first view. We arrived yesterday afternoon after a relaxing train journey from Florence (which we took after a final glorious walkabout). We took the local bus from the Train Station, which was really a water-bus (vaporetto), settled in to our hotel, and promptly went about the inner canals in a pre-arranged gondola tour. It was pure magic.
Today we’ll head for St. Mark’s and the central Square for a morning of organized sight-seeing, meaning we’ve organized it on our own. In the afternoon we’ll have free time to wander about its countless islands and canals on our own. I’m sure we’ll get lost countless times, but where better to do so than in the otherworldly city that is Venice.