Oh how shameful, to not like Venice; but I didn’t. I couldn’t breathe there. According to J’s cousin who has lived there for years, New Zealanders and Australians often have this reaction. We are too used to open space.
Walking the narrow lanes, I can’t see enough of the sky. I feel so hemmed in. Trapped like a rat in a cage, going round and round with no chance of escape. With a glimpse of Donald Sutherland, just ahead, around every corner.
After a couple of days of roaming the lanes, I insist that we pay some exorbitant amount to have a ride in a gondola. It is only when we get out onto the Grand Canal that I can finally breathe and I realise I have been holding my breath since we arrived.
J, of course, loved Venice. He, with his innate sense of direction, loved to be in a place where it was possible to get lost. He went off exploring on his own for hours; while I stayed in the apartment, anxious.
People had warned me that I would find Rome very dirty; but I didn’t experience that at all. I thought Rome beautiful, but Venice dirty and decaying. It seems almost sacrilegious to say it, when Venice is so loved, but I just didn’t get it.
I was also aware that all was not as it seemed. That the real Venice is behind closed doors – the houses themselves masks. The streets a treadmill for tourists, while the Venetians live in a parallel, hidden Venice.
Fair enough! How hideous to have to share your city with 30 million visitors each year.