We are in Venice and it is heaving. It’s May day weekend and we seek every road that looks empty. We are staying at Hotel Rossi, near the train station, because we need to be up early in the morning when we catch the plane to Istanbul, en-route to Hong Kong. It is one of the oldest hotels in Venice running today and was started up in the war years. War does not stop a honeymoon. It is lovely staying here; it is homely and the walls are full of art, not all of it good, but better than a five star hotel that spends tuppence on its art budget.
It’s a bit hard to appreciate Venice when there are so many tourists. The local character seems to change and you no longer feel like it is a living culture. We have been here in winter and we love it. It’s freezing cold and you get all rugged up, blowing steam as you walk through the silent streets. Sometimes you come across a lonely opera singer in a deserted piazza singing like a nightingale in the black night, yearning for an audience that is only sporadically there. The museums are empty, no queues anywhere and the local people are courteous and interested in you. With the warm weather comes the frenzy in the streets and the voracious tramping of millions of people, anxious to get everything from here that speaks of beauty and culture and history. And you have to inspect every bill that comes your way.
Nevertheless, here we are on May day eve, and all of Venice is full. We find a restaurant that is out of the main area behind the old Jewish quarter. Osteria Ai 40 Ladroni. (Cannaregio – Fondamenta della Sensa Tel: 041.715736). Seafood. Wow. It is chock- a-block, but it feels local, very few tourists. It has a great garden area out the back under umbrellas and the waiters are really running, but they are lovely and humorous and the food is excellent with generous serves. We amble slowly back, arm in arm, to the hotel this night in the misty rain and everything is golden reflecting in the slick cobblestones and the lapping water in the canals. Amazing to think that these buildings and these old paths are all being held up by ancient yew trees, their trunks becoming petrified over time, sturdy as a roman column in a cistern in their airless world below. Venice with its medieval organic growth into beauty is what we look for in the natural world, beauty not formal or perfect, just itself growing to meet its needs yet observant of what would be the loveliest option to expand into.