If you haven’t been to Venice yet, do pack up and set out before it is submerged under floods. It was in the summer of 2007 that I visited the city, and barely a year and a half later, news came that Venetians waded through high water by the Rialto Bridge.
Fortunately in this Adriatic pearl four years ago, there was not the least sign of “2012” but glee and liveliness. Thirty minutes’ ferry cruise took me to the lagoon city. Despite all the pictures and films I had viewed, I was overwhelmed by the bustling St Mark’s Square. Pigeons and tourists flocked in front of the St Mark’s Cathedral, a paradigm of Byzantine architecture.
A tour by gondola cost quite some money, but one could rarely resist the temptation of such local romance, plus the gondoliers touting for business everywhere. Along the zigzag water alleys lined up boutiques, outdoor cafes, pizza shops, gelato stands and souvenir stalls. But most impressively, you’d be dazzled by the wide range of Venetian Carnival masks, big or small, handmade or manufactured, plain, painted, ribboned, feathered or even gold-powdered!
“Ponte dei Sospiri”, the renowned Bridge of Sighs, is perhaps the most popular spot for a snapshot. Built in the 16th century, the now enclosed bridge connects the prison and the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. It is said that convicts then, walking over the bridge, would sigh at the final view of the city before being thrown into prison, and hence the name. But the sad story might have been taken over already by a more cheerful legend: lovers shall be blessed with eternal love if they kiss on the gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs.
Probably there’s a story of “the Prince and the Pauper” in every city on earth, and Venice is by no means entirely as gorgeous as it is at first sight. Twice I experienced the city first hand and both times saw beggar women and pirate goods vendors packing up and fleeing upon police pursuit. The detachment and helplessness in their eyes contrasted with the glow on the tourists’ faces and the innocent looks of the kids feeding pigeons at the St. Mark’s.