When most people go to Venice, they think of Piazza San Marco and the city’s unique canal network, art and architecture.
I, on the other hand, think of other things...
I once went there with friends and as we stood admiring the stunning views, a group of American tourists approached us and seemed happy that we were fellow English speakers.
Then, to my complete amazement, one uttered a question, with a most sincere and earnest expression, that has remained glued to my memory ever since:
“Do you know Johnny Smith from London?”
This incredible question made me wonder, initially, if said person had any idea of the vast population of our capital city and then question the human race in its entirety. Dumbfounding.
Needless to say, I didn’t know Johnny Smith from London, unless I am very much mistaken.
We then encountered Cesare, the mad gondolier, who seemed to have advanced his role to speedboat enthusiast.
We thought it was a white knuckle ride as he sped past the other gondalas with impunity. The kingpin of the canals sang loudly as he overtook russet-faced pensioners on a wee trip.
I was so glad it wasn’t them on board Cesare’s ‘love boat’, as there might have been a toupee mishap in the offing.
Disembarking from the gondola stood Cesare, with crazed expression and manic laugh, which made us wonder if he might be on his own gondola trip.
We thought our day couldn’t get any stranger, but we were so wrong.
Whilst gazing at a beautiful Titian painting, we overheard a smug, know-it-all voice announce proudly to his wife, ‘That’s Titan innit?’
Well dear sir, Titan it aint, and never shall be.
The artist would turn in his grave!
But humour aside, Venice is astonishing in its beauty and many a traveller has praised its abundant treasures.
Goethe wrote in ‘Italian Journey’ when he spent some time there in 1786, ‘Everything around me is a worthy, stupendous monument, not to one ruler, but to a whole people.’
At every turn Venice is man at his best – an outstanding and awesome achievement.