How hard it is to escape from places.
However carefully one goes they hold you
you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences
like rags and shreds of your very life.
For me winter is the best time to get to know intimately one of the most visited cities in the world. It’s the time when Venice’s narrow lanes and canals quiet down, the sound of footsteps fades away and you can finally experience the city’s real beating heart, free of tourist traps and glittery glamour. Venetians reclaim their city, walking freely through its ancient alleyways, and the tourist Disneyland transforms into a peaceful, magical place.
Venice in winter is a wondrous and marvellously eerie place at the same time. It is the time when the city breathes freely without being suffocated by the crowds. If you get up early enough you can have the spooky labyrinth of silent alleyways, ancient bridges and shimmering canals to yourself.
When January fog rolls in from the lagoon, water and sky merge into one, buildings constantly disappear and emerge out of the white veil; the silence is only broken by an occasional splish splash of early morning gondolas, or soft echo of solitary footsteps. If you are lucky acqua alta blurs the edges between the pavements and the sea, and you feel like you are walking in a watercolour painting. The light that paints the city in soft pastel colours, is beyond compare. La Serenissima becomes deserted, quiet, and serene; full of melancholy and romance.
“On days like this,” Joseph Brodsky wrote, “the city indeed acquires a porcelain aspect, what with all its zinc-covered cupolas resembling teapots or upturned cups, and the tilted profile of campaniles clinking like abandoned spoons and melting in the sky.”
These are the days I look forward to and this is the Venice I am in love with. I only had a glimpse of it once, one short January morning last year. So I decided to go back for more this year. However to my big surprise, and I admit, a little bit of disappointment too, this time my beloved city hid away its mysterious and haunting side from me completely. Instead I was blessed with a week of glorious sunshine. Though I didn’t consider it to be a blessing to start with, I gradually warmed up to it. I discovered that the sunny winter days in Venice are marvellous after all. The low, weakened winter light has a pleasingly soft and hazy quality. I almost forgot how breathtaking the golden hour is or how magnificent the winter sunsets are. As they say “everything happens for a reason”, and perhaps this time the reason was to remind me how to enjoy the present moment, whatever the weather, place or time. And so I did. I spent a week walking on sunshine and it did feel good.