The precipitation and cold we experienced throughout our first winter trip to Venice, ten years ago this month, made for perfectly miserable touring weather. Our folding umbrellas barely fit down some of the narrow alleys, some of which were scarcely three feet wide. When pedestrians met from opposite directions, they underwent an unspoken process of negotiation to determine who would lift and who would lower or tip their umbrellas as they passed.
Despite the weather, my husband and I walked extensively around the city. We went to the stadium in Sestiere Elena at the southeast end and explored the Maritime Memorial Park, the first extensive green space we’d seen since our arrival. Aside from playground and lot-sized parks, the Royal Garden near Piazza San Marco, and a few tiny private gardens, most greenery seemed to be potted. In the residential districts of Costello and Elena, flowerpots of geraniums, cyclamen, and primrose adorned windowsills, in defiance of the crystalline clumps of residual snow still on the ground.
Fruit and fish vendors’ stalls served the local populace, as remnants of Carnivale decorations dripped overhead and bits of confetti dissolved into the cobbled walks.
We meandered past the cathedral of Giovanni e Paolo, through the heart of Venice, through the trim Ghetto district with its plethora of private gardens and the memorial plaques in the central campo to victims of the holocaust: “…We will not let your memory die.”
Gondolas sat covered along the canals, gleaming with rain. Occasionally we saw one in use, its occupants huddled under umbrellas, the gondolier silent or playing recorded music to avoid straining his voice in the cold air as he poled along. The signature striped shirt of the gondolier was as often tied around the shoulders as worn over other multiple layers for warmth. The city seemed a bit less romantic in such unfavorable weather.
We strolled through Dorsoduro to Piazza Roma, crossed the Ferrovia Bridge to the shops along Strada Nova, with prices as reasonable as any we’d seen in Venice. There we found some glassware and a chandelier to take home.
The morning before we left, we got up early to see Piazza San Marco once again. The water there was higher than we’d observed it before. The raised boardwalks in the piazza were in use by a few other early risers—committed joggers in their lycra tights, and photographers with tripods to help them catch the dusky light.
I took some last-minute pictures, too, as a kind of farewell, as we strolled along the promenade, which was now awash with the tide. I didn’t know if we’d ever have an opportunity to come back. And there was so much of Venice I wanted to remember.
If you enjoyed reading this account, you might want to also see part 1, posted February 1, 2011.