Venice and the pursuit of the Golden Fleece - part II
To remind you from last post, I needed to get the motivation to go to Venice, as I got a bit underwhelmed by the city the first time I visited it. Well, I have to say that the weekend paid off and I was really keen to find my Golden Fleece, according to Mr. Marías’ description.
S was over the moon with the city – as expected, and the sudden nice weather also helped me to endure the early flight at 6:20 am (I was surprised by how many people were willing to get a flight at that time), and the two days packed of plans we had ahead. Consequently, by the time we arrived at Piazzale Roma I was already sort of awake, and getting ready to start my mission.
One of the first things I liked was the concept of transport in Venice: you have vaporettos instead of buses as public transportation, and the lucky –and wealthy– ones have their own boats, so they can cross the canals at their own ease. However, even though I don’t need to mention that having your own private means of transport in Venice is very expensive, crossing the Grand Canal with a vaporetto is not cheap either –with a one way ticket for 7€, or 20€ if you choose the 24-hour option. No wonder Venetians have toned legs; it’s a choice between either walking or spending half of your salary in vaporettos… Now I think Mr. Marías didn’t need to contemplate Venetian women legs, he reached the same conclusion. I would rather walk too, and that is exactly what we did after the initial expenditure.
After leaving our things at the hotel and having breakfast –standing– at Marchetti, considered one of the best bakeries in the city, we headed to our tour around the city… and I was fully energised to start my hunt.
I have to say that the mission turned out to be much easier than expected; maybe the fact that it is January and not August influences on the presence of Venetians in the city – and the lack of big crowds of tourists. We effortlessly walked across Rialto bridge and managed to contemplate the views without the risk of suffering an anxiety attack. Suddenly, on our way to Piazza San Marco I could spot my first Golden Fleeces.
Truth be told, Venetians are easy to find if you pay enough attention. The first thing is that they know each other, and so they would greet each other when they bumped into one another, so if you hear a ciao, buongiorno, or ciao, come stai? Look around you because you won’t find one Golden Fleece, but at least two of them!
Secondly, after spotting them, I could distinguish a common pattern among Venetian ladies:
They wear fine clothes, mostly black, and in the winter, fur coat and fine leather bags, usually from high-end brands.
After a few guesses, almost every time I saw a lady wearing fur it was almost certain that she was a local.
Venetian men were not as easy to recognise but after being all eyes and ears I could also find a common pattern, as anything they wear fits perfectly to their body measurement; it seems as nothing is too big or too small, or too baggy, but just fits perfectly.
One thing is true: Venetians sweat style. They were born with it and stylish blood runs through their veins. Not everyone is born with that, I’m sure that if I wore those clothes I would look like a blind, black bear cub.
Even though I accomplished my mission and spotted more than one “proper” venetian lady, I was impressed by the wonders of the city, and with this I don’t mean the touristic points, which are overwhelmingly beautiful –that is indisputable, but the common life behind the famous glamorous façade, behind the historic palazzi and the touristic romantic gondole, to which we could see queues of excited groups of Japanese patiently waiting for their turn.
What I truly fell in love with was the B side of Venice. The side of the island that steps away from the overcrowded tourism and becomes much more real.
That was my Golden Fleece.
On Sunday we decided to take a long walk towards the Giardini gardens where the annual architecture Biennale is held, crossing the Ponte dei Suspiri and passing the arsenale, which back in the day was so key for the defence of the city.
Starting at Via Garibaldi – the widest street in Venice, we found ourselves at the Castello neighbourhood (or sestiere, in Italian), and right there we could sense a typical Sunday morning in the life of the local inhabitants without the touristic contamination.
It is true that this area is not charming, neither glamorous, and ladies wear normal coats from all sort of colours. There are no spectacular palazzi, and the buildings are much more humble than those in the city centre. But the air changes, and it's much nicer, as one can perceive the smell of fabric conditioner along the streets, coming from the laundry hanging on cords.
Castello is the gear of Venice, and that is exactly why I couldn’t help to fall in love with it. Therefore, I could say my mission was successfully accomplished: I found my Golden Fleece and I fell in love with the heart of Venice.